BrownhillsBob's #365daysofbiking

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

Posts tagged ‘public’

#365daysofbiking Rather cross

Saturday February 6th 2021 – On an errand in Walsall, I found the deserted town annoying mid-day: It saddens me to see it so lifeless. I headed to Caldmore to get some more… Comforting shopping: Asian snacks and sundries.

It says something when what is effectively an inner town suburb is far more vibrant than the town centre by several factors.

Heading up over Church Hill, a decorative cross above fire exit on the monstrous aberration of architecture that is Asda. It’s a horrid, warehouse like building and the market never stretches this far up hill now, and hasn’t for many a year.

I have never spotted this in the 8 years it’s been up there.

You can almost hear the admin folk at the store saying ‘Oh, go on then, if that’s what they want: But nowhere prominent’ – so a piece of somewhat pointless vanity art gets stuck, barely to be noticed on the side of an ugly shed, above an anonymous unused doorway.

Two what actual purpose is anybody’s guess.

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#365daysofbiking Monumental

May 5th – Looping back into town, I caught sight of Morris, the Brownhills Miner, a statue and work of art I hold dear.

Morris is not particularly accurate, or even a true representation of our history, as such, with Brownhills actually maturing as a town long after the immediately local mining had all but ceased. But he captures the spirit of our town, and our collective history, reflecting that many Brownhillian lads were miners, but working in pits in adjacent towns and villages.

Morris is also uncomfortably Soviet, to anyone who’s any experience of Eastern Bloc public art; he’s exactly the sort of thing many soviet states would have willingly erected.

But this lad, pick and lamp aloft, is ours. And it’s always good to see him silhouetted in the dusk.

It’s how I know I’m home.

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#365daysofbiking Fruition

November 29th – Popping up the hHigh Street at teatime, I noticed the first community funded Christmas tree for Brownhills was now up and lit for the season.

This is a real proof of the power of community – volunteers raised the money and paid for the tree to be erected entirely on their own volition and it’s a beautiful testament to the power of community.

Our first Christmas tree in a decade, I think… well done to all involved: Take a bow!

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#365daysofbiking Sunset mellow

August 31st – Nipping up to Walsall Wood that evening to see a friend, I passed the pithead sculpture, which always looks dramatic with a good dusk sky behind it.

A structure I’ve never been fond of, it can look fantastic in the right kind of light.

I’m concerned to see the metal flag has sheared off, presumably from repeated wind-flexing. Good job nobody was under it when it dropped. That would have been sharp.

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#365daysofbiking Monumental controversy

July 22nd – I’ve been riding through Bloxwich more often since the Chase Line upgrade, and I keep passing the remarkable sculpture of Lady Diana Spencer outside the monumental Masons that commissioned it. It’s certainly an unusual landmark.

The sculpture was made around the year 2000 in tribute to the deceased Princess, but when unveiled, it was black, shiny granite and was ridiculed for looking more like Diana Ross (according to a local politician of the day) or Dennis Nordern in the view of a local news commentator.

It was donated to Walsalls Council, who refused it, declined to place it in the local art gallery, and ended up back with the donor after plans to put it on display were apparently vetoed by the palace.

Since then, it was sandblasted to remove the sheen, and it stands outside the Masons being, well… Somewhat incongruous.

I think it’s absolutely bloody awful.

You can criticise almost every aspect of it – but the one thing nobody ever comments on that has always baffled me – the shoes.

Has she just come from welding on a ship and forgot to change her boots?

A curious bit of local legend.

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#365daysofbiking Adopted

May 6th – In Norton – a lovely village if I’m honest – a treat: The local Brownies and Guides have adopted a public open space and bus stop in the old village and have created a wildflower patch, a bug hotel of proportions a certain pUs President would welcome, nicely planted beds and lovely sweet decorations on the shelter.

A joy to behold, and a great way of showing – and fostering – community spirit.

Thank you to all involved.

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#365daysofbiking Brutally wet in Cannock

March 6th – I had an important hospital appointment in Cannock, a place I rarely go. Cannock Hospital is actually lovely, and a model of the best of the NHS, but Cannock itself, I find a bit otherworldly. It’s nice enough, suffering like all post industrial town centres, with odd, lingering pointers to a more prosperous, or at least busy past.

The brutalist concrete relief mural featuring local industrial icons – pit heads, Caterpillar vehicles, Rugeley Power Station and GEC seems to have been transplanted from an earlier building or situation. It’s almost soviet.

Everyone seems to know of Walsall’s hippo, but who ever dares mention Cannock’s concrete elephant? How did that come to be? There’s a story there.

On this wet, grey and unpleasant day, I found Cannock solemn, but pleasant, and I shall come back – mainly to see if it wears it’s cloak of quiet melancholy on nice days, too.

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November 9th – In my opinion few war memorials, if any, can match that in Darlaston for sheer beauty and reverence. I’ve never seen such a loving, respectful and intimate civic sculpture and garden as this.

It needs the paths resurfacing, but it’s a peaceful spot that’s well tended and tidy, even in the midst of the autumn leaf deluge, and will see on Sunday people come from far and wide to remember the fallen and pay their respects.

I love the poppy bench and the garden for the blind with the braille and active plant labels.

We shall remember them.

September  22nd – Unusually, I had to visit Cradley on a work errand. I used to spend a huge amount of time in this busy little town, but haven’t been to visit in nearly a decade.

It changed, without me, as places do. Some familiar things remained – some shops, landmarks, factories – but there’s a shiny new bus station, lots of redevelopment an an interesting memorial to Mary MacArthur the trade unionist who fought so famously here.

The statues is by the same artist who made the Walsall Wood ones, and whilst the thought is there, it’s no Morris and it looks like money for old chain, if not rope. Oh well.

The High Street is suffering like they all are, but retains it’s quirkiness and frenetic air of business.

Around the corner, in Wood Lane, Griffin and Woodhouse still make chain to moor the world – some of it huge.

It felt sad to be back in a place I once haunted but now don’t really know at all well. Time moves on, with or without us.

January 10th – Sadly, my commuting life right now isn’t terribly varied. I’m seeing a lot of dark urbanity, stations, later and earlier. Apologies. Finding variance in a busy January when you don’t see much daylight is always hard.

Passing through Birmingham New Streetin the evening, I found myself at the same platform as the steel horse sculpture that forms the first in a chain of 12 along the line side to Wolverhampton. 

Erected in 1987 and designed by Kevin Atherton, the Iron Horse project put similar horses in different motion positions alongside an urban railway line, to appear as if the train you were on was losing a race with a horse. Some jump, some buck, canter or trot. They are warm, lifelike, and softly amusing.

They have fared well and not dated, and are one of the great curiosities of Birmingham and the Black Country.