Tuesday, June 17

A Rapid Rugby Return

Saturday 14th June and it's a case of World Cup Warwickshire as 'Nick Turpin' and I took care of some unfinished beer bandit business around Rugby and Stockton...

- Thornfield Indoor Bowls -
Despite us having been in town only last week, there were still many Rugby riches requiring our attention, none more so than the local beer festival. We sacrifice the Stagecoach to begin with in favour of train travel, Nick using all of his legendary cunning to sidestep possible ticketing tribulations. Ale awaits at the Thornbridge Indoor Bowls Club so we blaze a trail down Bruce Williams Way and secure our entry. Once inside we are treated to some live bowls action to accompany our beer, although Mr Turpin's cover is nearly blown by a photographer from the Rugby Advertiser. In between times I did battle with a Rusty Boiler and survived a Rolling Maul whereas Nick breakfasted on Stout and had a close encounter with Plinny the Elderflower.

- The Crown -
As delightful as it was watching the bowls matches from the gallery, we were not to be distracted from our double festival duty. Our faithful 63 Stagecoach was saddled up once more as we rode onwards to Stockton, a pretty little village where the local pubs and club had combined to host our second ale extravaganza of the day. The bus drops us off just perfectly for the Crown, a homely inn with barrels in the barn and cabinets of Guinness and Grand National memorabilia. Bumble Beer and Dark Age are sampled in the homely surroundings within.

- Stockton Church -
Striding forth, there is time to admire the village school and the picturesque parish church before we see what treasures are on offer at the Barley Mow and the Nelson Club. World Cup fever is definitely in the air ahead of England's opening match against Italy, so it seems only right that we get into the spirit of things with a quick Piddle in the Goal before grappling with a full-bodied Brazilian. Nick informs me that Stockton is known for its fossils which surely explains why he feels so much at home here!

- Daylight Darts Robbery -
We summon up another Stagecoach to propel us back to Rugby where we round off our revelry in the Squirrel and the Half Moon. Despite my better judgement and a string of recent darting disasters I can't resist stepping up to the oche for further punishment. Misfortune and misery predictably came my way as Nick Turpin lived up to his name by stealing victory - I still don't know how he did it! With that we stable the Stagecoach and avail ourselves of the train back to Birmingham, bracing ourselves for World Cup woe with England later that evening. Isn't sport cruel sometimes?!

Sunday, June 8

Hub Marketing 2014: South Birmingham

It's hello to Hall Green and bonjour to Billesley as the Hub Marketing Board enjoy some D-Day D9ing in and around South Birmingham...

- A Sighter of St Andrews -
This particular mission commences with a morning ferret around the back end of Digbeth, crossing into Bordesley and the enemy territory that is St Andrews football ground. Having seen the Coventry Road side of the stadium on previous occasions, we took a closer look from St Andrews Street today, stopping also to admire the Victorian clock turret on the nearby Bordesley Village Primary School.

- Bordesley Village -
The Secretary was on the trail of closet history having heard whispers that there used to be a public urinal around the junction of Coventry Road and Kingston Road not far from the Blues ground. Sadly no trace remains of the cast iron structure or the Kingston Cinema which also stood in the vicinity, but it was still interesting to see more of modern Bordesley Village and this menhir-guarded feature.

- A Digbeth Display -
Digbeth and Deritend have a bit of previous when it comes to bald spot photography so perhaps it was unwise for Mr D9 to let his guard down so close to the Custard Factory!

- Vintage Pepsi in Digbeth -
To be fair to the Chairman he was very much distracted by important sleeve matters, bearing down upon Chris's Cafe with its authentic Pepsi sign. Situated close to Birmingham Coach Station, this used to be known as the Midland Red Cafe and still has a gallery of bus pictures on the wall that we enjoy perusing while munching our breakfast.

- College Arms Closet -
Fortified for the assignments ahead, we proceed aboard a heavily loaded route 6 through the traffic battlegrounds of the Stratford Road to Springfield. One possible casualty we saw along the way was Sparkhill Baths, closed since 2009 although a replacement facility is in the offing. On the Chairman's command we alight near the College Arms and stand to attention at the old conveniences where Sparkhill meets Hall Green.

- D9 Destroyer Leads 5-0 -
I wouldn't call our darting escapades warfare as such but there's a definite competitive edge to the matches these days. For once the D9 Destroyer lives up to his billing as he storms into an unassailable 5-0 lead that has the WME Whirlwind whimpering in his wake. The setting for this skirmish is the College Arms, a long-term landmark that retains hints of original architecture.

- Gone to the Dogs? -
Hall Green is an area that the Secretary very much enjoys exploring as there is plenty of photographic interest on offer. The Shaftmoor and the York are two other large watering holes worthy of note while the Chairman fancies riding a greyhound at the Hall Green Stadium - thankfully there were no dogs in attendance so we were spared the prospect of that scary sideshow.

- Fox Hollies Allotments Closet -
Mr D9's sleeves had been very productive so far but it was now time for the Secretary to unleash his secret weapon. A secluded path between Fox Hollies Road and Shirley Road provides access to the local allotments where what should we find by the entrance gate but a brick gents hut complete with homespun painted man on the door - the Chairman was not expecting that!

- A Pool Table Pose -
Operation Hall Green could not have been considered a success without recourse to the Maggies (or Three Magpies), the sister pub to The Baldwin. A pool table tussle sees the Chairman extending his winning streak, and the Secretary then has to endure further darting pain - WME's luck had definitely deserted him.

- The Hare & Hounds -
The Outer Circle was intent on travelling in convoy for much of the afternoon so our advance towards Kings Heath is temporarily suspended in favour of some brief Horsehoe banqueting action. The platoon is then billeted to Billesley where WME's sporting surrender is confirmed during the final darts drive of the day. Our Secretary may have met defeat in the pursuit of pub games but there is still discount duty to be honoured even if a voucher visit to the Pear Tree might be considered a treacherous tactic. The 50 bus is requisitioned for a combative closet clandestinely hidden in the undergrowth at Alcester Lanes End, with a rehabilitation restbreak scheduled at the impressively-tiled interior of the Hare & Hounds.

- Hub Marketing at Balsall Heath -
That number 50 bus is proving a willing ally as our undertakings lead us next to Balsall Heath where the Moseley Road Baths is an example of Edwardian architectural excellence. We consider renaming the area as 'Baldsall Heath' when a certain Chairman's defences are breached again, although it appears he was captured in the line of hub duty. Looking again at the bathhouse, we wonder whether we would have been allowed in via the first class gentleman's entrance or sent to the second class door instead.

- Secretary with Stoggs -
There are no such worries gaining access to the Old Moseley Arms where we discover that Betty Stoggs has journeyed up from Cornwall to make our ale acquaintance. Our objective is almost achieved now but there is still scope for a sweep of Sparkbrook, seeking out Irish-tinged hospitality at the Warwick Arms and the Rose Tavern.

- Battle Buddy in the Bacchus -
Battle-weary but proud of our achievements we return to Base Birmingham and its mission accomplished as we reach the Bacchus for a celebratory closing half, the Chairman seemingly meeting an armoured warrior in the process. Cheers!

I shall end if I may on a serious note. Andy and I thoroughly enjoyed this latest outing but aside from all our light-heartedness and merry marketing it is important to recognise the altogether more sombre significance of the date - 6th June - which in 2014 marks 70 years since the occasion of the momentous D-Day landings. To all those many, many brave individuals who served on that day and during wartime in general, we say sincerely a simple but heartfelt thankyou.

Thursday, June 5

Nick Turpin's Rugby Reconnaissance

Further Stagecoach shenanigans are in the offing as our noble highwayman Nick Turpin and his trusty lieutenant WME once more venture into the wilds of Warwickshire. What photographic plunder awaits as they sally forth to Rugby and Dunchurch?

- Whittle Statue -
Our ripping yarn begins in Coventry where our duo make the acquaintance of Sir Frank Whittle, the inventor of the jet engine, whose statue stands beneath the arches outside the Transport Museum. There are a variety of Stagecoaches we could choose to raid but its the Rugby-bound 86 that requires our outlaw's outlook. The ride is duly memorable, encountering the speedway stadium at Brandon then rampaging through Wolston and Long Lawford.

- The Alexandra Arms -
Thirsty highwaymen need refreshment so Nick Turpin's research comes in extremely handy to locate taverns either side of Albert Square. Phil Mitchell and Ian Beale might be conspicuously absent but the Seven Stars and the Alexandra Arms are both worthy of mention especially if there's an Atomic Bomb ale to be savoured.

- Sent to the Stocks! -
The somewhat damp weather cannot quell the spirit of adventure and so our heroes sally on forth to Dunchurch, the 63 Stagecoach getting some attention along the way. Dunchurch is a place steeped in history with the village green being a classic picture postcard location (well it would have been if the sun was out!) Unfortunately for Nick Turpin his past misdemeanours appear to have caught up with him and he is banished to the stocks, which was probably the best way of ensuring he didn't get up to any mischief with the nearby maypole.

- Guy Fawkes House -
Other Dunchurch landmarks include a thatched bus shelter and St Peter's Church, while the Dun Cow and Green Man coaching inns have refreshed many a weary traveller over the years. It would appear that Nick Turpin is not the only notorious character to have been in the vicinity for one local dwelling is named Guy Fawkes House, reflecting the building's connections to conspirators during the Gunpowder Plot. 

- William Webb Ellis -
From damp Dunchurch we make a leisurely return to Rugby, dismounting off the 63 once more so as to admire the magnificent features of Rugby School. It was here in 1823 that William Webb Ellis famously picked up a ball and ran with it in hand, thus bringing the game of rugby into existence. There won't be any scrummaging from us today but we do indulge in some recreational rivalry by throwing some darts in the Raglan Arms.

- The Merchants Inn -
Alongside Rugby's sporting pedigree there is also more beer bounty to be considered, hence we cannot contemplate commandeering our Coventry carriage until we have sampled the Victoria (an Atomic Brewery taphouse on Lower Hillmorton Road) or the Merchants Inn. The latter is a veritable shrine to all things ale, bedecked with breweriana and a place Nick Turpin holds in very high regard (although an Essex Beast was on hand by way of additional persuasion!) The final act of this fleeting fable features that homeward 86 connection and another story of Stagecoach spoils is complete.

Monday, June 2

WME Flickr Focus: May 2014

What's all this then? Surely we can't have had a busy month on the WME Flickr photostream - such things just don't exist anymore do they? Well folks it's true, so suspend your disbelief as I round up my latest update activities and offer something of a baldy bonus for any D9 fans out there...

  • Let's maintain the sense of shock by turning first to the usually overlooked WME Telford where there have been some highly notable developments. The Telford Steam Railway makes its photostream debut with a couple of views from Horsehay, and is ably abetted by pictures from Dawley Bank (including the Queens Head) and Lawley (the new Grazing Cow pub that's part of the Lawley Village project).
  • Also taking a rare turn in the spotlight is WME Worcestershire whereby Droitwich and Malvern are centre stage. The former offers the Raven Hotel and the 133 bus whereas the latter contributes the Unicorn inn and the Coach House Theatre.
  • I'm particularly pleased to report that WME Shropshire has sprung back to life, largely thanks to a slice of the Llangollen Canal in Ellesmere. The town wharf and some junction bridge shots have slotted into position and there's even a glimpse of some Ellesmere shops with a peek at Cross Street.
  • WME Staffordshire next and there's more canal content here with Laches Bridge and a Deepmore scene joining the Staffs & Worcs brigade. The 428 bus at Lichfield is joined by a couple of resurrected bus shots that appeared on my old Fotopic site back in the day, so its a big welcome back to the Zaks 23 and the Arriva 825.
  • Also resurfacing from my original Fotopic photos are two 644 route snaps taken at Great Bridge in February 2004. They've taken pride of place on WME Sandwell alongside a trio of taverns - the Wizard & Glass at Cradley Heath, the Vine at Kenrick Park (West Bromwich) and the former Bush on Leabrook Road in Wednesbury.
  • Our staple WME stalwarts haven't been forgotten in all of this though. Birmingham bounces along with pictures of Erdington High Street, Boleyn Road at Gannow and the Queens Head in Hockley while Dudley sneaks in with the old Hurst Hill Tavern and the Capital Cookers centre in Kingswinford. All of which leaves Wolverhampton to bring up the rear with the Clog at Ladymoor and a wintry glimpse of Fallings Park Pharmacy - and there you have it.
Some reasonable progress there I think you'd agree but there's always more to do and the challenge as ever is to keep the photos coming. I'll do my best, but in the meantime I'll leave you with this little treat from last Friday - Messrs D9, Nickolenko and Beardsmore were in afternoon attendance to mark Stephen's works departure when a certain bald spot was captured by the Corn Hill flour mill. Until next time folks...