Saturday, December 24

Moseley, Ladywood and Smethwick

The herald angels are singing and the halls are being decked with boughs of holly so this can only mean one thing - yes it's Christmas, and time for a festive meeting of the Hub Marketing Board. Monday 19th December therefore saw Mr D9 Andy and myself avoiding the panic buying mayhem with a good old tour in and around Birmingham...

- Aston Locks -

ASTON: We had originally aimed to commence proceedings at 9:30 but Andy got waylaid by hub matters elsewhere, leaving me free for a spot of bonus exploring up Aston way. Heavy rain was predicted but luckily the weather held off long enough to allow for a canal walk, with me foolhardily tackling the treacherous icy towpath of the Birmingham & Fazeley from High Holborn Bridge to Rocky Lane. I hadn't done this stretch before so it was interesting to see more of Aston Locks including the cottages by Thimble Mill Lane.

- Allison Street, Digbeth -

SPARKBROOK: A turn-up-and-go 67 Bendibus is next on hand to deliver me safely into the centre of Birmingham where I say hello to the Tony Hancock Memorial at Old Square. Mr D9 summons me to New Street Station and with our party complete we set about filling in the remaining holes in our collection of vintage Birmingham toilet closets. One we had missed previously was on Allison Street just around the back of Moor Street Station, and with that duly photographed we continue down towards Camp Hill and along the Stratford Road. By now the rain has arrived with some ferocity but it doesn't deter us from a wander into Sparkbrook, an area I don't think I'd got to grips with before. Here the Shakespeare pub is a neat landmark as Andy investigates a potential former toilet block by the railway bridge.

- Cannon Hill Closet with Bald Spot in attendance -

BALSALL HEATH: We're covering all the glamorous areas today as a quick ride on the 8C Inner Circle connects us into Balsall Heath. Risking a drenching we explore the backstreets around St Paul's Road in search of more closet clues, then a soggy stroll along Edward Street brings us to the Cannon Hill Cubicle where Andy can't resist making use of the facilities. Both Balsall Heath and Sparkbrook looked to have some fascinating heritage buildings so they could be well worth returning to in drier conditions.

- Recovering in the Fighting Cocks -

MOSELEY: Having gritted our teeth through the deluge we were now in urgent need of some warmth and refreshment. The 35 took pity on us by arriving instantly for our link into Moseley, and then it was time to try some pubs. The Elizabeth of York Wetherspoon's got us off to a dry start, but I particularly liked the period features of the Fighting Cocks (complete with clock tower) and the cosy ambience of the Prince of Wales. A brief ride on the 50 also meant we could squeeze in the Merry Maid, just to ensure we were properly back up to temperature of course!

- The Vine, Ladywood -

LADYWOOD: The sequence of Birmingham's inner districts had been serving us well so far so we added further to the list with a visit to Ladywood. The 8C is again on hand to take us to Five Ways where Andy points out the former Crusader pub in the grotty Edgbaston Shopping Centre. Weaving via subways we find our way to Ruston Street, home to the Vine, our best pub find of the day. Whilst much of the old Ladywood area had been swept away, here was a real survivor linking back to the past, a proper old-fashioned backstreet boozer complete with a heartwarming pint of Santa's Claws from the Beartown Brewery - the beer tasted as if it had had some candy cane melted into it for extra spicy sweetness. Freshly fortified we complete our Ladywood sweep with views of the Ivy Bush, Perrotts Folly, the Bricklayers Arms and a recce around the reservoir - Andy even got chance to pay homage to the former Carlyle Road works site where his favourite D9 buses were once manufactured.

- Investigating the site of the Carlyle Rd D9 works -

CAPE HILL: We decide to conclude our festive frivolities amongst the familiar D9-trip haunts of Cape Hill and Smethwick. Andy has a couple more pubs up his sleeve - the Old Windmill opposite the City Hospital was one I knew about, but the Cross Keys down by Spring Hill caught me completely by surprise, full marks Mr Lunn for that one. It's Andy's turn for a shock in the Robin though when he recognises one of the barstaff and makes himself scarce rather sharpish whilst I hand over the beer money!

- The Old Windmill, with Frosty the Snowman! -

SMETHWICK: And finally... as it's Christmas we push the boat out a little with a final flourish thanks to the Hono Bar, the Queens Arms and the Old Corner House. Andy's surveillance mission with the Queens Arms finally paid off as it's a pub he's wanted to visit for months and had only recently re-opened, whilst the Old Corner House was also back in business after a prolonged spell of closure - it's great that we can now say we've tried them out. With that we bring the trip and the year to a close in excellent style, and we look forward to seeing what adventures 2012 might bring.

- Cheers to a Merry Christmas! -

Sunday, December 11

Coventry 2011

It's getting rather late in the year now and my aim is to fill in any remaining gaps in my exploration coverage for 2011. One such hole was Coventry, so on Friday 9th December off I trooped to the city of Godiva...

: Feeling in an energetic mood, I arrived at Coventry Station at 9:19 and embarked on a gradual stroll through the City Centre and out towards Gosford Green. Initial photo targets included Station Square and the distinct round features of the Indoor Market, whilst Earl Street was busy with students heading for the many prominent University buildings. Gosford Street offered an interesting find (more about that later), and then Far Gosford Street had a mixture of shopping architecture culminating in a Christmas tree opposite Lloyds Bank.

- Gosford Green -

GOSFORD GREEN: I've now arrived at Gosford Green, a neat area of open space at the busy junction of Binley Road, Walsgrave Road and Sky Blue Way. I enjoy getting some shots of the leafless trees, the bare branches reaching hungrily out into the bright wintry sunlight. Further along Walsgrave Road is the community of Stoke where a landmark Carnegie branch library sits on the corner of Kingsway - I love old library buildings like this!

- Site of the pitch at Highfield Road -

: Buoyed by my discoveries so far, I now pick up the trail of the old Coventry City FC ground by venturing into parts of Hillfields. It had been a few years since the club had moved to the Ricoh Arena and I knew the old site had been redeveloped, but I was still interested to see if there was any legacy of one of the historic homes of Midlands football. Approaching along Swan Lane I can see the new housing that now occupies the spot, but my efforts are rewarded when Thackhall Street leads me to Signet Square, at the heart of which is a playing field that ensures local youngsters can still play football where Sky Blues legends did in years gone by. The rest of the immediate area comprises a lot of terraced housing and you can imagine the rooftops echoing to goal celebrations past. I continue my local investigations and turn up some pub photos including the Binley Oak and Brewer & Baker followed by the Old Ball Hotel back on the main Walsgrave Road.

- 27 at Walsgrave Hospital -

: Time for a bus ride and the 27 is on hand to weave its way to Walsgrave Hospital via Stoke Hill and Belgrave Road. The last time I visited the hospital (back in 2004) it was a bit of a dump with monotonous ugly department blocks that were all too depressing. Fast forward a few years and the place has been transformed into a modern health complex that looks seriously impressive. Even better (for me at least), the hospital comes complete with its own bus interchange located by the main entrance, a cracking little photography location where a variety of National Express Coventry and Travel de Courcey routes drop by.

- Coventry Stadium, Brandon -

: One of those routes was the 3 which provided a handy quick connection down to the Morrisons at Binley so that I could tiptoe into Warwickshire for a while. Binley Woods has featured in explorations before now thanks to the hunt for Hyacinth Bucket's bungalow, but today I was searching for the local library as I'd heard the branch was being threatened with closure due to Warwickshire County Council's need to make cutbacks. True to form I wandered off in the wrong direction, struggling to locate the library although I did find the shops on Woodlands Road and the village green with war memorial on Craven Avenue. Before I knew it I'd crossed into Brandon, which came with the bonus discovery of the Coventry Stadium, home to greyhound and speedway races - my second sporting location of the day. Back in Binley Woods I eventually do find the library on Monks Road (mission completed!) before adding in photos of the Roseycombe pub and the village hall.

- Whitefriars Olde Alehouse -

WHITEFRIARS: Retracing my steps back to Morrisons, the 86 bus arrives on cue for my link back to Gosford Green. My next stroll then takes me past the Gulson Hospital to find the remains of Whitefriars, historic fragments of friary now incongruously sited next to concrete flyovers and grotty underpasses (that's 1960's town planning for you). The monastic theme continues as I reckon I've earned myself a pint, hence it's back to my earlier Gosford Street discovery: Whitefriars Olde Alehouse. In previous blogs I've praised the Olde Windmill on Spon Street in Coventry as an example of a pub with a bit of the medieval about it, and here we have another contender. There's plenty of olde worlde charm to be found inside (beams, roof supports, wonky walls and dark pannelling) but what impressed me most was the warm welcome and the wide range of real ales. I'm spoilt for choice until I spot the XXXmas Ale from Byatt's, a winter pint from a new Coventry brewery - perfect!

- Cheylesmore Shops -

: The pub was so cosy and friendly it was very hard to leave, and I time my exit just right to rush headlong into a vicious hailstorm. I nearly abandoned the outing there and then but the skies cleared and I was free to continue to the day's final port of call. Cheylesmore is a large Coventry suburb that features some elegant 1930's shopping parades either side of Daventry Road, not to mention the open spaces around Quinton Pool where the Canada geese seem to be stalking me. Further photo potential comes from the Social Club and the Baptist Church, great to put some markers down and add to my local knowledge. Tour completed, it's getting on for 3pm so I make my way back to Coventry Station and catch my train home, reflecting on a special day that followed in the worthy footsteps of my other classic Coventry adventures.

Thursday, December 1

WME Flickr Focus: November 2011

Calculators at the ready! It's time for your monthly maths report, totting up the totals of the latest arrivals on the West Midlands Exploration Flickr photostream...

November 2011 was a month with a little bit of everything. 71 images were slotted back into position as all of my collections got a photo-boost one way or another. Leading the way was WME Wolverhampton where the first additions for a good few months included a pretty wintertime shot of Bushbury Church, some more bridges for the Shropshire Union Canal and assorted views of the Flying Dutchman at Warstones and park flowerbeds at Wednesfield. Also springing back to life a little was WME Walsall where you can now find pictures of Pool Hayes Bridge (Wyrley & Essington Canal) and Arriva operating the 319 bus route in Bloxwich.

Elsewhere progress has been steady enough. WME Birmingham crept forward with a Northfield delegation representing both the railway station (trains, underpass and general station shots) and the wider area (the Great Stone pub and the local library both appear). WME Dudley took on board a motley selection covering Quarry Bank (the former Sun Inn pub), Wordsley (shopping parade at Wordsley Green) and the steps leading down to Lye Station, whilst WME Sandwell has been topped up with the likes of Smethwick Rolfe Street (platform and booking hall views), Tipton (war memorial and the former Boscobel pub) and the welcome return of Smethwick West. Even WME Coventry has inched along with assistance from Canley and Tile Hill railway stations, not forgetting the Herald pub.

Here then is the state of the stats with one month of 2011 still to go;

  • WME Wolverhampton: Target 435 > 358 in place > 77 remaining

  • WME Walsall: Target 208 > 163 in place > 45 remaining

  • WME Birmingham: Target 330 > 102 in place > 228 remaining

  • WME Dudley: Target 262 > 32 in place > 230 remaining

  • WME Sandwell: Target 180 > 22 in place > 158 remaining

  • WME Coventry: Target 80 > 6 in place > 74 remaining

Conclusion? Lots of hard work ahead in December and continuing into 2012...

Sunday, November 20

Coombeswood to Cradley Heath

Back in the early part of last year I put a free Saturday to good use with a local walk discovering the various communities of Cradley, an outing that sampled the very essence of the Black Country. Fast forward to Saturday 19th November 2011 and with a few hours going spare I decided to embark upon a similar theme. The result was a wander from Rowley Regis to Cradley Heath that included a bit of canal exploration for good measure...

* We pick up the tale at Smethwick Galton Bridge where my connection to Rowley Regis is provided by one of the new fleet of Class 172 trains now operating on the Stourbridge Line. I must admit I had quite a soft spot for the old Class 150 Sprinters that previously worked the route but the Class 172s are undoubtedly a big improvement with a modern train interior, scrolling displays, automatic voiceover announcements and a much smoother ride quality.

* Alighting at Rowley I head straight down Nimmings Road for a quick photo of the Clock pub, a distinctive landmark on the corner of Masters Lane. Crossing Long Lane I venture around the Olive Lane estate, an area I first encountered years ago on the old 610 Travel Merry Hill minibus route. Features here include the Victoria pub and Olive Hill Primary School before I renew my acquaintance with Long Lane Library.

* Quinton is an area effectively split into two, half in Birmingham and half in Dudley. The latter portion gets my attention today with the Stag & Three Horseshoes especially prominent overlooking the busy A458 roundabout. There are plenty of local shops here along with a Suzuki StreetBike dealership and the Lapal scout base.

* Wandering along Kent Road I branch off down an intriguing track which leads me into Leasowes Park, a pleasingly natural area of open space that comprises woodland, pools and the Halesowen Golf Club. A little clearing provides a nice spot for a well-earned lunch and then I enjoy following the streams of High Cascade and admiring the autumnal colours with an emphasis on deep shades of burnished orange.

* Emerging by the warden centre I happen across the remains of the Dudley No. 2 Canal. The Lapal Canal Trust are working to bring about the restoration of the waterway, which once continued beyond it's current Hawne Basin terminus to go through the Lapal Tunnel and onwards to Weoley Castle and Selly Oak. The section flanking the park is partly in water and links through to Manor Way but reaches a dead end at Mucklow Hill.

* Having found the disconnected part of the canal, I'm now keen to track down the section that is still part of the current waterways network. I pick up the trail down the side of the Mucklow Hill Trading Estate thanks to a somewhat overgrown public footpath that provides tantalising glimpses of Hawne Basin. I join the towpath proper at Coombes Bridge and then continue amongst industrial surroundings to find the south-eastern portal of Gorsty Hill Tunnel.

* There is no foot access through the tunnel so I have to go the overground route, climbing up a gravel drive and then a set of steps to resurface in Coombeswood opposite the Lighthouse, a Brains pub I remember once visiting with Roger. Station Road has a curious tunnel airshaft structure that Andy pointed out to me earlier this year, and I can also get photos of the Boat pub as I descend towards Old Hill.

* Old Hill Station is next for some exploration treatment as I linger a while hoping for a bonus Class 172 photo. The 14:06 to Stratford happily obliges and I can then continue down more of Station Road (past the Horseshoe and the Crown) before spotting a chapel being demolished on Halesowen Road. Old Hill is a place I haven't got many pictures of so I set about putting that right with shots of the Spring Meadow and Riddins Tavern pubs, the latter being hidden away somewhat behind the local primary school off Lawrence Lane.

* The final leg of my walk takes me into Cradley Heath where I'm pleased to get a shot of the town's Carnegie library, a fascinating building that first opened in 1909. Further down the High Street is St Luke's Church followed by the new(ish) Tesco supermarket that has really transformed the centre here. Saying that, it's good to see that a number of independent shops appear to be surviving here and a real sense of community is still very much in evidence as people are very happy to stop and chat in the street. Cradley Heath Station beckons with the promise of more Class 172 action, and with the 14:56 departure I set off for home delighted with my latest slice of Black Country memories.

Tuesday, November 15

The D9 does Walsall...

Friday 11th November and the latest round of hub happenings saw Andy and myself undergoing a Walsall workout complete with a minor incursion across into Staffordshire...

TAME BRIDGE: The morning saw me battling railway chaos as a signalling meltdown near Wolverhampton created delays and displacement across the local network. In truth I was probably one of the luckier passengers in that I wasn't in any kind of hurry and the trains didn't fall too badly, eventually delivering me to Tame Bridge Parkway so that I could have a brief walk along the Tame Valley Canal and a mooch into Charlemont Farm. I then enjoyed a blast-from-the-past ride on the 405, a route I hadn't been on in years that gave me food for thought in terms of exploring Yew Tree, Bescot and Palfrey in future.

- Tame Bridge Station -

CALDMORE: Meeting Andy at Bradford Place we decide to start our tour in Caldmore courtesy of a mercifully short ride on the 404 as I try to avoid the D9 power steering. The Crown and Anchor has sadly closed but we can try the White Lion, sitting towards the 'shallow end' of the bar with our halves of Adnam's Southwold Bitter as the 'Hi-Viz Hub' is christened. Further up Sandwell Street is the Dog & Partridge, curiously dark as if trying to save on the leccie bills.

- The Hi-Viz Hub - you have been warned! -

CHUCKERY: The backstreet tour continues down into the Chuckery as we encounter the Duke of York on Lumley Road and a novelty "Gone to Mosque" sign in a barbershop window (makes a change from 'Closed for Lunch'). We pass the old Crabtrees factory site to sample the Spring Cottage on Paddock Lane, a decent find with a bit of character. It's then over to Mr Lunn Esq to direct some arboretum orienteering trying to find old toilet blocks and Bundy clocks - the flagship park is partway through a major restoration programme which should hopefully return the facility to its former glory.

- Military Memorabilia in the Junction -

CHASETOWN: Did I mention Staffordshire earlier? A well-placed and packed out 10 is on hand to take us further afield with a trundle up through Shelfield, Brownhills and Ogley Hay. We were half tempted to try Burntwood but didn't quite judge the bus stop correctly, hence ending up further round the terminal loop than originally anticipated. Andy's creaking bladder necessitates some marathon training down Chasetown High Street where his concerns are alleviated by the Crown. Now we're here we might as well make the most of it so the Junction and the Uxbridge Arms are included for good measure; the Uxbridge served a cracking pint of Newark Castle Brown Ale (a not-too-disguised play on words from the Springhead Brewery) but the Junction had the edge for a fascinating military corner with army chests and forces helmets, a highly appropriate setting for Armistice Day.

- A suitably sized steering wheel in the Swan -

BROWNHILLS: A quick link back on the 10 returns us to Brownhills where the Swan is high on the agenda, the pub having recently reopened and boasting some Holden's Golden Glow. A wait between buses gives a window of opportunity to squeak in the Shoulder of Mutton, and we finish off the afternoon in Walsall with a final half in the shadow of the new Tesco supermarket.

Happy Hubs!

Tuesday, November 1

WME Flickr Focus: October 2011

Time drifts relentlessly on as I find myself assessing October's contribution to the WME cause, whereby exactly 50 photos were released onto my Flickr photostream. Let's see what that half century of images had in store for us...

As with September my primary focus was on building up my Second City selections as Birmingham took most of the limelight. Re-emerging this time were the likes of Acocks Green Station, Cannon Hill Park and a bit more content from Bartley Green (including a few bus shots). My Brum collection now spans 29 sets and is now starting to take some of the shape that the old Fotopic gallery had - as ever though there is always a long way to go.

Elsewhere, Dudley was next in line for a bit of attention as I added a very slight but much-needed dose of flesh to the initial bare bones that had poked through thus far. WME Dudley therefore now comprises 11 sets and 22 photos - still borderline skeletal it has to be said but Brierley Hill, Oldswinford, Coseley Station and Sedgley at least gives me something to work with.

If Dudley is a toddler trying to find its feet then Sandwell and Coventry have only just made it out of the womb. Great Bridge (the Limerick pub as was) and Princes End (the shopping precinct and the former Lagoon) gives Sandwell 4 starter pictures, whilst Coventry is off the mark with a solitary shot of a Tile Hill flower shop. This is all rather embryonic at the moment and will require some nurturing and parenting skills as I try to manage my expanding brood. Birmingham, Dudley, Sandwell and Coventry should all be receiving some affection heading into November whilst behind the scenes Solihull and Staffordshire are aiming to become the next additions to the family...

Thursday, October 27

Birmingham with The Chip Foundation

With the English county cricket season having entered hibernation for another year, the Chip Foundation turned its attention back towards a winter itinerary - yes it was time to resurrect our pubcrawl series, starting on Wednesday 26th October with a browse around Brum...

ASTON: We get underway with a train to Perry Barr, meaning some memory lane moments for Nick and Stephen as we call in on the old UCE campus (now home to Birmingham City University) and indulge in a nostalgic stroll along Franchise Street. A 51 connection then links us to our first pub, and what a treat we have in store straight off. The Barton's Arms was affected by the recent riots in Newtown but I'm delighted to say that the building looked as splendid as ever today, complete with clocktower and the renowned heritage interior that features colourful glazed tiles, a grand staircase and engraved windows. It really is a sight to behold and makes for a spectacular setting in which to sample some Oakham Ales, my tipple being a half of Inferno.

- Chesty precautions in the Bartons Arms -

GOSTA GREEN: From one academic location to another as a further 51 ride brings us swiftly to the Aston University campus at Gosta Green. There seems to be a lot of construction work taking place in the area as part of the wider redevelopment of Eastside, and we enjoy soaking up the scene as we munch some chips outside the Business School - Nickolenko even went all exotic with a piece of masala fish! The campus is served by two pubs and it's the Sacks of Potatoes that secures our custom, lured in by the prospect of some Farmer's Blonde from the Bradfield Brewery near Sheffield.

- The Sacks of Potatoes -

GUN QUARTER: An encounter with the subways of Lancaster Circus leads us neatly into the historic Gun Quarter, a proud centre for the production of firearms, a trade which still continues here to this day (albeit on a smaller scale). The Bull on Price Street is our reason for stopping by though, sampling a very homely pub adorned with shelves of ceramics that must be an absolute nightmare when it comes to dusting. Aside from the jugs, plates and ornaments, a cat looked very cosy snoozing on a sofa in the snug and there's more Sheffield beer in the form of the Abbeydale Brewery's Contraption.

- The Bull: Perky in the Parlour? -

HIGHGATE: The light is beginning to fade as we cross the City Centre (with a helping hand from the 58 bus) and enter Highgate. The Lamp Tavern is a perennial favourite of mine as an example of a compact, backstreet local with a long-serving landlord (Eddie). Its a tight squeeze to get in this time but we find some standing room in the back corridor and I can enjoy my Aston Mild whilst Nick tackles the 'Stan the Man' Stanney Bitter. Stephen for his part is stoically getting through the lemonade and blackcurrants, possibly as a form of cough relief.

- Cheers from the White Swan -

DIGBETH: Darkness has definitely descended as we navigate the backstreets of Digbeth accompanied by a cacophony of Diwali fireworks. Two final pubs complete the evening as we soon realise why the Lamp had been so busy. Our next port of call, the Spotted Dog, is absolutely stuffed solid with Bluenoses as we belatedly realise that it's a Birmingham City home matchnight. The pre-match anticipation added an extra crackle to the friendly atmosphere whilst the Uisce Madra ale was another discovery - brewed especially for the pub, the name apparently translates as 'dog water'. We finish off at the White Swan, an impressively ornate Banks's pub that boasts some decorative tilework all of its own. We even get to watch some of the Wolves v Man City Carling Cup match before leaving for our train home safe in the knowledge that our wintertime exploits had got off to a riproaring start.

Tuesday, October 18

A Mini D9 Adventure

Friday 14th October involved a shortened session of the Hub Marketing Board as the Chairman joined the Secretary for an afternoon around and about Wolverhampton...

Route 5: The meeting begins with a ride out to Codsall on the 5, formerly the 535 prior to the Wolverhampton Network Review. The revised service includes more coverage for Bilbrook so the Chairman has to do a bit of D9 route-learning as he tackles Duck Lane...

CODSALL: The board then sampled two of the village hostelries, the Station and the Bull. The Station is a Holden's pub contained in Codsall's former railway house, hence it displays various rail-related artefacts as well as offering a smooth swig of Septimus Sid. Banks's is the order of the day in the Bull so its a pint of Bitter just as the Chairman used to drink in days when he had hair.

- Banks's Bitter in the Bull -

WHITMORE REANS: We don't have to linger long at the Codsall hub before the return 5 arrives to collect us. We alight at Peace Green where the Chairman indulges in a spot of cowboy walking, either that or his rebellious bladder is giving him some grief again. Luckily it's not far to the Stile, a proper Victorian backstreet boozer where we partake of some Wicked Witch whilst admiring the L-shaped bowling green.

- The Stile, corner of Harrow Street and Fawdry Street -

CHAPEL ASH: Members vote unanimously to extend our agenda to include the Chapel Ash area, allowing us to clock in with a couple of halves. The Chindit has a compact feel as befits it being converted from an off licence back in the late 1950's, whilst the Clarendon effectively serves as a showcase tap for Banks's with the beer being brewed a matter of yards away.

- Cheerful in the Chindit -

WEDNESFIELD: To complete proceedings, members are transported to Wednesfield to indulge in the 1930's ambience of the Vine followed by the cottagey cosiness of the Pyle Cock. It is here that the Chairman receives his collection call and the meeting is adjourned after a closing Boondoggle. A successful afternoon indeed.

- The Chairman gets his summons -

Thursday, October 6

WME Flickr Focus: September 2011

My monthly reflections are an indication of the passing of another year and as we tumble into autumn it's time to look back and see what happened on WME in September...

Perhaps I should have mentioned August too being as my last digest was for July, but the bare fact is that absolutely nothing happened at all in August, the site put distinctly on the back burner whilst I enjoyed a brace of Yorkshire breaks. September it is then as I picked up the reins with a few scattered updates that eventually amounted to 43 additions to bring my running total for my photostream to 562 pictures.

Having mainly concentrated on Wolverhampton and Walsall thus far, it was now the turn of Birmingham to get most of my attention. Of those 43 additions, 36 had a Brum connection as some of my local and railway sets began to take shape again. Amongst the influx were representatives of Weoley Castle (the market hall), West Heath (the shed-like library), Old Oscott (the Kingfisher pub) and Hall Green (the Maggies). Rail was restored with offerings from Spring Road and Kings Norton Stations whilst some Tame Valley shots made for a canal contribution and the 104 route at Sutton Coldfield was returned to it's rightful position as one of my seminal early bus pictures.

Away from Birmingham it was Dudley that made up the rest of September's numbers, an initial 7 photos being released back into the public glare. This is very much a token effort so far but there are showings for Woodsetton and Wollaston alongside one of my regular Lower Gornal Post Office examples and a snap of the old 544 at Coseley. It goes without saying that there is an enormous amount of work still to do to get the photostream where I want it to be, and that's even before I can think about adding some new stuff that never appeared on the old Fotopic. I am currently uploading what I can salvage of my previous WME Sandwell photos as a background task, and I hope to be resurrecting more Birmingham and Dudley content over the coming weeks.

Saturday, October 1

Hub Marketing Board: Telford

Friday 30th September and the latest meeting of the Hub Marketing Board involved a scrutiny away-day in Shropshire assessing the hub capabilities around and about Telford…

The meeting time was set for 9:30 but the Chairman endured Metro delays and a coronary-inducing sprint down to Wolverhampton Station only to be told that the Secretary had made a complete horlicks of the train times.

After a plan reshuffle we regroup onto the 10:25 service to Oakengates, admiring the Shropshire countryside and stations such as Albrighton, Shifnal and Cosford.

Arrival at Oakengates is now at 10:54 and we make it to the ‘hub’ bus station just in time to see our 55 connection disappearing into the distance. The Chairman does at least track down a closet for his collection whilst we await the next Green Line service.

That subsequent 55 is on hand at 11:20 for a ride through Trench, Wombridge and Donnington. More rehashing is needed so the proposed call at the Hadley hub is aborted but can remain up the Secretary’s sleeve for future reference.

- Getting cocky with a Blonde -

Now in need of some urgent liquid refreshment, we alight outside the Cock Hotel in Wellington. The Chairman’s presence must’ve been detected as the door creaks open right on cue with Joules’ Blonde being the preferred tipple. You may notice the Cock figurine inspecting the Chairman’s bald spot!

Suitably quenched it is time to test out the robustness of some thick blue lines with the 44 route providing our link back into Telford via Ketley and Oakengates. The service was popular and might just make enough of a big fat profit to negate the need to save a bus.

A very robust interchange at Telford connects us smoothly onto the 12:50 88 which introduces us to Dawley Bank before braving the narrow lanes of Little Dawley and Doseley to drop us off in Horsehay.

- Horsehay, All Labour in Vain -

Horsehay is a personal favourite of our esteemed Secretary who soon set to work taking photos of the derelict All Labour in Vain pub. The Foresters Arms is very much still going so we are treated to a Tribute amongst the ceramic jug collection. Lunch is provided courtesy of the CodFather as we enjoy the scenery of Horsehay Pool and a quick peek at the Telford Steam Railway.

Testing timetables is a core feature of hub scrutineering and the 77 at 14:09 passed with flying colours, collecting us promptly from Horsehay Crossroads and embarking on a well-paced jaunt through Coalbrookdale, Ironbridge and Madeley.

- On with the suntan lotion -

The afternoon itinerary involves a roam around Coalport, Jackfield and Ironbridge. Our Chairman makes the requisite call back to base and we thereby receive clearance to enter the All Nations, a classic Shropshire home brew house hidden away off Coalport Road. Some Dabley Ale is much appreciated as we commandeer a table in the beer garden so that the Chairman can apply some sunblock.

A rummage along the Silkin Way reveals the Great Hay Incline, an engineering solution that enabled boats to be transported up and down a slope between two sections of the local canal. We enjoy a look around Coalport village where the Chairman attracts the attention of a chihuahua down by the Tar Tunnels.

- The Chairman makes a new friend -

Across the river from Coalport is the village of Jackfield where the Boat pub has markers on the door pinpointing flood levels from years gone by. There’s no sign of any flooding today thankfully as we make use of another sunkissed beer garden.

We pass Maws Craft Centre and the Tile Museum to make our way towards Jackfield Bridge with old letter boxes, telephone kiosks and a couple of pubs catching our eye – the Black Swan and the Robin Hood.

- An old-fashioned bald spot photo -

In an example of being anything but TUAG, the 99 threatens to derail proceedings by keeping us waiting well after the scheduled 16:50 departure time – in the end we were just happy to see the bus at all but some more plan-juggling is required in order to squeeze in our desired conclusion back in Oakengates.

Matters are completed with a trinity of tightly positioned taverns on Market Street. The Crown is holding a beer festival where the Secretary goes all Dark & Dangerous, the Station involves a near head-on collision with 'Elvis' and the Fighting Cocks stoutly brings the curtain down. 19:05 provides the return train to Wolverhampton and the meeting is adjourned at 1930 hours. The sun definitely shone on Telford today!

- Cheers! -

Saturday, September 17

Bridgnorth Beer Festival

Friday 16th September: Real ale and steam trains prove an irresistable combination tempting me to Shropshire in September...

The day begins on the 890 bus and a ride up to Worfield, a beguiling English village with several picture postcard type scenes to keep the camera occupied. I was already familiar with the Wheel Inn (not much sign of life sadly) and the garage on the main A454 road, but half a mile down a narrow lane is the village centre proper complete with memorial green, several old cottages, the parish church (St Peter's) and a cosy-looking pub (the Dog and Davenport).

From the church I climb the hill up to Hallon where I spot the local cricket club and linger a while waiting for the 114 route, operated by Arriva with an Optare Solo in Shropshire Council livery. The bus quickly delivers me to Bridgnorth town with a little jaunt down Hermitage Hill, giving me just enough time to reflect on how Worfield had made an excellent first impression and I'm already keen to return.

- Worfield Church -

To ale-related matters then, and after my customary bus and pub photos around High Town I make my way to the Severn Valley Railway Station, host venue to the 17th Bridgnorth Beer Festival. The station is always an atmospheric delight to visit but the presence of the CAMRA beer tent certainly added an extra notch or two to the expectation-o-meter. £8 covers the commemorative glass, programme and a clutch of beer tokens then it's time to get tasting the beer.

Flavoured ales seemed to be the order of the day where I was concerned so I launched straight into a third of Abbey Ales' Chocolate and Orange Stout - I'm sure Nickolenko would have approved of this choice and the orange came through very powerfully. Next was Sawbridgworth's Mead Mild followed by some Milestone Raspberry Wheatbeer and then came my favourite tipple, Titanic's Plum Porter with it's distinct fruity aroma and a taste that was faintly reminiscent of cough medicine but in a good way!

The festival visit was also punctuated by the presence of the steam trains and it was wonderful to sit on the platforms, glass in hand watching the train crew attending to their magnificent engines. I also squeezed in a peek inside the Railwayman's Arms, the station's on-site pub which boasts its own array of ales to match the proud collection of totem signs dotted around the walls. Feeling peckish I partake in a Reg May Pork Pie, just perfect with a dab of mustard, and then it's time for my final beer in the form of Three Tuns' Cleric's Cure.

- Bridgnorth Signal Box -

Ales supped, the camera was getting a bit restless so I wandered down into Low Town to continue my photographic pub survey. The bus stop outside the Fosters Arms was then handy for my 13:54 114 connection, and another 'Shropshire Bus' Solo whisked me off on a tour of little villages featuring Ackleton, Badger, Beckbury, Ryton and Kemberton - an absolute treat.

I alight in Shifnal and set about documenting another Shropshire town, calling into the White Hart in the process for a crafty taster of Ernest George from the Welbeck Abbey Brewery in Nottingham, a nutty brown bitter that was deep on the palate (I almost sound as if I know what I'm talking about). The 892 completes proceedings with my return bus ride to Wolverhampton and another Shropshire spectacular is over; needless to say I thoroughly enjoyed the day, especially as the forecast heavy rain stayed away, and my compliments go to Bridgnorth CAMRA and the Severn Valley Railway for their efforts in putting on the festival.

Tuesday, August 30

Grim up North? Anything but...

The eagle-eyed amongst you may have detected a distinct lack of activity on both the WME Blog and my Flickr photostream recently. There is a simple explanation for this - I've been on holiday, enjoying a fortnight or so in Yorkshire beginning with a week-long stay in Richmond and concluding with some cricket at Headingley. Here's what I've been up to...

Saturday 13th August: The journey up to Richmond and a chance to settle in to our North Yorkshire base in a cosy cottage just outside the town centre. Richmond is a fascinating place with plenty of history provided by the medieval castle, rushing River Swale and a cobbledy marketplace.

Sunday 14th August: A relaxing morning in Richmond, sampling a home-cooked Sunday roast in the Talbot complete with a proper Yorkshire pudding. An afternoon walk takes us to the village of Hudswell where the George and Dragon pub offers local brews from Black Sheep and Daleside.

Monday 15th August: venturing out across moor and dale with a spectacular tour that takes in the remoteness of Reeth and the bleak beauty of Hawes. Leyburn offers traditional fish and chips (cooked with dripping no less) and we also squeeze in some cheese-tasting at the Wensleydale Creamery.

Tuesday 16th August: A damp morning gives way to a brighter afternoon so we decide to dip into Darlington. The town was far from being the drab industrial wasteland I'd wrongly anticipated and I thoroughly enjoyed getting photos of the market place, railway station and Feethams cricket ground.

Wednesday 17th August: delving deeper into the Dales with a stunning drive down to Grassington and Pateley Bridge. It's then over to Masham where we can sample the ales direct from the Black Sheep and Theakstons brewery taps - wonderful stuff!

Thursday 18th August: Northallerton beckons with it's long High Street and a chance for more railway photos. Back to Richmond for the afternoon as the Ship Inn on Frenchgate catches my eye for a swift half.

Friday 19th August: Up into County Durham with a visit to Barnard Castle, prominently placed as a gateway to Teesdale. Another traditional chip shop lunch is supplemented by the occasional bus photo on Galgate, then we call in at Gilling West where the White Swan is hosting a mini beer festival.

Monday 22nd August: After a couple of days back home restocking my suitcase, I join forces with Mr Beardsmore Esquire for the Yorkshire vs Warwickshire County Championship match at Headingley. We're actually staying in the Lodge at the ground, hence views of the pitch direct from the room. Once settled in we enjoy a genteel evening in Harrogate, admiring the pump rooms and bath house before taking to somewhat different waters in Hales Bar and the Coach & Horses.

Tuesday 23rd August: Play is underway at Headingley and a depleted Bears attack do a good job to dismiss Yorkshire for 297, Gary Ballance topscoring with 57 and giving us much pun ammunition. Our evening entertainment is provided by a wander into Kirkstall, a busy Leeds suburb on the main A65 road towards Ilkley.

Wednesday 24th August: A day of solid Warwickshire batting with Shivnarine Chanderpaul especially masterful to be 167 not out overnight. We sample the liveliness of Leeds this time around, with Whitelocks Luncheon Bar proving a delightful discovery, hidden away up an alleyway but purveying excellent real ales.

Thursday 25th August: Warwickshire manoeuvre themselves into a position of increasing dominance, Chanderpaul finishing with 193 and Keith Barker 85. This leaves Yorkshire facing a first innings deficit of 185 and they crumble either side of the tea interval; 127 all out and Warwickshire have won by an innings and 58 runs - what a result! We celebrate with a mooch around Headingley where the Arcadia Bar has a pleasant continental vibe despite being a shopfront in the Arndale Centre.

Friday 26th August: A spare day being as the cricket finished early, just as well we won given the weather we now have to contend with. We put the day to good use roving around Wakefield and Ilkley - I seem to be developing a taste for Yorkshire Curd Tarts from Bettys!

Saturday 27th August: Suddenly it's all over as we head to Leeds Station to catch the train home. Yorkshire has made a real impression on me these last two weeks with lovely scenery and warm hospitality - it just goes to prove that the old grim adage is complete and utter tosh.

Saturday, August 6

The Hub Marketing Board

Notice is hereby given that an extraordinary general meeting of the Hub Marketing Board will take place on Friday 5th August. The objective of this meeting will be to establish the pub-hub potential of West Bromwich and environs, hence a dedicated hub carrier bag should be collected in advance. Our esteemed chairman, Mr A. Lunn Esq will be in attendance with his D9 whilst our erstwhile secretary Mr WME will be taking notes at various intervals. Here is the agenda in full;

Members are cordially invited to meet at Smethwick Galton Bridge railway station just after 0900 hours (provided our chairman remembers that the 448 bus no longer calls outside the station). We shall then commence with a brief tour of Galton Bridge and the canal tunnels of Galton Valley.

- The Chairman models the hub carrier bag -

A short ride on the 87 bus will take our party to West Smethwick where we shall begin our investigations of Spon Lane, Chance Glassworks and Kenrick Park. If everything goes to schedule we may even be invited to examine the deeds of former pubs although this depends on whether Mr WME can raise the suspicions of passing motorists.

The main event of the morning will be a tour of the Birmingham Main Line Canal from Bromford Bridge to Dudley Port. This section is set to include Pudding Green and Albion Junctions whilst our chairman also plans on a surprise bit of ferreting around some bits of old railway and gasworks.

- The Chairman leads the way -

At Dudley Port efforts will be made to scrutinise the robustness of timetables on the 74 route – prepare to spot buses travelling in convoy. Our chairman takes no responsibility for the lack of the afore-mentioned 74 but does recommend a ride on the 644 by way of comparison.

The 644 should connect us to Harvills Hawthorn for early afternoon. There will be brief photocalls at the Miners Arms and the Beehive with canned refreshments being provided courtesy of the Hawthorn Tavern. We shall also be able to check on progress with the refurbishment of the Britannia and the closure of the local shops at St Vincent's Crescent.
Members are then requested to make their way towards Great Bridge with the suggested route being via the former Eagle Lane railway crossing. There will be a ceremonial burning of previous hub literature as the Wolverhampton Review gets what it deserves. Please note that flammable activities such as these should only take place within the controlled environment of the Walsall Canal towpath and that high-visibility bald spots should be worn at all times.

- A fitting end for the Wolverhampton Network Review -

Points of interest at Great Bridge will include a Twinings Tea advert on the side of the market followed by a trail along the old canal towards the Tame Bridge pub. This will be followed by a bonus visit to the Great Bridge Hub on Sheepwash Lane.

- The Great Bridge Hub -

We are scheduled to arrive at the Royal Oak on Whitehall Road at 1400 hours where there will be liquid refreshment within the surroundings of a West Bromwich Albion pub. Wolverhampton Wanderers supporters of a nervous disposition may best be advised to hide their wallets (contact Mr Mark Wood Esq for advice on how to do this).

We shall also be stopping at Ryders Green where members might like to partake in chips at the canal junction. The Eight Locks pub has made its patio available for our ‘Guess the Beer’ competition (Guinness, Worthington’s and Boddingtons can already be ruled out as potential answers).

- The Chairman sets a shining example at Ryders Green -

The programme then switches to Black Lake for a survey of the railway remains at Swan Lane. There will be the opportunity for recreational exercise if we have to run for the 428 bus. Our next call is due to be the Three Horseshoes at Hill Top where we are informed that French-style cartoons will be laid on for our entertainment.

- The Three Horseshoes -

Our esteemed chairman then plans to oversee a ramble through Hateley Heath during which we will view the former Menzies High School. There should be plenty of time to sample the old closet at Stone Cross as personally recommended by the said Mr Lunn Esq.

- Scrutiny of the Stone Cross closet -

The Evening Engagements Committee has been hard at work and have presented to us a shortlist of venues where we are expected to attend en route back to West Bromwich. These include the Royal Oak (the HPA hub), the Horse & Jockey (the Old Empire hub) and the Crown & Cushion (the Tribute hub).

- Hub Meeting at the Royal Oak -

Those with a delicate bladder disposition will be catered for by the closet at Dartmouth Park. Unfortunately due to dog-walking requirements, the Churchfield Tavern may have to lock its doors before we are able to gain entry although this will be noted in red ink in the next edition of the Board's minutes.

A short examination of West Bromwich land clearance zones will precede two late additions to this agenda. At the request of the Carters Green Sub-Committee (Clock Division) our attendance has been requested at both the Old Hop Pole and the Wheatsheaf.

- The Wheatsheaf, Carters Green -

The meeting shall conclude at 1900 hours although Wolverhampton-based members may choose to join the secretary for jazz at the Trumpet in Bilston. All members are strongly urged to ensure that full Hub Marketing regalia is worn throughout and that all bald spots are appropriately polished.


Wednesday, August 3

Keeping Up Acquaintances

Saturday 30th July 2011: The WARP crew are reunited for more television trails, this time taking us across Coventry and Warwickshire way in search of Hyacinth Bucket…

An earlyish start has me on the 8:49 local train from Wolverhampton with Woody and Roger joining me at Smethwick Galton Bridge. At New Street I collect a Wolverhampton Review map (very useful for hitting Rog with but otherwise completely pointless) and then we spy the gleaming bald spot of Mr D9 awaiting us by the ticket barriers. A quick shuffle onto the platforms and we join the 9:30 Euston-bound train for the ride over to Coventry, Messrs Wood and Chance using the seating arrangements as an excuse to get in some early baldness photography.

Alighting at Coventry we find the 27 bus waiting for us so we sit at the back and take in a bit of Bendi action – I didn’t mind the ride myself but Andy seems to have turned green, I don’t think he’s a fan. Pool Meadow has Mr Wood on the prowl for more pictures and then we stroll up Trinity Street for further prey with the Bedworth buses proving particularly good targets.

The 86 was our chosen route to reach our first destination - Hyacinth Bucket’s bungalow from Keeping up Appearances - so we catch the Binley Woods circular down to Heather Road, spotting some future targets like the Roseycombe pub and the village hall, plus there’s a branch library around here somewhere. We alight in anticipation and track down the Bucket residence whilst trying not to look too conspicuous despite us all zooming shots from across the street. We resisted the temptation to see if the lady of the house was at home as we didn’t fancy any candlelit suppers and there was a worry that Mr Wood might get mistaken for son Sheridan.

- 86 at Binley Woods -

It’s but a short 86 hop to take us back up to Binley Morrisons where Andy eagerly makes use of the supermarket facilities whilst the rest of us lookout for the 4. Having safely negotiated Hyacinth’s pad we were now going to see how the other half of her family lived, hence venturing into Stoke Aldermoor in search of Onslow and Daisy. The 4 arrives promptly and provides some intriguing bus exploration all of its own – Princethorpe Way pubs and precincts followed by the Moorfield and Barley Lea.

Judging by the general appearance you can tell you’ve entered a slightly less salubrious neighbourhood, which is probably what attracted the show to the area in the first place. We’re on the lookout for Mitchell Close and with beady eyes we spot the bus stop and troop off. Number 3 was apparently the house used for the Onslow residence and it looks about right although I don’t remember Pinley Gardens being at the end of the road shown on the TV series. Nonetheless its an excellent find and to be fair the setting probably isn’t as bad as anticipated.

Back to the buses then as we wait for the 3A and try to avoid the glare of the bald spot. Whereas the 4 uses Terry Road, the 3A takes a more direct approach into Coventry although both routes emphasise the untapped photo potential still awaiting me in some areas of the city. Stoke Green (villagey open space) and the Humber pub stand out as the main landmarks, then it’s Sky Blue Way to avoid Far Gosford Street.

- Rog's BlackBerry nearly causes a domestic -

We set down at Pool Meadow and it’s time for lunch. This can only mean one thing of course… Wetherspoon’s. Coventry’s offering is The Flying Standard, a tall black and white beamed building up near the top of Trinity Street. The pub is arranged on a few levels with a main downstairs bar, an eating zone and an upstairs gallery area. The drinks are gathered and the food is ordered, gourmet burger as ever for me with some Grainstore Gold (brewed in Rutland) and Bateman’s Pink Wicket to provide the lubrication.

We have some spare moments to pay our respects at Coventry Cathedral, the haunting ruins giving a solemn backdrop to more attempts at a baldness shot. We then wait on Trinity Street for a late-running X18, which arrives in the form of a smart double decker Gemini where we commandeer the upstairs back seat. We leave Coventry via Whitley then slog it down the main road to Leamington before cruising past Leamington Station and through Myton spotting signs of the Warwick Folk Festival at St Nicholas Park. Into Warwick itself we enjoy fine views of the Castle then swoop round into the bus station.

- That's one way to hide the bald spot! -

It’s good to be back at Warwick so quickly, picking up on a bit of the knowledge gained from the Chip Foundation’s visit a few weeks ago. The town seems a lot busier today with a vibrant market taking place on the square and the added trade generated by the festival. We call into the museum to visit Bruce’s Big Brother (Rog seems to be on the hunt for old fossils again!) and then head up Barrack Lane for a look at the old prison cell where ne-er-do-wells might have been incarcerated in days gone by – shame we can’t resurrect the tradition for Roger today.

Knowing Mr Wood’s penchant for a cheap drink I lead the chaps round to The Punchbowl which was unsurprisingly popular on a sunny event weekend. Having sampled the Mild last time I decide to go for the Oakwell Senior, an excellent choice which was also appreciated by Mr D9. Our pints came to £1.95 each, cracking value for great beer although Andy's painful rendition of Delilah was worryingly traumatic.

We wend our way back to the bus station only to find that the G1 can’t call here at the moment because of roadworks in the town. Luckily the X17 arrives instead (with digital blinds for a curious W2 Town Centre route) so we can still make our Leamington connection, leading away towards the Cape then passing the Jolly Miller, Warwick Hospital and the Wild Boar.

- The Jug & Jester, Leamington -

Come Leamington we alight at the Parish Church bus stop and then skip straight over into the second Wetherspoons of the day, The Jug and Jester. I believe this is a fairly recent addition to the JDW portfolio and I rather like it, especially when I beat my fellow WARPs in getting served at the bar. The building as a whole looks very Georgian and elegant (very much in keeping with the Spa town architecture) and I’m pleased to sample a local pint, Darling Buds from the Warwickshire Brewing Company. Rog and I find some lounge chairs to recline in (very comfortable but with ridiculously high backs) whilst Woody gets tickled by one of the artificial plant collection – all good!

Across to the bus stop and we don’t have to wait long for the next X17 to whisk us back off towards Coventry. The route here took us through Kenilworth and enabled me to pick out various landmarks for future reference, including the Wyandotte Inn as recommended by Nick. The bus conveniently drops us off by Old Spon Street just handy for a swift pint in the Old Windmill - I hoped the WARP crew might enjoy the medieval vibe mixed with a bit of biker attitude and they seemed suitably impressed. We sit in the front corner room with the dark panels and the old fireplace and partake in Old Peculiers or Doom Bars.

- Bald spot spotted on the X17 -

Pool Meadow Stand R is where the 82 departs from at 18:16. Woody was hoping for a ride on the Signature fleet but it’s a boring Bus2Work Solo that arrives instead, boo hiss! We enjoy the journey regardless, safely negotiating the Park Hill estate then cruising through Meriden (pheromone memories) and Hampton-in-Arden. I was particularly keen to have another look at Catherine-de-Barnes but it didn’t really entice me that much, the Boat Inn would qualify as a gassy pub in D9 parlance.

- An aerial photo but not much up top -

Our stay at Solihull Station is brief but does allow for some sneaky shots of the 966 on layover and a train view up on the platforms. Then it’s all down to the 19:09 to deliver us homewards, saying goodbye to Andy at the Hawthorns before it’s my own farewell at Galton Bridge. Yet again it had been a fine old adventure and my thanks go to Woody, Roger and Andy for making it such a fun day out.

Tuesday, August 2

WME Flickr Focus: July 2011

A quick calculation for you: 413 + 106 = 519, the number of photos I now have in place on my Flickr photostream as of the end of July. A decent month then by all accounts as it certainly isn't often that I manage to shift a century of images - lets dig deeper into the devilish details...

My photos are still entirely concentrated on the three collections, WMEs Wolverhampton, Walsall and Birmingham. Part of me wants to represent the wider spread of areas that were on my Fotopic galleries as soon as possible, but I am loathe to start spinning too many plates all at once. The current approach seems to be working in terms of getting stuff back online, but if you're hoping to see some of my old Shropshire, Warwickshire or Exploration Extra images it could be a very long wait.

WME Wolverhampton chimed in with 52 photos as its July contribution, not bad at all in leaving me with another 102 to resurrect. It was a particularly good month for Bradmore, Tettenhall and Northwood Park, all three local sets having now recovered the bulk of their initial contents. Of the missing 102 there are a good chunk of canal shots, bus photos and a few trains - I'm not sure whether absolutely everything will make the cut as I am having second thoughts about some of the older shots but we'll see how it goes.

WME Walsall hauled in a respectable 37 last month and now sits just 46 pictures adrift of the original 208 that were on Fotopic. Movers and shakers here included the appearance of Brownhills West plus Delves & Fullbrook along with general boosts for Darlaston, Rushall and the Walsall Canal. As with Wolverhampton, I have a feeling the last lump of photos will be the trickiest to get back online and there might be some that get filtered away into the recycling bin.

July was something of a breakthrough month for WME Birmingham as 17 photos resurfaced to push any Walsall content off the front page of my photostream. My running Brum total still only stands at 24 out of 330 though so plenty of work to do, but the inclusions of Hawkesley, Selly Oak, Cotteridge and Harborne are definite steps in the right direction - there's even been the occasional sighting of a canal shot such as Granville Street. Birmingham will be my primary focus over the next couple of months at least so expect to see more where that came from!