One night, right in front of the Black Country Arms...
How long must it take to repair the paving at the top of the Walsall market? This fence has been here for at least 3 weeks and no work has been done so far - walking in the night there feels like you are in some kind of ghost town, with a huge supermarket looming over closed shops and crumbling infrastructure.
Grim image indeed.
And while we’re at it and if it’s a question of money, couldn’t ASDA contribute to the renovation? The cobbles are right there, in front of the big ASDA logo.
And here is the bit that still looks alright, but might soon start deteriorating:
I am sorry for the long break, but I’ve just come back from a study trip around Lithuania organised within the international project Localise. The aim was to get to know Lithuanian cultural institutions, ngos and other organisations running projects and initiatives with and for local communities. We travelled around Lithuania in a group of 15 artists, community arts and culture animation practitioners from three countries: Poland, Lithuania and the UK.
It was a very fruitful and inspiring experience in many ways, but I really didn’t expect to see this in a little town of Moletai, about 60 km north of Vilnius:
I don’t know if it is a guerilla gardening project, a local school initiative or an activity that was a part of the 650 years of Moletai festival, but look at the effect! It’s easy, it’s cheap and very very impressive.
I am starting to collect 1,5 l bottles. Let me know if you have any and are planning to be in Caldmore anytime soon.
I met with my mate Q yesterday for some cycling around Walsall - I had been planning to go to Chasewater & Hammerwich for a while so I proposed following National Route 5 to the reservoir. I don’t think he expected such a long ride - we ended up doing 40 km in a bit more than 3 hours.
But hey, the sun was shining and everything invited us to go for a ride!
Everything is in bloom now and the canals look amazing - both the industrial and wilder fragments. It was quite muddy on the tow-path alongside Daw End and Rushall Canal. It was quite difficult to cycle on that bit between Aldridge and Rushall when the path is very narrow and can be wet. Still fun, though!
Chasewater itself was a bit of a disappointment - even though I’m not even sure what I expected, a lake, maybe? There wasn’t that much water in it and we learnt that it was due to the two years’ works being done on the dam. They’re supposed to finish by the end of the year, so I am already looking forward to the next!
We saw a lot of ducks and swans with their young, a dead dog lying by the tow path right opposite Brownhills’ Tesco and a crazy heron on Rushall Canal that kept on flying off and landing in the middle of the path in front of us.
Ah, and we had a short stop at Manor Arms pub in Rushall. What a great place for a break on a day out.
It was a delightful day. The National Route was good, so I will be exploring other parts soon - Lichfield, anyone?
This morning the patch looked like this (notice the layer of fresh soil!):
There were some flowers ready to be planted (donated by Walsall DIY and/or bought by Caldmore Residents Group at very special prices):
I had a chat and a nice cup of tea with Arjun at The Greedy Pig Cafe. Arjun knows every nook and cranny of Caldmore so he is going to make a map of other patches like these, where rubbish has been left and that nobody seems to be taking care of. Already looking forward to it!
And when a couple of hours later I was on my way back home, this is what I saw:
How impressive is that?:-) Everybody was stopping by, admiring the view and the work and SMILING.
“Through this layering of uses, emergent qualities and serendipitous activities start to happen. This isn’t just hanging flower baskets. It’s enabling communities to showcase their identity in the public realm.”—Stop thinking big by William Doig - http://www.salon.com/2012/06/16/stop_thinking_big/singleton/
I went out this morning to the weekly yoga class at AAINA Women’s Centre on Bath Street only to find our guerilla garden radically changed! Somebody dug through all the rubbish and weeds and grass on the other side of the guerilla garden we’ve been working on and really made it a great job! It’s absolutely clear now, with some rubbish bags remaining to be removed.
I couldn’t even imagine what it must have taken to dig such a big peace of land - and I tell you, it’s at least 4 times bigger than the initial garden - so I started asking around. The Greedy Pig, Caldmore Timber and Walsall DIY all told the same story - Arjun Chand from Caldmore Neighbourhood Watch spent the whole day on Wednesday digging the extension of the garden! Because after the meeting on Monday he wanted to show that the Watch does think positive!
I had a chat with him today on the phone and he said that he’s going to keep on working on it, Walsall DIY has promised to help buy new plants at low prices, so you will all see the new garden very soon!
Obviously, I am very, very excited. Because of this new extension and also because of the support declared by Caldmore Traders Association, who re-blogged my last blog entry. The chair, Ali Mahmood, wants to become involved and make the Guerilla Garden on of Caldmore Village landmarks. I have also been invited to BBC WM to talk about this blog next week, so you must excuse me if I feel a bit overwhelmed!
And it all started with this little garden…
Great things are happening, and there are more to come!
Think positive! Guerilla gardening in Caldmore, Walsall
Guerilla gardening means taking care of an abandoned site or area not cared for by anyone. It is often done in reaction to a noticeable issue in the community and its environment - for example fly tipping or lack of green spaces. It can be, but doesn’t have to be, an act of defiance towards the local council or those held responsible for the problematic situation. But for me, guerilla gardening is about making positive change.
On Monday I went to a monthly meeting of Caldmore Neighbourhood Watch to learn more about my (still new) community, its problems and institutions. And while the group seems to be doing a great deal reporting lots of issues such as holes in the road, illegal parking, fly tipping, criminal behaviour and so on, it is also very critical. Everything seems to be about issues to be resolved (and yes, there is no end to them) and the ones that have been reacted to by the Council, the Police and other services tend to be easily forgotten. What was missing there - and made me feel quite hopeless and a tad depressed - was thinking positive. Why don’t we work together to make the difference and appreciate the work we have done so far?
Guerilla gardening is community arts. And while many people would shy away from calling themselves artists, there is an art form there, there is a community and there is a change, even if at a very small scale. And there is a lot of social capital to be built there, I tell you!
Caldmore Guerilla Gardeners adopted an unused piece of land at the corner of Arundel Street and West Bromwich Street in Caldmore, Walsall. The place was always full of rubbish, with some evidences of fly tipping too.
The garden was planted in the first half of May 2012. The plants were partly bought by its creators, but mostly donated by Walsall DIY - a hardware and gardening store on the other side of the road. Its owner saw us working for two days, thought we were absolute (yet positive) nutters but then decided to get involved and reward our hard work.
The garden has been since cared for daily both by its creators and local community members. It has been watered by people from Greedy Pig Cafe and Caldmore Timber - http://www.caldmoretimber09ltd.co.uk/ - and there is hardly any rubbish any more. Caldmore Timber has promised to make a new wooden fence to protect the garden.
Saturday, 09/06/12, saw us doing quite a lot of weeding. The owner of Walsall DIY donated new surfinias and violet plants and gave us a huge discount on soil, plant food and few pots of pansies. We got a lot of positive feedback from passing members of the community, with one of them donating a beautiful lavender plant!
Needless to say - I feel elevated! There is a lot more to be done, we are thinking of working on the rest of the green patch to get rid of all the rubish and plant some flowers, too. Stay tuned!
Cycling along the canals: Walsall-Wednesfield-Darlaston-Walsall
I can’t seem to be able to free myself from that pile of work brought from Poland so all the running & cycling escapades are whimsical and unplanned, occurring when I happen to finish something or am too annoyed to work anymore. Anyway, it has got its merits as there are more things to surprise me!
The sky has cleared up a bit so I hopped on my bike & cycled along Walsall Canal to its junction with Wyley and Essington canal and then on to Wednesfield.
The route is really beautiful and green, and almost no muddy at all, even with all that rain.
Not sure what is it about the M6, but I always find cycling under the motorway a bit scary - maybe because the path is quite dark, and the concrete overwhelming. I’ve gone underneath it twice today, once near Willenhall and once near Darlaston.
I like a bit of a peek so back gardens and front windows are always a special treat for me - still seeing quite a few Union Jacks and St. George’s crosses after the Jubilee, unless it’s connected with Euro 2012 now!
One of the more picturesque bridges on the way to Wednesfield.
And more industrial landscape between Darlaston and Pleck.
I love West Midlands for this ever-changing canal experience - for me it’s one the most fascinating and hey, beautiful, places I’ve seen.
#Walsall running - the Arboretum and Rushall Canal
Running and cycling alongside West Midlands canals is one of my favourite pastimes - it enables me to combine physical exercise with exploring the region. This morning my iPhone weather forecast said sun until 11 o’clock and then rain, rain, rain; so I decided to make a run for it and use the weather while it lasts!
I got a bit lost in Highgate, so instead of heading for the Arboretum I ended up going down Jesson Rd to Birmingham Rd and THEN go towards the park. The wilder parts were lovely with hardly anyone around.
Getting to Rushall Canal was a bit of a challenge and I had to check with Google Maps several times but hey, I finally made it! The canal itself was quite busy and very picturesque, it is one of my favourite so far because it seems - at least the bit between Tame Valley Canal and Rushall itself - quite rural, a part of the countryside. Again, one of my favourite things about (this part of) West Midlands - it is very easy to get away from the city hustle & bustle and enjoy the greenery, if the weather permits.
My run was very slow but steady and I managed to achieve my furthest distance so far - 9.79 km! Getting closer and closer to my 10 km goal, what should I do next?