It’s been a funny old year

Brownhills isn't often this beautiful, but I love it anyway.

I’ve been debating whether to mention this or not, but I guess I ought to really, The Brownhills Blog was a year old last week. To be perfectly honest, I’m quite surprised it survived the first couple of months, and totally bewildered that it’s still going today. I’ve delved into the genesis of this rambling pile on several occasions here, but when I started, I really had no idea what I was doing. There was tons of stuff I wanted to write about – from rants at local government to local history, musings on the countryside around to to grumbles about the media. The problem was, I didn’t know how to write about any of it, and I know only slightly more now.

The first post was unleashed here on WordPress on the 2nd May 2009 – it was a plug for a piece I’d liked on Political Penguin’s blog. I didn’t unleash a proper post until the 4th May, when I blogged some ride photos. I gradually wrote other posts, and by the 7th May, I’d plucked up enough courage to start ranting. In the process, although I’m not sure of the chronology, I variously discovered other  local blogs – The Lichfield Blog, Stymaster’s Pigblog, The Bloxidge Tallygraph – and then I found The YamYam. Without the support of fellow bloggers, my efforts would definitely have faltered at the first hurdle. Stymaster in particular has provided constant support, inspiration, contribution and debate. The Lichfield Blog introduced me to the hyperlocal scene – and, although I hate the term, I was soon to explore a world of people creating news and opinion for themselves in their own communities. I was hooked.

I owe more to Mark Blackstock and his fabulous Walsall news site The YamYam than to any other single element. Mark has relentlessly plugged the local blogs, putting our stories up alongside those of mainstream, conventional media with equal weight. A huge number of people have come to my work through The YamYam, and I use it daily to find stories, find opinion, and just find out whats going on locally. Mark compiles his site with wit, care and deft judgement. I’ll always appreciate his part in this. I would only have had a fraction of the current 48,000+ hits without his unwavering support. If yo’re from Walsall and don’t have The YamYam in your favourites list, then you’re missing out.

In the twelve months since I commenced, I’ve posted 221 articles, and received over 400 user comments. I’ve generated a small amount of controversy, had a few jousts with conventional media, irritated a few people but on the whole, I’ve tried to write about stuff that I’m interested in, and that I feel strongly about. I’ve learned huge amounts about local history – and for those who have answered queries, proposed questions or shot the breeze, I have nothing but gratitude. You guys make it worthwhile. Together, we’ve delved into, and recorded the subterranean history of a now lost, abandoned reservoir, rediscovered a quiet peace garden, located pictures of a long-gone butchers shop. We’ve shared in memories of closed garages, barbers, fish shops and demolished houses. We found the real, rather sad story behind a man barricaded into his house, looked into the polluted past of Clayhanger and tried to find the owner of a classic american car. We observed that councils never really change, that large copper carp don’t fall in straight lines and that cycling coppers ain’t what they used to be. I personally have learned that illegal scramblers and graffiti kids are thicker than you’d ever imagine.

One of the things I was worried about in the early days of the blog was running out of steam and subject matter. I’d say I’ve only written 50% of the articles I planned to when I started. I still have those to write – as well as loads more that have occurred to me since. Right now, my only problem with the blog is having the time to write and compile the kind of articles you the readers like.

Whilst partaking in this adventure, I’ve got into the world of Twitter and the local online community. There is a constant background thrum of continual conversation, humour and warmth going on there. To all I’ve laughed with, sparred with or chatted to, I thank you for your support and warm hand of friendship. I’d like to particularly thank @stevieboy378, who’s made lots of great contributions here, and @danslee who’s not half bad for a press officer.

There’s loads of stuff coming up for the Brownhills Blog. There will, I’m sure, be the now customary mix of rants, local history, planning discussions and photos I’ve taken while out and about. I’ve got some articles planned about some surprisingly obscure bits of local history. I promise that I’ll keep doing this as long as you readers remain as involved and enthusiastic as you are now. You contributions are always welcome and I’m prepared to post up anything here that may be of interest to locals – be it history, opinion, events or shared media. That’s what this blog is here for.

I guess what I’m really trying to say is, well, thanks, it’s been real fun so far and I’m hoping for loads more to come. You’re wonderful.

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13 Comments

  • Congratulations, Bob!

    Keep sticking it to ’em :O)

    – The Forrener

     
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  • Thank you for the kind words Bob, and congratulations on a year. I remember discovering this blog within a few days of you starting it, and being very pleased to find a well-written, interesting, and informative blog just up the road. I’m less pleased that you got me using twitter :-).

    Seriously, keep up the good work. You have a permanent place in my RSS feed, whcih means it must be worth reading.

     
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  • Hey Bob, I’ve only been reading your blog for a couple of months but I’ve enjoyed reading every single one of your posts.

    Congrats on such a wonderful blog and here’s to years to come.

     
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  • martin

    Many happy returns!
    Keep it up (we’ll need something to distract us now the posh boys have taken over)

     
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  • David Edwards

    Fantastic site & great work.
    I keep tabs every day for ur updates.

    keep up the rants!

     
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  • Happy birthday Bob

    I always look forward to your posts dropping into my RSS feed reader and appreciate the blog’s integrity, versatility and diversity.

    The BrownhillsBlog has done much to keep us all informed and raise the profile of the northern wastes, even as they get absorbed into a giant supermarket.

    As a fellow online traveler, I appreciate the consistency and dependability of your blog – and that is no mean achievement.

    Thank you for your warm words about the YamYam which would be much less colourful without your blog and the other local blogs too. A YamYam reduced to just mainstream aggregated news would be like a reservoir without water, a pub with no drinkers, a fisherman without a fish, a market without stalls or even sometimes, a flytip without rubbish or a block of flats without asbestos 🙂 .

    An early post you didn’t mention which brilliantly illustrates your eye for simple detail was this one:

    http://brownhillsbob.wordpress.com/2009/05/10/turning-turtle-highly-unusual-wildlife-at-chasewater/

    I do hope the little creature is surviving as the waters recede.

    Best wishes for the future

     
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  • A writer that can be engaging on a variety of subjects is a rare and precious thing.

    Your meticulous research into local history, especially using old maps is fascinating and I particularly enjoy following your epic journeys on something called a bicycle.

    But, as you know, it`s the rants I like the best and Brownhills has a champion ready to take on the dullards and the inept who run the borough.

    May your blog go from strength to strength and I hope you are not forced into a re-brand as Tescotown Ted.

     
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  • Pedro

    Well done Bob,

    Interesting even for an “outsider”. I remember when the Blog Stats were below 10!

    All the Best, Pedro

     
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  • Pablo Oplywiss

    Always a good read – it’s refreshing to have someone with pride in our locality with a ‘tell it like it is’ attitude.

    Keep up the good work.

     
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  • Bloody bostin’, Bob. Yamma proppa local champ.

    As a Pelsallian living in Rome, it’s great to keep up with what’s going on in the area. A pity Pelsall doesn’t have someone of your calibre to cover that neck of the woods. But between you, the YamYam. the Tallygraph and Stymaster, I really feel like I’m still in touch to some extent (and bring friends and family still living there up to speed when I visit. How they look forward to my 45-minutes lectures).

    Keep it up, we’d be lost without you now.

     
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    • Hi everyone

      Thanks for the wonderful comments. I meant what I said, I couldn’t do it without you. I feel guilty, because I realise I missed out some of the locals here. My apologies.

      It really is great to have a readership that care, get involved, and have something to say.

      Sadly, the Terrapin pool – ‘The nine-foot’ – is now dry as a bone, however, I suspect Mr. Terrapin would not have survived such a cold winter, so perhaps it was for the best.

      Here’s to the next 12 months…

      Bob

       
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  • Suffice to say that both The Bloxidge Tallygraph and its Edditer holds you and the Brownhills Blog in high esteem, Bob.

    Nobody says it better for Brownhills :O)

    The Edditer

     
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  • LichfieldLad

    Bob,

    I had no idea that your ramblings on local life and cycling was only a year old !

    i dont read many blogs , but yours is a must for me. I’m glad we got chatting on twitter !

    Keep it up mate !

    David
    AKA Lichfieldlad

     
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