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!