BrownhillsBob's #365daysofbiking

5th September - At the top of Digbeth High Street in Birmingham, one of about 130 or so left.

Highly unusual, it captures a fleeting moment in British history. Been meaning to feature this for some time - and it’s not the only one in Brum, either.

A fine bit of British quirkyness on a fun afternoon.

April 18th - A great long ride today, on a warm, wonderful spring day. I headed out to Honey Hill, at No Man’s Heath via Canwell, Hints, Hopwas and Harlaston, returning via Netherseal, Lullington, Edingale and Lichfield. On the way, I stopped, as I always do, at the old ROC post at Harlaston. It was still in a very sorry state, but I was reminded of something. 

Stopping for a drink and a breather at the top of Willowbottom Lane, just by the bunker, I looked down and noticed a barely visible square of bricks and concrete. This is another reminder of past conflict, for these are the remains of a second world war anti-aircraft watchpost.

High on the hill above Tamworth, it’s an excellent spot for it. A sobering thing on a sunny, spring afternoon.

March 22nd - There’s been a death locally. The victim will not be mourned, although being viciously cut down by a diamond blade. Cyclists, pushchair wranglers and normal-width people throughout the area who walk this way will know what I’m talking about.

The post that had for years pointlessly stopped even the narrowest bikes and people getting though the gap at the foot of Anglesey Basin without a struggle, has finally been cut down.

It served no purpose - access to motorbikes either side of it was always possible. It just existed as a royal pain in the arse, and I was hugely irritated that the metre high steel post filled with concrete survived the dam works.

Someone, somewhere has finally cut the bloody thing down. I’ve vowed to do so many a time, but never been quite motivated enough.

My thanks to the executioner, you have done the community a great service.

March 10th - I’ve not seen anything like this before. Today, I was travelling from Acocks Green to Tyseley, as I often do. One of the routes I take includes a shortcut down an alley that used to be Rockwood Road, which crosses the railway between Alexander Road and the Birmingham City Mission. On the footpath, just as you leave the railway bridge, there’s an pecuiar, improvised bollard made of cast iron and steel, about a foot high and 8 inches diameter. It bears the legend ‘Great Western Railway Co. Boundary 1888’.

It doesn’t take the brain of Sherlock to work out what it is, but why? I’ve never seen railway property delimited like this before. Further, I must have passed this scores of times without noticing. How did such a trip hazard survive 126 years? Is it listed? Are there more? Is it important historically, or just a curio?

Comment invited.

February 16th - As I passed from Elford to Harlaston, I stopped as I usually do, to check out the state of Harlaston ROC post. What I saw saddened me, as it continues to deteriorate.

These odd green surface structures are the visible evidence of a small, 3-man nuclear fallout shelter. Intended to be staffed by a group of volunteers from the local Royal Observer Corps, they were a state secret. Should nuclear conflict have begun, the crew would man this subterranean bunker equipped with basic recording equipment, water and rations, and take measurements of radiation, weather, fallout, bomb damage and soforth. This information would be relayed - if possible - through telegraphy equipment installed within. Posts were sited all over the country, and worked in groups of 3. Others existed locally at Polesworth, Rugeley and Shenstone.

In essence, should the Cold War have begun, three people would have entered this hole in the ground, and if they didn’t perish, they would have carried out their orders whilst waiting to die of radiation sickness. It’s a sobering thought.

The posts - and the Royal Observer Corps - were stood down at the end of the Cold War in the early 1990s, and the posts mostly left to rot. Some were preserved by enthusiasts, some bought by cellphone companies - they make great basetation mounts - but the majority were abandoned, and later discovered in the internet age by urban explorers and cold war enthusiasts.

Sadly, the bunkers were left filled with all their equipment - bedding, instruments, lockers, chemical toilets and whatnot - and have mostly now be broken into, stripped and vandalised. Harlaston has been systematically destroyed. The current owner has repeatedly welded the access shaft shut, only to have it continually cut open. When I visited, there we signs of fresh cutting and the hatch was unlocked.

This is a crying shame. This is part of our collective history, destroyed and desecrated by animals with no sense of the historic and social significance.

High on a hill overlooking this northeast outpost of Staffordshire, good folk would have entered this once immaculate shelter to serve us in our time of greatest darkness. Today, it’s trashed.

Scum.

November 30th - An odd kind of day, characterised mainly by horrendous travel problems. There was an odd atmosphere with nothing quite going to plan, but nothing really wrong, either. Hopping out for a breather at lunch, I tried exploring around Hay Hall, to see if I could find anything else of antiquity. I ended up going round in circles, but did notice this plaque. The huge factory is now a collection of subdivided units, with a curious and unusual tunnel down the middle. I had no idea Rover ever had a works out here. It sits immediately to the southeast of Hay Hall, and somewhat dwarfs it. This is an odd place.

November 30th - An odd kind of day, characterised mainly by horrendous travel problems. There was an odd atmosphere with nothing quite going to plan, but nothing really wrong, either. Hopping out for a breather at lunch, I tried exploring around Hay Hall, to see if I could find anything else of antiquity. I ended up going round in circles, but did notice this plaque. The huge factory is now a collection of subdivided units, with a curious and unusual tunnel down the middle. I had no idea Rover ever had a works out here. It sits immediately to the southeast of Hay Hall, and somewhat dwarfs it. This is an odd place.