September 2nd - I will continue to rave about the beauty of Darlaston until I have convinced the whole world how wonderful it is.
Passing through Victoria Park and past the Police Station having been knocked off course by the resurfacing, I noted the lady, content in the warm sun, lost to the world reading a book under the bolt-tree sculpture. The Police station is still a gorgeous building, and it’s leafy surrounds are the perfect setting.
It seems a world away from the Black Country, but at the same time, it’s close to the heart of it.
This is the Darlaston and Black Country I adore.
August 11th - This is something I knew about, but had never seen in use. It’s a bit geeky, but I find it a fascinating demonstration of simple solutions being best.
As New Street Station is gradually turd-polished and sprinkled with cheap glitter, platforms are periodically closed to the public. At the moment it’s the turn of platform 3.
When the platform is closed, so is the adjacent track so that work can be undertaken in safety. The track is blocked, the overhead wires are grounded and these detonators are placed on the line.
Should a train get down here, the yellow disc, which contains a small but effective explosive charge, will be crushed by the wheels, activating the explosive. This makes a sound like a gunshot, alerting nearby workers and the driver.
This technology has been in use for decades, but I didn’t know it was still employed today.
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.
July 16th - Hey, South Wigston has a station cat. With the close proximity of dense housing, and embankments and wastelands full of small, squeaky things, it was inevitable, really, but I’d never seen this young lad before.
He was doing monorail cat on the pedestrian barrier until I appeared. He hopped off when I got out my camera, but did pose for a few shots… a lovely lad, clearly.
Like pubs, every station should have a resident cat.
July 9th - I’ve worked 40 out of the last 64 hours. It isn’t leaving a lot of time for anything much, but I’m still cycling; it’s my interregnum between home and work, and enables me to straighten things out and relax a bit.
This was my journey home tonight from New Street Station, in snatched photos.
Stations at night again, I can’t help myself. It’s that Late Night Feelings thing coming to the surface again…
July 8th - Working late. Exhausted, with very sore eyes, I hit Shenstone station just as darkness was falling. Pleased to note this camera takes very decent handheld shots in low light. This rural station is a long-time muse of mine, and I find the station building and environment fascinating, particularly at night.
In high summer like this, working late and catching the dark is a rare treat, and despite my bleariness, I did try and savour the light…
July 2nd - Passing through New Street Station in the morning, I noticed a motorcycle paramedic had been dispatched to some unknown incident down on a platform. Parked on the concourse, a well used, and no doubt well loved, specially adapted BMW bike.
These bikes are incredibly well engineered; they have equipment for use by the technician mounted everywhere, and it’s all to hand very quickly. The paramedics themselves hang about town all day waiting for callouts, and off they speed with all the kit to save lives and tend the injured. I used to see them in a particular coffee shop in town, always with scissors tucked into one boot.
It must be a hell of a buzz to ride through the subways, concourses and malls of Birmingham to get to a shout. I can really appreciate the rush of that.
To Flymo and the lads who wait for the call, my total respect. And I love your steeds.
July 1st - New Street Station is still a mess, still barely functional, and mostly, I think, now beyond reclamation. But on an early summer sunny morning, there’s something about the concrete, steel and surrounding architecture that renders it if not impressive, then rather fascinating. Architectural styles and textures clash. Machinery grinds and rumbles. Rails screech and clatter. Overhead wires buzz and crackle.
In the midst of this, the most unnatural, built environment that one would consider utterly hostile - signs of life. Shrubs and weeds, their seeds deposited by birds or wind, by luck find a little moisture, a sheltered fissure and just a little nutrition.
If only human design had such bare-faced tenacity, audacity and beauty.
May 22nd - Leicester again. I love Leicester, it’s bustle and cosmopolitain air. One of my favourite aspects of this interesting and engaging city is the station - not huge, but a good, airy atmosphere, comfortable and excellent facilities. Every time I come here, the amount of cycle parking has increased - there are now 10 of the bike parking carousels here, and still cyclists are having to use the railings.
This excellent provision - you’d not see anything like it in Birmingham, for instance - is reflected on the streets, where I see far more cyclists, despite Leicester Council not seeming to keen on cycle lanes or silly coloured tarmac.
It just goes to show, build it, and they’ll come.
May 19th - Bike rack, Telford station. A child’s bike. Can’t really fault the technique, but it’s an unusual approach. Perhaps they’re antipodean.
April 22nd - Using a bike rack, you’re doing it wrong (and making it difficult for anyone else to do so, too).
Photo taken through the train window whilst stopped at Butlers Lane this morning, hence poor quality, sorry.
Come on you dozy wazzock, it ain’t rocket science, is it?
April 16th - It’s all about flowers at the moment. I was in Telford for the first time for a couple of weeks, and spring has come on incredibly fast in the intervening period. As ever, the bed of tulips and other flowers at Telford railway station is incredible - but the daffodils - now going over a bit - were gorgeous at Hortonwood. It was sunny, and warm, and the wind seems to be dying a bit at long last. As I ground my way up Shire Oak Hill late afternoon, I noticed the first Spanish bluebells in the hedgerow by Lanes Farm.
This was worth the wait.
March 12th - I landed at New Street at an unusual time, between trains. The station was heaving, and I wasn’t enjoying it, so hopped on the first service leaving in my general direction, to Four Oaks. Leaving there to cycle home on a hazy, sunny afternoon, I noticed the cycle parking there was pretty well used, with some nice bikes that were well locked.
That GT 29er is a lovely bike.
British Transport Police clearly take security seriously here, as there’s warnings about decoy tracker bikes and locking yours up with at least two locks.
One assumes this has been a theft hotspot - I can’t recall ever seeing such dedicated warnings anywhere else locally.
That aside, it’s a decent shelter, with good racks. Well played, Centro. Let’s have some more, please.
March 11th - On the way home on a sunny, spring evening, with a low sun shining long over Aston. The train stopped and was held for a few minutes, dwelling on a service coming in the other direction before the points could change - as often happens. The doors were open, and I was stood in golden light, frozen.
It’s a snapshot of Birmingham, and why I love it so.
March 10th - I love it when, for a short time every spring and autumn, my homeward commute coincides with the golden hour. Even more so if it does so during a period of good weather. This evening, I returned from Shenstone specifically to catch the station and two towers in the beautiful light, and hopefully see the sunset over Ogley Hay and St. Jame’s Church.
Neither disappointed. I’m loving this spring.