Sunday, February 8

Hub Marketing 2015: Redditch

Friday 6th February saw the Hub Marketing Board gain an honorary new member with HRH Nickolenko assuming the role of the Board's Royal Patron on a day when Chairman D9 visited his first ever beer festival...

- Bradley Lane for Starters -
The arrival of our princely patron is still a couple of hours away when the Chairman and Secretary descend upon Bradley Lane right on cue at 9 a.m. The ride to Birmingham allows members to test out the standing capacity on the new Midland Metro fleet, there being just enough space during a busy journey to avoid any dreaded sardine situations.

- The Hair Hub -
We alight at Snow Hill with Mr D9 immediately getting twitchy in the sleeve department, such was his eagerness to pin down an early marker for the spreadsheet. A few doors down Colmore Row he can reveal the Hair Hub, a former barber's shop that definitely requires some marketing treatment although there isn't much of the Chairman's hair left to cut off these days.

- Watt a poser! -
Our morning ferret destination on this occasion would be Paradise Forum, an ugly concrete lump that previously housed Birmingham Central Library. The whole thing is scheduled for demolition as part of Birmingham's ongoing regeneration so we are eager to record the current scene while we still can. We say a quick hello to the Floozy in the Jacuzzi en route before encountering the more august figures of James Watt and Joseph Priestley in Chamberlain Square.

- Bald of Paradise -
The Chairman is like a kid in a sweetshop in among such brutal architecture and goes into photo overdrive trying to record the most hideous 'scenery', becoming so distracted that the bald spot is left totally unprotected near an old car park entrance. Walking through the former shopping centre is an eerie experience with all the units vacated - Wetherspoons, McDonalds and Nandos were among those that had outlets here.

- The Library of Birmingham -
We go from buildings that will soon be part of Birmingham's past to a landmark for the city's future as Centenary Square offers up views of the hive-like new library building - I remain a little undecided as to its aesthetic appeal but there's no doubting it is distinctive. A wander along Gas Street brings back memories of Central TV which had offices and studios in the vicinity.

- Fletchers Walk -
Returning to Paradise Circus, we make sure to survey Fletchers Walk, a desolate tunnel of a shopping precinct buried below Birmingham Conservatoire's Adrian Boult Hall. Admittedly the shops have all closed pending the wider redevelopment scheme but this would have been a depressing place even when everything was open. For the time being the arcade remains accessible as a pedestrian link from Town Hall to the Broad Street subways but it's hardly the most inviting of thoroughfares.

- A Taste of T'Other -
Mr D9 had been tasked with finding us some breakfast but freebie Belvita biscuits being given out in the Bull Ring weren't quite what I had in mind! Nickolenko is ready and waiting by the New Street ticket barrier, and with our extended membership all in attendance we are safe to proceed to Alvechurch, the Weighbridge having been nominated for our opening drink of the day. Some Teme Valley T'Other is just the ticket for the Secretary whereas D9 and HRH opted for the house brew, Bargees Bitter. The pub lived up to the high standards set previously by proving a delightfully relaxed setting next to the local marina.

- Alvechurch Accomplices -
A timetable miscalculation means we scamper back to Alvechurch Station unnecessarily early, the Secretary having to eat a little humble pie although at least we were in position for our next train. Work to upgrade the Cross City line has resulted in an improved twenty minute frequency down to Redditch while Alvechurch Station's second platform and new footbridge continue to bed in nicely.

- Ready for Rocklands -
Alighting at Redditch we brace ourselves for the walk via Southcrest to Headless Cross. D9's influence had clearly been rubbing off on Nickolenko given that 'Bladder Emergency Syndrome' necessitated a pit stop in the Woodland Cottage. Here one of the pub regulars gives us a potted local history as we sup our Doom Bar, and there are plenty of intriguing vintage photos for us to peruse. A short walk later and we reach the Rocklands Social Club, venue for the 8th Redditch Winter Ales Festival - it's good to see the event back on the calendar being as it wasn't held in 2014.

- Celebrating CAMRA's newest member -
With tokens and glasses in hand we dutifully dabble in the range of over 30 ales on offer. Favourites included Kinver's One Fat Lady, Flipside's Russian Rouble and Weatheroak's Portly Miss Stout. As a festival first-timer our Chairman soon gets into the swing of things and before we know it he's joined CAMRA, ringing the hallowed bell to a chorus of cheers. This momentous event was even reported on Twitter with D9 threatening to go viral across cyberspace! Absolution, Excelsior and Faust Banana were also sampled although it was Kinver's Full Centurion that saved the strongest til last.

- The Gate Hangs Well -
The evening was rounded off with a little tour of Headless Cross, utilising the map Nickolenko had printed in advance (excellent planning there). The Seven Stars, the Steps and the White Hart were all options but it was the Gate Hangs Well that got the biggest seal of approval. In between times the Secretary summoned up his knowledge of 1960's music (WME is definitely getting a taste for free pork scratchings) while Nickolenko took a close interest in a New York Metro map. As evening sets in we make our way back to Redditch Station and the marketing merriment draws to a close once more.

- Cheers! -

Wednesday, February 4

Palfrey, Pleck and Wood Green

The next in my series of Monday Missions was a 2nd February outing encompassing areas of Walsall and Wednesbury, trying to keep my camera from seizing up in the icy temperatures...

- Palfrey Park -
10:45 a.m. or thereabouts and the photographs are underway with a quick shot of the Fullbrook public house. A short walk up the Broadway brings me to Palfrey Park, a place I've captured on camera a few times over the years although the bandstand, horse sculpture and ranger's shed are always worth another look. There are playground sounds from the local primary school as I make my way to Milton Street, updating my archive with more pictures of Station Street working mens club and the Charles Napier.

- Bescot Morrisons -
Wandering down to Wallows Lane, I pause at the Morrisons supermarket which sits on the site of Walsall FC's historic Fellows Park home. The ground closed in 1990 when the club relocated to Bescot Stadium, and later this year Walsall will make their first ever visit to Wembley when they contest the Johnstone's Paint Trophy final against Bristol City. I hope they enjoy the day after 127 years of waiting!

- Hough Road -
There are roadworks at the junction of Bescot Road and Montfort Road before Pleck Park is next on my radar, a peaceful spot despite the rumblings of the nearby motorway. A path at the far end of the park leads over the railway and onto Hough Road. Here we have a pocket of Pleck I've never explored before with the road looping around a residential estate as the 637 bus trundles by. Emerging onto Darlaston Road, I eagerly snap up shots of the Globe Inn and ponder the location of James Bridge railway station which was somewhere in the vicinity. I can see James Bridge aqueduct carrying the Walsall Canal in the distance, but Bentley Mill Way is subject to roadworks so I can't get any closer.

- The Myvod -
My fingers are feeling the cold now as I fumble on through Fallings Heath, Park Lane and Franchise Street seeing me cross from Walsall into Sandwell. The Myvod heralds my arrival into the Wood Green district of Wednesbury; the pub is a landmark on the 313 bus route and was probably overdue a photo pose given I was last in the area about six years ago! 

- St Paul's Church, Wood Green -
Myvod Road offers a glimpse of Albert Pritchard Infants School (Coleman Road) as I proceed to Wood Green Road. The first thing to catch my eye here is St Paul's Parish Church, standing tall next to the dual carriageway with the Wood Green Academy for close company. The church's lych gate is a nice carved feature that quietly provides a note of history alongside busy traffic.

- Horse & Jockey -
A trio of pubs now require some photographic attention. The Queens Head on Brunswick Park Road appears to have had a makeover since D9 and I visited three years ago, while the Cottage remains derelict but is at least still standing when I half-suspected it would have been demolished. The other corner with Hobs Road is occupied by the rather handsome Horse & Jockey, a place I particularly remember for a lovely ceramic tiled counter in the main bar although the pub's exterior is also impressive.

- Brunswick Park -
Wood Green Cemetery is home to a war memorial cross and neighbours Brunswick Park, an area of recreational open space with hard courts and a skateboard zone. This seems like a good spot for me to have some lunch, with dessert coming courtesy of park lodge photos and a stroll by the bandstand.

- Wednesbury Town Clock -
It's just a short walk from the park into Wednesbury town centre, passing the Park Inn and the local library before Spring Head connects me to the Market Place. The clock tower here is a much-loved landmark, dating from 1911 when it was constructed to celebrate King George V's coronation. Add in a shot or two of the Pig & Trumpet and the modern day market stalls down by Morrisons, and I can catch the 313 back to Walsall feeling pleased once more with my exploration efforts.

Sunday, February 1

WME Flickr Focus: January 2015

January has been housekeeping month on the WME Flickr photostream as I concentrated on hoovering up a few pesky photos that had thus far managed to dodge being published. Some of my old Fotopic favourites were returned to the fold alongside some longstanding 'test' items that needed to be dealt with - here's a quick look at what I tidied into position...

Of the returning Fotopic originals, I'm pleased that two 702 Tesco bus photos from WME Coventry have been restored to give Travel de Courcey a little more representation. A Midland Metro tram at The Hawthorns made a welcome reappearance, as did the 436 bus at Much Wenlock and a 259 bus in Stourbridge, while Short Heath shops crept quietly back onto WME Walsall. Exploration Extra ushered more shots of Clacton's seafront gardens in from the cold, not forgetting a railway platform scene from Totnes. This leaves precisely 553 images that graced Fotopic back in the day but haven't as yet furnished Flickr - still a lot of housework to attend to then!

Poking around in the dusty crannies of my general archive, I found a fair bit of unused material that needed to be scooped up and deposited correctly. Cobwebs were thus blown off Edgbaston Reservoir and Sheldon Country Park (WME Birmingham), a Wychbury Hill footpath (WME Dudley) and the Monks Walk near Lapley (WME Staffordshire), all photos which I'd almost forgotten about. Also waiting in the wings for a long time had been a second look at Rough Hay Post Office (WME Walsall) and a vintage Mobil sign as seen from a canal towpath (WME Wolverhampton), both no doubt glad to get a proper airing.

Not all of January's additions had been sitting on the shelf for half an eternity though. Injections of freshness thus arrived courtesy of Coventry Transport Museum and Sutton Stop (WME Coventry), the former Severn Apprentice pub in Coton Hill (WME Shropshire) and the Rainbow pub at Coven (WME Staffordshire). Exploration Extra was perhaps the most eager with the broom, sweeping up Parliament Square, Kendal Castle and the bridges of the River Tyne with great gusto. All of which means that the WME photostream probably had its spring clean a little ahead of schedule this year, but as ever the job is never done and February's feather duster is ready and waiting for the next set of archive assignments...