BrownhillsBob's #365daysofbiking

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

Posts tagged ‘interesting architecture’

#365daysofbiking Quick Silver

Tuesday January 4th 2021 – A better evening commute, but I was in a hurry to get home. We’re now back in full lockdown, and the world felt that little bit more hostile to be out in, so I just swept through the Silver Street Marina area, and took some quick shots looking up the canal to the Watermead Estate.

It’s not a bad spot this, but the paving at the waterside desperately needs some love – it’s uneven and breaking up. The view is nice though, and a bit of welcome calm in a mad world. You’d never believe this was central Brownhills.

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#365daysofbiking Splendid isolation:

Monday December 21st 2020 – I can’t get used to Walsall deserted, especially at peak times. The effects of this pandemic will resonate socially for years, in ways we’re only just beginning to see – the death of town centres is clearly being accelerated.

The town’s Christmas tree, today standing in splendid isolation in St Pauls Square is an excellent specimen, though and cheered me up. The twenty year out of time, brutalist, newly renovated bus station beyond it looked welcoming, too, if only for the want of passengers. Must say the warm white lighting in there was a clever choice.

It’s hard to believe that this is 4pm on Monday before Christmas. Strange days indeed.

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#365daysofbiking Contrasting views

Saturday December 19th 2020 – A ride out with my friend though Canwell to Hints, and up through Tamhorn returning to Lichfield after dark for a photographic explore.

The countryside was wet and sodden, and I don’t think I’ve seen Hints Ford that swollen in a decade. But it was good to get back there, even with the shock of works ongoing for HS2.

Lichfield itself was lovely: It rained as we got there, and after a heavy but thankfully short shower, it was great to catch the diminutive city at Christmas with few people around.

Most lovely, though was my first sighting of spring flower shoots. There will be a spring, and nature knows that better times are on their way.

Such a strange year.

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#365daysofbiking I want to see the bright lights tonight

Sunday December 6th 2020 – I had something to do in Walsall, and went on a damp, grey afternoon with trepidation. With the Pandemic it’s become an oddly desolate place in retail terms: An already suffering town centre has become more desperate.

However, I took the new camera and a good friend, and we explored familiar places with not many people in them as night fell – and it was refreshing and beautiful. Particularly Church Hill and the Arboretum.

The Panasonic loves the dark, and is much more responsive to low light in a way I’ve never known previous Panasonic cameras to be. This is a revelation.

I loved the bold colours and the way it picked them up in night scenes.

Going to have some fun with this one! It turned out Walsall was far more beautiful than ever I might have expected.

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#365daysofbiking Down amongst the derelict

Monday November 30th 2020 – The weather remained bad, and heading home late up Brownhills High Street, I stopped to check a text, and then looked to my left.

Ravens Court was never a success. Opened in 1964, this dystopian, anonymous shopping precinct was mostly empty until 1970. It enjoyed a period of being mostly fully let for about 15 years, then it began to go to seed. A failed development by Tesco and its acquisition by property speculators sealed the fate of this dingy, concrete shopping parade. It’s owners never re-let the vacated shops and for the best part of a decade it’s been deserted and decaying, right in the heart of Brownhills.

It’s shape as a plot is bad. It’s on a pronounced gradient. There’s a lot of demolition to do. The site is unattractive, and this is not a time for retail investment.

In private ownership, the council are powerless to duo anything, much, and to the town’s frustration, we are left with this rotting monument to opportunist modernism.

Hopefully something will change here, soon. But I’m not optimistic.

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#365daysofbiking Anchored in the canal

Thursday November 26th 2020 – I’ve spoken a lot about anchors in the last few weeks – constant things that act as a reference point and help me get through the rough times of winter, illness, sadness or stress at work. One of the biggest is the canals that snake their way through the town in which I live, the Black Country and Birmingham which I love, the countryside I ride in and through my life like rich, flowing vein of natural energy.

Whether it’s the Tollhouse loop under the M5 Viaduct in Smethwick, the Trent and Mersey in Rugeley or the good old Wyrley and Essington at Anchor Bridge, I watch the canals in all weathers, and any time of day or night. They are a peaceful, nowadays clean haven of calm and wildlife, where I can enjoy my own company or that of close friends and get fresh air, solace and inspiration.

With a slight mist, the merest hint of an inversion, no sound of traffic to distract me, a late loop up the High Street to Anchor Bridge and back around to Newtown was just what I needed after finishing work late.

I’ve posted many shots of this view over the years, but this is my favourite yet. I like the colours.

My canal. My Anchor Bridge. My anchors.

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#365daysofbiking Finally telling the truth

Saturday November 14th 2020 – Snatched photos of a grim, blustery evening, but I’m glad to see after a long period without hands, the Brownhills Parkview Centre Clock – erected by public subscription on the then Council House in 1914 – is now telling the correct time again.

It’s never been a reliable timepiece and for most of my lifetime it’s either been broken or incorrect, but in recent years this rather lovely old thing has been well serviced and has been pretty accurately chiming the hour across the town, be it busy weekday noons or somnambulant summer midnights.

I’ve always found the council house impressive but a bit ugly, built in very orange terracotta, but it is an impressive landmark, now overshadowed in colloquial directions by the metal miner on the nearby island.

The lovingly nicknamed ‘three faced liar’ is another of my constants that I look to for stability – even if inaccurate. It’s as much Brownhills as the common or the canal.

So glad to see it fixed,

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#365daysofbiking Saville glow


Wednesday November 11th 2020 – Working from home I don’t seem able to get out in actual daylight. It’s like a mental block: I want to, I just don’t seem able to manage it. I think it’s some kind of guilt reaction for feeling like I’m skiving.

However, on a quick blast around Chasewater and over to Chasetown, there’s a great night-time photo spot on the green footbridge over the Chasetown bypass that has been a muse for some years, due to the way it interacts with the nearby road lighting.

The effect of the yellow sodium light falling through the wonderfully geometric bridge steelwork is thoroughly gorgeous, and reminds me a lot of designs by that icon of Manchester and Factory Records, Peter Saville.

So perhaps coming out after nightfall has it’s positive aspects, then…

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#365daysofbiking Suffocation

Thursday, October 29th 2020 – I had to visit a store at Walsall’s Crown Wharf shipping Centre – a peculiar, strip parade out of town centre that was curiously built in the town centre.

Crown Wharf is awful: Like all parade malls, it surrounds it’s own car park and seems isolated from the town outside, and has sucked the life and larger stores from Park Street a hundred yards away, which is the town’s Main Street.

It’s incredibly brightly lit at night, and the trees on the Wolverhampton Road frontage have lights in all year around, giving a night-time feel of the worst kind of Christmas shopping all year around.

Crown Wharf is one of those odd, turn of the millennium regeneration projects that didn’t regenerate anything much, and seems cursory and contemptuous of it’s host town and environment, almost as if the architects and designers had learned nothing from Merry Hill twenty years before: A mall surrounded by industrial decay that only served to further suffocate the small towns around it.

I did what I had to, and left. I hate this place.

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#365daysofbiking Brutality

Friday, October 16th 2020 – I’ve long been an advocate of Brownhills, my hometown, and the fact that it has some beautiful parts. Way more than many outsiders would ever expect.

But it’s also a fact that some bits are a bit grim, like with any town, particularly post-industrial ones in desperate need of regeneration.

Silver Court is not terribly unpleasant. It’s nothing like say, Windmill Lane in Smethwick West used to be, or some of the forlorn, decaying 1960s parades of shops in big city suburbs like Longbridge or Castle Vale. But it’s very much 60s, brutalist and in its final stages.

Ingeniously built clinging to a pronounced slope with a very split level design, it’s an odd, partially prefabricated row of shops with maisonette houses above, each with a small yard above the back of the shop premises accessed by a rear thoroughfare on top of the lowest level, the garages.

The shops are now about 50% occupied. The homes have problems with leaks and poor construction. There are issues with flytipping, and the parade frontage is grubby and dark.

But I’ve always love the view along it at night, deserted, with just the light of the ATM halfway up.

One day this edifice will go, and I’ll be glad I recorded this otherworldly place by night.

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