Tuesday, November 26

Hubs of Praise

Friday 22nd November 2013 will go down in Hub Marketing history as the day when members almost underwent a religious conversion whilst investigating Lozells, Ladywood and West Birmingham...

- The Observatory -
Any cob catastrophes are completely avoided as we take the tram to Soho Benson Road where the morning ferret shall commence. The Soho Tavern is up for auction - not that we'd want to buy it - as we climb the hill to Handsworth Church. Shuffling our way into Lozells, there are interesting former pubs to photograph including the Villa Cross and the Observatory either side of some bladder emergencies.

- Hairless in Hockley -
Lozells gained unfortunate notoriety as the scene of rioting in both 1985 and 2005, but in the calm of a crisp autumn morning we find ourselves admiring some of the terraced architecture. The Stork on Heathfield Road is always a nice photo target whilst Lozells Road itself had a distinct multicultural atmosphere. Via Burbury Park we make our way to Hockley, locating the Queens Head on Farm Street before ferreting around the flyover where the Chairman is on the trail of an old public conveniences.

- Rotton Park Junction -
Ladywood is next on the agenda although the local canals make for an appetising side salad. Venturing past All Saints School and Hockley Port, we join the Soho Loop by Roseberry Street and follow on down to Rotton Park Junction, the only canal crossroads to be found on the BCN. From here we advance to Ladywood Middleway, locating a leisure centre, fire station and St John's & St Peter's Parish Church.

- Five Ways Demolition -
Mr D9 had a specific interest in visiting Five Ways as he'd heard that the shopping centre was due for demolition. This is indeed the case as chunks have already been taken out of the precinct, albeit some of the front stores are still trading and the former Crusader pub premises are intact for the time being.

- D9 prepares for the preacher -
A turn-up-and-go (TUAG) connection is now required and the 29 bus happily obliges for our link down to Northfield. The Chairman quickly adopted the requisite pose in readiness for some driving action only to be interrupted by a persistent preacher who tried to teach us the "Sinner's Prayer" with the aid of an illustrated exercise book. 

- The Clock Cafe -
Fresh from the sermon we seek redemption at the Clock Cafe, a Northfield institution where the staff seem to know everybody who walks through the door - even those they don't recognise (such as two Hub Marketing delinquents) are soon made to feel part of the family.

- The Balmoral -
One hearty breakfast later we board the 18 to Bartley Green where the Chairman is sorely tempted to restock the local reservoir. Thankfully he manages to resist that particular urge and we can proceed to Kitwell as planned, calling in at the Balmoral for a closely-fought darts match that the D9 Destroyer won by three legs to two.

- Baldness and a bus -
Kitwell is something of a West Midlands outpost, a relatively modern estate that was originally part of Bromsgrove district until the Birmingham boundary was revised. The turning circle opposite the local shop serves as the terminus of the number 22 bus as well as providing a crafty bald spot opportunity.

- Sad Stonehouse -
Other than the Balmoral, other local pubs that caught our eye included the Cock Inn (on Jiggins Lane) and the Hairy Lemon at Woodgate Valley South (previously known as the Hobson's Choice but now with a distinctly studenty yellow-themed interior). It's a shame to see the Stonehouse in such a sorry state over towards California - you have to wonder if the wrecking ball is just around the corner.

- The Discount Demon celebrates -
To Harborne then, and the Hillyfields on Quinton Road serves up a discount half that had the Chairman positively beaming with smug satisfaction...

- Eyewatering expensiveness -
... sadly his joy was not to last long as a visit to the Junction inflicted untold damage on the D9 wallet courtesy of the most expensive couple of halves in hub marketing history.

- The Harborne Closet -
Other Harborne features would include the Bell Inn (by the church), the swimming baths and the Duke of York road junction although sadly the Scarlet Pimpernel down on Tennal Road is no more. Our favourite find has to be the old cast iron urinal which remains very much in working order just across from the library. Such a facility came in very handy when easing bladders in anticipation of the White Horse (where we met the pub cat) and the Harborne Stores.

- WME Whirlwind wins again -
Early evening sees us homeward bound on the 48 route, stopping off at West Smethwick to complete our darts duel. D9's Balmoral advantage quickly disintegrated as it was the Secretary who ultimately held his nerve to claim a prized place on the spreadsheet. Spon Lane then contributed the Flowerpot - the only pub remaining out of the twenty or more that once populated the street - and a Dartmouth Street shuffle rounds up shots of the Vine and the Railway for good measure with a bonus bit of Emmerdale watching (should you happen to like that kind of thing). Another day done and it's all praise to the hubs, they certainly served us well this time!

Sunday, November 17

The D9 Doorstep Challenge - Part Two

Friday 15th November brings with it the much anticipated follow-up to September's Tipton and Coseley tour. This time the Hub Marketing brigade are bearing down on Bilston, Bradley and Darlaston in the second sweep of the Chairman's home turf...

- Bilston Baldness -
The Chairman always gets nervous about half-day afternoon outings, as he usually incurs a cob penalty despite having the final say on the rendezvous arrangements. He was right to be concerned on this occasion, for the clock had ticked over to 12:32pm when his tram rolled into Bilston Central, meaning he missed the deadline by a mere two minutes. His bald spot is then on full display when surveying the former Heaths greengrocers shop by the Metro entrance.

- Academy Astroturf -
After a truly gut-wrenching rendition of "Hello Dolly" in the Trumpet (I don't think D9 will be joining the ranks of esteemed jazz musicians any time soon), there is some investigating to be done down by the South Wolverhampton & Bilston Academy. The old school buildings on Prosser Street have been demolished along with the remains of the Stonefield Schools with hard court play areas and astroturf pitches taking their place.

- Industrial Remains? -
A mysterious path makes its way towards Ladymoor and we come across a patch of cleared land that might well have been an old factory site. As we speculate which firm might have operated here, the Chairman does some impromptu modelling on behalf of the Children in Need appeal. Elsewhere in Ladymoor the Clog pub has been converted into Sai's Convenience Store.

- WME in Wolves Corner -
To Bradley then, following an old railway path to emerge in Daisy Bank not far from where there was once a station on the Oxford, Worcester & Wolverhampton line. The Golden Lion joins the ranks of our darts locations and proves a lucky omen for the WME Whirlwind who prevails by 2 legs to 1. The sporting theme continues in the Great Western where the Secretary feels most at home among the framed pictures of John Richards, Mike Bailey and other Wolverhampton Wanderers heroes of yesteryear.

- The Bradley Hub -
Making our way along Hall Green Street, we spot what used to be the Britannia (a Holden's pub back in the day) and note Woottons Square as the former location of the George & Dragon (demolished a good while ago). The Chairman's hub radar then sniffs out this gem on Rose Street, even if Hub Le Bas sounds more French than Black Country.

- Mixing with the local wildlife -
Being so close to home meant that Mr D9 wished to remain out of sight as much as possible in case he got requisitioned for additional domestic chores. We therefore detour via a canal path towards Loxdale Sidings, although the Chairman's trousers received some unwanted nibbling when he tried to ingratiate himself with the local equine population.

- A boarded-up bald spot -
Parents are gathering in readiness for the end of the school week as we pass Loxdale Primary on Chapel Street. There is then sad news to report of the Royal Exchange, which seems to have closed within the last few weeks and now has a demolition notice stuck on the front door. With our quest for a quick half thwarted, we console ourselves with a look at a Wolverhampton Corporation trolleybus pole over towards Moxley, chalking up a sleeve success for Mr D9 in the process.

- No sign of a genie here -
After a rummage around and about Burns Road, we cross the Walsall Canal at Heathfields Bridge and enter the Herberts Park estate. The Chairman was confident he knew the pubs in the vicinity but his knowledge didn't appear to extend to the New Junction, meaning the Secretary's sleeve also collects some brownie points. To be fair to D9, he did have the Aladdins Lamp on his radar but this Wiley Avenue boozer appears to joining the Royal Exchange in the graveyard judging by the telltale dreaded metal shutters.

- The Whirlwind wins again -
Darlaston still boasts its fair share of drinking establishments though with the Staffordshire Knot (a landmark ex-Atkinson's pub at Catherines Cross), the Crown (a King Edward Street affair with an entrance akin to an adult bookshop) and the Frying Pan being in that number. The Vine is a particular favourite where we feel like we are walking in the footsteps of former Rubery Owen factory workers, whilst the Black Horse is the setting for a darts decider that sees D9 Destroyer well and truly vanquished.

- Pudsey Pose in the Prince of Wales -
All good things come to an end, and our Darlaston deliberations are wrapped up courtesy of a Walsall Road trio in the shape of the Springhead Tavern (Black Country Ales), the Prince of Wales (Holdens) and the Horse & Jockey (Banks's) with those Pudsey ears becoming almost a permanent fixture on the Chairman's balding bonce. The doorstep has certainly received a proper polishing over the last couple of months, and there might yet be some further sweeping up to do...

Saturday, November 9

Telford Twice Thwarted

I think the Shropshire weather must have it in for me at the moment, for twice in the matter of a month I've attempted a Telford outing only to abort it due to premature precipitation...

- The Woodcutter, Hollinswood -
The saga begins on Friday 11th October, when the weather seemed reasonable in Wolverhampton but the rain set in virtually the moment I stepped onto the platform at Telford Central. Despite the drizzle I braved a walk down through Hollinswood, discovering the Woodcutter as a piece of pub architecture straight from the brutalist handbook. By the time I reached Dawley Bank the drizzle had become a deluge, and the serious sogginess had me scampering for the safety of the train back home.

- Telford again, but still raining -
Fast forward four weeks to Friday 8th November, and the forecast is the very epitome of promising as I board the train in readiness for Telford Take Two. Perhaps the Wrekin creates a special microclimate where the clouds just cannot escape, for Wolverhampton's sunshine is once more replaced by telltale droplets on the carriage windows as soon as we get the other side of Shifnal. Nonetheless, the camera does get an airing with this Telford sculptural lettering being an early target.

- The Grazing Cow -
To be fair, the rain on this occasion was light and inconsequential to begin with and I rather enjoyed my walk out to Lawley. The village here is the subject of a major development project creating new housing, business and shopping spaces plus schools, play areas and leisure facilities. Already up and running is the Grazing Cow, an example of the modern breed of Marston's pubs aimed at serving new communities.

- Lawley Square -
Also in place is a Morrison's supermarket and next door to this is the Lawley Square shopping parade featuring stores such as Greggs and Barnados along with the local parish council offices. Work is continuing on a bright golden nursery school (due to open in early 2014) whilst some of the planned 3,000 houses are springing up in nearby fields.

- Dawley Bank -
From Lawley Medical Centre I climb Station Road to Dawley Bank, scene of October's deluge and worryingly today's rain is getting noticeably heavier the nearer I get to the top of the hill. The junction with Milners Lane means I can renew my acquaintance with the Beacon chapel and the Bull's Head, but I have to seek refuge in a bus stop to escape the worst of a heavy shower.

- Elephant & Castle, Dawley -
Things seem to have eased off momentarily so I complete my loop of Dawley Bank, spotting the Queens Arms on Bank Road and passing Ladygrove Primary School along Old Office Road. Unfortunately, the rain then returns with a vengeance and I'm absolutely drenched by the time I reach Dawley town centre. A High Street shop doorway gives me just enough dry cover to try a shot of the Elephant & Castle, but that's where the camera action ends as I once more grudgingly concede defeat to the elements. Back to Telford Central then, only this time I might take the hint and steer clear of Shropshire until next spring!

Friday, November 1

WME Flickr Focus: October 2013

Halloween has happened, the bonfires are but a few days away and the passing from October into November means I must inflict another monthly summary upon you, for which I can only apologise. Autumn has not been a completely barren season in terms of photographic updates, so lets see what the recent harvest has had to offer...

Pickings have been piecemeal rather than plentiful but there have been some notable yields on Exploration Extra. Wimbledon Station has sprouted up in my London 2009 selection whilst a set showcasing some Nottingham pictures has also appeared, containing as it does some views of Trent Bridge cricket ground along with Nottingham Station. Our haul also includes a couple of Felixstowe examples (the pier and a vintage bus at a vehicle rally), both of these being relatively new buds having only been photographed earlier this year.

As it turns out, October's crop does include a good handful of 2013 offerings. Aldridge has been plucked for shots of the Avion and the Bowman in order to stock up the WME Walsall larder, whilst WME Staffordshire staves off hibernation with a running board at Chasetown's Church Street halt and a Stourbridge Canal scene near Bells Mill Bridge.  I've also squirreled away a relatively recent shot of the Ashwood pub on WME Dudley, and I must say it is nice to be using some of my more up to date archive material at long last!

The rest of the additions either date from 2006 (as in the case of some Bammot shots from that year's Two Museums event - there's even a milk float in there somewhere) or 2009. The latter comprise a clutch of bus photos sprinkled across WME Birmingham (the 24 at Ward End with the 119 route at Sutton Coldfield) and WME Warwickshire (Leamington glimpses of services 64 and 69). That may well be that, and although the likelihood of some photostream fireworks is probably unlikely this November, I am hoping to dig out a few sparklers to keep us all entertained...