October 1st - Autumn is certainly coming to Catshill Junction and Clayhanger Coomon, as the deciduous scrub here turns golden. On this drizzly October evening, despite the murk, it looked beautiful.
I note the building taking place on the former Bayley House site is coming on well, but the sculpture on the far side of the water is being rapidly claimed by the scrub.
I do hope it doesn’t get forgotten there.
October 1st - Spotted this bike on the train today. It’s a Cannondale, a brand I’m not keen on, mainly for their curious approach to design and resolute defiance of industry standards.
I snatched these images on the phone, as the owner was clearly happy with his new steed. The bike has an interesting feature - ‘Headshok’ suspension. Rather than conventional front systems, where both fork legs travel together and work in tandem, this system is at the fork crown, and much of the mechanism - dampers etc. - is in the head-tube and between crown and fork.
Initially appealing, it means all the load in work is on one member, rather than two; the system is utterly proprietary, and requires frequent, expensive, short milage interval services. Finally, you only have to look at them funny and they stop working.
There are avid Cannondale fans out there, and many love Headshok. My experience was that it was a whole bag of hurt.
I wish my fellow cyclist all the best of luck with his new bike. I think he’ll need it.
September 30th - These guys crease me up. Often on my way home, I cycle down Four Crosses Road in Shelfield. A garden there backs onto the footpath, and these three tiny little dogs have the run of the yard.
When I go past, they always go bananas. Ferociously yapping, growling and snapping, they appear to loathe my very soul.
I’m convinced that if they could get out, they’d have a really good go at savaging me. But not one of them is larger than your average cat.
I think they imagine they’re actually wolves…
September 30th - Once you get used to the idea (and it does take me a good while to do so), Autumn is beautifully enjoyable. The colours are astounding. Everything from fallen conkers, to bright orange berries, to golden leaves and dew-collecting spiderwebs makes it beautiful to be riding right now.
All on one short section of road on an industrial estate.
September 29th - I’d nipped into Birmingham on what seemed like a reasonable afternoon, then got the train back to Walsall. As I got nearer, the skies darkened more and more. It didn’t look good.
I emerged from the station about 6pm, and it was like dusk, with almost biblically ominous conditions.
I got as far as Rushall when the heavens opened, but it didn’t last long. It’s been the driest September on record here, and the rain was refreshing, and all too short-lived.
September 28th - On a decaying tree stump near the canal just by Bishton, these fine specimens of Dryad’s Saddle polypore fungus. They were huge - dinnerplate sized. The cellular structure on the curled edge is fascinating, too.
September 28th - Up on the Chase on a balmy, sunny afternoon that apart from the colour, could have been May rather than September.
I came up through Heath Hayes and over Hednesford, over the site of the RAF base. I loved the new RAF Trail markers with the roundel.
Birches Valley was rammed, and not a hugely enjoyable ride - it’s hard to let rip when around every corner there are kids, or loose dogs… So I headed for Abrahams Valley via Penkridge Bank, and was relieved to see not just a deer fawn, but clear space with few people over there.
The pines are beginning to turn - another week or so and they’ll be gorgeous.
I hopped from Seven Springs to Stepping Stones, over Milford Common and Shugborough, where from the zigzag bridge I watched two horse riders cautiously fording the trent.
Racing back through Longdon, a familiar patch of cyclamen I forget every year until they flower, and they take me by surprise. Such delicate, lovely flowers.
It’s good to be back on decent weekend rides after so long waiting for the foot to sort itself out.
September 27th - Having visited the farm shop, returned via Weeford and Little Hay. Autumn is really kicking in now, and even on this very dull, overcast day, the colours were lovely. By the drainage lagoon at Thickbroom, you’d never realise you were less than 15 metres from the A38.
The rooftops of Weeford - John Wyatt’s exemplar village, built as an advertisement of his architectural prowess - still fascinate me. From the high cemetery near the community hall, the view is commanding and beautiful.
I noted that the land north of Park Lane, between Shenstone and Little Hay is now almost totally given over to free range pigs, snorting and rooting through the brown earth. They must outnumber local residents by a healthy number, and their produce - a quantity of which I’d just bought - is fine and tasty.
I couldn’t help thinking though that if they ever got together and rose up, we’d be under porcine rule within a matter of days… perhaps Animal Farm wasn’t a satire after all.
September 27th - Spotted as I was passing in Flats Lane, Weeford, a young retriever and his comforter - which appears to be a mop head.
What a charmer. Could have taken him home for those sad, brown eyes alone.
Septemver 27th - I’ve been passing this odd, low farmhouse/barn in Knowle Lane, south of Lichfield, for years. It looks disused, but someone clearly used to live here.
It’s more redolent of a railway station building than a farm, but has impressive chimneys. There seems to be a bigger house behind, and this the outbuildings, but it’s hard to tell. It has some curious features, including the door or aperture halfway up the wall.
Since the lane here is a partial holloway, it’s impossible to get a good angle for a photo, but this is a fascinating little bit of architecture. Does anyone know the history?
September 26th - Another great sky as I nipped down into Stonnall in the dying light. Coming back into Brownhills form Shire Oak, the view, as ever, surprised with it’s beauty.
The view down Shire Oak Hill to Brownhills is one of the best around here, but few ever seem to notice it. Yes, it’s urban, and not beautiful, really. But it has an interesting, busy urban charm I rather love - particularly at sundown, when the buildings catch the light and are rendered precious.
September 26th - I nipped over to Burntwood to get some shopping in after work. On the way, I passed through Chasewater.
Near the top of the dam I saw an older chap with a bicycle trailer, containing a handsome, elderly brown and white collie dog. When your old mate cant walk so far, but still loves the fresh air and a change of scene, you do what you can.
In this case it was saddle up the bike, get a trailer, put some old carpet in it for comfort, and use it as a chariot.
A lovely sight; two old friends out for a constitutional - not unlike the two boater dogs I spotted on my return at Anglesey Basin. I think they’d had a falling out as they seemed to be studiously ignoring each other…
September 25th - I spotted this by change in Butlers Passage, Walsall. A dark, dingy alleyway, it’s not a pleasant place, and I normally scoot the bike through here to get on the road home if I’ve been in the town centre.
Today, I happened to glance left, and there was a beautifully executed partial stencil of Snow White apparently drinking coffee with a lad in a baseball hat.
I guess it’s a visual joke based on the Italian cafe a few yards to the right.
It’s beautifully executed, and seems to be by the same hand as the now erased ‘Class War’ stencil that was nearby until very recently. The art is confident yet cursory, and beautifully thought out.
A wonderful thing that brought a real smile to my face. My compliments to the artist.
September 25th - Spotted in darkest Wednesbury whilst nipping out on an errand, a giant, concrete lego brick.
How long have these been a thing? Why was I not informed?
A world where four-feet wide giant lego exists cannot be all bad. But why just use it as an anti-vehicle barrier and not build something instead?
A wasted opportunity, I feel…
Setember 24th - My return from Walsall an hour or so later was similarly in a gorgeous, but darker golden hour that made the red bricks of north Walsall glow beautifully. The nights really are drawing in now, and I’ll soon be commuting with lights on. It actually tried to rain on me as I rode home, but the sun never went in.
I guess that just now, we’re entering the autumn period of great sunsets…
Bring it on.