BrownhillsBob's #365daysofbiking

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

Posts tagged ‘regeneration’

#365daysofbiking Lit for nobody in particular

Friday December 18th 2020 – I had to pass through Walsall as I headed home from work. I had an errand to do, and I left as night fell. I thought I’d take a look at Town Wharf, the canal basin at the top end of town that was always intended to be the heart of Walsall’s millennial rebirth that wa in reality a slow developing child that 20 years later is still immature.

The Wharfingers cottage, rebuilt after it’s accidental demolition (!) is a good example: Empty for pretty much 15 years, it was finally occupied by a restaurant. Sadly, as we are in lockdown, they are confined to take-away only.

The lighting though, is gorgeous, and makes for a lovely photo. I always find this area bittersweet: It photographs beautifully but there’s always the vague smell of lost horizons here.

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#365daysofbiking The changing skyline

Thursday December 17th 2020 – Another classic muse for me in winter is the view from Catshill Junction Bridge towards Brownhills, over the wide of the junction to the new flats in the foreground.

When I started this journal, only the tower block to the left was here and the rest was mostly derelict scrub, cleared of a large tower block in 2004.

As the years passed, new housing appeared and the skyline has totally changed – you used to be able to stand here in a feeling of solitude, but not anymore. Humanity is close now: You can smell cooking, cigarettes. Hear chatter, TVs and kids playing.

The skyline has changed, for the better, and I think makes for a more interesting photo. But I do miss the solitude a bit.

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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 Primrose and proper

April 14th – Spotted on a morning errand, these primroses and scattered down the bank of the McClean Way, the cycle and walking route on the former South Staffordshire railway line through the heart of Brownhills, just below the Miner Island.

I remember as a child watching trains thunder through here full of coal, oil or cars. Now, the lines are lifted and after 30 years of decay, the wonderful Back the Track group led by human dynamo Brian Stringer have done an excellent job of reclaiming the permanent way for public use – and their hard work continues.

These primroses don’t seem much, but they’re a huge achievement. Take a bow, folks.

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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 Canal dreams:

December 7th –  After a long day at work carrying out boring tasks, I left collecting a pal on the way. We popped in passing to Walsall’s Town Wharf, as the Arboretum I was aiming for actually had an event ongoing.

Town Wharf and the waterside here are gorgeous at night. Finally reaching potential after near enough two decades, this place has taken a long, long time for regeneration to happen, but it looks wonderful in the shadow of Walsall’s remarkable New Art Gallery.

Sadly, the state of retail being what it is, the centre of Walsall only 100 or so yards away, remains depressed.

But here at leat, developer dreams seem to be coming to fruition.

February 10th – I’m liking the look of the houses going up on the old Brownhills market site right now. Hopefully, when complete they’ll bring lightness and a more populated feel to this once very open, wind-swept area of town, and hopefully also much needed footfall for the High Street.

Since the new houses became occupied on nearby recent developments, there has been a notable increase in people on the High Street, which can’t be a bad thing.

January 9th – In Kings Hill, after many years of dereliction, I note someone has been working on the former Scott Arms pub. Like it’s namesake in Kingstanding, the once popular house had fallen out of favour and closed some time ago, becoming nothing more than a blot on a changing urban landscape.

This pub used to be rammed lunchtimes when there were big factories nearby – Servis and Exidoor to name but two; but in these days of workplace alcohol bans and with the workshops now housing, there was no business to keep this pub going.

I’d wager it’s future is probably flats, or as a house of multiple occupation, looking at the way the upstairs windows have been fitted. Whatever it is, I doubt the Scott Arms will ever serve ale again.

September 4th – Returning to Brownhills in the evening, I was pleased to note that the development of new housing seems to have finally started on the site of the old market place off Silver Street, with earthmoving plant commencing operations.

Realistically, we have no chance of ever getting the market back, and the space it occupied has lain idle for five years or more. It’s open, sad and dispiriting and the houses being built here will be a great improvement, and will also mean an end to the serial occupation of the site by travellers.

A good thing, a long time coming.

August 25th – The land at the bottom of Bentley Mill Way, wedged in behind the houses on the Darlaston Road, the motorway and canal has been vacant and derelict a very long time, in fact as long as I can remember. Blighted by former shallow mining, and probably contaminated, this is scarred industrial wasteland that also has the River Tame flowing through it. 

Since last year, work has been taking place on upgrading the adjacent Bentley Mill Way for a new improved road system, loftily touted to ‘improve development potential’.

In all the regeneration-bullshit that’s ebbed and flowed, there has been talk of reclaiming this land and building on it, and architect’s drawings of a particularly odd building have been circulated.

Someone has clearly been enticed here, as fresh boreholes have been drilled in the last week; those coloured pipes with locked caps are sleeved bores for surveying purposes.

Whilst the wasteland green is pretty in the summer, it would be nice to see building here. Let’s hope something happens soon.