November 10th - Remembrance. I called in at Hopwas to get a shot of the War Memorial here (there is none at Wall, to my surprise). It was darkening as I arrived, and having forgotten my tripod, I struggled. But this is a beautiful building and a delightful place, especially on an autumn evening.
Hopwas is the most curious, lovely church in all of Staffordshire. There, I said it.Yet what gazetteer or guide breathes it’s name? Who ever mentions this delightful country church?
Sitting in the shadow of Hopwas Hays Wood, high on the hillside, it gives the air of a country farmhouse, with white and timber gables, chimney and leaded pocket windows. Built in 1881 and designed by John Douglas of Cheshire, it’s a building that, to the best of my knowledge, is unique, and in a beautiful spot.
I was glad to see a wreath from the local Scouts, and several crosses. This is a fine place to be remembered.
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.
August 22nd - Off into the Peak District for the day on a long ride. It’s sometimes said that the best bits of Derbyshire are in Staffordhire, and Ilam is no exception. The border between the two counties runs down the river at Dovedale, and everything to the west is in Staffordshire, including this picturesque little village at the foot of the Manifold Valley. Superb architecturally, the village monument has just been refurbished.
More pictures from this ride are on my main blog.
August 18th - I passed through West Hill in Cannock on the way to Pye Green. I always come this way if I’m heading to the west of the Chase, but the hills are punishing. Today, I stopped to take a drink and noticed West Hill Primary School. What a fine bit of Victorian, municipal architecture it is. Huge windows, fantastically detailed in execution, the brickwork around the gables and eaves is a joy to behold, as are the decorative ironwork - just look at the floral finials. Good job they chose regular numbers and not Roman for the date inscription, that gable would have to have been a lot wider…
Then, as I moved on a little, I spotted what must have been the original school house; plainer, simpler, but again with lovely arched end windows and imposing chimneys.
This is a fine school indeed.
July 25th - Architectural perspective. I’d been to the night market at Walsall, and I came back down the Bridge. Walsall’s architecture is actually glorious in parts, and very, very handsome, but few ever look upwards and notice it. It’s also impossible to photograph without lens distortion and addled geometry, as you can’t get far enough away for a decent angle.
Later on, passing through Walsall Wood, I noticed two thirds of the old St. Johns school, derelict as long as I can remember, still being carried to dust by the elements, wet rot, fungal deterioration and vandalism. Meanwhile, the recently refurbished southern gable is still a lovely looking home.
Never have worked that one out.
July 24th - The love affair with Acocks Green and it’s homely, suburban architecture continues. They have a fine, red terracotta police station, in the Birmingham style, and behind it, an ex-fire station worthy of Trumpton.
There can’t be many cop shops with cupolas, can there?
July 23rd -By the time of my return, the sun was shining hazily, and things seemed to be drying out a bit. It was still threatening, but the ride home was dry and uneventful. At Nuneaton, the light was interesting, and highlighted the exaggerated perspective of the railway and it’s architecture. I love the accentuated vanishing point, the repetition and recursion. The forest of overhead metalwork - every member in that mess of stanchion, gantry and wire does something.
For a quite simple idea, the railway is incredibly complex and deeply fascinating.
July 16th - I noticed something today that’s puzzling me. I doubt many others have ever registered it, and even fewer probably care, but it appeals to my sense of lost history. I noticed today that Tyseley Station once had a lift, or at least, the evidence points to it.
I noticed some time ago there was a tower attached to the station building, contemporary with the rest of the structure, that had no apparent door or way in. It’s a few metres taller than the main building, and is about the size of a lift shaft, but there’s no evidence of it in the booking hall, where the tiles and fittings look original and undisturbed from new.
Down at track level on platforms 1 & 2, there is a low, bricked up doorway with a modern door built in. The platform island ramps down to it. It’s the only access to the tower I can see.
At pavement level, three sides of the tower are plain, and blank (the terracotta paint is covering graffiti, note the continuous texture of the brickwork underneath) - the other side of the tower can be seen in this image series from last week.
I do hope some passing railway buff can help with this. Was it a lift? If so, why? What did it convey? Who used it?
It’s an odd little mystery all of it’s own.
July 4th - I returned to Walsall during a glorious golden hour. The town was largely deserted, and I cycled through an empty marketplace. St. Matthews, up on the hill, looked as imperious as ever, but despite the demolition of the hated Overstrand, the view of the grand old lady of Walsall is still wrecked by far inferior architecture. But get close, and she still beguiles…
June 28th - I don’t often ride into Stonnall from Cartersfield Lane, but having hopped off the canal at Warrenhouse, then over Barracks Lane, it seemed a reasonable route. It’s actually a lovely lane, and on the outskirts of the village, I spotted this row of interesting old houses. Even in the rain, I loved the colours, textures, gables, and above all, the great chimneys!
You can know a place all your life, and still spot something fresh. That’s why cycling - even on wet, grey days - can be a joy.
21st June - Up on the A5, at Newtown, Brownhills, it’s reconstruction time again. On the site of the awful, paradise-lost maisonettes, new social housing is being constructed. It’s just… at the moment… I’m not getting good gives. Have we not been here before?
Hope I’m wrong.
June 9th - An odd little bridge on a bend in the Wyrley and Essington Canal at Wednesfield. Faced in roughcast and painted salmon pink, Devils Elbow Bridge is curious on a number of levels, not least the peculiar name. One would imagine it’s due to the bend in the canal. Anyone got any ideas?
June 4th - A hectic one. I had a morning meeting in Redditch, and an afternoon one in Telford, so I spent most of this gorgeous, sunny day either cycling, or on the train. Redditch’s the Arrow Valley cycleway is still gorgeous. I love the way the tiny hamlet of Ipsley is preserved in the middle of a park, surrounded by urban sprawl. The wild garlic glade has improved since my last visit, too.
A joy to the heart.
May 8th - I’m fascinated by the Selfridges building that forms part of the Bullring in Birmingham. I’m intrigued by the curves, textures and interaction with the surrounding environment.
It’s a brave, bold piece of architecture, and I love it. I’m particularly fond of the car park link walkway, which looks like something from a 1960s sic-fi film.
It’s a surprisingly local affair. Built and project managed by Midlanders, The discs, freshly cleaned this year, were anodised in Walsall.
You either love it or hate it, but it can’t be ignored.
April 28th - I’ve not really studied this old, derelict mill on the canal at Rugeley before, but it’s quite fascinating, actually. Built in 1863, it’s older than I expected, and I’m interested in its history. Most intriguing are the metal canopies installed awkwardly below the upper row of windows. Wonder what their purpose was?