25 February 2015

Walking the familiar

The view from the top of Whetstone Lane
 I haven't much felt like engaging with the world in a social manner just recently. It's been a case of staying indoors and avoiding people and even avoiding in depth conversations on-line. Today I decided that a walk would help because after all, walking has always helped me think things through.

Hidden away, one of the oldest buildings in Aldridge
I kept to the mean streets of Aldridge and started on a route that was very familiar to me for many years, up Whetstone Lane towards the school that my children once attended. Familiar and yet changed since I last walked. Half way up there is a development being built on what was once one detached house with an enormous garden. Now soon to be an "exclusive development" no less, of five detached houses, presumably with very small gardens and being overlooked by lots of houses that have been there for years the occupiers of which, were probably none too pleased when the notice of the planning application dropped through their letterboxes.

The shops on the corner of Churnhill Road had also changed and a house had been built on land where there used to be another house. 

Not hidden, the newest and one of the ugliest buildings in Aldridge
As I rounded the summit of Whetstone Lane I stopped to admire the view from up there. You sometimes forget just how elevated Aldridge is, especially if you've not rode a bike back there too recently and I haven't. The view stretches out past Sutton Park and on a clear day and from the right angle you can see Lichfield Cathedral. My Dad used to stand a top that hill back in the 30s, his view uninterrupted by houses and plot which orchard would be next in line for his scrumping activities.

More from the conservation area
I turned into Erdington Road and began the climb back towards the centre of Aldridge. The area around The Croft in Aldridge is a conservation zone, so it makes me wonder what entered the heads of those who approved the planning application for the Croft Centre, some sort of gated and walled retirement "community" for those who can afford to pay for its facilities. Bay Tree House, a council run residential facility for the elderly formerly occupied this space. It would never have won any prizes for its design but it was brick built, two storeys high and well screened and hidden by dozens of mature trees, the majority of which were felled to allow for the building of Aldridge's own Alcatraz. For that is what the building resembles to me; a prison. It is dreary, lacking any imagination and so out of place in our conservation zone. It sits opposite one of the oldest houses in Aldridge, which can be glimpsed through the bare hedges at this time of the year, a house I've often thought of as being a pleasant place to live, being on the edge of The Croft. No longer, who would want to look out of their bedroom window and look at the Croft Prison? The inmates will have a much better view as can be seen from the photographs here.

Parish Church
Once passed the Church I lingered a while opposite the Manor House. Last night I discovered that along with all other youth facilities in Walsall, bar one, The Manor House Youth Centre will permanently close on 1 September this year. Thus the battle to keep The Manor House Youth Centre open in some form or another has finally been lost and presumably the plans to sell the House and its substantial grounds, formed by the last Tory administration of Walsall Council will be enacted. Another slice of Aldridge history to be lost. The fact that the house is a grade 2 listed building I doubt will hinder any plans by a future buyer to blight further our conservation zone if the current construction site is an example.

Soon to be sold. The Manor House
Our MP Richard Shepherd is retiring in May and recently the Tories selected a new prospective parliamentary candidate (or prospective MP as she styles herself on Twitter) called Wendy Morton. Being a proud Yorkshire lass I doubt she knows too much about the history of Aldridge Brownhills. Unfortunately the history of Aldridge doesn't get a lot of publicity but she can brush up on Walsall Wood and Brownhills by getting her teeth into Brownhills Bob's wonderful blog . I wondered what Wendy's views were on how this historical asset should be utilised, so I sent her a tweet last night, captured below. Haven't had a response yet. 

I had hoped that my walk through the familiar would lift my spirits but instead it left me feeling angry. Progress is good and change is always needed to prevent us going stale but the changes I observed in Aldridge today are not good. They are further evidence of the wholesale destruction of everything that was pretty and picturesque in what is still called 'the village' by those who remember the village feel and look that Aldridge once had.


  1. A sorry walk Linda, totally agree about the "prison" its awful. All they cared about was selling the land. Nothing wrong with a new care home in the heart of the community but surely something less hideous could have been built?! Its the metal sections that are the worst and the fencing.

    The very sad demise of the Youth Clubs across the borough are as I said elsewhere so shortsighted. Cuts should not be made to front line services when there is a multitude of management tiers in the Council, lack of accountability and maladministration all of which has been going on for years.

    I share your anger.

  2. Yeah Susan...that Old Peoples monstrosity...it makes me shudder.Before Baytree House was built that land was a derelict walled garden where once stood what I remember being called "The Solicitors' House" which I just remember being demolished and left open.It was for me and the local kids, a magic garden, a little world away...there were mysterious remains of its former life...a large sandstone lintel like a fallen menhir, overgrown ornamental trees and shrubs...I remember summer days lying in the grass looking up at the trembling blueness of the sky whilst my dog took a dump in the undergrowth....it was another dimension almost...perhaps I'm getting carried away but the sight of that building makes me wince- you think G4S will get the contract to run it?