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.
December 9th - It was a beautiful commute this morning. Heading into Darlaston, I took to the canal to better enjoy the sunshine. The day felt mild, and just a little bit, I’m starting to feel Christmassy. I need a break. Christmas will give me chance to get some stuff done. Hopefully, the weather will either be like this, or cold and clear. I’d hate another like the past couple…
November 11th - I think the rain made this, in a funny kind of way. When I came past the war memorial in Darlaston, it was raining quite heavily, but the statue, wreaths and tributes positively glowed in the murk. It looks like Darlaston did it’s fallen proud. So touching, and beautiful, it was a great sight on a wet, grey monday morning.
A few minutes later in the town, I saw the regular street sweeper cheerfully litter picking in the rain. Just as I passed, a lady from a local shop shouted to him, and came out with a cup of tea for him, and praised him for his hard work.
Life here, distilled. I love this place.
November 7th - It is, of course, coming up to remembrance, and across Walsall, Streetpride teams from the Council and volunteers are both working to ensure our war memorials are clean, tidy and generally up to scratch. One of my favourite in Walsall is the one at Darlaston. Human, touching and poignant, the statue of the Tommy is emotive and devotional, and the surrounding peaceful garden is designed to be enjoyed by the blind and partially sighted.
Tucked away in a very quiet corner of Darlaston, I recommend visiting this one, and musing on the loss and service of those that paid the ultimate price.
For a list of Remembrance Events this weekend, see this post on my main blog.
November 6th - In Victoria Park, Darlaston, the shaggy mane or ink caps are still growing well. These lovely fungi grow tall and white, then go over quite quickly and, if undisturbed, decay into a black goop in the most fascinating way. Quite tasty when young, these have been sprouting for a month now. Wonderful to see.
November 6th - An absolutely lousy commuting day. It was raining for the entirety of journeys both to and from Darlaston, and the traffic - still stuck in autumn muppet mode - didn’t make it easier. There were lights in the darkness, though; at Green Lane, Shelfield, I stopped to take a phone call and felt someone was watching me - so beware eavesdropping moggies when out and about. The canal at Bentley Bridge still looked green, depute the murk. On the way home, the roads glistened and shone in the spray-sweep of passing traffic.
It’s not shaped up to be a great bike commuting week, if I’m honest… at least the forecast for tomorrow is better.
October 31st - I cycled to Darlaston in soft, warm drizzle. The rain couldn’t make up its mind to stay or go, and just hovered in an indecisive, grey mizzle that painted most things I saw shades of murky grey. However, it’s time to point out that despite the grey, your local parks right now are marvellous. Whether it’s Walsall Arboretum, Holland Park in Brownhills or as shown here, Victoria Park in Darlaston, the trees are really showing great colours right now that can brighten the most dull days.
My has is tipped to those who work so hard to maintain them. Thanks, folks.
October 18th - I’ve been in Darlaston all this week, and Kings Hill continues to pique my interest. As well as some great faded architecture, this characterful post-industrial borderland between Walsall and Sandwell contains a really great park. Recently refurbished Kings Hill Park - which I erroneously referred to as King George Park in an earlier post for some reason - is hilly, wooded and beautiful. There’s a wonderful new sculpture, and the whole place is wearing autumn beautifully. Emerging into Franchise Street, I admired the view of St. Matthews, Walsall over the rooftops. There are some fantastic old houses here.
Darlaston is full of surprises.
October 17th - This all-consuming tree is still growing healthily at Victoria Park, Darlaston, just by the old railway walk. When I last featured it here - way back on May 23rd, 2011 - the trunk had only just started to reach the second bar of the fence it was slowly and surely consuming.
I pass this remarkable example of natural growth and triumph over the built environment quite a bit, so hadn’t noticed the sum of the incremental growth until today. Note that now, the whole railing is being distorted by gentle, persistent hydraulic pressure. The overgrowth has reached the other side of the wooden kerb too.
There is no strength like the gentle, microscopic strength of nature. And she’s got all the time in the world to do it.
October 15th - Victoria Park, Darlaston is an embarrassment of fungal riches at the moment. I spun through on a misty, wet morning where the only colour I’d seen was the red of brake lights, and noticed several brightly coloured types of fungi in the freshly mown grass. The orange curly one I’ve never seen the like of before, and I love the little yellow button. There was a plentiful supply of shaggy manes, too, which the grass cutters had clearly mown round when attending to the rest of the park. I liked that - a nice touch.
Such welcome colour on a dull morning commute.
October 15th - I hadn’t been down Station Street in Darlaston - at least the James Bridge end of it - for a while. What greeted me today was quite a surprise, to say the least.
Walsall has developed some odd traffic calming and management systems in the last few weeks; traffic engineers have gone mad with the Shellgrip at Rushall, and two streets in The Butts have become one way. Here, the stub end of Station Street - a short cut through to Heath Road - has been blocked to two way traffic at the Heath Road junction.
This seems bizarre in itself, but they have left a cycling lane open for us two-wheelers, although it’s possibly the most peculiar such arrangement I’ve ever seen.
It’s like an ability-testing obstacle course. I bet whoever laid this out hasn’t ridden a bike for years.
October 14th - I was in Darlaston, and had to nip into Wednesbury, so I shot over King’s Hill on the way home. It’s a funny area, combining a post industriaair with pockets of modern commercial units and surprisingly beautiful old buildings. This one - the former Kings Hill Methodist Church is one such lovely old building. Sat on the edge of the glorious King George park, it sits unused. It was up for auction on the 5th October - wonder if anyone bought it? It would convert into a lovely home to someone with the imagination (and budget) to do so.
September 24th - my love affair with Darlaston is decades old and shows no signs of abating. I adore the place, from the grimy industrial backstreets, to the quiet loveliness of Victoria Park. Here, half a century ago, trains thundered through this cutting serving the freight needs of the Black Country, but now, landscaped into a lovely open space, it makes for a nice traffic free ride away from some of the worst traffic of the town centre. In spring, this spot is lined with snowdrops, crocuses and daffodils.
I always liked that footbridge, too; it’s an inspired touch.
September 23rd - The fungi is really starting to show now. No fly agaric yet, which is my favourite of all, but I did spot this beautiful golden bracket in Victoria Park, Darlaston today. Growing on an old tree stump, it was bleeding some kind of resin and very very vivid. It appears to be some variety of polypore, but I have no idea what, and the internet and my books haven’t been helpful. The other ones are common puffballs, growing on the canal bank at Pleck. When ripe, they’ll burst and release powdery spores that drift on the wind.
In all the flora and fauna, the mycology is the most alien and beautiful to me.
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.