BrownhillsBob's #365daysofbiking

September 18th - From the Indian, back to the Indian summer. Darlaston, in and around Victoria Park. The leaves are turning and falling, and the park as clean and perfect as usual. Surrounded by beautiful houses, I will not cease banging on about this jewel of a place until everyone gets it.

I was intrigued by the scarlet berries on the holly-like evergreen; copious and beautiful, they seem to be holly, but the leaves don’t look much like holly leaves; more like a cross between laurel and holly. A curious thing.

Anyone know what it is?

September 16th - There’s a shop opened up in the former bank in Darlaston, just on the Walsall Road at the lights. I say shop, it’s more of an… emporium.

It’s called something like Beer Bank, and I’ve not really taken much notice, as I thought it was purely an off-licence, but it’s far more than that. Told about it by mates, I popped in on my way through Darlaston this afternoon. It’s incredible.

The owner of this place sells all manner of British, Asian, Carribean and  Eastern European groceries. From fresh fruit and veg to cosmetics, from pickled cabbage to spiced soda, I think I’m going to have fun exploring the products here. 

There’s clearly a fierce entrepreneurial spirit at work - every square foot of floorspace is piled high with a whole load of diverse stuff. I loved to see the krela (bitter gourd), okra, chillies and ginger. I’ve no idea what the pumpkin-like green things are. The range of pickles also looks fun. 

I love the free bag of onions when you spend £20, too. This is what I love about the Black Country; something unexpected around every corner.

September 11th - In Darlaston Green, a sight to bring joy to the coldest, hardest heart - a single, 7 foot tall sunflower, growing right in front of a living room window. I imagine it to have been planted by a child under adult supervision - possibly a grandparent. 

You can’t fail to adore this. 

September 9th - This is bothering me. On the border between Darlaston and Walsall at Bentley Bridge, there’s a field of meadow-scrub next to the nascent River Tame. There has been planning permission granted here for a warehouse and new driveways and drainage which have never been built - instead, the land is being used ostensibly as storage, but is more akin to a flytip.

Building materials, old pallets and scrap, including a couple of portable site toilets are strewn around, and the water that must run off this site into the Tame is more than likely contaminated by the waste here.

I have mentioned this to Walsall Council, who assured me something was being done, although I’m not sure they understood the location or where I was referring to.

This can’t be allowable, surely?

September 2nd - I will continue to rave about the beauty of Darlaston until I have convinced the whole world how wonderful it is.

Passing through Victoria Park and past the Police Station having been knocked off course by the resurfacing, I noted the lady, content in the warm sun, lost to the world reading a book under the bolt-tree sculpture. The Police station is still a gorgeous building, and it’s leafy surrounds are the perfect setting.

It seems a world away from the Black Country, but at the same time, it’s close to the heart of it.

This is the Darlaston and Black Country I adore.

September 2nd - A better commute this morning. The sun was out, and it was a nice day. Spinning through Darlaston I was pleased to see Bull Street being resurface at long last - it was getting to the point where it didn’t need sweeping so much as ploughing.
I’ve been quite lucky this year; Green Lane in Shelfield and Bull Street both resurfaced, two roads that were nasty to ride on.

September 2nd - A better commute this morning. The sun was out, and it was a nice day. Spinning through Darlaston I was pleased to see Bull Street being resurface at long last - it was getting to the point where it didn’t need sweeping so much as ploughing.

I’ve been quite lucky this year; Green Lane in Shelfield and Bull Street both resurfaced, two roads that were nasty to ride on.

August 19th - This is Victoria Park in Darlaston, once a railway line.

This is in the centre of a heavily urbanised, industrial area in the Black Country. It is a green oasis in a sea of roads, buildings, traffic and noise. It is clean, well maintained and a credit to the town.

This is why I love this place.

June 10th - Sights you don’t see everyday. Late afternoon, I’d nipped down into Wednesbury on an errand, and on the Darlaston Road at Kings Hill, the road was closed off by Police. There was a supermarkey delivery lorry lying on it’s side, and it looked quite bad. It turns out another vehicle was involved, but thankfully, nobody was seriously hurt.

That’s what you call a bad day at work.

A sobering thing. Stay safe out there, folks.

June 5th - A better day. There was warm sun and it was dry with a keen wind. I had to nip down to King’s Hill near Darlaston, and passed the derelict, abandoned Methodist Church. I haven’t been this way much of late, and since my last look at this architectural stunner, it has continued to decay gracefully. The building has been sold, and permission granted to convert it into apartments, but work has not commenced yet.

At least we’re not losing the building.

What fascinated me today was the way nature is reclaiming the place. When the Church still held it, although unused, volunteers used to tend the grounds. Now, it’s run wild, and a riot of begonias, roses and shrubs are taking over. 

It’s sad and beautiful simultaneously.

May 7th - A snatched picture combining two of the worst hazards in cycling. One is common, the other seems unique to a particular part of Darlaston. The loose grit - marbles - I’ve discussed at length here; wheel and traction stealing, highly polished grit, it washes down during rain and snow, and gathers in junction voids and gutters, waiting to snatch your bike from under you.
The unique hazard is metal clippings, swarf and shards, and this is Heath Road in Darlaston at it’s junction with Station Street. Around Darlaston Green, all the way down to the Walsall Road this problem slices tyres and causes punctures. Open tipper wagons and skip lorries corner here to get to the scrap yards up the road, and metal drops through their tailgates, shutterboards and  from unsheeted tops. The metal lies flat in the road, where it’s gradually sharpened by the traffic dragging it against the road. 
Automatic sweepers don’t pick it up because it’s so thin, but hit it with your tyres and you’ll quickly flat. It’s a pain in the arse. Look closely here and there’s sharp spikes, wire and razor-thin plates.
Look out for it; avoid the area if you can. In a place where one has to watch the traffic carefully, it’s another hazard to watch out for.

May 7th - A snatched picture combining two of the worst hazards in cycling. One is common, the other seems unique to a particular part of Darlaston. The loose grit - marbles - I’ve discussed at length here; wheel and traction stealing, highly polished grit, it washes down during rain and snow, and gathers in junction voids and gutters, waiting to snatch your bike from under you.

The unique hazard is metal clippings, swarf and shards, and this is Heath Road in Darlaston at it’s junction with Station Street. Around Darlaston Green, all the way down to the Walsall Road this problem slices tyres and causes punctures. Open tipper wagons and skip lorries corner here to get to the scrap yards up the road, and metal drops through their tailgates, shutterboards and  from unsheeted tops. The metal lies flat in the road, where it’s gradually sharpened by the traffic dragging it against the road. 

Automatic sweepers don’t pick it up because it’s so thin, but hit it with your tyres and you’ll quickly flat. It’s a pain in the arse. Look closely here and there’s sharp spikes, wire and razor-thin plates.

Look out for it; avoid the area if you can. In a place where one has to watch the traffic carefully, it’s another hazard to watch out for.

April 8th - Another heron. I think the spring has brought them out - this one was near Bentley Bridge, stood watching the word go by from, ironically enough, a fishing peg. Older than the one I saw last Friday, and larger, he was a an impressive bird.

Can’t get enough herons - never saw them as a kid; they’re a sign of a healthy fish population, I’d tenure.

March 26th - I cycled to work in bright sunshine, but it felt bitterly cold, although I guess it wasn’t, really. Since it was so nice I took a quick loop of Kings Hill Park in Darlaston. It’s a credit to the people who work hard to maintain it. The spring flowers are gorgeous, the planters are shaping up well and the the place is clean and tidy.
It’s such a shame that Oak Park in Walsall Wood can’t get a fraction of this kind of dedication. A real shame indeed.

March 26th - I cycled to work in bright sunshine, but it felt bitterly cold, although I guess it wasn’t, really. Since it was so nice I took a quick loop of Kings Hill Park in Darlaston. It’s a credit to the people who work hard to maintain it. The spring flowers are gorgeous, the planters are shaping up well and the the place is clean and tidy.

It’s such a shame that Oak Park in Walsall Wood can’t get a fraction of this kind of dedication. A real shame indeed.

March 24th - I noticed this Volt Metro folding electric bike parked in the racks outside Darlaston Library as I passed. It looks like a decent design; disc brake front, V-brake rear, motorised rear hub (I think) with derailleur gears - it even has suspension fork and seatpost. Dread to think what it weighs, but it’s an interesting bike. 

March 24th - It was a sunny morning, but cold. But it’s the cold, clear days when Darlaston really shines. Passing through, I still love the place. So many architectural gems in such a quiet, unassuming little town.

A real jewel in the Black Country.

December 11th - In the midst of an industrial Darlaston winter day, flowers. Outside the derelict, doomed Kings Hill Methodist Church, a beautiful rose grows from the scrub, bringing welcome colour on a grey day. The building is thought to have been sold to a developer, and may be under threat of demolition, which would be a shame.

Not 10 metres away, flowers of more permanence - metal poppies complete the detail on beautiful new railings, erected as part of the refurbishment of Kings Hill Park. They are gorgeous. The designer should be very proud.

Brightness can be found even on the dullest days.