Thursday, April 30

Bacon, Beer and Bruce

Saturday 26th April, and an eventful West Midlands local as I join Rog and Bruce for a bit of a pubcrawl...
  • I begin with the 256 from Wolverhampton to Stourbridge, an uneventful journey to begin with until the bus is invaded by the Wombourne Girl Guides who proceed to treat us to their full repertoire songs. I was almost tempted to join in with the rendition of 'She'll be coming round the mountain'...
  • Arrive in Stourbridge, with Rog disappointed that the brownies had alighted at Amblecote - he was quite looking forward to a singalong. We decide upon a spot of breakfast and pop into the Bus Stop Cafe for a bacon buttie, and very nice it was too. Despite visiting Stourbridge regularly for years, this was my first visit to the cafe, and it will be a shame if it disappears when Stourbridge Bus Station is redeveloped.
  • Next up, the 242 to Halesowen, reviving memories of the old 247 and 248 routes with a ride through Oldswinford, Pedmore, Fatherless Barn and Hasbury. This section of the route is due to be withdrawn soon, with Diamond set to provide a new 142 route as a replacement.
  • Halesowen, and my first look at the new bus station. It is a nice well-designed facility, but it echoes Wednesbury and West Bromwich in offering very little scope for bus photos. Elsewhere, Rog still can't find his grave in the churchyard, I think he was looking forward to saying "Yes, I'm dead"!
  • After a walk around Hawne for photos of the Yeltz ground and the Hawne Tavern, we settle in at the Loyal Lodge to watch the F1 qualifying - the Toyotas of Trulli and Glock took the first two positions, although Jenson Button came through in fine style to win the race itself, an excellent victory for Rog's favourite.
  • Qualifying over, its off up Coombs Road for a pint in The Lighthouse. The pub seems to have gone for an upmarket trendy vibe with comfy leather sofas creating a bistro atmosphere in which we sampled some Enville Ale. We then grab a spot of lunch before walking down past the Boat to investigate the Dudley No. 2 Canal near Old Hill Station.
  • The pubcrawl is now well and truly underway, and our third pub was a real gem. The Waterfall on Waterfall Lane is a classic Black Country pub, friendly and traditional with a hint of quirkiness as it perches on a steep hill. Although the Holden's was tempting, an array of mysterious sounding beers were on offer and we plumped for the Maypole Mayhem, an intensely dark pint that went down a treat. The pub had a great atmosphere with cheese and biscuits on the bar, and Bruce almost got to meet his namesake amongst the regulars but came over all shy, bless him!
  • We were well ahead of schedule so I decided to give Rog a bonus pub to enjoy. We hopped on the Central Connect 123, with Rog getting increasingly concerned as we toured the unfamiliar territory of Hurst Green and Causeway Green. He was even more worried when we alighted at Bristnall Fields, although he soon calmed down when we found the Plough pub and had a pint of Jennings' Cumberland Ale in the beer garden.
  • After that diversion, the 128 got us back on track with a ride into Langley where I introduced Rog to the Model at the bottom end of the village. Rog hadn't come across the pub before but soon felt at home, especially when given the chance to select some playing cards to get a discount off his round. 45p off was the result, and Rog convinced me to have an extra pint of Banks's so I could have a go. My first card was only for 5p, but the next was 50p so I got the cheaper round (much to Rog's annoyance), and I had further reason to celebrate when news filtered through that Wolves had won the Championship by drawing 1-1 at Barnsley.
  • A quick drink in the Bridge gave Bruce the chance to make some new friends and even appear behind the bar, and then it was back into Stourbridge to finish off at the Old Crispin and the Rock Station, where Woody joined us for my final drink of the day.
A very enjoyable (and occasionally bizarre) day out then, sampling some fine beers and visiting some great pubs. I'd definitely return to the Waterfall, and I think Rog has his eye on further discounts in the Model too. Bruce got a few cuddles, and there was even a little bit of exploration in there with photos of Hawne, Coombswood and Bristnall Fields. Another outing draws to a close then, but by way of an encore here's a final reflection on that earlier singalong - feel free to join in...

An Austrian went yodelling on a mountaintop high,
When along came an avalanche interrupting his cry:
Yo -oh -oh.....
Yo - del - ay - dee,
Yo - del - ay - dee (ssh-ssh)

Yo - del - ay - dee,
Yo - del - ay - dee (ssh-ssh)
Yo - del - ay - dee,
Yo - del - ay - dee - Yo!

See you next time...

Wednesday, April 22

WME Update Digest: April 2009

Yes, its that time of the month where I blitz you with news of new additions to the WME galleries. There's a fair bit to cover for April, including a couple more gallery milestones...

The headline act this month has to be WME Wolverhampton, which has reinforced its status as top gallery by reaching the landmark tally of 350 photos. The new arrivals here include an extra photo of Pothouse Bridge for the Bradley Canal Arm, and a shot of Bantock Park's highland bull carving on Exploring Bradmore. WME Wolves is gradually becoming a gallery of some substance and does lead the way in showing the depth of content I want my other galleries to aspire towards.

WME Telford is lagging way, way behind in terms of providing a substantial array of photographs, but it does have reason to celebrate its own little landmark for once. I always consider 50 photos to be a minimum base camp before a gallery can be considered to have established itself - in Telford's case its been one heck of a struggle but we've finally got there. We actually put a little spurt on when crossing the line too, with five worthy additions to the Newport Branch Canal collection having been augmented by a new Exploring Hinkshay selection focusing on the derelict White Hart pub. This is a veritable feast by Telford standards, and a fine achievement to build on further.

That's the landmarks dealt with, so what else has been happening? Would you believe it, Exploration Extra has come out of hibernation with it's first new photos since last August - I can't believe it's been that long! A new collection of photos from my Clacton holiday last year has done the trick - these include a views of Clacton Station, Frinton level crossing, the Victory pub at Walton-on-the-Naze and a train calling at Harwich Town.

Elsewhere, there are new collections to report on WME Sandwell (Exploring Rowley Regis with shots of the Britannia and Robert Peel pubs), and on WME Staffordshire, where pubs are also the order of the day on Exploring Gnosall courtesy of the Boat and the Royal Oak. Staffordshire has also received a Green Bus photo of route 2 at Penkridge, and some more Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal stuff thanks to views of Princefield and Broom Bridges near Penkridge.

And finally, this month's stragglers. WME Dudley sees Dudley by Bus in action again with the 242 making an appearance at Stourbridge; WME Walsall receives a nice view of Moorcroft Junction, making for a great new location on the Walsall Canal collection; and WME Worcestershire sneaks in with an extra photo of Upper Severn Bridge on the Staffs & Worcs Canal. That completes our round-up for April, I wonder what May might have in store?

Tuesday, April 21

Shrewsbury then Sandwell

Just when you thought it was safe, I've got a couple more adventures to tell you about...

Tuesday 14th April - a day out with the family as we visited Shrewsbury. After lunch at the Dragon King oriental buffet, we head up into town and I go into photo mode. A number of pubs caught my eye, including the Wheatsheaf, the Three Fishes and the Yorkshire House. I also got some bus shots by St Mary's Church - the routes captured included the 25 to Bayston Hill and the 435 Minsterley Motors to Ludlow. A particular highlight was a walk around the grounds of Shrewsbury Castle, the gardens looked stunning with an array of colourful flowers and the occasional gun cannon too. After a quick stop at the bus station, I decided to have a stroll along the river for a closer look at the scenic English Bridge, and the visit was completed by a drink in the Shrewsbury Hotel Wetherspoon's. A cracking bit of bonus Shropshire exploration.

Monday 20th April - Back on home turf this time with a Sandwell special visiting Greets Green and Stone Cross.
  • My first port of call is Toll End for some pub photos featuring the Kings Arms, the Comedian and the Rising Sun (an intriguing old pub on Horseley Road).
  • On to the Walsall Canal, exploring the section from Moors Mill Bridge into Great Bridge town centre with Hempole Bridge and Brickhouse Lane providing further discoveries.
  • After a quick mooch around Great Bridge Library, its off to Greets Green for a look at the Royal Oak followed by Farley Park. The park was a cracking find, especially the old lodge which now serves as the local community centre. Further up is the old Greets Green Post Office and the Fox and Goose pub near Belper Bridge.
  • I couldn't resist an extra slice of canal exploration, so I join the Wednesbury Old Canal at Belper Bridge and wander up to Ryders Green Road. The walk introduces me to Ryders Green Junction, where the Walsall Canal heads off down Ryders Green Locks - the nearby Eight Locks pub (complete with lots of England flags) provides a useful indicator of how many locks there are. A quick look at Hadley's Bridge completes my Wednesbury Old Canal taster session.
  • I'm now on the trail of the 430 bus, walking down Whitgreave Street before catching the route on Oldbury Road. The route does a loop of Greets Green, providing glimpses of the Jolly Sailor, before returning to West Bromwich via Albion and Dawes Avenue. Albion Junction, the Yew Tree pub and Sams Lane provide ideas for further investigation.
  • From West Brom its onto the 646 Diamond bus to Stone Cross, offering a tour of Tantany, Wigmore Farm and Charlemont Farm. A nice ride, I particularly liked the almost rural views on the approach to Wigmore Farm, and it was good to finally cover the Charlemont Farm estate with its local shops, blocks of flats and the somewhat overgrown Mill pub.
  • Stone Cross then, trying a 646 terminus shot before concentrating on the landmark Stone Cross pub overlooking the gyratory system. I grab a spot of lunch and plot my way up through Friar Park to the Woods Estate where I hope to catch the 645 route. The walk includes a look at Stone Cross Library on Beverley Road, the Manor House off Hall Green Road (a fine black and white timbered building) and a call at the towering ugliness that is Crankhall Lane Bridge on the Tame Valley Canal. The Friar Park pub precedes the local Lidl supermarket, then Coronation Road takes me to the Windmill for a shortcut to Kent Road.
  • The 645, also operated by Black Diamond, connects the Woods Estate with Darlaston. Notable features include the Woodlands Social on Kent Road, then a tour of Wednesbury covering Brunswick Park, the town centre, the Woden Inn and the church. Quiet residential streets take us to Darlaston, although I do catch sight of the Rose Hill Tavern, Albert Pritchard Infants School and the Black Horse. The trip is completed with a couple of bus shots at Asda terminus, and a ride on the 79 back to Wolverhampton.

Monday, April 13

Bearing Up in Bridgnorth

Saturday April 11th - time for an Easter Saturday outing, joining Rog, Woody, Andy and Bruce for a tour of Shropshire. No sign of any chocolate or Easter bunnies, but at least the beer was flowing nicely...
  • Its an early start as I make my way across to Stourbridge on a 256 Metrobus via Wombourne and Kingswinford. I do enjoy sampling the Metrobuses, and it will be a shame when they are taken out of service.

  • At Stourbridge I meet with Woody, Rog and Bruce as we board the Dodger. We got a great deal on a Group Save ticket to Kidderminster, although Bruce got away without paying yet again.

  • Stourbridge Junction, and we board the Worcester train in search of Andy. Bad news! He's still at Rowley Regis, and the emergency timetable has kicked in already. Luckily he's not too far behind and catches us up at Kidderminster Town Station.

  • Time for some travelling in style as we hop on to the Severn Valley Railway for a classic ride to Arley. I was particularly impressed with the seats in our carriage - very comfy with recliner buttons for a bit of luxury. The journey was great, stepping back in time through Bewdley and over Victoria Bridge as Rog and Woody reminisced about exploring the riverbank.

  • Arley Station: a picture postcard station, looking a delight as the sun shone brightly. Bruce gets posing with the running board and road bridge, whilst I take a selection of photos covering both platforms. The station house is particularly striking with another selection of old signs and adverts that capture the atmosphere of a bygone age. The other platform had a smaller brick shelter and lots of pretty cottage plants dotted about. Cracking stuff!

  • Arley Village: we next set off to explore the village, heading down to the river past the Harbour pub - Rog seemed quite disappointed that it wasn't open, but it was only about half past ten in the morning. We cross the river on a pedestrian footbridge that offered nice views along the valley, and then investigate the main village complete with a cottage post office on the riverbank. A narrow lane takes us up to the gates of Arley Arboretum - the 297 turns around here, so we linger here for a while, exchanging rather worrying ringtones whilst waiting for the bus to arrive.

  • The 297: a route linking Kidderminster and Bridgnorth, currently operated by Arriva. Bus arrives slightly late and the driver demonstrates his reversing prowess. Hopping on board, I feel we've gatecrashed a senior's daytrip as the bus is packed out - mind you, Rog and Andy never miss a chance to charm the old ladies anyway. As well as Arley, the route serves some other pretty villages, notably Alveley where I spot another traditional post office next door to the village pub, very picturesque.

  • Bridgnorth: Despite the old lady sitting behind me insisting that we should try the Cliff Railway, we alight in High Town where Rog makes an excited beeline straight for the Wetherspoon's (the Jewel of the Severn). Here we savour our first pints of the day, Guinness Reds for the others whilst I try some Welsh Brains and very nice it was too. We decide to stop here for some lunch with all of us plumping for the beer and burger deal, which much to my amazement actually arrived with a decent serving of chips - I almost choked on my beer I was that shocked!!! Suitably fed, we found ourselves with a spare ten minutes before our next bus was due, just enough time for a quick drink in the Golden Lion, where Rog upsets the barmaid then downs a pint of Abbots Ale in record time.

  • The 436: The bus was running rather late, leaving us wondering if we'd missed it because the bus stops in Bridgnorth had been altered. Saying that, the wait did at least give Andy chance to sort out his bladder, and the bus finally turned up just as we were about to give up on it completely. Its only a short ride to Much Wenlock, which is just as well given that Rog was starting to look distinctly uncomfortable as that quick pint of Abbots came back to haunt him.

  • Much Wenlock: the late running of the 436 meant that our intended pub visit here turned into a brief toilet break before catching the 39. I nipped into the conveniences at the bus interchange, but the others got confused by a wayward sign and ended up relieving themselves in rather more open surroundings!! The 39 was soon on the scene, providing a couple of handy photos before we settled in for the ride through to Telford via Broseley, Jackfield, Ironbridge and Madeley.

  • Telford: Having missed out on the pubs at Much Wenlock, a drink at Telford became quite a priority. I wasn't quite sure where the Wetherspoon's was, but did track it down via a merry dance through the Telford Shopping Centre - unfortunately there was a quicker shortcut but we'll know better for next time. The Wetherspoon's concerned is the Thomas Botfield, and I reverted to the cider whilst Rog pondered the merits of the local estate agent, Nicholas Tart.

  • Shifnal: After a quick shuffle on the 891 through Priorslee, we arrive at Shifnal for a further pint, finding a cracking little pub called the Wheatsheaf. Rog and Andy were suffering with their bladders again, so Bruce was left to order the drinks and make the acquaintance of the barmaid Claire. We found a nice table outside to provide a long overdue cheers photo, before waiting in vain for the 892 to show up. With the emergency timetable once again kicking in, we drowned our sorrows with a quick pint in the Beehive before settling back down at the Wheatsheaf, our newly-appointed Shifnal local of choice.

  • Thankfully the 892 at half past five did make an appearance, providing a useful connection into Tettenhall via Cosford, Tong and Albrighton. At Tettenhall I introduced the chaps to the Rock Hotel, where we had a decent meal and I thankfully managed to avoid my cousin given that Bruce was in attendance. A late running 501 got us back into Wolverhampton, where I bid the guys farewell at the end of another successful and most enjoyable outing.

Friday, April 3

A Helping of Highgate

My first trip of April saw me venture into the mysterious realms of backstreet Birmingham, with a tasty serving of canal exploration for good measure...

The outing initially saw me back on my old stomping ground at Birmingham University, getting a few photos at Edgbaston Campus before joining the Worcester & Birmingham Canal for a walk back into the City Centre. The canal has long been a favourite of mine, but it had been ages since I'd covered the sections through Edgbaston and Five Ways, so it was good to renew my acquaintance with Pritchatts Road, Somerset Road and The Vale. Unfortunately, the rather overcast morning conditions weren't proving great for taking bridge photos, but I persevered and hopefully some of the shots will be usable.

Ploughing onwards, I reckon it had been a full five years or so since I last visited Edgbaston Tunnel. Photos again proved tricky but I enjoyed attempting shots inside the tunnel, where bright orange lamps at least provided some kind of light source. The bridges at St James Road and Bath Row were less familiar to me, and I was pleased to add them to my archive - hopefully now I have a full set of shots covering the entire Birmingham section of the canal from Worcester Bar to Shannon Road.

Leaving the canal at The Mailbox, it was time for a bit of local exploration. My walk took me along Bristol Street then down Wrentham Street, where I immediately found some traditional corner pubs, the Fountain and the British Oak. Continuing into Macdonald Street, the backstreet vibe became more pronounced amongst industrial workshops and pubs like the Queens Head and the Lamp Tavern. It certainly wasn't the most glamorous location, and I always had half an eye looking over my shoulder just in case, but it was a fascinating glimpse of the urban inner-city all the same. I did feel reluctant to get the camera out at times, but braved a shot of the Town Crier pub before dashing down Rea Street towards Digbeth.

Next stop was the Anchor, a cracking pub I visited with Rog last year without getting a decent photo of the place. I was determined to put this right, and today's photos seemed to settle me down as further shots followed of the White Swan just up the road. I was roughly aiming for Camp Hill, but decided to branch off to explore more of Highgate, spotting another pub called the Fountain, this time on Alcester Street. Lunch beckoned, and I found a nice spot in Highgate Park to tuck in to my pasty. The photos continued with a quick peek at the closed Peacock pub on Deakin Street before taking a closer look at the park itself - its a good facility with an urban cricket court and a nice avenue of trees guarded by a statue of King Edward VII. With a hint of blossom, some parts of the park were actually quite photogenic, especially where the grand residences of Moseley Road formed an almost stately backdrop.

I was actually beginning to like Highgate, and I just had time for a final few discoveries before tracking down my next bit of canal. These included the Hen & Chickens pub (closed and boarded up on Moseley Street), the Moseley Arms (very much open and a route 50 landmark), and the attractive half-timbered building in Stratford Place (not sure what the building is but it looked old). Highgate Middleway brought me to Camp Hill Interchange, where I was finally able to get shots of a longstanding target of mine, the Brewer & Baker pub overlooking the island.

Continuing down to Coventry Road, I decided to put the canal on hold a little bit longer as I couldn't resist a return visit to Bordesley Station. I must admit this was made with some considerable trepidation, as I could well recall my previous visits, climbing a dingy, litter-strewn staircase that stunk like the worst urinal on earth. Thankfully the station appears to have had a bit of a clean up, as the litter was negligible and the smells tolerable, although the stairwell is still a dark, offputting approach and the platforms are as bleak and basic as ever. Given the current economic climate, its quite pleasing that the station remains open and that someone takes the trouble to make it half-way presentable.

Time now for that canal exploration I'd been promising myself, and it was well worth the wait. I joined the Grand Union at Coventry Road and made my way along to Fazeley Street. Its hardly the prettiest stretch of waterway, but for me it was engrossing new territory providing cracking little discoveries. The first was Bordesley Junction, where the Grand Union effectively forks into two arms, one to Digbeth and one to Saltley. After surveying the roving iron footbridge, I have a brief look at the Saltley option, taking shots of Bridge 96 and spotting several other bridges on the horizon (very intriguing!), before deciding to concentrate on the short section up to Digbeth Junction.

This initially yields photos of Bridge 95 at Great Barr Street, then I arrived at Warwick Bar, a simply wonderful backstreet canal location. The bar is something of an ugly cousin compared to the more vaunted Worcester Bar in Gas Street Basin, but I really liked the sense of quiet dereliction amid industrial surroundings where you are slightly off the beaten track. Just beyond the bar is Digbeth Junction, where this bit of the Grand Union terminates and the Digbeth Branch Canal heads off towards Aston. I was tempted to investigate Curzon Street Tunnel and the Ashted locks, but instead I follow the junction sign towards Typhoo Basin, with the towpath coming to a halt at Fazeley Street Bridge. From on top of the bridge I could catch a glimpse of the basin, a quiet scene now but I could imagine the days when the place would have been busy with boats serving the Typhoo Tea and HP Sauce warehouses.

From Fazeley Street it was back to New Street as the trip drew to a close, although there was time for a final backstreet flurry having a look at Birmingham Dog's Home, old tenement buildings on Bordesley Street and the closed Fox & Grapes pub on Park Street. The train ride back to Wolverhampton gave me time to reflect on a cracking adventure that had given me a real flavour of a side of Birmingham that I had always previously chosen to avoid. Today's glimpses of Highgate and the Digbeth section of Grand Union Canal have convinced me that there is much exploration potential to be found amongst the backstreets and, whilst always remaining cautious, I'd quite like to find out more.

Wednesday, April 1

And not forgetting...

Yesterday's outing gave me chance to say goodbye to three of the five libraries that have closed in Wolverhampton, so I thought I'd take time to offer some personal reflections on the other two...

Bradmore Library - a small community library based in the outbuildings at Bantock House. Like Mary Pointon, Daisy Bank and the Scotlands, Bradmore Library was only open for 15 hours a week and wasn't particularly heavily used (although usage was higher than at the three other locations). The library had a nice setting within Bantock Park - visitors to WME Wolverhampton will know this park is a personal favourite - and had a cosy, friendly interior, although it perhaps suffered from a lack of space. Another consideration would be the library's proximity to larger branches at Finchfield and Warstones, a short bus ride or a decent walk away. An unstaffed deposit collection could be a future option, although there have been suggestions that the popular neighbouring park cafe could be expanded and developed into an internet cafe. It remains to be seen whether this will actually happen, but it could be an excellent community facility if it does. Farewell Bradmore!

Oxley Library - of all the libraries that have closed, Oxley is the one I feel most sad about. I have a lot of affection for the branch having visited it with my grandparents as a kid, and I've also enjoyed taking photos of the library during several walks around Rakegate over the years. As such, the library was a link back to my childhood, and it seems strange to think it won't be there anymore.
Unlike the other libraries that have closed, Oxley was a larger branch that was open five days a week including two late nights (although it did close for lunch). Situated on Probert Road near the Day Centre and the alley into the St Anne's estate, I always felt the library slightly resembled a shed - a leap of the imagination I guess, but that was part of the reason I liked the place. This location may have been part of Oxley's downfall, being somewhat hidden away from the busy Stafford Road and the local shops, and the branch did seem quieter than the other larger branches despite a core of regular loyal borrowers. Considering also Oxley's close proximity to the library at Pendeford, the branch was deemed uneconomic given the wider Council need to save money, and the axe ultimately fell. Possibilities could exist for redeveloping the site to provide a new health centre facility for the local area, which would at least retain a community use for the site, although it remains to be seen whether this will transpire due to the current economic environment. An unstaffed deposit collection is again proposed, either as part of the new development or elsewhere within the local community. Farewell Oxley, I will miss you!

To echo the comments in my previous post, it is always a sad day when local facilities close their doors for good, but I can understand the reasoning and justification for the closures - the purpose of my posts is to reflect and remember rather than criticise the decisions that have been made. In the case of both Bradmore and Oxley, the library closures could be offset by the development of new facilities such as an enhanced cafe at Bantock Park and a new health facility at Oxley. The communities concerned could benefit greatly should these go ahead, so amidst the doom and gloom of my ramblings there could be some very positive outcomes, and I will be interested to see what happens over the coming months...

The Final Curtain Falls...

Tuesday 31st March 2009 was a sad day in the history of Wolverhampton's Library Service, as four local libraries shut their doors for the last time - a fifth, Bradmore Community Library, had already closed for good last Saturday (28th March). I was very fond of all of the libraries concerned, and yesterday's outing gave me a final chance to visit three of them...

After a spot of shopping in Wolverhampton, I caught the 126 up to the Spread Eagle and made my way to Mary Pointon Library. The library was situated on Upper Ettingshall Road, part of a complex of buildings that also includes Woodcross Community Centre and the Manor Primary School. Here it served the residents of Ettingshall and Woodcross, and occupied a small room within the old school buildings. The library actually had quite a bright, airy feel to it, with large windows and a few potted plants, and it contained a couple of public computers, a reading table, the library counter and an arrangement of shelving units providing fiction, non-fiction and the children's section in the far corner. A nice facility then, popular with the neighbouring school, but the fact it was only open 15 hours a week and simply did not attract enough visitors meant it was economically unviable at a time when the Council is facing serious budgetary problems. The plan is that the library will be replaced with an unstaffed deposit collection, and that the school will use the room for educational purposes. Farewell Mary Pointon!

The goodbye tour was well underway, but I decided to do a bit of bonus Dudley exploration before visiting the next library. My walk took me down into Coseley, where I lamented the loss of The Boat pub on Havacre Lane (the site now contains mounds of earth and gravel) before tracking down a couple of backstreet pubs, the Rising Sun on Darkhouse Lane and then the Rollers Arms. A brief look at Coseley Station was followed by photos of the Painters Arms (a traditional Holden's local on Avenue Road) and the Unitarian Chapel. My next photo candidate rather unexpectedly added to the day's theme of local facilities threatened with closure, as whilst getting shots of Coseley Swimming Pool, I got chatting to some of the staff there who told me the baths is due to shut in August. Again this seems to be such a shame, so I wish everyone the best of luck in their campaign to keep the pool open.

From the baths I wend my way round by the cricket ground and up past Christ Church before continuing past the White House pub and Netto into Daisy Bank. Just across the border into Wolverhampton is Daisy Bank Library, housed along with the community centre in the very imposing Board Schools building on Ash Street, from where it served the residents of Daisy Bank and Bradley. The building looks old and rather foreboding from the outside, and heading inside is almost like stepping back in time to the days of dark brown shelving and musty smells. In truth, the library did feel somewhat tired and dated, but I felt that was part its charm. Like Mary Pointon, the library was open 15 hours a week and a lack of patronage again made the facility uneconomical. Add in problems with vandalism and the fact that the library wasn't considered safe enough for staff to lone-work there, and the case for closure was pretty compelling. An unstaffed deposit collection is also planned for this site. Farewell Daisy Bank!

Time is ticking along, and I need to get moving if I'm to make my final library of the day. I check the bus times and find I have a spare ten minutes, just enough time to hunt down the Brittania pub on Hall Green Street - it looked like the building was being converted for purely residential use. Its then back to the stop by Netto to wait for the 544, but Travel A2Z's 680 route is first on the scene and provides a nice little ride through Bradley, up Dudley Street by Morrison's and then into Bilston via a curious town centre loop to drop people off outside Lidl. I endure a nervous wait for the 525, thankfully the bus was only a couple of minutes late and I keep a close eye on the clock as we head through Willenhall and Wednesfield.

My last port of call is Scotlands & Underhill Library, due to close at 1pm - the 525 drops me off on Primrose Lane at 12:45, but with a dash through the estate I make it with a few minutes to spare. The library is situated within the Neil Dougherty resource centre on the corner of Masefield Road and Westcroft Avenue, where it occupies a small front room. Again the library was only open for 15 hours, but at least the facility looked like it had been invested in, with lower height shelving and a bright interior. I really sensed the pain of closure here, seeing the stock being boxed up as the last few minutes ticked by. I wasn't quite the last person through the door, as a nice old lady brought in some flowers for the staff to say thankyou for all their hard work, a touching gesture that highlighted the impact the closures could have for local residents. Sadly, as with the other libraries, there just wasn't enough usage to justify maintaining the facility, and a deposit collection is again proposed in its place. 1 o'clock had now arrived and it was time to bid farewell, and as I left I couldn't help feeling very heavy-hearted having witnessed the very last moments at this particular branch. Farewell Scotlands and Underhill!

It was a sad day, but I'm very glad I took the time to go and visit the libraries one last time. It is always a shame when local facilities like these have to close, but I understand the fact that such action was necessary given the high running costs and lack of usage, especially when combined with the urgent need for the council to make savings to avert serious financial problems. Hopefully the provision of deposit collections, and the fact that residents will still have other library facilities relatively close at hand, will help to offset the closures and ensure people still have access to books, computers and information. For me, it was a day when I saw a little bit of local history being made, and in years to come, at least I can say I was there.