BrownhillsBob's #365daysofbiking

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

Posts tagged ‘interesting architecture’

#365daysofbiking The place I love

August 15th – Some things make a place what it is, although one may not be fond of them in themselves.

And so it is with the Parkview Centre in Brownhills for me.

The former council house and for many years seat of Brownhills Urban District Council became redundant after our absorption into Walsall in 1974. After a good few years as head office for a building company, this four square, red terracotta building stood empty and decaying.

It is imposing, handsome, I guess. Very civic. It’s got a clock that used to be famously and notoriously wrong (but the clock runs to time now, remarkably). It’s part of the fabric and soul of Brownhills, but I’ve never been fond of it architecturally.

After years empty it was extended horribly insensitively and converted into a health centre and library. The extensions are hideous and completely out of step with the building, and the library, although functionally fine, is boxy and dull.

However, in recent years the flowerbed out front before the Miner Island has been beautifully maintained by a local older couple and it is a credit to them, and looks beautiful. It brings a smile to my face every time I see it.

On a decent but clouding over afternoon, it was a joy to the heart. For better or worse, this building is Brownhills, and is my hometown – and I may not be it’s greatest fan but it’s part of the place I love.

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#365daysofbiking A heritage of bridge-building?

August 9th – Back in Telford following morning rain, the new footbridge linking the railway station with the town centre seems to be confused about it’s role: is it a swimming pool or a ‘State of the art facility any town should be proud of’ as one fan of this bizarrely dysfunctional bit of civil engineering recently chided me on Twitter.

In recent weeks, someone has drilled holes in the bridge deck to drain the water. They just clog up and it still floods.

And besides, that water just swamps the platform below.

This bridge is an awful design and has no rainwater control measures whatsoever. And it cost 10 million quid.

Telford, your emperor is stark, bollock naked.

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#365daysofbiking Across the rooftops

July 29th – I came back from New Street to Shenstone, a run I do less these days since the Chase Line upgrade made those trains comparatively less crowded.

I forgot how much I love coming home through Shenstone, a great station to start and end any journey from.

I note that of the twin towers of St Johns, only the modern Gothic horror is visible above the rooftops; the older, earlier tower – the last remnants of a more handsome church – is shrouded by trees as is usual in summer.

I guess I’ll have to wait until autumn to see the twin towers again.

I’ve always adored this view in summer or winter…

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#365daysofbiking A face as long as Livery Street

July 19th – I was in Birmingham for the afternoon on a grey, wet afternoon. The riding wasn’t great but the city was as charming as ever.

On days like this you can really see the origins of the local saying ‘You’ve a face as long as Livery Street!’ – you’d never know it was cut in two by Great Charles Street Queensway and actually traversing the full street is quite a challenge.

I’m also amazed by the transition of the failed fountain ‘The floozy in the jacuzzi’ in Victoria Square into a beautiful flower bed. Civic fountains never seem to last long – Walsall’s and earlier Centenery Square water features are long dry, and this one continued to leak despite months of work to rectify it.

The lavender that grows there now, together with the other beautiful flowers are a credit to those that tend them and amazingly, the transition works beautifully.

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#365daysofbiking Change is continual

July 11th – Returning to Birmingham, I had another meeting, but found time to have a look at the new Centenery Square water feature, the perennially unfinished Paradise Circus project and just marvel at the pace of change.

Arriving at Snow Hill I remain fascinated by the decay of the old metro stop there: Bypassed and left unused by the city centre extension,  it remains closed off and inaccessible, gently being reclaimed by nature. I remember when that stop and the line was new. What a revolution it was, but I forget that was nearly 20 years ago.

The line extension to Five Ways looks to be coming on well, and the formerly busy Paradise Circus – romanticised and cherished by Stephen Duffy so beautifully – is completely changed, and free of traffic. The views are currently opened up and it’s fascinating to be able to appreciate the city architecture without traffic.

Birmingham is doing what it does best – changing. I’m only a casual, occasional observer these days, but it still feels like home, and a city doing it’s damnedest to move with the times.

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#365daysofbiking New ways out

May 27h – Recovered from the punishing excesses of Saturday’s ride, I headed out again on a grey bank holiday lunchtime for a gentle bimble once more to the west.

Finding decent routes past the dreadful Cannock/Great Wyrley/Churchbridge morass is always the challenge heading out that way and today, I took the canal to Brewood, through Wolverhampton – a lovely run of waterway I often forget about. The towpaths were good, and the only downside was an. encounter with a particularly unpleasant boater at Wolverhampton.

Leaving the canal at Brewood, I rediscovered this gorgeous village and vowed to return when the shops were open. The sun periodically came out and accompanied me north through Whiston, Bradley, Copenhall and Weeping Cross.

A ritual visit to the Wimpy at Milford reloaded the fuel tanks and kept me warm in the steady rain that fell on my way home.

All in all a nice 58 mile ride in lovely countryside.

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#365daysofbiking Station approach

May 22nd – Something that’s mostly been happening beyond my notice although I pass through regularly is the rebuilding of Wolverhampton City Railway Station. All of a sudden I notice from a waiting train that steelwork has sprung up and hoardings have been erected at the north end of the old station.

I don’t get the hate for Wolves station. It’s a bland, semi-modernist, semi-brutalist station in the postwar style common in the midlands on the West Coast Main Line. Save for the signs, at Wolverhampton you could be in Stafford, Tamworth, Coventry. It’s light, it’s open, it’s dull but functional.

My only criticism really is the steep access bridge and weird separate bridge for lift access. But it works.

Now it seems we’re in for a new structure, with new facilities and it’ll be interesting to see how it develops. I hope it’s better in outlook and ambition than the risible New Street revamp, and also that it has more aforethought and usability than the monstrous, ill-conceived access bridge at Telford.

Frankly, I’m not optimistic.

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#365daysofbiking It must be yew

May 5th – Still suffering, but a cold, grey ride up through Weeford, Whittington and Croxall to keep moving. Passing Shenstone Church on the way, something was missing.

I had an attachment to that old Yew: shelter in rain when I was a child, shady in summer and totally imperious, I’m sure it was felled for good reason, but it’s still sad.

And the mock gothic, dark and foreboding church of St John now looks even more harsh.

A great sadness, but everything must pass I guess.

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#365daysofbiking Hall or nothing

April 20th – First dayride of the year on a glorious spring day racked up a decent 188 miles.

Leaving at dawn to return in the evening, a run the length of the High Peak and Tissington trails and then over the Weaver Hills was just what the doctor ordered although I was exhausted at the end of it.

The rout was broadly Lichfield – Burton via Whittington and Walton; Derby via Findern; over to Keddleston Hall where I opened these majesticic gates to cross the hall grounds. From there, Mercaston to Kirk Ireton, joining the HPT at Middleton Top.

Return was via Rochester, Abbots Bromley and Handsace.

I have missed having the Peak District in my life so much.

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