Sunday, 17 July 2011

2011 - Day Out 16: West Midlands

Date: Saturday 16 July 2011

It is time for a local trip and I make my way to Wollaston to catch the 0856 National Express West Midlands Service 276, where I will meet up with Mr UKBuses, who will board the bus in Norton. I get around to Norton and Mr UKBuses is nowhere to be seen, so I get off at the next stop, which turns out to be two stops as the driver flies past the one I want to get off, and so I walk back up Shenstone Avenue and arrive at Mr UKBuses usual stop and he is still not there. After a few minutes of waiting, Mr UKBuses, walks into view around the corner, and he is confused as he thought I was on the bus. He is confused as he thought that the bus was due ten minutes later than the advertised time. These things happen, and it doesn't dampen our day, but we are as we are getting soaked by the downpour of rain, and wait for the next 276, which arrives on schedule, and we board to get to Stourbridge. As we arrive in Stourbridge, we get off by the town railway station to catch our train up to the Junction. We arrive at Stourbridge Junction, where after a couple of minutes wait we board the local London Midland service heading to Birmingham Snow Hill.

We are not going to Snow Hill, we decide to change at Smethwick Galton Bridge, where we change to Platform 4, and catch another London Midland train, which takes us through Birmingham New Street and we arrive at our destination, Aston, and our plan is to take a short walk up to Rotola Long Acre depot, but as we walk down the station steps, the rain starts to come down fast again. Luckily there is a bus stop right in front of us, so we take cover. Whilst waiting, a National Express West Midlands Service 67 arrives and we board the bendibus which takes us for a short ride. As we make our way down Tyburn Road, we decide to alight and a short walk around the corner, we arrive in Bromford Lane. The shelter display says that there is a National Express West Midlands Service 11A is due in 9 minutes, but there is one coming now. We board and it is another short ride where we decide to get off at Erdington.

Upon arrival at Erdington, we decide that we will go to Sutton Coldfield, so as we make our way across the many junctions (I decide that Erdington is not very pedestrian friendly), we arrive at our stop, just as a Central Connect Service 167 pulls up, so we get our value out of the Network West Midlands DayTripper tickets we purchase and catch another operators' bus. Service 167 is a service that serves many estates before getting to the final destination, so we have a good ride, even visiting the same Asda store, twice! We arrive in Sutton Coldfield, and the rain has nearly stopped. There are a still a few drops coming down, but Mr UKBuses braves the rain and gets his camera out to take a few photographs. We walk up to the main bus stop area, and it is a bus photographers paradise as there are a lot of buses loading and unloading. We are feeling a little peckish, so we decide to make our way to Walsall so that we can have lunch at the Wetherspoons. Our next bus to take us there arrives, and we board the National Express West Midlands service 77.

St Pauls Bus Station, Walsall
We leave Sutton Coldfield, and we make our way to Walsall. As we make our way there we go through an estate that looks familiar. I realise that we are in Streetly and this was the estate that Mr WME and myself walked through to get to a pub, which I'm sure he went the long way round so that he made me build up a thirst. After a few minutes of riding through the estate, we come out onto the main road, where we pass The Foley Arms, the pub that was the prize for walking around the estate, and a scene that was like the "Bromsgrove Incident", where I had two pints, one to quench the first after my tour of Streetly with Mr WME. With the dreadful reminder out of the way, we leave Streetly behind and carry onto Walsall, where we are looking forward to our food. It is now after midday, and we arrive in Walsall, so we make our way from the bus station and head towards J D Wetherspoons, "The Imperial". Disaster strikes, The Imperial is closed for refurbishment, so our stomachs are not going to be fed yet. We make the decision to make our way to Willenhall and get food there, so after a walk around the whole of the bus station, we go back to the beginning again to catch National Express West Midlands Service 529 to Willenhall.

After about twenty minutes, we arrive in Willenhall. Along the way, we recognise where we went a couple of months previously to have a drink with one of Mr UKBuses colleagues, "Raymondo", but there is no sign of Raymondo today. We alight our Service 529 outside of J D Wetherspoons "The Malthouse", but Mr UKBuses has to pop over the road to make use of the HSBC cash machine to pay for his dinner. We make our way inside and we are served by Simon, a person who used to work in the Wetherspoons in Stourbridge. Whilst being served, another face is recognised from his time at Stourbridge. We come all this way and get served by old faces! We find a seat and look at our menus before deciding what to have. We don't go for our usual, Mr UKBuses opts for the BBQ Chicken Melt (without the cheese), and I opt for the Gammon, Egg and Chips (without the egg), and after about five minutes of waiting, they both arrive piping hot, and it is time to tuck in. For the price that we paid for the meals, we got our money's worth, the portions were huge, and there were a load of chips, no Chester sized portions here. After finishing our meals, we have a few minutes to let it go down, and we decide that, even though it is our second visit to this pub, it rates as one of our favourites in the J D Wetherspoon list. Both visits have had friendly and quick service and the building itself makes you feel welcome.

Dinner over, and we decide to make our way closer to home, and we head to Bilston. After a few minutes wait, a National Express West Midlands Service 525 arrives and we board for a ten minutes ride to our destination, Bilston Bus Station. We have time for a few photographs, well Mr UKBuses has, my camera battery failed on me! Our next bus is in the lay over area, Midland's Service 224 to Cradley Heath. The Bilston luck is not on my side, as the driver gets off the bus and starts to walk over to us. The bus is losing air pressure and he cannot drive off, at least the driver did well and came over and told us, so we will have to catch another bus. We don't have long to wait before National Express West Midlands service 583 arrives to take us to Dudley, as we leave the bus station, in the distance, we can see a Diamond liveried "Stourbridge Shuttle" bus, a bit off route 142!!! As we make our way to Dudley a local old age pensioner is ahead of us in his mobility scooter, and he makes his way around the island ahead (yes in the road traffic), and we follow him up the road where he is waiting ahead of us at the traffic lights. This is where we overtake him and leave him in a cloud of dust as the lights turn green! We make our way through Wren's Nest before we arrive at Dudley Bus Station.

We decide to make our way to Wordsley, so we catch service 226, the only one that is is the station is a Diamond operated one, so we decide to catch that. We make our way through Kingswinford before arriving at Wordsley, and we alight just outside The Red Lion. But we choose not to visit that pub, we decide to go to one that Mr UKBuses has never been in before and after driving past for many years, we step inside The Old Cat Inn, which is situated on the corner of the main traffic lights in Wordsley. We have a pint, and after we finish, we walk back around to the bus stop to catch another 226 bus, this time being operated by Hanson's, the original operator of this service. From the "226 Bus War" that is going on at the moment between Diamond and Hanson's, it looks like Hanson's have the upper hand, with a good load on the service. The Diamond bus that we caught earlier, there was only Mr UKBuses and myself on it, and other Diamond Buses 226's seem to be running empty. We head through the Hawbush Estate and Brierley Hill before we arrive at The Merry Hill Centre. From here we decide to catch a bus to Halesowen.

The bus of choice is another Diamond Bus Service, the 002 which takes us to Halesowen. As we leave the bus station at Merry Hill, the same driver who caught Mr UKBuses on a diamond bus on a previous outing spots him again, and heckles him as we head towards Pedmore Road. We make our way through Quarry Bank, Lyde Green and Colley Gate, and I introduce Mr UKBuses to The Lutley Mill as we pass it, the pub is situated at the bottom of Drew's Holloway, with the newly painted colour scheme, which now looks like it is a Wolve's fans choice of pub with the outside painted bright orange and black. Not long after we arrive in Halesowen, and decide to have a pint in J D Wetherspoons "The William Shenstone". After our pint we make our way back to the bus station, and I point out a parked up Black Diamond Liveried bus, stating "That looks like the bus that brought us back from Bromsgrove in the snow", walking further alongside the bus, we also find out that the driver is our "Diamond" driver Des, the bloke who got us back from Bromsgrove in that terrible snow. After a quick chat with Des, we make our way to the bus station, where we catch Diamond's Service 142, branded in the "Nifty Fifty" livery!

Catching up on memories at The Bell
We make our way through Hasbury, Oldnall, Wynall and Pedmore Fields before arriving back in Stourbridge. Time for a few shots, and we make our way into the town centre. First of all we make enquires about swimming at The Crystal Leisure Centre, before heading next door to The Bell. On the way to the leisure centre, Mr UKBuses tries to wind up the Stourbridge Shuttle Driver, Steve, a couple of times - once in Church Street, and then outside the leisure centre. Whilst in The Bell we have a couple of pints and recall more memories of our time working at the pub all them years ago. Mr UKBuses is spotted by another Pensnett Garage driver who is off duty and has called into The Bell for a drink. After our drinks, we make our way to the bus stops in Birmingham Street, where we are in time to catch the last National Express West Midlands Service 276 back to Norton and Wollaston.

Another brilliant day out with a rainy start, but the weather brightened up in the afternoon for our local unplanned trip.

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