Sometimes despite your best intentions, things simply don't go to plan. Friday 10th September 2021 had been reserved for Hub Marketing action, only for the stricken Chairman to cancel due to a sickness bug. Left to my own devices, I conjure up a solo snoop into a part of South Staffordshire I hadn't visited for years...
Sunday, September 12
Baggeridge and Gospel End
- Footpath to Gospel End -
It's a very grey and overcast morning as I catch the 15 to Himley, sprinting my way to Merry Hill island just in time to intercept the bus. A top deck ride through Wombourne helps me get my breath back before I alight on School Road near the care home. Himley Cricket Club is my first real photo target of the day; established in 1883, they currently play in the Birmingham & District Premier League. Beggars Bush Lane seems to be a building site as part of the Bovis Homes Gittins Park development, then a public footpath points me across the fields towards Gospel End flanked by the perimeter walls of Himley Park.
- Baggeridge Adventure Hub -
Mr D9's enforced absence doesn't prevent me from carrying out certain Board formalities, including gathering hub evidence at the main entrance to Baggeridge Country Park. The park was created on the site of the former Baggeridge Colliery as owned by the Earls of Dudley; the pit had been the last operational deep coal mine in the Black Country area prior to closing in 1968, while the Country Park itself was officially opened in June 1983. My public footpath route introduces me to a couple of post-industrial hovels and gives glimpses of Baggeridge Wood Farm, the stables of which are home to horses such as Roxy, Spirit and Ben.
- St Barnabas Chapel -
Emerging onto the main A463 Wodehouse Lane, I quickly reach Gospel End which is a small settlement between Sedgley and Wombourne. I'd imagine the place would have been quite busy when the pit and the associated brickworks were in full production; Baggeridge Brick was a well-known name in the construction industry and their site has latterly been converted into a craft village and housing complex, albeit with the historic brickworks chimney retained for future posterity. Another notable Gospel End landmark is St Barnabas Mission Church, dating from the 1890s but no longer in active use as a place of worship.
- The Summer House -
One village amenity that still fulfils its intended function is the Summer House pub, set slightly away from the roadside and looking rather inviting now I've walked up a thirst. Dodging the posse of car park ramblers, I enter the main bar and procure myself a well-earned pint of Wainwright. News filters through that the Old Trafford test match has been cancelled while a pair of old boys count out their pennies in readiness for subsequent rounds. One drink is sufficient for me here as I'm keen to get into Sedgley, hence my onward stroll takes me past the Northway turning and the Seven Stars (a Banks's establishment that seemed very quiet for a Friday lunchtime).
- The Beacon's Back Garden -
Somewhere altogether busier is the Beacon Hotel, forever cherished as one of my ultimate West Midlands watering holes. Despite countless visits over the years I don't think I've ever frequented its beer garden before, which makes for quite a revelation when I discover a scene of outhouse toilets and well-worn benches. The Sedgley Surprise ale (Sarah Hughes Brewery) is utterly impeccable and I'm very partial to the accompanying bag of Bostin' Scratchuns too - beat that for a proper Black Country lunch! Even a minor drizzle flurry can't dampen my enthusiasm for this all-time classic so if you've never been you simply must go.
- St Mary the Virgin, Hurst Hill -
Any risk of prolonged rain soon recedes and I'm all clear to proceed along Gorge Road into Hurst Hill. St Mary the Virgin Parish Church seems to be in wedding mode and there's an interesting memorial to Dr Isaiah James Baker (1850 - 1912) on the corner with Hall Lane. Woodcross tries to tempt me with the prospect of the Horse & Jockey but on this occasion I decline in favour of the Three Crowns out along Dovedale Road, a hostelry that now has Desi leanings thanks to the provision of Nepalese and Indian cuisine. A chilled pint of John Smiths Beardsmore bleach keeps me quenched whilst I lap up a sense of Friday afternoon freedom.
- Dovedale Road -
The Three Crowns is the main pub serving the Ettingshall Park estate nestled below the crest of Sedgley Beacon. Dovedale Road's local shops are arranged either side of the Delhurst Avenue junction and include a post office, Posh Paws pet grooming, a dental practice and a hand cut crystal glass showroom. Brightening skies then allow for sunnier snapshots involving Farrington Road before I flag down the number 1 bus for my lift home to Wolverhampton. It may not have been a Hub Marketing day but I made the most of things regardless - cheers!