August 7th - I had to nip into Brum on my way home from work, and hopped on a train to Shenstone on the way back. I haven’t been this way much lately, and the familiar wooded hill with church tower - just the one in summer, the other being obscured by trees - looked splendid in the early evening sunshine. I love how you can see the gargoyles at the vertices from a very long way away.
The station and it’s complex, partially mansard roof is still gorgeous, too, despite being neutered of it’s tall, elegant chimneys several decades ago.
Shenstone is gorgeous, and there are few better places to be on a warm, sunny evening.
April 2nd - I spun past the St. John’s School site this morning, and noted it was now almost totally cleared, and it appears the demolition crew have left the site. The one gable remains - in use as a private residence - but otherwise, little trace of 150 years of history is evident, and the scraped ground and piles of crushed hardcore await the next stage.
Of course, the old building had been derelict for four decades, so in many ways, this is already an improvement of sorts - it means progress.
I hope construction will start here soon…
October 3rd - I’m not a big fan of domestic roses - I much prefer their wild, more fragrant cousins. However, even cultivated blooms look great with a fresh rainfall upon them. I spotted these glorious flowers outside Shenstone Church.
A real splash of colour on a very murky day. There’s beauty everywhere if we’re open to it, I guess.
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.
November 27th - I see Christmas is rolling in, then. I’ve noticed Christmas lights up in Brownhills, a rather pathetic effort in Shelfield and tonight, Walsall Wood’s Christmas Tree was lit up in St. John’s churchyard. This is an interesting thing - Walsall Council long ago stopped buying trees for the lesser, satellite towns like Brownhills and Aldridge, and encouraged places to dig their own hole. Walsall Wood, for the last few years, has had a tree paid for out of the pockets of Councillors Anthony Harris and Mike Flower, a rare and welcome act of personal largesse. I don’t know for sure, but I expect they’ve done the same again.
We may not agree politically, but this is an act of true public spiritedness for which I thank them. Cheers, chaps.
November 22nd - Today was the reverse of yesterday, with added headwind. It was a fine morning commute into Birmingham, but the wind had been crafted on Satan’s back step. I ploughed into it head first on the way, fearful of the weather forecast which predicted very bad weather for the journey home. The forecasters were right.
I only had a few usable photos. All was fine until I alighted the train at Walsall, then the heavens opened. Torrential rain, a following wind and a desire to get the hell home took me. The were floodwaters everywhere, and the new ring road became a moat. I haven’t seen rain like this in many a year. But my waterproofs kept me dry, and I got home red faced, but in one piece.
Forecast seems quite good for tomorrow… here’s hoping.
September 7th - It had been a gruelling week. In Leicester for most of it, I’d had enough. The weather had been great, and I’d missed it by being holed up indoors all week. I escaped early on Friday afternoon, and endured a sleepy commute home on hot, sweaty trains. At Shenstone, I emerged in fresh air and sunshine, and immediately headed up Church Hill to the churchyard. I love Shenstone Churchyard, it’s overgrown air of neglect and nature’s reclamation softens a church whose dark, Victorian gothic I’ve never been fond of. It’s a peaceful place, and although I don’t like the church, I admire it and it’s bold architectural ambition, replete with vulgar gargoyles. I felt relaxed, already.
May 18th - only just still standing, the fabric of the old St. John’s School in Walsall Wood High Street continues to gently decay. Soon, I think the roof will collapse, the clearly rotten timbers unable to support the tons of roofing tiles resting upon them. Permission has been granted for some years now for a development of flats here,meaning demolition of most of the old school and the old bungalow next to it, also empty now for several decades. Sadly, the downturn came, and the developers ran out of money.
A small, suburban, architectural tragedy.
November 22nd - At least is was dry on the way home. Dry and getting colder, but as I shot through Walsall Wood the lights of St. John’s church looked warm in the gloom. I guess there was some event going on there, but I liked the contrast with the dark exterior. I noticed also that Walsall Wood again had a fine Christmas Tree - not yet lit up. This is probably the work of Councillor Mike Flower, who’s personally stepped in as an act of unusual generosity and felicity to get the Wood a decent tree since he’s been elected - a huge difference from Brownhills where they throw a string of pound shop lights over the trees by Morris Miner. Mike’s a nice lad, really. Shame he fell in with the Tories…
June 7th - The old St. John’s School and adjacent bungalow in Walsall Wood continue to deteriorate unloved, as they have done for 30 years or more. This formerly handsome, well liked building is slated for demolition and redevelopment, yet nothing ever seems to happen. This belies a tale of neglect, bad management and community frustration. It’s sad to see a beautiful building, a gift to the community of Walsall Wood over a century ago, just rot away on the whims of those after a fast buck from the property market.
April 28th - Shenstone is a neat and compact village built on the slopes of and around a central hill. On top of this hill stands the imposing structure of Shenstone Church, St. Johns. At this time in the spring, only one church tower is visible, but there are actually two - another, smaller ruined tower from an earlier church still stands, being gently carried to dust by the weather, in a corner of the churchyard.