February 27th - I’d had a tough day at work, and just wanted to get home fast. I wasn’t in the mood to faff about, and got the first train I could in the right general direction. That turned out to be the service that terminated at Four Oaks. It was a cracking ride home - dry, clear, crisp - a great spring evening. The sunset wasn’t outstanding, but it was pleasant in it’s starkness, and Castlehill looked as beautiful as ever in the half light.
What intrigued me most, however, was growing on a small patch of neglected flowerbed alongside the access ramp at Four Oaks. Violet flowers, looking a bit like poppies. Just the one small group in an otherwise weed-srewn border. Anyone any idea what this delightful flower is, please?
November 30th - When you have to be home for something important., that’s when fate trips you up. I was dashing home. I left work at 3:50pm, and the trains I would have caught from Tyseley or Acocks Green were all cancelled due to London Midland’s ongoing staff crisis. Catching a train at Spring Road, I managed to get to New Street in time to catch the Walsall train. When that turned up ten minutes late, it was only two carriages. With other service cancellations, there was no way I’d get on, and the crush I witnessed on the platform was nasty and dangerous. I opted to try for a Lichfield bound service, but they were all similarly stricken or curtailed. After 30 minutes of faff at New Street, I got a train to Four Oaks, and cycled home from there. After a freezing, tired ride, I arrived home at 6:40pm - nearly three hours after I left work.
The local train service operated by London Midland is crippled by bad man-management and operational difficulties. I could have cycled the distance in a third of the time, and wished I had. I’m seriously considering dumping the trains for Birmingham journeys. The farce that is the cancellation of services due to staff losses and mismanagement is harming the reputation of the service, and resulting in huge crowds of frustrated passengers at New Street. Quite how bad this will get with the Christmas crowds is causing me a great deal of concern. Awful.
August 17th - Some development decisions baffle me totally. Out again at dawn to Four Oaks station, I found myself early and hanging around. I studied the apartment blocks that had been built on the former builder’s yard next to the station. The yard was originally railway sidings last used to serve MotorRail, and is cut into the hill back towards Mere Green. That means a very narrow strip of land with an oblique retaining wall one side, and a view over a commuter railway station at the other. Into this narrow dog-leg, builders have squeezed bland, characterless boxes.
Presumably, the Mere Green/Four Oaks adress sells them, and the commuter links. I find them utterly hideous, with a dreadful outlook.
July 13th - Any of you lot lost a mop? Well, I found it. Just on the corner of Edge Hill Road and Walsall Road, Little Aston. I have no idea either. Perhaps a particularly hygienic witch crashed here….
July 13th - This is just a wee reminder about how poor rubbish services are for some folk. The people here, between Four Oaks and Little Aston, live in one of the poshest, most exclusive areas of Birmingham. Sadly, refuse services in the Second City are still third rate; no wheelie bins here. For whatever reason, these bags of waste - recycling and general trash - have been missed and will lie here for another week.
Next time you hear someone grumbling about Walsall or Lichfield’s bin service, reflect on this.
July 9th - All I want is a day - one day - without rain. Sadly, it wasn’t to be. Returning from Birmingham, the train disgorged it’s charges unexpectedly at Four Oaks, so I cycled up the hill out of the suburb, and then cruised down to Little Aston. At Mill Green, it began; a soft rain fell steadily. Coming up the hill to Shire Oak, I was hot, sweaty and tired. Then I realised: It had stopped raining. 100 metres round the bend, the roads were bone dry and it hadn’t rained at all.
November 1st - Four Oaks Methodist Church: what more can I say. Bloody difficult to photograph at night - passing traffic and the angles make it a tough proposition with my little camera. I think this is a gorgeous building, yet I rarely see it mentioned; designed by Crouch and Butler at the turn of the last century during the Methodist Church expansion that also saw the Mellish Road Church constructed in nearby Walsall. A mixture of Gothick and Perp styles, architecturally it’s a mishmash, but very imposing and impressive. Even more so at night, when it’s beautifully lit. A hidden gem.
Octyober 31st - I tried to get a shot tonight of the spectacularly beautiful Four Oaks Church, which is stunningly lit at night, but my photos were horrid. The Four Oaks Pub itself, however, fared better. Night photography is a very black art and I still haven’t got to the bottom of it. Use of flat surfaces and self timer is a must, although a Gorillapod is handy. This shot was taken with the Gorillapod wrapped round the bike crossbar whilst leaning against a tree.
June 2nd - I noticed while wandering down to the train that this patch of forgotten weeds beside the access ramp at Four Oaks Station was, in fact, a thriving crop of oilseed rape. I can’t imagine anyone actually planting it, so I wonder how it got here - there aren’t any fields for some distance, and the seeds don’t blow on the wind. Was this an act of guerilla cultivation?
Whatever, it’s a cheerful sight and smells lovely.
June 2nd - Ah, it must be bin day in Four Oaks again. Remember, kids, this is one of the poshest, most opulent and wealthy bits of Birmingham, yet the footpaths are impassible to pushchairs and wheelchairs, refuse torn from bags by animals is scattered on the verges, and much of it doesn’t smell too good.
Birmingham is the second largest local authority in the country, and has a refuse collection system of the type one would find in a developing country. A disgrace, no more, no less.
May 31st - The weather really settled down today, and summer is definitely on the return. The air was chilly at 6:30AM in Four Oaks, but the light was gorgeous and the wind had died right down. I stopped to admire the architecture of this house in Lichfield Road, which I’ve passed many times. Is this stunning, or what?
May 5th - Garden waste collection day in Four Oaks, Sutton. This plush, opulent area of large, detached houses can be considered one of the wealthiest parts of Birmingham, yet this is the scene on refuse collection days.
Anyone who complains about Walsall’s waste collection system really needs to get out and look at that of Birmingham. This is a disgrace, pure and simple.
May 3rd - Morning commute to Sutton, 8:35am, as bad a piece of driving as I’ve seen in a week or so. She looked at me, made eye contact, then paused, before pulling out. Fortunately I had my wits about me and was alert enough to slam the brakes on. I was quite close to collision, there.
April 13th - Morning downhill commute. Long uphill run from Little Aston, the hill crests at the lights at the junction of Streetly Lane and Four Oaks Road. An exhilirating blast at speeds of up to 35 miles per hour ensues. Just right for blowing away the morning blues.
April 7th - Little Aston Church looks like a rural idyll, one wouldn’t imagine it to be on the edge of the city, but it is. It has managed to maintain it’s sandstone beauty and air of isolation. A lovely scene to pass on journeys to and from work…
BrownhillsBob biked every day for the thirty days of April 2011, part of the #30daysofbiking project, but enjoyed the process so much that he carried on. Over two years down the road, he's still cycling every day and recording a little bit of every journey.