March 3rd - The Four Crosses at Shelfield is a classic community boozer. Basic, but comfy, it serves fine real ale and is friendly and welcoming. I love the place. It’s telling that this small pub survived, while the plusher and larger Spring Cottage less than 50 yards away closed and became a retail grocery store.
Recently, following a frankly bizarre planning application, the venerable pub has been declared an ‘Asset of Community Value’ by Walsall Council. This declaration is essentially meaningless, but does show the council’s commitment to support this tiny pubs existence, which is appreciated.
The other pub I know to be listed in such a manner is The Black Horse at Edingale, which closed some time before it came to Lichfield District Council’s attention,and was awarded the status primarily to prevent the former inn being converted into flats. When I passed the other day, the Black Horse was still closed, and appeared to be in use as a private dwelling.
The unescapable fact of these things - ACVs, Local Listing and other such declarations - is that although planning can sometimes stop stuff being changed, you can’t force a business to continue to exist; you may well preserve a building, but not the pub itself.
A quandary for our times, and a demonstration that planning, heritage and community are uneasy bedfellows.
I wish the Four Crosses, it’s regulars, landlord and community well. If ever a pub deserves to thrive, it’s that one. Long may it do so.
February 21st - Returning home in the wee small hours, I was irritated to discover I’d forgotten my camera. As I sped from Walsall on deserted streets, there was a fine drizzle but the wind was behind me. I saw nothing but a handful of cars, a couple of foxes and a started badger. The phone is useless in low light, but these do capture the atmosphere quite well.
I’d quite forgotten the otherwordly atmosphere of being out on a bike at 1am…
February 20th - My morning commute was back to baby weather - wet and windy - but there was no heart to it, and the day soon cleared. I returned hume, still deliciously light at gone 5pm, in the most golden of sunset hours. The red bricks that seem to make up most of Walsall’s non-concrete architecture look great in this light, bringing magic even to the dismal design of the Saddlers Centre. Great light and great sunsets, and the extension of the day make for wonderful journeys right now.
February 18th - A great sky tonight, and a good sunset although I wasn’t in a good place to catch it. The day had been showery, but mostly dry and sunny, with a low wind. I really feel right now that the weather is, at last, settling down a bit.
I was on the lookout for good views of the sky on my way home from Walsall, and found myself unable to get any, but plenty of urban textures and skylines.
I bet it was beautiful at Chasewater, or up on Barr Beacon…
February 12th - Will it never stop? Have we somehow opened a portal to weather hell? After a wet, cold and punishingly hard ride to Darlaston very early, I left in the afternoon with a 30mph wind behind me. In what was a heart-in-mouth ride, I rode up Navvys Hill into Rushall at 35mph and made it home in only a shade over 30 minutes.
Avoiding the danger of crosswinds, I tacked over Oak Park and noticed the bowling green here still flooded. I have been told by the Council that the flood is due to a broken drain, and will be sorted out. I was promised a press release, to no avail.
This still breaks my heart - this used to be such a fine little park. It’s like seeing an old friend become destitute.
February 1st - I nipped into Aldridge for a change and some fresh air, at lunchtime before the weather broke again. It was very windy indeed, and cycling against it was hard; but I knew it would, at least, blow me home.
Sometimes the very art of cycling is to head off into the wind.
I took a look at Aldridge Manor House - once the home of Walsall Youth Services, and still location of a great youth club. This well-loved building and the services it hosts are hanging in limbo; Walsall Council spotted the monetary value of this listed building, and having little other family silver to sell, the million or so it may receive for a sordid development opportunity proved too much for burghers to resist.
Interestingly, closure dates have been continually exceeded and postponed as the Council seems unable to find a suitable location in which to host the displaced youth club, and buyers seem to be in no particular hurry.
I’ve got a piss-up I’d like organised. I figure a brewery might be a really good place to hold it. I don’t think I’ll ask the council to organise it - all evidence suggests they’re incapable of such a task.
January 28th - I narrowly missed the heavy rain on both commutes, on a miserable day of stress and meetings bracketed by railway stations. I was out early, and back late, but there was a familiar lightness creeping into the sky. I just wish it’d stop raining for a few days.
It’s not too much to ask, is it?
January 21st - It’s not kicked off to be a good week. I’ve had a ton of work dropped on me, and the railway system seems to be in a permanent state of entropy at the moment.
I left work in Telford late, having tried all day to solve an ostensibly simple problem, without success. Riding back from Walsall, it was wet, but drier and warmer that the previous morning.
Tired and ground down, I remember little of the journey home, as often happens, but I did find this image on the camera I don’t remember taking whilst stopped on red at Rushall Square.
I’ve had enough of the dark and wet days. I need to move into the light.
January 15th - I keep forgetting the Waterfront in Walsall. It’s hardly surprising, really, as blocked off by the New Art Gallery and a large Poundland, you wouldn’t know it was there from Park Street. This evening, I took a quick sweep through, and thought the lights were nice at the Wharf Bar. Still can’t warm to the the boxy, Lubyanka-like hotel, though. It’s bloody hideous.
January 14th - Spotted whilst hurrying through Butlers Passage in Walsall in the rain, so excuse the poor picture quality. It’s impossible to get a good angle on, too. Great piece of Star Wars themed street protest art on the side of a trainer shop; note the Nike logos.
No idea who did this, but it looks quickly and well executed. I like it.
January 13th - Caught by the rain again, for heaven’s sake. My return from Darlaston was a hard ride - wet, the traffic was mad, and the New Ring Road in Walsall really shows it’s bad design in heavy rain - it’s just one long pool of standing water. Fed up with the traffic and looking for a good picture, I dropped onto the canal.
I got home soaked again. All I want is a dry week. Is that too much to ask?
January 9th - The journey home was similarly blessed; the weather was good, and the trains on time. At Walsall I got that Late Night Feeling thing again, and couldn’t resist a shot of platform 1, which always feels a bit like Walsall’s very own platform 9 and three quarters.
I even had a decent exchange with another cyclist at the lights in Rushall. Can’t be bad.
December 12th - Coming home late, it was raining quite hard. It was warm, though, and well wrapped in my waterproofs I enjoyed the sights, sounds and sensory onslaught of the traffic on the rain. At Rushall, I stopped to photograph the Christmas tree. It looks better in the photo than it looks in reality - this one seems a little tatty, if I’m honest.
In the late hour, the junction at Rushall Square was quiet, and glistening in the rain. Sadly, I couldn’t keep the lens clear and just had to go for it.
Hopefully, the weather will clear for the weekend.
December 12th - I spotted him on the canal towpath in Pleck, Walsall. This large, curiously vocal calico cat. He saw me coming, and scrambled up the embankment, and stood, yowling and mewling at me from high in the scrub. I stopped. I spoke to him,. He replied. I spoke again. He replied. We had quite a long conversation. Then he got bored, and wandered off.
I suppose that was me told, then.
I will continue to talk to cats, dogs and passing wildlife until someone convinces me that the animals are not listening to what I’m saying.
December 11th - Taking a short cut through the Butts (no sniggering at the back), I noticed that Eastbourne Street has had it’s street lighting changed to LED technology. These lights are cool white rather than the customary yellow, and run much more efficiently and at lower power than sodium discharge types. Birmingham has being undertaking a rolling program of installing this type of lighting for a year or two now.
They’re a shock at first, but I prefer them. Although they look dimmer, their illumination is actually great, and I find they don’t cause the glare that the older types do.
The eerie effect on the urban scene is also rather wonderful.