Ages ago, I ran a piece here about how local activist and Clayhanger Kid himself Brian Stringer was starting a campaign to bring back into use the old rail line that runs from Pelsall through Brownhills – not to carry trains, but as a walking and cycling route for the community.
Much of the old South Staffordshire line is already an official, Sustrans supported cycleway, from Ryecroft to Pelsall, and more of it is an unofficial, but well-used trail from Ryders Hayes to the rear of the Swan Pub in Brownhills. Brian and the Back the Track campaign would like to see this extended further into Brownhills, linking to Chasewater – and eventually to Lichfield if possible.
The benefit of this would be that the former track would be tidied up and opened out – and where it passes under the Miner Island in Brownhills, the whole cutting could be cleared out. This litter strewn bog – replete with several decades of litter, shopping trolleys, road cones and other rotting detritus – has been a serial complaint for Brownhills residents for years, with no authority seemingly prepared to clean it up.
Well, last over the last couple of weeks – with a blitz day last Sunday, 22nd October 2017 – Brian Stringer and a band of volunteers he raised have been clearing the cutting out. They have donned wellies, organised a skip, sorted out access, and with litter pickers, ropes, saws, shovels and sheer determination, cleaned the wasteland under the island out, and have started work to improve drainage and dry out the swamp.
If you look over the bridge now, you’ll see everything down there is now a whole bunch tidier – thanks solely to the volunteers, many it has to be said, from the older section of the community. These people have worked tirelessly, and will continue doing so.
I would personally like to thank Brian and crew – Brian is himself 79 years of age – for putting in the sheer graft and wading into that smelly, muddy soup and physically doing what many of us would not, solely for the benefit of the community.
Brian and Back the Track will need help in future, and when I have details of future events you can lend a hand with, I’ll post them here. Similarly, if you want to find out about the Back the Track campaign and group, you can visit their website here and Facebook group here. They also have a twitter account here.
In the meantime, the group have pulled out of the mess several shopping trolleys that either need disposing of or recycling – there used to be a great service by trolley manufacturer Wanzl called Trolleywise, where they’d collect stray carts but this seems to have stopped. If anyone has any idea who could be called to deal with these, information would be really useful, please. There are also a surprisingly large number of traffic cones looking for a home.
Again, my thanks and admiration to Brian and all who helped take this situation in hand, got dirty and waded in. You are the true spirit of Brownhills and we’re all proud of you.