Thursday, July 30

WME Update Digest: July 2009

Even by my sluggish standards July has been a particularly slow month for updates. Technical issues meant that for much of the time it looked unlikely that I would have any new additions to report at all - thankfully, the situation has improved and a handful of brave photographs have started the ball rolling again...

Much of the action has taken place on WME Birmingham and WME Staffordshire. The Brum stuff includes shots of Baldwins Lane Garage (Exploring Hall Green), the Worcester and Birmingham Canal at University Avenue, and a look at Harborne Lane Bridge (Dudley No. 2 Canal) during the building of the Selly Oak New Road. There's also been a long awaited addition to Birmingham by Bus, with the 904 making an appearance at Bull Street terminus.

The new Staffordshire selections meanwhile concentrate on revisiting old friends. Exploring Cheslyn Hay now boasts extra views of the war memorial and the Talbot pub, whilst Bakers Bridge confirms its stranglehold on the Wyrley Branch collection now that the fourth and fifth parts of that series are in situ.

Besides those two galleries, there isn't much else to report. Yet another 34 at Tile Hill shot has crept into Coventry by Bus as WME Coventry just about ticks over, whilst WME Walsall keeps its head above water thanks to a Walsall Canal view taken from Midland Road Bridge. And that, my friends, is that - I just hope August proves a little more productive...

Tuesday, July 21

A Capital Return

Last Saturday, Rog and I ventured down to London to sample the delights of the capital city and its transport network. It turned out to be a thrilling, action-packed day - here are some highlights...
  • An early start, meeting Rog at Smethwick Galton Bridge before catching the 8:30 train from New Street to Euston.
  • After a few photos of Euston Station, its onto the dreaded London Underground. With the Victoria Line out of action, we reshuffle our plan and select the Northern Line down to Morden via a quick change at Kennington.
  • At Morden we're on the hunt for Sun Hill, filming location for The Bill tv series. Morden Station has a busy bus interchange outside, whilst Morden Road Tram Stop offers handy photos of the Croydon Tramlink route 3 between Wimbledon and New Addington.
  • Branching off through an industrial estate, we find the distinctive set of Sun Hill Police Station, with Bruce and Bonus posing outside for their photo. Its hardly the most glamorous place to have a TV studio, but it certainly made for a memorable moment.
  • A public footpath takes us up to South Wimbledon, where we do a loop by the tube station before heading to The Trafalgar for our first pint of the day. The pub doesn't look much from the outside but is the current Greater London CAMRA Pub of the Year. Inside it was very cosy and friendly, and we savour a pint of locally brewed Thrupenny Hop Bitter whilst watching a bit of the Ashes.
  • Lunchtime sees us arrive in Colliers Wood, ticking another off the list of stations Rog wanted to visit. The Royal Standard offers more cricketing action, then its time to tuck into some chips before catching the 200 bus to Wimbledon Village. The route links Mitcham with Raynes Park and has a Midland Metro style voiceover announcing each stop as we approach it.
  • Wimbledon is quite an exclusive area, with a busy shopping area to navigate and a charming old village centre. The latter is home to the Rose and Crown, a landmark old coaching inn owned by Youngs. We sample the Youngs Special Ale and find a comfy sofa where our bear chums can watch a bit more cricket, England are building a handy lead.
  • Wimbledon Station was a particularly nice find, as I especially liked the art deco frontage complete with chunky red station lettering. Here we catch a South West Trains service to Waterloo via Earlsfield, Clapham Junction and Vauxhall.
  • From Waterloo we navigate our way towards Whitechapel, changing at Westminster onto the District Line to find that services were only running as far as Aldgate East. No matter, we hop off there and walk it up Whitechapel Road past the market stalls to the Blind Beggar. The pub has a historical connection with the Krays, but we enjoy the beer garden and make the acquaintance of a very sleepy cat.
  • The 205 bus takes us from Whitechapel to Moorgate, where I get a couple of photos of the impressive Globe pub. Then its onto the Northern Line back to Euston, thankfully we have managed to avoid the crowded carriages today and I actually quite enjoyed our various tube explorations.
  • We've got a bit of time to spare before the train home, so we pop into the Doric Arch for a pint of Fuller's Discovery. The pub has a nice collection of railwayana, but once again I'm concentrating on the cricket as England's lead grows still further albeit with Matt Prior getting run out for 61.
  • Stocking up with sandwiches for the journey home, we were gearing up for a mad dash down to the platform, expecting Euston will do its usual trick of announcing the train barely five minutes before departure. Not so this time, we had at least 15 minutes warning and could take a leisurely stroll down to platform 14 and even had time to get a few shots of the Pendolino waiting for us.
  • The journey back proved quite eventful, as we get talking to a chap who'd visited the fans convention at Earls Court and was most excited about finally meeting Tom Baker. Unfortunately the guy had got on an early train and subsequently had to leave us at Coventry having had his tickets confiscated. The incident provoked a bit of discussion as we continued to Birmingham.
  • Finally, a couple more drinks in Brum, courtesy of the Sheakespeare and the Wellington, finished off an excellent adventure. London made a big impression, and whilst I still don't like the crowds and congestion much, I do feel a bit more confident in looking forward to future return visits.

Sunday, July 12

Birthday Bling

Saturday 11th July saw Rog and I celebrate the Chancer's 33rd birthday with a tour of Smethwick, Hockley and the Jewellery Quarter...
  • Meet at Galton Bridge just after 10:30, then its off to join the Old Main Line Canal.
  • Our walk takes us to Rabone Lane via Summit Tunnel, Smethwick Locks and Pope Bridge. We also have a look at the New Navigation pub on Lewisham Road.
  • Metro time, beginning at Handsworth Booth Street with a ride to Soho Benson Road.
  • The first pint of the day comes courtesy of the Black Eagle on Factory Road. Cracking pub and great service as we sample What the Fox's Hat from the Church End Brewery.
  • Back on the Metro for the short leg to Winson Green Outer Circle, where we get some photos of the stop entrance before catching the bus.
  • The 11A takes us down to Bearwood passing Winson Green Prison, the Acorn pub and Summerfield Park.
  • At Bearwood we make a beeline for the Bear Tavern, where we enjoy a spot of lunch whilst trying to keep tabs on the F1 qualifying via a snowy reception. The Ashes were showing on the main pub screens, but the Aussies are marmelising the England bowling and I'm not brave enough to watch.
  • With Mark Webber cementing pole position, Bruce makes an appearance - how could we not get a shot of him at the Bear? We then walk to the bus station via Wigorn Road and Lightwoods Park.
  • Next its the 82, heading up past the Barleycorn and through Cape Hill - the old brewery is now being turned into a housing estate. We alight at Spring Hill island for a look around the imposing local library.
  • The stroll continues as we wander into the Jewellery Quarter, enjoying some unexpected sunshine as we admire the Chamberlain Clock. Then its into the Rose Villa Tavern for a swift half - the pub has a great period interior with lots of green glazed tiles and an old fireplace, but also provides bad news from the cricket as Mitchell Johnson has just got Alastair Cook out lbw for 6, ouch!
  • I couldn't risk England losing further wickets, so its onwards down Warstone Lane before branching off for a look at St Paul's Square and Church.
  • We seem to be running well ahead of schedule, so we pay a quick visit to St Paul's Metro Stop and Rog gets propositioned by a Goth girl looking for underage booze.
  • Making a quick getaway, we find ourselves in the Church Inn enjoying garlic bread amongst the West Bromwich Albion shirts. Another great pub.
  • Its now off to Jewellery Quarter Station, my first ever visit here but we don't stay long. The train is imminent so we dash down several flights of stairs and just have long enough to pose Bruce next to a running board.
  • We have a spare couple of hours before heading back to Stourbridge, so we alight at Rowley Regis and sample some Ashes Ale in the Britannia pub at Rowley Village.
  • The 241 provides a short ride to Dudley, where Rog finally gets the chance to sample the Station Hotel. We decide to have a best of three pool match, which I won by default because Rog accidentally potted the black in off!
  • We conclude matters in traditional style with a drink in the Rock Station where I was pleased to have a chat with Mr Wood and arrange some future outings.
A busy day then, cramming in canals, buses, trains, the metro, some pubs and a few local photographs too. The trip provided some fine discoveries and great memories, thus ensuring we celebrated Rog's birthday in appropriate style...

Friday, July 3

Telford Aborted

One of my more unfortunate traditions here at WME is the occasional tendency for outings to be aborted due to bad weather or technical difficulties. I can well recall getting drenched at the old Corbett Hospital in Stourbridge a few years ago, and then there was the time I made it across to Walsall en route to Lichfield only to find I hadn't charged up my camera batteries. Well, today's trip qualifies on both counts - a long awaited Telford outing that was cut short due to persistent drizzle and camera problems...

The plan was to do a Telford local, starting with Stirchley before visiting Horsehay and finishing with Ketley. After what seems like a week long heatwave I was hopeful of further fine weather to provide the backdrop to my photos, and was very disappointed to be greeted by prolonged drizzle this morning. Undeterred, I caught the 891 across to Telford and began with a look at the ornamental gardens at Town Park. The camera was already proving troublesome before the rain set in, with many attempted photos appearing out of focus due to a combination of flash and zoom issues.

The gardens themselves were as delightful as ever, with bright colourful planting augmenting familiar features like the pond and the pergola. I particularly liked one flowerbed that included a big fish as its centrepiece, and hope my photo of it will be amongst the few successful shots I did manage to take. Next up, its off for a look at Wonderland and the park amphitheatre - both would make great photo targets in future, but try as I might it just wasn't going to happen today.

I didn't want to give up just yet, so I proceeded with my planned walk to Stirchley. It was a great stroll despite the rain, with the Silkin Way providing a tranquil route into the old village. It was my first proper look at the area, and it certainly appealed as a place I'd like to include on WME Telford. The Rose and Crown pub is worth a shot or two, and I also had a mooch around Stirchley Centre where I discovered the Lord Silkin School, Stirchley Library, the local shopping precinct and a Somerfield supermarket. The drizzle and general murk put me off even attempting any shots here, and I resigned myself to catching the 33 bus up through Randlay and back into Telford.

Alighting at the bus station, its decision time - keep going with the outing, or call it quits. The weather still looked ominous despite the promise of a brighter afternoon forecast, and with the camera suffering its annoying gremlins I felt it was best to return home. Thus it was that the aborted trip tradition gained its most recent scalp, although the limited exploring I did complete will certainly come in handy. Telford therefore has its stay of execution, but I have a feeling that it won't be too long before I'm back to have another go...