May 26th - Caldmore Village Festival, then back to Walsall and on to the canal. Up through Darlaston, down to Toll End, then along the Tame Valley Canal to Rushall Junction, then back home via Aldridge. A lovely run. The birdlife was great. Plenty of cygnets, goslings and herons. Common Terns are stalking the water everywhere, but too fast for this slow photographer to catch. The canal was gorgeous. A fine day.
May 26th - On a bridge abutment in Moxley. A stencil. Can’t decide if it’s the new Doctor Who, or Alan Turing. I have no idea. Nicely done though.
Long shot, anyone know what this is about?
March 6th - The warm sunshine and springlike air disappeared today. It was one of those grey, murky days when it never seemed to get light. I had to go to Darlaston for the first time in ages, and I enjoyed the ride, despite the indifferent, drizzly weather. Hopping onto the canal up to Bentley Bridge, it’s a welcome, pleasant and solitary byway through the former industrial heartlands.
This place is still noisy with commerce and manufacture, of course, but as nothing compared to the heyday. I always think of this place a slumbering, one eye slightly open, waiting for the great leap forward.
The Black Country will rise again. In the meantime, the contemplation and enjoyment of it’s placid waterways, even on a dull day, is a wonderful thing.
November 12th - It was on my return that afternoon that I spotted a relic of times past, fitted high up on the gable wall of a house on the Walsall Road in Darlaston. It’s an Ionica antenna. You don’t see many of those about now.
Ionica were a pre-internet age telephone company that promised much, yet failed in the dot com boom. Launched in the early nineties, they offered cheap telephone line packages. What was unique was that the technology they offered was based on microwave transmission, rather than the copper wires BT used. If you signed up, engineers came out and installed one of these octagonal 3.5GHz microwave antennas, which pointed at a base station in the locality. The idea was fine, but never covered it’s costs, and as they were narrowband, would have been useless for the internet connections that were to come later. The company value was inflated to over a billion pounds in 1997, but collapsed in 1998. The network was wound down by BT, and only a few remnants like this antenna survive.
Like the Rabbit zone phone, a curious idea in a time of great change.
November 12th - Well, nearly all of it. Victoria Park was still impressive, even in the driving rain. There’s always something beautiful to lighten the darkest ride.
November 12th - Monday morning. Darlaston, in the rain. There’s no dark side to the Black Country in winter. It’s all bloody dark.
June 28th - An odd day with freak weather. I left for work in Darlaston early, and it was warm and quite sunny. At work for a couple of hours, the sky blackened and a real storm developed. I don’t think I’ve ever seen it rain so hard in the UK. Rivers flowed through the streets, causing flooding and chaos. Then, it ended almost as quickly as it started, and we returned to a nice, sunny day. In the afternoon, I had to go to Tyseley, and due to flooding, the trains were seriously disrupted. Arriving on time due to a freak of happenstance, I left late in the afternoon to find serious delays. I rode back to Birmingham through Small Heath, and got a train back to Blake Street. Traversing the back lanes of Stonnall and Little Aston was an interesting and somewhat wet experience.
May 29th - At Bentley Bridge, in Darlaston, I noticed these workboats pulled in to the bank. Two tugs and a dredger, they seem to be engaged in some heavy canal-cleaning by the looks of the buttes in the distance. This is good to see - these waterways have been kept very clean in recent years, and it’s good to know the spending cuts don’t seem to have affected this vital task yet. Long may it be so.
March 6th - I was very angry about this. Over the last week or so, I’ve watched workers from the council clear up the Kings Hill end of Victoria Park in Darlaston. They cut back the trees and scrub, swept all round and even pulled all the rubbish out of the marsh. It looked better than I’ve seen it for years. What do I find this morning? A fly-tipped armchair. What kind of selfish tossers do this? I hope their balls drop off, I really do. Those guys worked hard for the benefit of your community and this is how you repay them. You’re nothing but scum.
February 29th - I keep passing this odd house in King’s Hill, Darlaston, and it’s strangely fascinating to me. It’s not a bit like it’s neighbours, and seems like a real stylistic miss-mash. It’s an odd building, and I wonder what its history is? It’s clearly quite old. The bay doesn’t match either of the upper windows, which themselves clash - although the sills are the same. An odd little curiosity.
February 23rd - On my way to work on a sunny, warm summer- sorry, February day, I was in shirtsleeves. Taking the scenic route through Kings Hill Park in Darlaston, the spring flowers were just crying out for attention. As was a wee ladybird, sunning itself. 2012 certainly is running the whole gamut of weather, that’s for sure…
February 8th - Two very snatched pictures, proving that some pubs can have a life after death. Both houses were blighted by tough reputations - neither Pleck’s Brown Lion, with it’s gorgeous glazed-tile frontage, nor Darlaston’s Three Horse Shoes, at the Bullstake, were considered salubrious places. Both closed, and spent time derelict. However, after a time, both inns have been converted to dwellings, maintaining their pub character. Much better than losing them altogether.
Thanks to Mike Parkes on Facebook, it’s actually The Columbrium. Have a look here and marvel at this treasure…
Cheers to Mike for that. Very impressive.
February 7th - On the subject of interesting architecture, in the last few days I noticed this peculiar and rather charming twin tower arrangement in the back gardens of central Darlaston, behind the handsome houses of Rectory Avenue and the Post Office. I have no idea what it is, or if it’s accessible. It’s visible across the workshop yards of Church Street, too. Does anyone know anything more about this?
January 30th - Darlaston was similarly beautiful again. I love Victoria Park and this partof town - it’s so quiet and peaceful. I love the soft contours of the old railway cutting and the oddly delicate wooden footbridge. The green turf contrasts beautifully with the Victorian, four-square red brick townhouses. Once, steam trains thundered through here, now just walkers, a little local traffic and the odd, awestruck cyclist.
Just a minor point, though. Does anyone else get a slight Teletubby vibe from this landscape?