BrownhillsBob's #365daysofbiking

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

Posts tagged ‘Walsall’

#365daysofbiking What makes this mine

Thursday 27th January 2022 – On my way home from work in Darlaston, I stopped in Pleck, one of the most ethnically diverse areas of Walsall to get some shopping in from one of the best international supermarkets around.

Within, I took my pick of staples and treats from Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Chinese, Jamaican, African and Arabic cuisines and foodstuffs, and as usual, came out with loads more than intended. I love that store.

Standing on the car park, I noticed the remnants of daylight had turned the sky a gorgeous colour in that transition from light to dark, and the skyline was  as diverse and colourful as the contents of my bulging panniers.

People knock Walsall and the Black Country relentlessly; people with divisive intent spew hatred about the diverse communities and drive poisoned wedges into any available fissure. But it’s precisely the disparate, chaotic and multi-faceted nature of this place that makes me feel at home. It’s what I love: The food, the people, the history, the complete chaos of the built environment around me.

Here are my people and this is my place… Wherever they are from.

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#365daysofbiking A ghost of a chance

Thursday April 1st 2021 – Riding home late afternoon, I spotted this amusing tribute to science by local street artist Ghost on a canalside wall in Pleck, Walsall. It’s beautifully executed, and marks a trend of the pandemic often inspiring street art. I think if covid has done anything positive, it seems to have engaged street art and counterculture in a way that current affairs have generally failed to do for two decades.

But that’s a bit of a side issue. This post was suck in draft from April until Christmas because I was so undecided what to do with this journal. As I noted in my last post, I was tired, and ill. And not able to raise the energy to continue it at the time with the passion it needed. So I entered three quarters of a year of writers and creative block.

The reason for April 1st being significant is that on this day in 2011, I started this journal as part of the worldwide #30daysofbiking project, prodded into taking part by fellow utility cyclist and top Dutchperson Rene Van Baar on Twitter. 30Days was a commitment to ride every day of April. It still happens, and one thing that’s always amused me is that the organisers over in the US, upon hearing that I just carried the project on for years, showed nothing but indifference. I never quite worked that out.

I didn’t quite do a decade continuously though, over new year the following Christmas I missed two days due to a really nasty bout of food poisoning – but other than that, I rode every single day for a decade, and documented every day with a photo post (or occasionally, a bit of video). I’m proud of that. There are a lot of words in the archive. A lot of images; a lot of my life, and this area as well as others I visited along the way.

My first post was matter of fact, and terse. It took me a month to develop my style. You can read it here.

Since then there have been 6,955 entries, and somewhere around 11,000 media items – mostly images, but around 70 videos and even the odd bit of audio.

So with all that behind me, where am I going now?

…Nowhere, that’s where.

I’m just going to post when I have something to share. So it’s be less frequent, but I will be aided by a riding companion whom many of you will already be familiar with, who deserves a voice and to be heard too.

This means hopefully there will be less filler, and more passion. I think you’ll prefer it in the long run, And it’ll be easier for me to keep up.

One thing that has changed in recent years is street photography has got really hard. Nobody used to bat an eye if they saw you with a camera. These days, you get noticed. Curtains twitch. People ask what you’re doing. You half expect to be on the local neighbourhood watch group as a suspicious individual. So the new format will be probably more picturesque stuff I think.

I find that a bit sad but it’s the way the world is at the moment.

So, are you coming with me? Let’s ride into the blue together… Hopefully it’ll stop raining soon.

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#365daysofbiking The run of the mill


Thursday March 25th 2021 – Another beautiful spring day with a little sunshine warmth – but wrapping up was still necessary.

For the first time in a good while I came back from Darlaston to Goscote on the canal and flipped to the McClean Way (formerly the Goscote cycleway): I avoid this route in winter as the towpaths tend to be very slippery and hazardous despite their recent resurfacing.

But they’ve dried up now, and a lovely potter back through Walsall getting acquainted with old friends. No sign of swans nesting yet, though.

Birchills lock flight looked splendid in to the low sun, as did the millennially constructed flats complex forming part of Smiths Flour Mill, which up until the 1990s was a functioning flour producing plant.

Outsiders would never suspect Walsall had such splendid spots right in its heart like this.

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#365daysofbiking Worth the wait

Thursday March 18th 2021 – Attentive readers will remember back six weeks or so I noted the camellia I’d found in a neglected front garden in Darlaston. It had loads of flower buds on it and seemed totally unnoticed by the world around it.

I’ve been watching it carefully, and the first large, rich pink flowers are emerging on this stunning, beautiful shrub.

I would guarantee it’s not known care for at least four or five years; yet it’s a stunning, healthy, flower-laden picture of health.

A beautiful splash of colour in an otherwise dull urban environment. Wonderful to witness!

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#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 Somnambulent streets

Friday February 5th 2021 –  I was coming home at the end of a long week, tired and hungry. The weather was again unpleasant and it felt like snow might be coming in again. I just wanted to be home with a mug of tea and the family.

At the bend of Borneo Street in The Butts, Walsall, just before it joins the Lichfield Road, one can pause at the allotment gates and look up the terraced street of Victorian houses towards Walsall.

On this night it was dark, and maybe a little bit spooky, with so few folk around. The blue-white LED lights contributed to the ghostliness, but the contrasting house lights here and there made me realise there was warmth to be found within.

Taking that as a cue, I took a quick snap, and rode home to the warmth and comfort of home.

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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 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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