BrownhillsBob's #365daysofbiking

On a bike, riding somewhere. Every day, rain or shine.

Posts tagged ‘history’

#365daysofbiking Stopping the line

May 19th – A fairly short ride out on a grey but warm Sunday ffternoon took me to the incredibly busy Strawberry Cabin cafe in Hints for excellent tea and cake, and from there I dropped down to Fazeley on the old A5, and went to check out the old WW2 pillbox on the aqueduct over the Tame.

Pillboxes protecting bridges on the River Tame and Trent are a familiar sight even now, and they lie in various states of decay, little more than a historical curiosity one passes by without much thought – but this one has always fascinated me.

The stop line it formed part of was envisioned to confront the possible nazi invasion at the crossing points of the river, which would have formed a natural pinch point. So this could have been a vital component in the defence of the Realm.

Now it’s just a curious anachronism in a really sleepy, beautiful waterside spot. Thank heavens it was never needed.

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#365daysofbiking A solved mystery

May 18th – Cutting back over Brownhills Common I remembered that I’d not recorded a mystery I solved a couple of months ago (because my photos then were too poor) – so I paid the site of a recovered childhood memory a visit.

When I was a child I remember walking over the common many times with my father, between the Chester Road, Parade and Watling Street School. I remember back then there being a fair sized, man made pool, surrounded by crunchy gravel, that in spring had frogspawn in it. At one end of the pool was a concrete rectangular bulkhead with a blue pipe protruding that trickled clear water into the pond.

There is no pool today, no gravel. I have looked for evidence of the pool on maps, aerial images and spoke to people about it. The only person I ever found who recalled it was fellow Brownhills historian David Hodgkinson.

Mooching over the common in spring, I nearly suffered a spill coming off a track by the corner of woodland into a ditch. Seeing a concrete block formed the edge of the ditch, I made a discovery.

It is certainly the concrete bulkhead I remember. It has a ten inch vitreous pipe in the centre, the protruding part smashed away, although it clearly once projected from the surface. The inside of the pipe is blue.

The site of the pond is now a copse, and bone dry. but it’s still a hollow.

I was astounded to find the site of this, which I’d convinced myself was a false memory.

Now, the site and pipe are clearly many years dry. I wonder who created it, and why?

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#365daysofbiking A lifetime away

March 16th – In Brownhills High Street, it was largely deserted. Not just due to the lateness of the hour, but because of the awful, endless rain and scouring wind.

I don’t mind Brownhills these days: I used to find the High Street problematic, with its reminders of a more prosperous past and failed dreams of regeneration, but of late, despite the derelict scar of Ravens Court it’s actually perceptibly on the up.

New housing has bought short, local footfall, and local convenience services are doing well, I think. Slowly, very slowly, things seem to be improving.

But here and now, in the grey dusk with rain falling steadily, better days seem a whole lifetime away.

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#365daysofbiking Feeling flush



March 11th – I had time to spare so hopped onto the restored canal at Droitwich for a mooch. Just under the railway bridges in the last entry, I noticed this relic of the Ordnance Survey.

Flush Bracket 480 is one of a range of such brackets intended as mapmaker’s datums, the slots in which were for mounting surveying equipment at a known datum – in this case 28.7490m above sea level (the Newlyn Datum).

Now redundant as cartographer’s aids, these are more a historical curiosity than anything else, but I still get a buzz from spotting them in the wild.

You can find out more about this one here.

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#365daysofbiking Telford – a paradoxical historic new town

February 12th – Telford is a new town that’s about 50 years old: Yet it’s also a place of great history, considered by many to be the birthplace of the industrial revolution. Today, I discovered that even under the ‘new’ Telford there is a big, big past.

Riding up the cycleway to Hortonwood, I go towards Stafford Park then turn over the pedestrian bridge and go through Priorslee. At the Stafford Park/Priorslee crossroads, there is a mess of old signposts, their boards removed when the local cycle routes were redesignated. On the orphaned posts, as well as the usual mess of Sustrans guff were new stickers for The Miner’s Walk.

Intrigued, I looked up the website mentioned on the sticker, and found that it’s a local history project with a five and a half mile walk through industrially significant spots in North Telford.

There is a great website here. – go check it out. It’s superb.

I found out that only a few hundred yards from this spot, up until about 1910, there was a mine called Dark Lane Colliery. In 1862, it was host to the worst loss of life in Shropshire mining history when 9 men and 3 boys crashed to their deaths when a cage rope came free.

I had of course heard of the Dawley pits, and those of Coalbrokedale, but had no idea the history was so complex and far north.

So those little stickers led to me learning something new today. Wonderful.

I shall be investigating this further.

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#365daysofbiking Chains changed:

November 16th – Heading back to Brownhills and home, I stopped to look at the view of Silver Street now the building works are finished here. Around 200 new, modern dwellings on what was 12 year dead wasteland and an abandoned marketplace. The change from desolation to signs of life and habitation is remarkable. Every time I see it, I struggle to take in the massive change here.

Change for the better.

About 6 years ago I speculated that this then desolate, windswept, empty place was haunted by the ghosts of civic failure. They have been exorcised, and gradually, almost imperceptibly, there are signs of life developing in my old town again. The people that live in these houses now will use the local takeaways, pop for a paper, a haircut and use the high street out of convenience. No, it’ll never boom like it did, but this trade fillip has to be welcome. 

Finally, Brownhills is becoming unshackled from the system built housing misadventure of the sixties. All we need to do now is finally rid ourselves of the blight that is Ravens Court…

#365daysofbiking Ooh matron:

November 14th – Coming home from work, late. Diving off the main drag onto the canal at the unfortunately named Black Cock Bridge, which takes it’s name from the adjacent pub, The Black Cock.

Subject of schoolboy humour for over a century or more, this steep, precarious canal crossing probably hasn’t got many years left in it’s current form. decidedly too steep for many vehicles, weak and narrow, it’ll be interesting to see what happens to The Black Cock Bridge in the long run, as the geography has changed so much since the bridge was built that and undebridge with an aqueduct would no be more suitable.

In the mean time, at night, it’s wonderfully photogenic.

July 28th – The hazel hedge by the canal, between Silver Street pedestrian bridge and Coopers Bridge is heavy with nuts this year – clearly to the joy of the local squirrel population. Thankfully when I spotted these healthy specimens, they grey rodents hadn’t completely stripped the trees of their creamy bounty yet.

But they’re having a jolly good go, bless them.

Still can’t get into my head that w have fruiting hazels growing healthily on what used to be an open, festering refuse tip.

July 8th – Always pleased to see the wild sweet peas growing around the old coal loading chutes at Anglesey Wharf near Chasewater. They are a symbol of change for the better.

As recent as 50 years ago, this was a busy, filthy and polluting coal loading interchange between road, rail and water. Coal was loaded into a continual stream of narrowboats and the sea was treeless and devoid of life.

The coal here stopped in the 1960s, and nature reclaimed – but the coal chutes stayed, a monument to an industrial past.

Now, surrounded by greenery and wildlife, they are an anachronism, but the sweet peas bloom and speak of peaceful, cleaner, better times. A lovely sight.

February 6th – On the corner of Gladstone and Station Street in the industrial backstreets of east Darlaston, a curious little bungalow cottage I’ve always wondered about. 

Painted terracotta red with two tall chimneys, Victoria Cottage is an unusual house that doesn’t seem terribly large, but someone is awfully proud of. It has a plaque dating it to 1897, and it’s well cared for and the people who live here clearly love the place. 

It looks almost like it was built as a project by someone, it’s such a curious shape. I’m sure there’s a bacstory here that must be fascinating.

Anyone know more?