On a rather drab and rainy Thursday, 24th November 2022, I went for a train ride down to Walsall in the West Midlands. This blog has all but conquered the East Midlands (and slightly further afield), so I now want to expand my horizons and discover the West Midlands.
The journey to Walsall from Burton on Trent was fraught, to say the least. To cut a long story short, my train from Burton was delayed, when I got to Birmingham New Street my ticket wouldn’t work at the barriers, causing me to miss a train, and I also found out that I didn’t even need to go through the barriers after all.
It all worked out in the end, and I made it to Walsall railway station.
Walsall railway station opened in April 1849. Unusually, the station has a shopping centre attached to it, the Saddlers Shopping Centre, which can be accessed directly from the station. There is also an entrance/exit which leads onto Station Street, pictured above. Until the 1960s, I could have caught a train directly from Burton on Trent to Walsall, but this service was withdrawn due to the Beeching Cuts. There are three platforms at Walsall; platform 3 is a terminus for the service from Walsall to Birmingham New Street. The station is staffed, with a ticket office and waiting shelters.
I walked from the station to the town centre, to have a look at the local Cenotaph war memorial. The memorial was built after the First World War. It stands on the very spot where a German Zeppelin dropped a bomb during the First World War, killing the town’s mayoress and two civilians.
Next, I headed for the Walsall Canal for a short walk along the towpath to the Walsall Town Arm of the canal. The Walsall Canal was constructed towards the end of the 18th century to link the Wyrley and Essington Canal to the Birmingham Canal Main Line.
There is plenty of graffiti on the canal towpath, some of which is official and some which isn’t. It leads to the town centre, specifically Gallery Square, which is home to the New Art Gallery, which opened in 2000. The main shopping street is Park Street, which is pedestrianised and is home to many big name chain stores, as well as some local shops. There is also a statue of Sister Dora Pattison, an 19th century Anglican nun who worked as a nurse in the town, caring for the local populace during an outbreak of smallpox.
Close to Sister Dora is The Source of Ingenuity, a sculpture by Tom Lomax which was installed in 2001 and used to be a working fountain.
Walsall has some stunning architecture in the town centre, including St Paul’s Church, and the town hall.
I headed north from the town centre to Walsall Arboretum, having crossed a very busy traffic intersection which required me to cross about seven sets of traffic lights. It was worth all that effort, though.
The Arboretum is a public park established in 1874 as a private park. In 1881, the local authority took over the park and made it free for all. Within the park is Hatherton Lake, which has a boathouse and is close to the visitors centre, which opened in 2014. It is also home to the town’s old stocks, which are on display.
An information sign told me that Walsall Arboretum is not technically an arboretum at all, but the name was in fashion at the time, as Nottingham (been there), Derby (been there) and Lincoln (not yet been there) all had arboreta. I spent a good hour walking around the arboretum, which covers 80 acres and has various facilities for young people and sports players, with tennis courts and table tennis tables.
The rain was starting to come on, so I decided to head back to the station and start the journey home, but this wouldn’t be a blog post without a visit to a church, right?
Parts of the church date back to 1220, but most of the church was built in the 1820s. Only the fittest Church of England parishioners can worship there, it seems, as it stands at the top of a hill, and is a tricky climb up some stairs. The view over the town is good, though. A street called “Bullock’s Row” passes by the church, but some local rascal has altered the “u” on the street sign to an “o”.
I walked back through the town centre to the Saddler’s Shopping Centre, from where I entered the railway station. If the journey to Walsall was fraught, then the journey back was potentially worse. My train from New Street was delayed due to a fault, but there was a train on the adjacent platform headed for Burton on Trent, so I boarded that instead. I later found that the delayed train had been cancelled, so the railway gods were smiling on me for once.
That’s all for this post, and my trip to Walsall. I enjoyed the trip, and might consider coming back on a less rainy and wintry day. Thanks very much for reading.