Please sign the petition requesting pedestrian crossings for Shire Oak

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Click on the screenshot to visit the petition site.

Since the tragic, awful death of 12 year old Jack Garrington on the Chester Road, Shire Oak last Thursday, 10th April 2014, many Brownhills folk and parents of kids attending Shire Oak from further afield have not only paid tribute to Jack, but also want to join together to improve road safety in the area.

The Facebook page that was set up on Saturday as a focus for those campaigning for better road crossings not just on Shire Oak where the accident occurred, but on Lindon Road, has gained several thousand supporters.

The page creators still recommend writing to Walsall Council, local Councillors, and our MP, Sir Richard Shepherd, but yesterday a online petition was also created to show the strength of feeling over this horrific accident.

You can sign the petition by clicking  here.

Local roads are getting busier and busier, and we really need to support pedestrians more – they are the most vulnerable group on our roads, particularly schoolkids. Let’s get together and push for better crossings.

Only by applying pressure can a change be effected.

Thanks to the page and petition creators, they have my full support and that of the Brownhills Blog. If there’s anything I can do, please let me know: BrownhillsBob at Googlemail do com.

Visit the ‘Pedestrian Crossings for Shire Oak’ campaign page by clicking here.

This post will be pinned to the top of the blog for the next few days. New material will appear below it.


An incredibly moving image. Friend of Jack Garrington pay their respects to his memory. A remarkable image by Sarah Lou Harvey, posted on Twitter yesterday. Thanks to Sarah for her kind permission to use it here.

Posted in Brownhills stuff, Environment, Events, Express & Star, Interesting photos, Local media, News, Reader enquiries, Shared media, Social Media, Walsall community, Walsall Wood stuff | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Pity the poor landlord

Five years ago, when I started this blog, one of the largest looming topics was that of the then proposed new Tesco Store in Brownhills. We’d been through a consultation, and the proposal was to build a large hypermarket fronting the High Street. The plan was ambitious; we were sold the model of restaurants, new shop units, new road system and even new housing. On paper it was impressive, and everyone in authority was supportive.


Looks like we’re stuck with it.

All this meant the demolition of the ageing, ugly and loathed Ravens Court Shopping precinct. Everyone, it seemed, would be a winner.

Sadly it seems the retail giant had a change of heart. A year or so passed, and a different, much scaled down design was applied for and granted permission. This involved little community improvement, a mere three shop units to fill a gap where Ravens Court would have been, and scaled back community facilities.

This wasn’t a great plan to me, but it was better than nothing. It was all we were likely to get, after all…

Promised vague start dates were passed by without action, and eventually the news became official that everyone pretty much knew – that Tesco, having led the town, village elders and Council up the garden path, were not going to build anew after all. They decided all the patrons of the current Brownhills store were worth was a half hearted ‘refresh’ – a lick of paint and some turd polishing.

This decision had long-reaching effects; Walsall Council were depending on the development to drive regeneration investment in Brownhills, and this decision by Tesco – completely out of the Council’s control – removed any prospect of large scale investment. It set the whole course of Brownhills ‘regeneration’, such as it was, backwards a decade or more.

I wrote about the fate of Ravens Court, and planning, and the whole death of the town centre thing last summer. I suggest interested readers take a look if you’re not familiar with it. I believe that we can’t hold Walsall Council responsible for what happened to Brownhills, as it was at the mercy of the commercial sector in the form of a large supermarket.


Grim as hell, and it’s going nowhere.

This has reared it’s head again in the last week or so. Ravens Court has, of course, continued to rot. Now almost completely empty, it’s a sad testament to regeneration failure, it’s shops shuttered, flats boarded up and anything of any value stolen. As a privately owned development, Walsall Council have very little power to do anything with it, or compel the owners to act.

The authority has issued a Section 215 notice, which is about the limit of their practical power. This forces the landlords to clean up the site, and make it secure, but no more. I suspect this to be complicated in itself, as several units seem to be owned by different entities – for instance, the one on the corner of the square next to the old Natwest Bank, is currently for sale.

I draw this to your attention as there is an interesting report in the Walsall Advertiser this week about the 215 notice, and the meeting at which it was agreed. Labour Councillor Steve Wade said what just about everyone is thinking – that the sooner something is done, the better – but in the realisation that the options and outcome are limited. This is real rock and hard place stuff.


I remember the Town Centre Partnership were going to sort this out…

What did gall however, is that Mike ‘Blofeld’ Bird, Conservative leader of Walsall Council  reserved his sympathies not for the town of Brownhills – with a population approaching 13,000 and apparently stuck with a derelict, dysfunctional town centre – but for the landlords of Ravens Court who’d gone from the prospect of having their white elephant purchased for redevelopment to being stuck with it. It’s always nice to see Mike’s human side come out.

Apparently, the dereliction and lack of upkeep to a property a landlord owns isn’t their fault. What?

Let’s be clear – there is no development plan for Ravens Court, or retail in Brownhills in general. Meetings will be held, waffle will be spouted. Nobody wants Ravens Court, least of all the people who own it. I’d wager they’re praying for a compulsory purchase.

Those rumours being spread by people in positions of local power? Talk about Morrisons or other developments happening there, or in the former Blockbusters store? Absolute rubbish to appease the concerned. They aren’t happening, either (and Asda aren’t moving into the old Focus store on Northgate for those spreading that rumour).

It’s hard to see what could be done with Ravens Court anyway; as a separate development, it’s quite a small patch of land that’s narrow, and any parking access would be off Tesco-owned land. This problem seems intractable.

Please do read the Advertiser article. I’d be interested in reader comments.

We are, as they say, right up shit creek.

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Click on the screen shot to read the story at the Walsall Advertiser site.

Posted in Brownhills stuff, Environment, Express & Star, Followups, Interesting photos, It makes me mad!, Just plain daft, Local media, Local politics, News, Panoramio photo discussions, planning, Shared media, Spotted whilst browsing the web, Walsall community, Walsall Council | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

New Craft and Farmers Market coming soon to Chasewater

The Bohemian Bunty_Craft & Farmers Market_A5 Flyer_print-1.jpg.opt419x595o0,0s419x595

Why not print a few out and hand them to your friends?

Thanks to the wonderful Linda Mason for the tipoff – it seems that starting in a few weeks – on Sunday, 4th May 2014 – there’s to be a new Craft and Farmers Market staged as a regular event at Chasewater.

This is really great news, and I’m looking forward to checking it out.

There seems to be a fair bit online about it, but there seems to have been very little local publicity, and it doesn’t seem to have been mentioned on the official Chasewater Facebook page. The event is being staged by a company called Bohemian Bunty, and will take place on the first Sunday of every month.

You can visit the event Facebook Page here.

Bohemian Bunty had this to say:

New For 2014: Craft And Farmers Market

We have been very fortunate to host this new event at Chasewater Activity Park. We will have local craft and produce traders bringing you the best local and fresh produce, from bakers to honey makers, fresh meat produce, vegan and vegetarian suppliers, cheese makers, florists, holistic produce and artisans of handmade craft bizarre.

For traders wishing to trade Please feel free to contact us. All you need is your own gazebo (no bigger than 12 x 12 ft) and the relevant insurances.

We’ve got: Artisan bakers; crafters and makers;
Teas, herbs and spices; pies, cakes and slices;
A spectacular display of our birds of prey,
Will keep kiddies entertained all through the day.There’ll be: Cold meats and cheeses; cupcakes and sweeties;
Bath bombs and soap bars; fine preserves and pickle jars;
Fresh local produce from near-by farm shops,
Showcasing flowers and seasonal crops.Also: Housewares; soft furnishings; gifts, treats
and handmade things;
Hats and accessories; all general groceries;
Beers, ciders, wines from local vineyards;
Art, illustration; hand-made greetings cards.So, come and peruse; shop if you choose,
Support local business from May until Christmas,
There’ll be plenty of stalls selling their wares,
At our farmers market and handmade craft fair.

For more information and stall bookings please email

The Bohemian Bunty_Craft & Farmers Market_A5 Flyer_print-2.jpg.opt419x595o0,0s419x595

Looking forward to it!

Posted in Brownhills stuff, Chasewater, Environment, Events, Fun stuff to see and do, Local media, News, Reader enquiries, Shared media, Social Media, Spotted whilst browsing the web | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Woodmen wiped out by Gornal


Hopefully a return to form will come shortly…

Following Yesterday evening’s home match against Gornal Athletic FC Bill Shaw submitted the following match report:

Hiya Bob,

A disappointing evening at Oak Park as Wood were playing their 11th game in 25 days went down to the only goal of the game.

Walsall Wood 0 v 1 Gornal Athletic

Wood started brightly but the lowly visitors left no-one in any doubt that they hadn’t come to make friends, with some very questionable defending in the first 15 minutes.

Gornal probably shaded the first hour but their keeper was probably the busier of the custodians. Then on 62 minutes a stupid foul by Craig Hancox wide right was delivered to the far post and skipper Craig Stevens rose highest to plant a header back across goal and into the net.

Wood huffed and puffed but some very tired legs turned in one of the worst performances of their first season at Level 5.

Next it’s champions Tividale on Thursday (with them probably still smarting from their Walsall Senior Cup expulsion) before Quorn visit Oak Park on Saturday.

Bill Shaw.

Thanks to Bill for the report, and good luck to the lads for Thursday against Tividale.


Posted in Brownhills stuff, Environment, Events, Followups, Fun stuff to see and do, Local media, News, Reader enquiries, Shared media, Social Media, Walsall community, Walsall Wood stuff | Leave a comment

Get them before they’re gone!

Here’s a message from Walsall Local History Centre, specifically for readers of the Brownhills Blog – I’m always banging on about getting copies of local history books while they’re still around, and now’s your chance to bag copies of three of Stuart Williams works about Walsall.


Picture by Libby Warren

Walsall Local History Centre said:

Three great local history books by Stuart Williams are in stock again at Waterstones bookshop in Walsall! Walsall Borough Past & Present (£7.50), Reflections of Old Walsall (£6.99) and Billy Meikle’s Window on Walsall (£5) are all available from the Park Street store.

They are also available direct from Walsall Local History Centre, where they can be signed by the author on request. Mail order is also available from the Centre in Essex Street, please telephone 01922 721305 to ask for a postage quote from Beverley Hill.

Customers are advised to telephone 01922 721305 or email to check stock availability and opening hours before making a special journey to the Centre.

The Centre sells a wide range of other local history publications in its Reception Shop, including books by Ann French, Sue Satterthwaite and other local authors.

Walsall Local History Centre is the archives and local studies service for Walsall Metropolitan Borough, and is part of Walsall Council.

Why not check out the website?


Posted in Brownhills stuff, Churches, Clayhanger stuff, Environment, Events, Fun stuff to see and do, Interesting photos, Local Blogs, Local History, Local media, News, Reader enquiries, Shared media, Shared memories, Social Media, Spotted whilst browsing the web, Walsall community, Walsall Council, Walsall Wood stuff | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Careless in the community – from The Plastic Hippo


The saga of schools, community facilities and their withdrawal rumbles on – The Plastic Hippo beautifully addresses this, and the shallowness and lack of political action. It’s a must-read.

Originally posted on The Plastic Hippo:

In imagined nostalgia, there was a time when a community was defined by its pub, church, post office and school and life in merry old England revolved from cradle to grave with reassuring certainty. In present reality, however, dark forces are at work hatching dastardly plots intended to subvert our culture by infiltrating communities with hard line, fundamentalist extremists hell-bent on imposing warped dogma and alien ideology.

The pub is now a Tesco Express and the church is falling down but remains a lucrative long-term real estate investment opportunity. The post office is long gone and has been replaced with a food bank next to a loan shark. The school is now an Academy named after an unfamiliar sponsor and the community is now defined by hedge funds rather than hedgerows.

View original 1,165 more words

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A treat for the choir and an ignominious extraction


Wow – an 1887 account balance sheet from St. Thomas’s Mission Church. Image supplied by Eryl and Lesley Powell of Watling Street School.

Continuing with the surprisingly rich seam that is the thread originating from the 1931 Watling Street School Walsall Observer article, I’ve had a couple of excellent reader contributions which I just have to share. Things are a bit topsy-turvy this weekend, for obvious reasons, but this may help to lighten things just a little bit.

First up, Andy Dennis was good to his word – as he always is – and transcribed the balance sheet found in the roof of Watling Street School and kindly supplied by Eryl and Lestley Powell. It’s a fine thing.

That’s a big cleaning bill. Wonder what constituted a treat for the choir?

St Thomas balance sheet

Andy Dennis does a top job at transcribing the found balance sheet from St. Thomas’s Mission Church, found by Eryl and Lesley Powell.

Meanwhile, a fantastic email from Barry Aylett-Warner. Barry has said some lovely things about the blog, but more importantly, has recounted his memories of life as a pupil of the Park View Sunday School.

I don’t mind admitting I laughed aloud at a couple of passages in this wonderful recollection. Barry, please, if you’d like to write anything about your life in Brownhills, your memories or anything else, you’d be most welcome. You really can write, old chap. Top stuff.

Barry wrote:

Hi Bob,

First time I’ve contacted you, but long-time admirer of what you and your regular contributors do.

This rich treasure trove is our heritage and should freely available to all who are interested. (Unlike my local history society who gather and hoard and charge for the privilege).

I’m contacting you for two reasons – firstly the article on the ‘Watling Street School’. I was a classmate of Martin Littler, both at Park View Sunday School and Watling Street Primary.

I agree with everything said about the disposition of the structure and as best my failing memory will allow, those windows on the west side of the chapel certainly look familiar.

The chapel was ‘run’ by the Shingler family (Fred and Ethel), who lived on Watling Street opposite (but prior to) the shopping centre. The title of ‘superintendent’ springs to mind.

The chapel was patronised on high days and holidays by the locally famous Jonah Deakin, who seemed to be related to most of the local ‘names’, including my ancestors the Marklews and the Bentleys.

I was forced to attend sessions twice each Sunday, with the morning service in-between, and remember it as a mainly dour experience, despite one of my cousins being a ‘teacher’.

The year’s highlights were the anniversary (of which Martin has a photo I think), which had a sort of American Pageant feel to it and the Harvest Festival – to which we seemed to contribute a significant quantity of our home grown produce.

There was an annual outing to places such as Drayton Manor Park or Alton Towers (before they became over-commercialised) and I remember the packed lunches well (fish-paste sandwiches!). One year a classmate who I won’t name, (still lives locally), had to be ignominiously extracted from a lily pond with the handle of the patriarch’s walking stick.

There was another Methodist Chapel near Castle Street, and, one day, I enquired why we walked (from Newtown) past this one to Park View.

Back came the answer ‘Because we’re better Methodists than them’. I didn’t go much after that.

The second reason is a request – could you pass my email address on to Martin. We’ve both changed providers and failed to let each other know – we can’t afford to let ten years pass at our age. [Done! - Bob]

One of my regrets is that callow youth places no importance on heritage, so I’ve not kept any memorabilia or photos of those precious days, but if any anecdotes or memories may be of interest…

Keep up the good work.

Barry (Aylett-Warner)

Thanks, Barry, what a splendid contribution – anything other readers have to offer is, of course, welcome too. Please comment here, or mail BrownhillsBob at Googlemail dot com. Thanks!

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Jack and Nancy Dennis get married around 1946, in a cracking image with the Park View Chapel in the background. Photo kindly supplied by Martin Littler.

Posted in Brownhills stuff, Churches, Followups, Fun stuff to see and do, Interesting photos, Local Blogs, Local History, Local media, News, Reader enquiries, Shared media, Shared memories, Social Media | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment