November 12th - Meanwhile, at the other Oak Park, something is happening. The 70s recreation centre and sports ground is up for a rebuild, and I’m hoping that should it happen, the council might be able to renovate the old park adjacent. All around the grounds of the leisure centre there are surveyor’s marks on the tarmac, highlighting measurements, cables and pipes. Meanwhile, on the football pitches, a small drilling machine was boring test holes to measure ground conditions. This plan is clearly serious.
Meanwhile, the row of ornamental cherry trees on the east side of the site rain golden beauty on the Brownhills road. Hope they can be preserved in any new development; they’re lovely.
November 12th - I had something important to do in the morning, had had planned to take the rest of the day of, but I got called in to work. In Walsall Wood on my errand, I noted with sadness the seasonal lake is filling up at the original Oak Park. This was once a bowling green.
It would bring tears to a glass eye. This water will stay here until spring, and nobody at the council - whose responsibility this virtually abandoned public park is - seems to give a toss.
October 8th - Today, I cycled past Rod, the Walsall Wood angler. I’ve never been fond of this artwork, even though it is modelled on David Evans, local character and contributor to my main blog. Rusting so badly now that the writing can barely be discerned, Rod had his copper fish stolen some time ago.Since then, wags have hung alternative objects from the angler’s pole, namely a gold wellie boot and olympic rings. Rod is symbolic of the fortunes of the Wood; unveiled in a public artwork binge ostensibly to record the village’s mining past, he sits corroding, while the real mining memorial - the original Oak Park - also decays.
October 2nd - I know I keep banging on about this, but it’s on my mind and I’m seething about it.
This is the original Oak Park in Walsall Wood, on the south east side of the 1970s leisure centre bearing the same name. This park was for decades - and in my living memory - a neat little park with flowerbeds, tennis courts, public bowling green and paved paths. I think there was even a putting green. It stands on land held in charitable trust to be used for the enjoyment of the local residents, created to give miners and their families a lovely open space to take the air and enjoy the greenery.
On this basis, the popular and well-used leisure centre overlooking it was built, and the faithful flock to nearby Walsall Wood FC on match days. Sadly, Walsall Council who are charged with the upkeep of the park have let it slide into decay and ruin.
The flowerbeds are overgrown, the public bowling green floods every winter. Tennis courts locked out of use, the surfaces being reclaimed by weeds. The one manicured trees are overgrown. Walsall Council doesn’t care for this once lovely amenity and would rather we all forget it exists.
To me, this is sticking two fingers up to the memory of those for whom it was created.
Shame on these who would neglect our civic heritage.
June 22nd - There’s dereliction of a different kind not far away from the land in the last post. Oak Park - the original one, consisting of bowling greens, ferris courts and gardens was originally for the amenity of the local mining community and held in trust. Now, it sits gently decaying like some lost garden ruin next to the 70s leisure centre that bears it’s name.
Left to rot by a council that no longer cares for it, it’s a sad site that I find tragic and upsetting, not least the overgrown remnants of the BMX track out back, added in the 80s. This was once a grit track, and very popular.
Dereliction of land and dereliction of duty.
May 1st - meanwhile, on the other side of the recreation centre playing fields, this sight to gladden the heart. New leaf growth, heralding another summer of green trees and warm days.
Bring it on. It’s been a long winter.
May 1st - Welcome back to the old Oak Park bowling green. This old, neglected facility - overlooked by the bright, perfect club green in the middle-distance - has been a pond since at least last November. Now spring is here, and drier weather, it’s drained and the grass is growing again.
It’s sad that nobody seems to care for this once pristine public space.
April 8th - Sping, come she will. After yesterday’s shock at finding myself snowbound not once, but twice, I noted the warm afternoon and spring flowers. I’m interested in the daffodils at the moment - they seem small to almost narcissus proportions this year; is this a symptom of the poor spring? Blooms that are normally large and plentiful at Sandhills are small and diminutive this year.
The faux village green at Walsall Wood - a grass verge councillors tried to convert to avert the expansion of the adjacent pub - does look lovely with a riot of crocuses.
It’s not all growth, though; the polythene lined field at Home Farm still isn’t giving up it’s secret, and the bowling green at Oak Park is being named as a possible Olympic training facility.
A mad season, indeed.
January 4th - Walsall and it’s boroughs can be very, very odd sometimes. Here in Walsall Wood, the planning system threw up a peculiar juxtaposition. Oak Park is the local leisure centre, with a large car park at the front, itself fronted once by an expanse of grass. Over the road, a private health centre converted from a former night club. Inbetween the two, a Kentucky Fried Chicken drive through was built, as if to mock the punters attempting to keep fit.
The construction of this unusually located fast food joint was protracted, and difficulties in planning were extensive, but there it now sits in its red and white illuminated, plastic glory, attracting far more customers than both its healthy neighbours combined ever could.
And it smells revolting.
Decmber 5th - Almost as ingrained in the life of Walsall Wood as the Drunken Duck are Oak Park and Walsall Wood Football Club. Nowadays, the old Oak Park - a collection of outdoor bowling greens, tennis courts and suchlike - is largely neglected and forgotten; the name is mostly associated with the adjacent, crumbling recreation centre, well used but nearing the end of it’s useful life. Out back is the all weather football pitch, a heavily used facility that speaks of the area’s love affair with soccer. Tonight, it was in use, with local football players training for the next big match. They looked cold. That’s dedication…
November 27th - A little further on, I was cutting through Oak Park when I noticed the old bowling green was flooded, and illuminated by the floodlights of the current bowls club. I couldn’t resist the chance for a photo. Immediately after I took the first shot, somebody switched all the lights off, giving me another opportunity to experiment with long exposure night photos. I’m really beginning to get the hang of this…
November 1st - I’m experimenting with long exposure settings on the camera. I did a little last year, but largely left the shutter and aperture to the camera. I’m beginning to get a feel for how there settings work now.
I’m not a huge fan of the Walsall Wood Pithead sculpture as many will be aware. I resent the poor engineering and tokenism of it, and the shallowness such artworks always engender. But it does make an interesting subject at night. It’s interesting when it catches the floodlight from the football pitch nearby, it almost appears to be lit from below.
August 23rd - Those who think I’m being negative about the sculptures in The Wood should think about this. This miners trust, a true social relic of the coal era hereabouts created this, the original Oak Park for the village and community. When I was a kid, there were ground staff on site in a depot behind the then recently built recreation centre, and the old park was pleasant and well maintained. Paid for initially, and now held in trust by those who worked away from the fresh air and light, it had flowerbeds, paths, well-tended lawns, a bowling green and tennis courts. Slowly, it has been allowed to decay. The tennis courts lie locked out of use, and are slowly being reclaimed by nature, the paths and flowerbeds overgrown and lost. The neatly manicured lawns are now hastily mown scrub. The only thing to survive is a bowling green, operated by a club, a true social asset.
The miners left this for us, because they understood the value of light and air. We let it rot, and instead erect rusty metal - of the kind they were all too ready to escape from - in their memory, while our next generation grow more and more obese.
There’s something very wrong in all this.
January 9th - Walsall Wood’s attachment to football is deep and ongoing. Home to a popular local club, the outdoor all-weather pitch provided by the council at Oak Park is also very, very popular. This is a great facility, and the floodlights can be seen for miles around. On nights like tonight - returning from the deepest Black Country on a dark night - the hubbub and cries of the players let me know I’m not far from Home.
August 6th - Heading into Brownhills past Oak Park the temptation to take another photo overcame me. It seemed odd taking pictures at this time of the morning, and I felt nervous and expected to be challenged. I wasn’t, but I don’t think I’ll ever feel comfortable taking pictures in public. At 1am that translates into abject fear.