Bromsgrove to Belbroughton

The following is a transcription of the trip report. Trip photographs follow.

Sunday, 15th Jan 1956

Being written in far retrospect (and blue ink) this report cannot help but omit mention of many of the spontaneous now forgotten (but none the less enjoyable) trivial inconsequentialities which transform the mere act of walking, admittedly through pleasant countryside, into a most pleasurable perambulation - possibly enlightening in addition, for how many of the older generation of Wayfarers owe their entire knowledge of sewage disposal to Ken R.?

Why is it then that so few people wish to take part in such ventures? "Niceness", (in the humour sense) and the possibility of us forming a too-tight coterie have been reasons advanced, but events subsequent to this particular ramble have demonstrated the falsity of such accusations.

On this occasion the small turn-out may have been due to a wish to spend at least the first Sunday morning of the term in bed, or to doubts of the leader's ability to make a rapid recovery from a hangover. Whatever the explanation may be, only 9 people took part although the weather was fine. However, it must be admitted that a party of this size formed a much more compact bunch than that seen in some rambles.

We took the 9.35 a.m. 'bus to Bromsgrove (again!) and had a mile and a half of rather uninteresting walking - skirting a cemetery and some smallholdings - before reaching really open countryside after crossing Battlefield Brook (no local historians being present the identity of the battle remains unrevealed).

After practical demonstrations of what one really looks like after going through a hedge backwards we descended to Dodford Church (the design of which was criticised both for loack of, and multiplicity of, style). Pleasantly wooded countryside formed the next couple of miles of our route, after which we crossed Hockley Brook and moved on to farmland en route for Belbroughton and lunch. On the sole occasion during this latter period when we found a clearly marked track an irate landowner informed us that we were trespassing. This rebuff, however, did not dampen our spirits, or thirst, a gradual increase of pace enabling us to reach Belbroughton - with its two churches in one - about 12.30 p.m. It is worth noting that for the second time this session a Smith's pub was found which did not sell Bitter. (The ancient photographs of Spanish bullfights on the walls - the photographs not the fights - hardly recompensed for such a disappointment.) Future leaders, you have been warned!

The afternoon's perambulation took us first to Sling Common, encountering some mud of traditional Wayfaring quality, although its viscosity proved inferior to that of the ploughland mud traversed later in the day. (Any geophysicist or geologist may care to comment on this feature.)

A small woodside track up Romsley Hill was then followed, and after reaching the crest, the Halesowen-Bromsgrove road was crossed. Our next objective, beyond more woods, was the Austin branch railway line, and after sighting this we walked about parallel to it until reaching Romsley Viaduct. This is a remarkably large structure for what has never been more than a minor branch line, and presents an ungainliness outstanding even considering its period of erection.

Then under the viaduct and through Twiland wood to bypass the village of Illey, which although only 1/2 mile outside the city boundary is only just in the process of having mains electricity and water laid on.

Further brisk walking, as dusk drew near, brought us to the ruins of Halesowen Abbey. From the 13th till 16th centuries St. Mary's was an extremely important and powerful establishment, but as a result of first the Dissolution, and then the efforts of 18th century builders who removed much of the masonry to erect mock ruins, little of its past glory now remains. Most of the stonework is now incorporated in Manor Farm, forming the walls of outbuildings; the detached infirmary now being a barn. Parts of the transepts still attempt to proclaim their pristine majesty, by rising apart from their present mundane surroundings in a manner that would surely provoke a homily from a follower of Rose Macauly (author of "The Pleasures of Ruins"). However, the cycle racing arena next door presented more interest to the majority of the party.

As dusk fell we now walked along the towpath of an old canal (recently converted into a boating pool), with on our left, beyond the fungoid agglomeration of Blackcountry industry, the triumphing spire of Halesowen's beautiful church (well worth a visit), and to the right the public gardens of the Leasowes (in the 18th century, as the seat of the affluent and influential - though artistically mediocre - poet Shenstone, one of the country's foremost landscape gardens).

After leaving the canal at Mucklow Hill, all but two of the party were either exhausted or eager to return, and so caught the 'bus back to the city. Mike M. (as usual in shorts) was not going to miss any of the planned walk, and hence we completed the day - or by now evening - by walking through the Leasowes to Quinton, thus enabling me to claim that I have walked all the way home from a Sunday ramble.

Dennis H.

"How to get dragged through the hedge backwards"