Wednesday, December 31

A Final Flourish

And so another year of exploration draws to a close, but before 2008 heads off into the sunset completely, I just have time to tell you about a final few gallery updates that managed to squeak through in advance of Big Ben and Auld Lang Syne...

Somewhat surprisingly, WME Shropshire is first up for a mention this time around. This perpetually ignored gallery can now proclaim its first new photo since June, whereby six whole months of inactivity have finally been broken thanks to a photo of the 436 bus calling at Much Wenlock. I'm hoping there might be a couple of Bridgnorth themed additions to follow, but they'll have to wait until 2009.

Another gallery that's been long overdue an update is WME Worcestershire, so its pleasing to report signs of life here also. I've added a new Evesham Station collection with the two starter shots being a general station view and a photo of the station totem sign. I think these are my first Evesham area photos to make the cut, so its good to get another location into the mix and ensure that more of the county is being represented, even if it is just on a small scale to begin with.

There are new collections to report too on WME Dudley, whereby the local content here has been enhanced by the inclusion of Exploring Gornal Wood and Exploring Daisy Bank. Gornal Wood has long been a favourite Black Country haunt of mine, and whilst I have less affection for Daisy Bank, I am somewhat concerned that my photo of the local Netto store may have started me off on a mission to take photos of other budget supermarkets across the West Midlands!

There aren't any supermarket appearances to report from WME Wolverhampton, so you'll have to console yourselves with a new Exploring Parkfield collection (two photos of Thompson Avenue open space, not very exciting to tell the truth) and a couple of additions to Exploring Bradmore (extra views of the Mitre pub and Bantock House). Elsewhere, Hinksford Lock is the latest Staffs & Worcs Canal location to feature on WME Staffordshire; the site of the old Stag pub post-demolition joins the Exploring Blakenall section of WME Walsall; and WME Sandwell now boasts a view of Jubilee Park - yes, that's a photo on Exploring Tipton that doesn't feature a pub!

And that is almost that, save for one final note. The updates spotlight also found time to fall on WME Solihull, where the Marston Green Tavern makes its long awaited debut on Exploring Marston Green. I've taken a number of photos of this pub down the years, but none had ever stuck until now, with the photo in question being a January 2008 shot taken during a Boon tour with Rog and Woody. The lesson here is that sometimes you just have to keep plugging away and eventually you might get there. Anyway, my New Year's Eve festivities are beckoning, so I bid you all farewell until next year...

Wednesday, December 24

Norbury Junction

Monday 22nd December, as Dad and I decided to escape the pre-Christmas rush by visiting the altogether more gentle surroundings of Norbury Junction on the Shropshire Union Canal. The junction is in quite a remote spot, not too far from Newport or Gnosall, but accessed by narrow country lanes leading through Norbury Village and down to the canal itself.

Parking up, I was immediately intrigued by the Junction Inn pub and a collection of wharf buildings and British Waterways workshops. There were also a number of narrowboats and barges in attendance, some gleaming in the watery sunshine and others looking rather rusty and neglected - needless to say, I couldn't resist getting a few photos. One whitewashed wharf building particularly caught my eye, it contained a cafe at one end, a chandlery at the other and a shop in the middle selling Calor Gas and Cornettos - now there's an exotic combination!! We then began our walk, which took us off by some trout fisheries where it became so muddy we had no choice but to turn back, pausing momentarily to have a look at the impressive canal embankment which I understand was quite a feat of engineering when first constructed.

Returning to the junction, we were able to have a closer look at Bridge 38 and ponder whether to pop into the pub for a quick pint, only to discover it was closing at 3pm. We continued along the towpath to investigate the main junction bridge - this is where the Newport Branch leaves the main Shropshire Union, albeit only a short arm remains and access to that is restricted. The branch closed many years ago but some sections have been restored, including the bit at Newport that I explored back in May. With a bit of time still to spare, we explore the canal back the other way as we headed beyond Bridge 38 towards Market Drayton. This gave us a closer look at the long-term moorings area, a charming scene made complete with little puffs of smoke drifting out from boat chimneys every now and again. Soon enough it was time to be on our way, although I now felt refreshed and ready to face the crowds again. Last minute Christmas shopping here I come!!

Thursday, December 11

Countdown to Christmas

I thought it was about time I brought you up to date with the latest news from WME, although in all honesty there isn't that much to report. At the moment I am concentrating on the WME Canal Register - things had stalled for a while, but I've now compiled the register up until March 2008 and hope to fill in the rest of the year pretty quickly. This has meant that work on the WME galleries has once again gone on the back burner, although I've been considering a change of approach to try and get more of my photos online. As things stand, a tiny fraction of my archive has made the cut, and I do wonder if I'm being far too selective when testing photos on WME1.

Exploration wise its been fairly quiet. I've done a couple of walks with Dad, including an autumn special investigating Bishops Wood, Boscobel House and White Ladies Priory for some Staffordshire history. There have also been a couple of mini-local adventures exploring Daisy Bank and Long Knowle to keep the photos ticking over. I don't anticipate there being too much to report trips wise between now and the new year, as Christmas shopping will have to take priority because I'm in danger of leaving everything til the last minute as usual!

Finally, a couple of news items that have caught my eye recently. Following on from the Dudley Bus Network Review earlier this year, Solihull is due to have its local bus network overhauled come January. The details are still being finalised, but it seems a number of current routes will be replaced with localised Solihull services (S1, S2, S3 and so forth). Hopefully I might get a chance to record the crossover period and add to my Solihull bus photos in the process. You might also recall me discussing a number of library closures as part of library modernisation in Dudley some time ago - well it seems Wolverhampton Council may be following suit. Budgetary issues mean the Council has to make significant savings which could result in the closure of Bradmore, Daisy Bank, Mary Pointon, Oxley and Scotlands & Underhill libraries, although any proposals are subject to scrutiny and consultation. Of these, Oxley particularly catches my eye as it was a library I visited as a kid, so it holds a few sentimental memories for me. It could be worth monitoring events to see what happens...