Plastic Population

I’ve never been one for giving things up for lent. As soon as I try to resist chocolate, it consumes my thoughts and I’ve failed before I’ve barely begun.

But giving up plastic for lent? Yeah I could give that a go.

The problem that is plastic is ever present through the incredible tv documentaries such as Blue Planet and A Plastic Whale. We really cannot go on discarding single use plastic and not give a thought to what happens to it once we’ve put it in the bin. Even the stuff that makes it to the recycling centre can often not be recycled and it turns out the plastic we thought was biodegradable merely breaks up into micro-plastics which we are now undoubtedly consuming through the food chain.

The madwblog family have been trying to cut down on plastics for some time by taking the shopping bags to the supermarket, recycling effectively and reusing where we can but single use plastic permeates every part of our lives. Just think about the plastic in each room of your house. In your car. In your work place. It seems such an enormous beast to beat.

But as the old saying goes – how do you eat an elephant?

One bite at a time.

Reducing our reliance on single use plastic can be done in small progressive steps. Giving up one thing at a time leads to a change in habits which lasts. In the madwblog house we gave up buying sandwich bags first and invested in more reusable tubs to put our lunch items in. Next we stopped using bags to put fruit and veg in at the shops. Now we take canvas or string bags to carry the apples and oranges. We’re trying to remember to take a reusable cup out when we think we may make a coffee stop off and once all the liquid hand soap bottles are empty, we’re switching to bars of soap instead.

The Church of England have issued a program for lent to give up the plastics and it looks pretty doable. The madwblog household are going to give it a try and, unlike the battle with chocolate, if we can’t manage it all we will have managed some and we will have begun to defeat the plastic beast. And also unlike chocolate, we won’t be going back to using single use plastic once lent is over. It’s a win-win for us and the environment.

Lent begins on Wednesday 14 February and Madwblog will be reporting on #plasticfreeforlent throughout the 40 days. The Great British Spring Clean is on the weekend of 2-4 March when, as last year, there will be community litter picks in Clayhanger again over the weekend. Keep an eye on madwblog on Twitter (@madwblog) and Facebook for details.

Join in. Accept the challenge. Go #plasticfreeforlent.

Incidents last night in Brownhills… | BrownhillsBob’s Brownhills Blog

Having had to attend a speed awareness course a few years ago, I have become very aware of mine, and others, speed whilst driving. I’m not perfect, I make mistakes and exceed the limit occasionally, but the point is that you are aware of your speed and make changes if you need to. One thing they teach you on the course is to be able to ‘read’ what the speed limit should be on a road if there are no signs visible. If there is a system of street lighting, it’s 30, unless otherwise stated. I always think it’s much easier to speed up if you’ve judged the limit to be too low than it is to slam your anchors on when you realise you are going too fast.

The other thing I learned was that if you’re late, you’re late. No amount of driving faster or edging 40 in a 30 is going to get you there quicker. And even it it does, it will be seconds. Is it worth risking an accident or speeding fine for that?

So I’ve noticed that since the road has been widened and resurfaced along the Pelsall Road between Clayhanger and Pelsall that 30 is not fast enough for some drivers who insist on over-taking on that nice wide stretch in front of the One Stop and Clean and Green. In the day time it’s not so bad, there are parked cars, lorries and buses, and the pedestrian crossing keeping everything at an orderly pace, but come the evening, that’s when silliness happens. There have been several crashes over the last few months on the Pelsall Road and so I have written to Cllr Wade to ask if any action can be taken to review the safety of that stretch of road. Clearer speed limit signs perhaps?

Hi Steve, 
Hope you are well. 
After the crash (another one) on the Pelsall Road this time with the junction of Clayhanger Lane, I wonder if I can raise the issue of speed along that stretch of road, particularly from Stevie Ansells to the canal bridge. 
The road widens here and cars frequently exceed the 30 limit and will often over take those sticking to the speed limit. As this stretch is right outside clean and green I think the council have a duty to better enforce the speed limit. Most problems occur in the evening as in the day the volume of traffic and the presence of lorries and buses prevents any hazardous driving. 
I look forward to hearing your thoughts. 

I can honestly say that the things I learned on the speed awareness course were the best and most helpful I have ever received in my 28 years as a driver. I can highly recommend it. Just don’t speed in order to get on one!

Hi folks, just a heads-up if I may about some rumours circulating about an additional incident that took place in Brownhills High Street yesterday evening, at around the same time as the collision …

Source: Incidents last night in Brownhills… | BrownhillsBob’s Brownhills Blog

Clayhanger Great British Spring Clean – make a difference.

Blessed with an unscheduled day off, and wanting to make the most of the morning sunshine, hound and I walked a route which took in the litter ‘hot spots’ in Clayhanger ahead of the Great British Spring Clean events planned for the weekend.

At first, it doesn’t seem so bad. Chances are, you would barely notice it passing by in your car – but once you start looking, the amount of litter in Clayhanger is alarming. There is certainly plenty to keep a team of volunteers busy at the weekend!

The hedgerows along Northfields Way, Clayhanger Lane and Bridge Street are quite packed with litter. With Spring not far away and new shoots coming up, now is the time to clear the litter out.

Everyone is welcome to join the litter picks at the weekend. The meeting and finishing point is the co-op carpark on Clayhanger Lane.

Saturday 4th March 2017 8.30 – 10.30am

Sunday 5th March 2017 2.30 – 4.30pm

Both events are fully supported by Walsall Council and bags and litter pickers are provided.

Any time given is worthwhile. Litter is such a blight on the neighbourhood. Not only does it affect wildlife, but it makes us think and feel badly of the area we live in. Litter breeds litter. If an area is already litter strewn, a careless passerby will think nothing of adding to it because it already looks bad. In fact, I took a photograph of litter which had been left by the barriers on Northfields Way only to find on my way home that someone had added to it by leaving a Costa Coffee cup on the curb!


Litter by the barrier on Northfields Way which now has the addition of a Costa Coffee cup! image madwblog

There is plenty of litter to be found within a few metres of the co-op carpark, so if you are short of time or unable to walk far, everyone is able to help.

Spending just 10 minutes to help fill a bag with litter makes an enormous difference. Not just to your neighbourhood, but also to you. You can go home knowing that you have made a difference.


A Rubbish Year?

The first community volunteer litter pick in Clayhanger took place on Saturday 19th March 2016 and there have been three more since. Madwblog reflects on year of rubbish.

I like to think that madwblog listens to the Clayhanger Community. That’s certainly the way I intend it to work. The first community litter pick was organised in Clayhanger as a result of a conversation on Clayhanger Community Facebook page and the quarterly litter picks in Clayhanger began.

That first volunteer litter pick back in March, open to all, was supported by Walsall Council and Clean and Green who provided litter pickers and bin bags. Three litter picks have followed – Summer, Autumn and most recently Christmas – and each has been whole-heartedly supported by Laura Terry from Area Partnership and Cllr Steve Wade. The litter picks have covered from the railway bridge on Clayhanger Lane, Northfields Way, into the Community Woodland, down Clayhanger Lane, the Co-op carpark and along Bridge Street to The Spot.

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Each event has been attended by between 5 and 10 volunteers who generously give their time for two hours one Saturday morning every 3 months. On average, that’s 56 hours of total litter collection over one year. And it doesn’t go unnoticed. Almost every time a litter pick takes place, someone pulls up in a car to say ‘Well done – what a great job you are doing!’ A great reason to feel warm and fuzzy and a little bit smug.

Amoung the volunteers are frequent litter pickers Gaz and Jackie. Jackie explains why she joins in ‘There’s a great sense of community spirit, pride in our village. Time is of an essence to us all but what an easy way to volunteer and feel good!’ And Gaz adds ‘It only took me an hour to litter pick two bags of rubbish, if we had more people giving an hour of their time, litter wouldn’t be a problem in Clayhanger.’ Jackie agrees ‘Even for half an hour, we would love more people to join in.’

And it’s easy! No prior experience or special skill needed to pick litter (although I do admit to wrangling with a picker tangled in a hedge whilst trying to extract an elusive drinks can – but I expect that’s just me).

The problem is, the litter doesn’t stay away. Within no time at all its back and sometimes it seems worse than ever, especially in the winter when its gets blown around and the bare hedges don’t hide it. I know there are several folk in Clayhanger who frequently go out with a bin bag and collect litter whilst walking the dog and many of you will know long-time Clayhanger resident, Malcolm, who not only diligently collects litter, but also empties over-following bins on the common and even clears up dog mess. An unsung community hero.

Some of the effects of litter are obvious – it looks terrible and we know that it can harm wildlife if animals ingest plastics in particular or get stuck in carrier bags or other packaging – but there are other effects which may not seem obvious at first. The charity Keep Britain Tidy has been campaigning with government and commerce for many years to seek ways to reduce packaging and subsequently litter. An extensive report: When it comes to litter, which side of the fence are you on? published on their website in 2013 suggests that:

‘Litter can be harmful to communities. Research shows that people would rather not spend time in places that are littered and not cared for and that can result in damage to community spirit, wellbeing and health whilst increasing fear of crime…

If an area is affected by litter and grafiti, it encourages further anti-social behaviour. This was proven by recent research in
the Netherlands, which showed an increase in trespassing, dropping litter and even stealing money, if the environment was poorly managed and neglected. It has also been found that litter correlated with the incidence of crime at bus stops in downtown Los Angeles and adjoining neighbourhoods. In England, around 8 in 10 land managers think that fighting minor crimes like litter and grafiti would help to reduce larger crimes and improve safety in their area.’

The report is challenging, suggesting that:

‘Litter is a divisive issue – you are either part of the problem or part of the solution.’

Tough and uncomfortable words. The report is well evidenced with research and well written with info-graphics, making it an easy to digest, interesting read. The final page ends with the tag line ‘love where you live and get involved’ urging us all to take responsibility for the consumption and disposal of packaging.

Having established a habit for scheduling litter picks in Clayhanger, they will continue at least quarterly through 2017. The first of which will take place on Saturday 21st January 2017. The aim of this litter pick is to concentrate on the hedgerow along Bridge Street from The Spot to Clayhanger Bridge and then underneath Clayhanger Bridge.

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Resolve this New Year to give some love to Clayhanger Village by joining a litter pick. It’s free, (you don’t have to sign up with an email address, remember a password or even give your name) it makes you feel good and it has a positive impact on the Village and the nature we share it with. Just turn up and get picking.

Clayhanger New Year litter pick. Saturday January 21st 2017. 8.30 – 10.30. Meet at The Spot on Bridge Street, Clayhanger.




Northfields Way – Work on barriers to begin mid-November. 

The following press release has been issued by Walsall Council this morning:

Walsall Council has now given the go ahead to a £10,000 traffic calming project in Brownhills to tackle continued

anti-social behaviour on the Northfields Way in Clayhanger. In recent years residents of the estate had grown increasingly frustrated by noisy and speeding vehicles, illegal parkers, fly tippers and the general anti social behaviour on this small stretch of road. Despite additional support from the area partnership and residents carefully logging incidents to build a case for more policing in the area, the problems still persisted.
Earlier this year the Area Partnership and Police met with the community to discuss a proposal put forward by the council’s transport team which would see the blocking of Northfields Way at the junction with Allerdale Road as a solution to stop persistent ASB offenders gaining access to the estate. It was seen as the best solution and was supported across all political parties.
Deputy Leader of Walsall Council, Cllr Lee Jeavons said; “Residents and council members will be pleased that we have identified funding to implement this scheme, so that the work on road barriers will now commence in mid November of 2016.”
Blocking the road on the estate will make a real difference to the Brownhills residents. It also sends out a strong message to those who try to blight other people’s lives with persistent anti social behaviour – that it will not be tolerated. “


Barriers on Northfields Way – Where are they?

It can not have not escaped any Clayhanger residents’ notice that the barriers proposed for Northfields Way, with the intention of preventing ASB including illegal encampments, have not materialised.

There has been a public consultation, a traffic regulation order and final plans… but where are the barriers?

This has been a question which has been repeatedly asked by Area Partnership Manager Laura Terry and Cllr Wade on many occasions on Clayhanger residents behalf. As their efforts have been to no avail, madwblog has written to Mr Gordon, Head of Change and Governance at Walsall Council, to ask him where the barriers are:

‘Dear Mr Gordon,

As a resident of Clayhanger and a hyperlocal blogger – – I write concerning the proposed barriers for Northfields Way in Clayhanger to prevent ASB and illegal encampments. 
I have had a continued interest in the prevention of anti-social behaviour on Northfields Way since June 2015 when I first discussed my concerns with Cllr Steve Wade. Since then, Northfields Way has been subject to three illegal encampments, regular fly-tipping, ASB involving drug use, motorbike racing, and loitering. Like many residents of Clayhanger, I took active involvement in the Public Consultation events in March of this year and was satisfied when the Traffic Order began and the plans were finally released for the barriers to be erected effectively closing Northfileds Way in an effort to prevent some, if not all, of these issues.
However, there has now been a long delay in work beginning to install the barriers. Even taking into account a change of administration in May, the commencement of work seems long over-due. Residents of Clayhanger continue to be subject to anti-social behaviour on Northfields Way all of which have been duly reported to the Police. Since Laura Terry is well aware of these issues and continues to be supportive of the community in their concerns I trust, as her manager, you are too.
It is interesting to note that only yesterday (29th September) Walsall Council took out an injunction to combat ASB in the borough including illegal encampments. Whilst this, I assume, will give the Council greater powers, could it not also serve to force illegal encampments to split into smaller groups and target areas previously unexplored or unused for some time? Would this make Northfields Way vulnerable to another encampment before the barriers are in place? The subsequent court action and clean-up would be a huge waste of public resources and would undoubtedly enrage the already frustrated community in Clayhanger. 
Having invested in a full public consultation and engaged with Clayhanger residents on this issue I would now expect a date to be set to commence the work. Should there be any reason why this is not the case the residents whom have placed their trust, and recently their votes, in this current administration should be kept fully informed of the situation.
Mr Gordon, I would be most grateful if you could respond to this email by confirming the following:
  1. Funds have been allocated to erect the barriers;
  2. A date is set to commence work which is within a reasonable time frame;
  3. Residents of Clayhanger have the support and commitment of Walsall Council to prevent ASB, including illegal encampments, on Northfields Way.
I look forward to hearing from you shortly,’

Details of Walsall Council’s recent injunction can be found here.


Clayhanger Autumn Litter Pick success.

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Another Saturday morning meet at Clayhanger Co-op and another Community Litter pick in Clayhanger.

Unfortunately, I was unable to attend the litter pick this time as I was unwell, but the event was stoically supported once more. Council representatives Laura and Matt were in attendance and organised litter pickers and rubbish collection and about half a dozen community members came to lend their support. Cllr Steve Wade also lent a hand and is a regular supporter of the Clayhanger Litter picks

It’s surprising how much litter can be collected by a few people.

Image provided by L Terry

Image provided by L Terry

Unfortunately, there is never going to be a shortage of rubbish in our village and there is as much to collect as there are volunteers to collect it! With winter only a few short months away, rubbish tends to be blown around and is more noticeable as the shrubs and bushes die back revealing litter trapped for months unseen.

Current litter picks focus on the co-op carpark and the main roads through Clayhanger, but with more volunteers, the common, the park and the estates could be covered too. It’s a great way to get up and about on a Saturday morning and an opportunity to meet fellow Clangers.

The next litter pick is scheduled for Saturday 10th December 2016 with mulled wine and mince pies for all those who volunteer! As usual, meet at the co-op carpark 8.30-10.30 am.

Clayhanger Community Centre Summer of Love.


Since the public meeting to discuss the future of Clayhanger Community Centre in July, there has been much activity in the building on Church Street.

At the meeting, appeals were made to help fix the roof, secure the boundary fence, tidy the garden area and redecorate the interior.

Happily, the roof has been fixed courtesy of Cameron Homes who donated the cash to complete the job. The roof tiles are now back in place and the risk of leaks or further damage through the winter have now been averted. The boundary has been secured thanks to the generosity of WM fencing and local tradesmen have relaid the slabs at the rear making the area more even underfoot.

Further applications for funding have been made to undertake work to the interior.

The Annual General Meeting for Clayhanger Community Center is to be held on Tuesday 27th September at 7.30pm. Anyone is welcome to attend and tea, coffee and cakes will be on offer after the meeting. The AGM will review the work of the committee since July and set out plans for the future. If you, or someone you know, would like to act as a Director on the committee, nominations must be made in writing by 23rd September to 28, Church Street, Clayhanger, Walsall. WS8 7EG. A leaflet detailing this information has been delivered to all houses in Clayhanger Village. The cost of printing was covered by the generosity of a local resident.

The primary purpose of the Community Centre is to serve the needs of the residents of Clayhanger and as such an on-line survey has been posted via the Centre’s Facebook page asking residents for their views on the centre and what they would like to see provided in the future. The response so far has been very positive and although there is only 24 hours or so left (the survey ends at midnight on Tuesday 20th September) there is still time to make your views known. Click here to complete the survey.

As well as the building work, there have been successful events over the summer including a ‘Water Play Day’ and games activities on the park with equipment donated by Tesco.

As was discussed at the public meeting back in July, Clayhanger Community Centre is very short of cash. Recent work on the building has only been possible due to the generosity of local business. More funds need to be raised to continue to improve the building and appeal to groups to hold activities there. Show your support for Clayhanger Community Centre by attending the AGM on Tuesday 27th September at 7.30pm. There is much love in Clayhanger for the Community Centre. Come along and show yours.

All stitched up – Walsall Silver Thread Tapestry progresses.


The Silver Thread Tapestry project is one which I have followed with awe. Tapestry is most definitely avant garde at present with Grayson Perry touring his tapestry most recently in my home town of Coventry.

This Saturday 20th August brings one of the first opportunities to see all the elements of the tapestry together. There are 11 parts to the whole in total and Clayhanger had an input into the design of one of the panels!

Deborah Slade, Creative Development Team Manager at Walsall Council, emails:

‘Sat 20th August 10 – 3pm at The New Art Gallery
See the 11 Tapestries together for the first time and many of the 90 pieces being sewn by local people. Support our progress and meet the stitchers. Silver Thread Artist Hunt Emerson, famous as artist on The Beano will attend to see his artwork converted to stitching.’

Deborah also explains the journey so far:

‘Our Journey so far Jan 2016 – August 2016

Walsall Council Creative Development Team celebrates 25 years of delivering community arts in Walsall. We are proud to announce our success in receiving £73,400 Arts Council England Lottery Funding to deliver a unique year-long community arts project for Walsall Borough

We will involve an army of local people to create 11 unique tapestries representing the six towns and other areas in Walsall Borough. The tapestries will reflect the borough’s living history, diversity and commonality; acknowledge the past, reflect the present and embrace the future.

Creating the tapestries will provide the common thread to produce a commemorative book featuring 25 of Walsall Council’s Creative Development Team projects, which include The Brownhills Miner, Festivals and a host of other projects from the 25 year history of the team’s work.
The book will tell the story of the engaging creative processes and the impact participatory arts have made in Walsall’s communities across an area so diverse in history, heritage and geography.

The Silver Thread Tapestries and the book project will demonstrate how the Creative Development Team is a thread linking people, places and policies and instigating positive change in communities. We wish to celebrate and bring to life that thread and show people how we have sewn it.

The link will be made with the Leather industry by including leather work on the tapestries and we have discovered that Bloxwich was famous for a while for needle making as well as nails and awl blades. Local Company Somerfields (Operational in Sandbank from 1700’s til 1992) made it into the Guinness book of records for the world’s largest needle more than 6ft long for sewing mattresses made by Mr George Davies, master forger.

Midlands Artist Hunt Emerson famous for being an artist on the Beano comic, will create the designs for the 11 tapestries, at which point we will need an army of sewing groups and individuals to help sew the images. The sewing will start after Easter and continue until the autumn to create a unique set of tapestries to be exhibited together and toured around the borough in January 2017.

Over the past 25 years Walsall Council Creative Development Team (Formerly known as Walsall Council Community Arts Team) delivered hundreds of participatory arts projects involving thousands of local people. We will feature 25 of the best project examples in the Silver Thread Book.

Silver Thread project will be the final project of The Creative Development Team. The Launch event will also be a farewell celebration for the Staff so we will look forward to seeing people who have worked with us over the years to celebrate our achievements.

Look out for further press about the Silver Thread tapestries and book as the project unfolds over the year, we want to involve as many local people as we can.

The final piece will be on display on Friday 20th January 6pm – 8pm at The New Art Gallery.
‘Official Launch of the Tapestries tour. Join us and special guests in celebrating the finished tapestries, the result of thousands of hours of sewing by local people.’

The level of skill involved in this piece is phenomenal. And all done by Walsall sewers. Worth a look I’d say!



Working magic. 

The internet is a truly powerful thing

At 7.45pm on Thursday 14th July, a public meeting was called at Clayhanger Community Centre to discuss and shape it’s future.

At 9.30pm on the same evening, the meeting ended and offers of administration and leafleting were made to the team of directors.

By lunch time Saturday 16th July, further offers of help had come in and the list of volunteers is growing.

At around 11 am Sunday 17th July, a Facebook post was made by a friend of CCC asking local tradesmen for help with a DIY SOS style intervention.

By 11 pm on Sunday 17th July, scores of tradesmen had put their names and skills to a list making a commitment to address the building work issues.

This evening, less than 96 hours (yep that’s 4 days before you start to calculate it) the directors of CCC are meeting tradesmen to formulate a plan to make good the areas which need repair and to make improvements so the building can be fully utilised. 

Now that’s not just the power of the Internet, that’s the power of people who come together for a common cause for the greater good. 

And that, dear reader, is magic.