WW1 History at Cannock Chase: Tackeroo – The Sound of Silence


Cannock Chase is a mixed area of countryside in the county of Staffordshire, England. The area has been designated as the Cannock Chase Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. It is also very proud of its long association with the military.

Restored hut Restored hut

At the Marquis Drive visitor area (Hednesford, Near Cannock, WS12 4PW) an original wooden war hut has been faithfully reconstructed and is now used as a base for educational talks and visits about this military life. The area has the feel of a large municipal park now, with a cafe, children’s playground and plenty of leafy, open spaces. But this vast site was once home to a huge WW2 air force base, where thousands of pilots were trained for service.

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Only a mile or so away lies the peaceful Tackeroo Camp Site, a stress relieving elixir of tall pine trees, mud, grass, birdsong, bees and butterflies. Watching the…

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High Wire Act ….

Sunday 18th May 2014

(Many thanks to my partner-in-crime Shelly for the use of her images. Please take time to visit her Flickr page – she’s a great photographer . . . .)

A glorious weekend in London, so we made our way down the Northern line from our regular start-point at Brent Cross to Charing Cross, where we emerged right into the heart of a bustling city at Strand (‘Ave A Banana). I miss alighting at Embankment – walking out of the station to be immediately confronted by the view of the Thames and the London Eye – hopefully the building work will be completed on schedule, and we can be hopping off there again in autumn. Sidestepping tourists all the way down to the Jubilee bridge we made our way across the river to the South Bank and it’s street-food market, where we spent time trying to decide what to eat – everything looked soooo good. Eventually, full of kebabs and Pakora, we made our way to Waterloo and jumped on the Jubilee line heading east. 14 minutes and 6 stations later, after passing beneath the River Thames twice, we walked out of North Greenwich station into a sun-soaked O2 arena complex.

North Greenwich Roundel

North Greenwich Tube Station

A short walk from the station yielded the first glimpse of the next leg of today’s journey – the Emirates Air Line cablecar, which carries groups of 8 people per car over the river at a height of ever-so slightly under 300 feet – not good if someone (me) in the party is scared of heights….. Anyway, I busied myself with my camcorder as a distraction from looking down, and the ride was soon over. I even enjoyed some of it, and at a mere £3.30 it just has to be done. Granted it was a sunny and cloudless day, but, despite most of the “famous” London City landmarks being out of sight, I reckon the view from the cablecar beats that of the London Eye …… The glass towers of Canary Wharf are stunning from this lofty viewpoint.


Canary Wharf from the Cablecar


The north bank of the Thames from The Cablecar ….

The Royal Victoria Docks complex was interesting – especially the old dock cranes that have been retained as a focal point of the development – the large cruise ship moored there today was a nice touch too.

Victoria Dock

O2 and Emirates Air Line, from Royal Victoria Dock


Dock crane, now a focal point of the development

Not so good though was the price of ice cream and snacks at the dockside stalls. There is a much cheaper alternative very close by, more of which later …… The Excel Exhibition Centre looked worthy of exploration, but that’ll be for another day – today we wanted to go see the Thames Barrier.

The suspension footbridge that spans the Victoria dock is quite impressive, even if the lifts at either end that take pedestrians from ground level up to the walkway, 50ft above the water, were both out of order due to vandalism. Apparently the original design for the bridge featured a glass transporter cabin suspended from a rail beneath the deck, but this feature never materialised. Just as well really, as it’d have been something else for the local yobs to break . . . .

Victoria Dock Bridge

Victoria Dock suspension footbridge


Underside of the bridge – Originally it was planned that a transporter car would run on a rail here ….

The view from the bridge was full of interest, with the O2, Canary Wharf and the city skyline to the west, and the abandoned Millennium Mill and London City Airport to the east.

Canary Wharf and The City, seen from Royal Victoria Dock Bridge ....

Looking west from atop the footbridge


Spillers Millennium Mill, now abandoned & derelict

While we were taking photos we were buzzed by several aircraft on final approach to London City airport – they seemed low enough to touch, and I swear I could see passengers looking down at me . . . . Once over on the southern side of the dock we discovered a good old-fashioned general store / off licence, where a couple of bottles of ice cold lager were purchased at normal prices – much better than being held to ransom by the rip-off merchants on the north side. Something to remember next time we’re in the area.


Spillers Millennium Mill from Britannia Village.

Canary Wharf from Britannia Village

Canary Wharf from Britannia Village

Once we’d picked our way through the Britannia Village housing development and crossed a busy dual carriageway we arrived at Barrier Park, a pretty little 22 acre park with plenty of play areas for kids and quiet corners ideal for sitting with a beer whilst admiring the Thames Barrier. The Barrier itself is certainly an awesome sight – its easy to see why some call it the “Eighth wonder of the world”. What struck me was how shiny it was – I’d been expecting it to be white and sterile, but the pontoons are clad in polished metal panels which resemble scales, giving the whole structure the appearance of a huge fish basking on the surface of the Thames …..

Thames Barrier

Thames Barrier

Thames Barrier from Barrier Park

Thames Barrier from Barrier Park

After a pleasant half hour spent sipping Peroni on the lawn whilst gazing out over the river we ambled over to Pontoon Dock DLR station, just a few hundred metres from the Barrier. The DLR is a great experience. The driverless trains run on an elevated rail, giving passengers incredible views of the Docklands area, with its mix of old buildings & new development. Passengers lucky enough to bag seats at the front of the train get a drivers-eye view of the journey, which must be very enjoyable, as those seats have always been occupied whenever we’ve boarded . . . .


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Face To Face With The Past . . . .

30th April 2014

As I was taking photos in Ryecroft Cemetery for my previous blog post I noticed a pair of old, worn gravestones leaning against a nearby hedge. Out of the corner of my eye I spotted the words “accidentally drowned”, so I looked closer . . . .

Turns out one of the headstones was from the grave of Edward James Oakley, who drowned in Hatherton lake, in what is now Walsall Arboretum, whilst searching for the body of a former mayor of Walsall, J. H. Harvey, who had drowned the previous evening as he swam in the lake. Edward was helping to drag the lake when the boat he was aboard capsized.

After a young man drowned in the same lake recently I was chatting to a few locals on Facebook. The subject of local old wives tales concerning the Arboretum and its lakes cropped up, and someone mentioned that a mayor of Walsall had drowned in Hatherton lake in the 19th century. An online document gave a few details and mentioned that one of the folk searching for the body had also lost his life. Here I was face to face with the headstone of that very person.  . . . .

The inscription reads :

To the memory of Edward James Oakley aged 19 years, Who was accidentally drowned july 9th 1845 While engaged in searching for the body of J H Harvey esq, Late mayor of this town, Who lost his life in a pool in Lichfield Street when bathing there

There is also a passage which starts:

Stay reader and behold the hapless lot of one whose presence will be soon forgot. Reflect on life’s quick transit from the bloom of eager youth to an untimely tomb….

Due to the photo being taken with my iPhone camera and the very worn condition of the headstone the rest of the passage is difficult to read, so I’ll revisit another day armed with my dSLR and attempt to get better shots .  . . .

Rest in peace, Edward  . . . .


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Don’t Fence Me In . . . . .

30th April 2014

 Walking through the local cemetery today I noticed that some tree-felling was being carried out. The workmen appeared to have finished for the day, leaving the segments of tree trunks that had grown through the railings still in place.

Amazing how over time the growing trees have entwined themselves around the bars of the railings …


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Going Underground . . .

Sunday 17th November 2013

**Please feel free to click on any image to view in Flickr**

I love the London underground. Getting about by tube is always a highlight of any trip to the capital. I’m also fascinated by the “ghost stations” on the tube system – disused stations that sit there in the dark, gathering dust as thousands upon thousands of commuters pass by them daily on their journeys, not knowing of their existence.

Today we got the chance to visit Aldwych Station, which closed its doors to customers in 1994. The station is familiar to lots of people, although they’re unaware of it – it’s tunnels and platforms are used regularly by movie and TV makers. I spotted platform A in the first episode of “Sherlock” a few weeks ago  . . . . .

London Transport occasionally run guided tours of Aldwych, which gives Tube enthusiasts, in parties of 20 people per visit, the chance to walk the dusty, deserted tunnels and stand on the eerily quiet platforms, one of which last saw customers almost a century ago . . . .

Aldwych station Strand entrance . . . .

Booking Hall Signage

Booking Hall Signage

Aldwych Sign (1)

Fake signage, leftover from TV filming. Aldwych had no Bakerloo line track ….

Platform Access Tunnel

Passageway between lifts and platforms. This passageway was tidied up in 2000, for filming . . . .

Platform access steps

Steps down to Platform A, which closed in 1994 . . . .

Tunnel To Holborn....

Platform A. These rails still connect to the Piccadilly Line . . . .

Remnant of original %22Strand%22 Sign

Platform A signage. The A and N are part of the word “STRAND”, the original name of the Station . . .

Fake Signage, Aldwych

Platform A signage. These are all repro, added for filming . . . .

Fake Signage, Aldwych (2)

More fake signage . . .

Fake Signage, Aldwych (1)

And more fake signage . . . .

Early 70's BEA Sign

This poster, however, is genuine, dating back to the early 1970’s . . . .

Fake Signage, Aldwych (3)

This sign was put in place for filming, hence its shininess . . . .

Aldwych Platform (3)

Platform B, disused since 1917. Treasures from the British Museum (including the Elgin Marbles) were stored here during World War 2 . . . .

Aldwych Platform (1)

Platform B. This area was once piled high with treasures from the British Museum ….

Aldwych Platform (2)

Platform B. These tracks are the oldest surviving rails on the underground system . . . .

Aldwych Platform

The end of the platform tunnel was bricked up to create a secure store room during WW2 . . . .

Derelict Steps, Aldwych

These steps were never finished. On our visit we weren’t allowed to use them, as they’re in a poor state . . . .

Disused Tunnel, Aldwych

This 38 metre section of tunnel was also abandoned before completion.

Sample Tiles . . .

Nowadays Platform B is used as a testbed for new tiling patterns. The original “STRAND” lettering can be seen . . . .

Top of derelict steps (1)

A short walk along lonely tunnels brought us to the top of the derelict stairs . . . .

Top of derelict steps

These tunnels were abandoned before completion, and never used . . . .

Exit Signage

A long spiral staircase took us back up to surface level, where original signage was still visible . . . .

Exit Signage (1)

Theres just something about Leslie Green designed tiling . . . .

Way Out !

Way out . . . .

Our visit was over all too soon. One criticism I have of the tour is that it seemed very hurried. We were constantly being hustled along by the tour guides, which meant I had precious little time to set up the camera and take considered shots. I ended up just snapping away as I walked, which rendered lots of my shots next to useless . . . . However, this grumble aside the trip down into the depths of one of London’s ghost stations was a great experience. Now if only TFL would open up Brompton Road and Down Street . . . .

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An Open Letter To Boris Johnson

An Open Letter To Boris Johnson.

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Along the “Cut” ….

Tuesday 3rd September 2013

This flabby gut of mine isn’t gonna disappear of its own accord, so today I donned the lycra shorts and headed out on the bike along the local canal towpaths. I never tire of walking or cycling beside our local waterways – We’re so lucky to have them, but so many local people either know nothing of them, or think they’re still the dirty, smelly dumping grounds that they undoubtably were in the 1970’s and 1980’s. My route took me along the Wyrley & Essington, Walsall, Wednesbury, BCN Mainline, Titford, Birmingham & Fazeley, Tame Valley and Rushall canals, with a little road cycling between Oldbury and Edgbaston, as the Titford Canal is a dead end. Rather than describe the route here is a link to the GPS track recorded by my Garmin :

Map view of my route. Click on the image to view details ....

Overview of my route. Click on the image to view Detailed map & Stats ….

After the unfortunate demise of my beloved Canon G12 I only have the camera on my iPhone with me on my cycle rides nowadays, as I’m not gonna expose my precious 5D dSLR and lenses to the bumpy surfaces of the local towpaths.

Anyway, these are the shots I took during the day. They’re not perfect – the iPhone camera is hardly a world-beater – but they’re OK . . . .

<<< Click on any photo to view its location in Panoramio >>>

My day started out on the Wyrley & Essington canal as far as Birchills Junction, where I joined the Walsall Canal :

Hungry Swans . . .

Hungry Swans on The Walsall Canal at Darlaston

Ocker Hill Branch

Ocker Hill Tunnel Branch, Now Disused

Tame Valley Junction

Cast Iron Bridges at Tame Valley Junction

I took a slight detour at Great Bridge to check out the route of the now disused Balls Hill Branch Canal. The canal is completely gone now, but pointers to where it was once located remain :

Bagnall Street

Bagnall Street. This was once the location of a bridge over the Balls Hill Branch canal. Just out of shot to the left is the Miners Arms Pub.

Miners Arms

Miners Arms Pub, Bagnall street. This pub once sat beside the towpath of the Balls Hill Branch canal.

Balls Hill Wall

Standing where the canal was once located. The wall appears to be a lot older than the houses behind it.

Balls Hill Canal

This strip of wasteland is the only real remaining sign of what was once a busy, bustling canal.

Disused Railway, Great Bridge

Between Bagnall Street and the Walsall canal, under the Black Country New Road, lie these disused railway lines . . .

Back on the Walsall canal I noticed the quaint Latin plaque on Hempole Bridge :

Hempole Bridge

Latin plaque on Hempole Bridge. Thats 1825 in old money 🙂

Hempole Bridge

Hempole Bridge, Walsall Canal

Ryder's green

Moored Narrowboat at Ryder’s Green Locks, Walsall Canal

The short stretch of canal above the Ryder’s Green locks – between Ryder’s Green Junction and Pudding Green Junction – is actually a stretch of the Wednesbury Old canal, which is always confusing. At Pudding Green Junction I joined the BCN mainline heading southeast towards Birmingham :

Pudding Green

Pudding Green Junction, BCN Mainline. The Wednesbury Old canal branches off under the cast iron bridge in the centre of the photo.

BCN Mainline

BCN Mainline at Bromford, looking back towards Pudding Green Junction.

Bromford Stop Island

Bromford Stop Island – presumably tolls were collected here. Bromford Junction can be seen in the distance.

At Bromford Junction I took to the old branch (Wolverhampton level) of the BCN canal, in order to gain access to the Titford canal. A flight of 3 locks raises the canal 20 feet up to Spon Lane junction, and the old canal actually passes over the newer main BCN canal on the Stewart Aqueduct.  Its a strange sight to behold here – 2 canals, a railway and the busy M5 motorway, all stacked on top of one another :

Spon Lane Junction

BCN Wolverhampton level beneath the M5, Spon Lane Junction

Spon Lane junction

M5 supports reflected in the calm water of the BCN Wolverhampton Level.

Forms Of Transport

Stewart aqueduct. A busy railway line and the M5 both straddle the canals.

BCN Mainline

The more recent BCN Mainline passes under the Wolverhampton level at Stewart Aqueduct.

Following the Wolverhampton level towards Oldbury (which is a strange experience, as the canal is located directly underneath the M5 motorway) the junction with the Titford canal was soon reached. The Titford canal, a dead end, acted as a feeder for the BCN. It steadily climbs 38 feet up a flight of 5 locks and terminates at the very pretty Titford Pools.

Titford Canal

The Titford Canal is rarely used nowadays. Consequently some pounds between locks can be barely in water at times.

Langley Maltings

Langley Maltings. Apparently these buildings were owned by Wolverhampton & Dudley breweries from 1944-2007, and were destroyed by fire in 2009.

Uncle Ben's Bridge

Uncle Ben’s Bridge. Can’t help but think of rice when I pass beneath this sign . . . .

At Titford pools it was back to road cycling. I wanted to head into Birmingham city centre, but I took a higgledy-piggledy route, as I rarely follow a map. I cycled up onto the high ground of Warley woods, just to check out the views, then made my way to Edgbaston Reservoir.

Warley Woods

Map of the layout of Warley Woods.

Warley Water Tower

Warley Water Tower. 236m above sea level, so I’m informed. I can well believe it – getting up here on the bike was a struggle . . . .

BT Tower

Birmingham’s BT Tower, seen from the dam wall of Edgbaston Reservoir. The Icknield Port loop of the BCN canal can be seen at the bottom of the photo.

After the “Rezza” it was back onto the BCN and into the city centre.

St. Vincent Street Bridge

St. Vincent Street Bridge, BCN canal. Oozells Street loop can be seen leading off to the right, beneath the right hand bridge arch.

Ooozells Street Loop

Ooozells Street Loop, BCN Canal

Ooozells Street Loop

Ooozells Street Loop, BCN Canal

Ooozells Street Loop

Ooozells Street Loop, BCN Canal

Birmingham Library

Birmingham’s new Library and Sealife Centre, Reflected in the BCN Mainline canal . . .

Old Turn Junction

Old Turn Junction. The Birmingham & Fazeley canal leads off to the left. To the right, beyond the island, The BCN canal continues to Gas Street.

Cambridge Wharf

Cambridge Wharf. From here the Birmingham & Fazeley canal descends 81 feet, through the 13 Farmer’s Bridge locks, passing almost directly beneath the BT Tower.

Heading NorthEast out of the City the canal (now the Birmingham & Fazeley) drops steadily, via the Farmer’s Bridge and Aston locks. I soon found myself under the M6 at Salford Junction, where I headed NorthWest on the Tame Valley canal. The Tame Valley Cut is a real gem – surprisingly rural. One can soon forget that the heart of The industrial Midlands is within touching distance.

Tame Valley Canal

The Tame Valley Canal heads Northwest from Salford Junction. This stretch of “cut” is remarkably rural . . . .

Heron . . .

A solitary Heron on the bank of the Tame Valley Canal. I spotted dozens of these lovely fellas today . . .

At Rushall Junction all that remained of my day on the towpath was a short run along the Rushall canal as far as Sutton Road, where I left the canal for the pathways of Walsall Arboretum, then the busy roads back home.

Rushall Junction

Rushall Junction. The Tame Valley canal continues left, out of shot, while the Rushall canal forks right, under the footbridge.

No.4 Lock

No.4 Lock, Rushall canal.

A great day. I returned home quite knackered – anyone who thinks that canal towpaths are flat & level should take a trip along the canals I’ve mentioned – those locks are hard work . . . . .


Selfie, taken in the lift mirror. Felt quite tired at the end of today’s ride – those locks (and Warley Hill) were hard work ! !

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