BrownhillsBob's #365daysofbiking

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

Posts tagged ‘Library’

#365daysofbiking Restoring a light in the darkness

Friday November 6th 2020 – The second lockdown is not so far as bad as I feared: With kids at school, people are going to work and there is life and people around.

I kept up my commitment to fresh air and exercise by riding to Lichfield on an important errand, coming back after darkness fell through the little village of Wall.

Wall phone box is an original Giles Gilbert Scott and had been under refurbishment for some time, but is now thankfully fully and beautifully restored and returned to it’s post-mobile era as a community library.

But the best thing about it? It still has a light. So many lost their illumination when transferred to community ownership, but this one has not. As a cyclist of a certain age, the night-time rural beacons that were isolated phone boxes were almost romantic and welcoming to me, and their disappearance makes me sad. To see one restored is a joy to the heart.

Well done, Wall. Well done.

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#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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September 30th – Right now, Birmingham is doing what it does best – changing. I was in Birmingham for a sunny, pleasant afternoon that felt like the last of summer, and I continued my fascination with the demolition of the library, 103 Colmore Row and the Birmingham Conservatoire. The Adrian Boult Hall is now gone, the library down to it’s last scraps, and 103 Colmore Row is forlorn and truncated, much like the memory of the architect who designed all of them, the great John Madin.

There’s no time for sentiment, because Brum so doesn’t do that; the engineers are driving forward the change in their machines, cutting, smashing and pulverising the modernism to dust. And it’s fascinating, from the jurassic appearance of a resting concrete cutter to the antics of a pair of experts in a cradle slung above the devastation like some hi-visibility acetylene and helmet circus act.

It’s stunning, shocking and wonderful to watch. But I’m glad Madin himself didn’t live to see the crushing of his big civil dream.

July 13th – I wasn’t on my bike, but I can’t let this pass: a chance to overview the start of the demolition of the Adrian Boult Hall, part of the demolition of Birmingham Central Library and Paradise Circus.

Prehistoric looking machines are ripping, tearing and crushing masonry and concrete, shearing and cutting steel. Skilled engineers, operators and surveyors move over the site, where the modern age is almost universally high-visibility orange.

It’s interesting to see new vistas evolve, which themselves will be lost again. I’m lost the horror of the demolition now, and an grimly fascinated, like I’m watching some post mortem or investigation into some misadventurous occurrence.

March 3rd – Birmingham, late afternoon. I’d finished for the day and needed to get a few errands done, and while I was about it, check out the slow death of Birmingham’s affair with architectural Brutalism.

This grey, colourless day was the perfect day to survey the wounds being inflicted on the skyline by the cranes, breakers and cutters currently removing Madin’s Central Library and 103, Colmore Row. The demolitions are fascinating, dramatic, conflicting. On the side of the library, soon to disappear, the mural proclaims ‘Todos eat posible’ – all is possible. Survival for that mural isn’t, but change is a certainty.

Until dusk, colour only existed in bright demolition machinery and the hi-vis of the wonderfully nonchalant crane driver; but dusk brought the lights and glimpses of the other Birmingham.

I don’t know what I feel. Uneasy probably applies best.

March 24th – I noticed this Volt Metro folding electric bike parked in the racks outside Darlaston Library as I passed. It looks like a decent design; disc brake front, V-brake rear, motorised rear hub (I think) with derailleur gears – it even has suspension fork and seatpost. Dread to think what it weighs, but it’s an interesting bike. 

January 30th – I was out at work early, and left early afternoon. I had stuff to do in Burntwood, and cycled through a very, very wet Chasewater to get there. The day was grey, colourless and even when not really raining, a mist hung drenchingly heavy in the air. Riding wasn’t too bad, though, and on my way I stopped at the ATM at Sankey’s Corner. I noted Scamp, the Burntwood Mining Memorial, which I like more and more each time I see it. I like this one particularly because it was a local project, by a local artist, and it clearly doesn’t seek to glorify or gloss over the past.

Meanwhile, over the road, Burntwood Library. It’s a great facility, built new in the 1980s, and known locally for years as ‘The two tits’. I’ve always liked the place…

October 8th – Also in Walsall Wood, change is incremental. This was once the site of Walsall Wood Library. A squat wooden hut, it wasn’t much, but I spent loads of time there as a kid, just as I did at the one in Brownhills. The library was moved into a better building some years ago, and the plot stood derelict and empty for ages. Planning applications came and went, and finally, the site has become a car sales showroom. 

You’d not think a library was ever here; but then, you’d not think there was ever a working men’s club where the gym is next door, or greenspace where there’s now a vile-smelling KFC.

Those cars are parked on my memories.

September 21st – I’ve seen this before in other villages, but I’d not noticed it in Wall. I went back today to record the phone box library – a free book crossing project in a disused K6 telephone box. It’s a great idea. Not sure if they have any longevity, but a lovely thing to do.

Some of the books were pretty good, too.

March 21st – I hadn’t been up Brickiln Street in Brownhills for a while. I was quite surprised to see the old library is still standing – it’s been empty ever since its replacement in the Parkview Centre, Brownhills opened a few years ago. I’m sure I read a local councillor was campaigning to have it removed; certainly, the council have been trying to flog the land for a while. The building is boarded up, and the grounds locked.

It fills me with sadness, really, as I spent years here, as a kid. That small, dull building held everything I needed for a while – peace and quiet, headspace, and a world of possibility, learning and dreaming.

In there now is probably the ghost of an awkward young lad, chin propped on his hands, reading the local planning list, some map or the latest Bernard Ashley. That building – and what it held – had a huge influence on me.