August 31st - ‘Why the long face, mate?’ ‘Because the summer’s over and passers by keep asking me stupid questions.’
Gorgeously nosey donkey, who brayed a hello at me as I cycled past at the bottom of Lazy Hill. I did the only reasonable thing - slammed the anchors on and went back to give him some fuss and take a few pictures.
August 31st - It was a gorgeous afternoon - sunny, warm, with only a light wind. Sadly, I missed most of it due to being unwell. I finally left for a gentle spin at 5pm, and spun up the canal to Aldridge, then over Lazy Hill and back up the Chester Road over Shire Oak into Brownhills.
I had no energy at all. But it was a lovely ride, and I stopped to photograph the view at the top of Lazy Hill and at Shire Oak. I’m astounded how far you can see from Shire Oak on a clear day - those cooling towers are the derelict ones at Willington; inbetween, Burton and the huge Argos warehouse at Barton.
Note also the wind turbine at Whittington Hurst, seemingly very close in the shot of prospect house.
A great, short ride.
August 30th - From the top of Shire Oak heading into Rushall, I stopped to admire the view, as I often do. It’s worth clicking on that top image and checking it out closely - beyond Walsall, Dudley Castle is clearly visible to the left. From here one can see just how green and verdant our area is in Summer, and I do think this vista - with the church tower above the treetops - is rather beautiful in summer. I’m still no wiser as to what the tower central on the skyline is.
Further down the Lichfield Road the houses being built on the former St. John’s school site are making progress. Interesting to see the old roof truss still in use on the open gable. In time, the new houses will adjoin the remainder of the old school.
A dull, overcast day, but still plenty to see.
August 30th - I don’t go to Shire Oak Park nearly enough. This Local Nature Reserve, which was once a sand and gravel quarry exploiting the bunter sandstone ridge on the crest of Shire Oak Hill, is a wonderful and rare place. It’s teaming with wildlife, from rabbits to amphibians, mustelids to owls. In this sandy, sheltered enclave, deciduous trees like oaks and birch (and even the odd maple) are thriving, and the outside world seems a long way away.
The reserve is maintained by Walsall Council and on this dull Saturday afternoon, it struck me how clean and litter free the place was. Like all such spots, there’s occasional nuisance from ASB and the odd idiot, but this is a lovely, little known place.
The heather in bloom is gorgeous here, but as with everywhere else, the oaks have had a bad year, with leaf miners and a lack of acorns startlingly evident. Also, I was puzzled by the white appearance of the unrecognised shrub I spotted by the main steps. Can anyone help? Is this disease, pest or normal?
August 30th - This has me flummoxed, and quite, quite furious to be honest. I rode on the cycleway onto the canal near the Jaguar plant at Castle Browmwich; from there it’s a decent ride on the canal to the city centre, via Spaghetti Junction. I do it loads. The towpaths for the whole route have been excellent in the last few years, from when they were upgraded about 10 years ago.
Today, I noted huge sections of path out of city towards Spaghetti, and further out towards Tyburn are being completely relaid. There is absolutely no need for this, and it’s a huge waste of resources that would be better employed instituting a decent towpath between Perry Barr and Rushall Junction, which is currently lousy, or from Bordesley to Solihull, which is pretty much impassible in winter or wet weather.
I’m assuming this is to do with the council and the ‘Birmingham Cycle Revolution’ - I wouldn’t trust the buggers to run a bath judging by this pointless waste.
August 29th - Never seen anything quite like this before. I was taking a lunchtime ride into Birmingham, and headed across Sutton Park to hit the Plants Brook cycleway into the city. At town gate, I came upon this curious, 3 wheeled chariot.
I’m assuming it’s electric, and it bears no registration (it occurs there could be a plate on the tailgate, which is down in the photos), although looking very moped-like with indicators and mirrors. It’s parked in a disabled bay, and from the design and rear door that doubles as a ramp, it’s clear that a normal wheelchair is propelled onto it, and the vehicle piloted using the moped-style handlebars without leaving the wheelchair.
Looks fun, actually. Never seen one before.
August 28th - Although summer is drawing to a close, some peculiar reminders remain. I don’t think I’ve ever known the canal waterlilies last as long as they have this year - white and yellow are still widely in bloom. They’re usually over by now.
Like the herons I’m so fond of, they’re an indicator of a clean waterway, and something I find beautiful and special, as you’d never see anything like this when I was a kid.
Stay as long as you like…
August 28th - A bit of a strange day. I wasn’t planning on going to work, but ended up called in anyway. It wasn’t a bad commute as it happened, and the journeys were pleasant. On the way home, I passed over the The Bridge in Walsall town centre. It was while there that I spotted something I pass by loads, that is really part of Walsall’s furniture; the concrete hippo. It occurred to me that I’d never featured it here before.
Derided and loved in equal measure, this 1970s artwork has formed a meeting point for a couple of generations of Walsallians. Up until a decade ago, the hippo basked outside BHS, and teenagers, before mobiles and social media would agree to ‘see you by the hippo at 12 o’clock’ or somesuch.
For a while, the hippo image was even used to advertise the Walsall Show.
The story of how our town came to have this bizarre object is complex and not without some debate, but I think all true Walsall folk love it. There is talk of a renovation, of fixing the broken ear. I hope they go through with it.
Walsall is full of surprises. A concrete hippo - without any apparent rhyme or reason - is just one of them. And it’s lovely.
August 27th - Just on the canal bank between the Black Cock Bridge and Walsall Wood Bridge, a crab apple tree with lots of good fruit.
This is the first tree along here I’ve seen with fruit this year. Normally there are three or four.
A sad reflection on the season, which seems to have been a bit strange. But never mind, this will make a lovely jelly for someone.
August 27th - A run out mid afternoon on an errand. I headed up the canal from Pelsall Road to Silver Street bridge, then over Clayhanger Common and the new pond to Walsall Wood.
The herons are getting really, really confident; this one was on the canal by the Watermead estate. He wasn’t a bit bothered by what was going on around him.
The Swan family were grazing by the embankment restoration near the Black Cock Bridge. The seven young I’ve followed since hatching are adult-sized now, and the first hints of adult, white plumage are beginning to show. I don’t know what the bank works have disturbed, but these graceful birds were very engaged with eating it!
August 26th - In the backlanes between Stonnall and Shenstone (I’m not going to say where) there are a secluded row of apple trees. I’ve known of them for years, and they always seem to grow decent fruit. This year, they’ve excelled themselves.
The apples aren’t huge, but there are lots of them. There are several varieties, Cox’s, Russets, and I think Granny Smiths. The Russet I nabbed was sweet, juicy and ripe, the Cox too.
I always love to see these apples.
August 26th - Even on a grim, grey day, Wall still has a fascination. Riding in via the track that constitutes Back Lane was a challenge, as it’s very overgrown, but such a delight. The fields here have been fully harvested, and look barren dressed in their underwear of stubble.
The village itself is fascinating. The half-cream, half-barebrik place with the odd gables? That was once a pub called the Seven Stars, and is now a lovely looking home.
Once, it stood on the main A5 between Brownhills and Tamworth, but the road was diverted on to a new dual carriageway half a mile to the south, and peace is restored.
A lovely little village.
August 26th - The day was better, I guess, by virtue of being dry, but when I set out for a tentative ride mid-afternoon it was cold, and a harsh wind blew. It wasn’t a bad October day, I thought.
I’m taking it easy. My foot isn’t completely better, and I thought I’d see how far I could push it before embarking on longer rides again. I looped up to Chasewater, then down to Wall, through Chesterfield and Hilton, back to Lower Stonnall, then home. Apart from a bit of toe-burn, not too bad.
What did impress was the fruits I saw. A terrific year for large, plump conkers; the tree at Edial between Burntwood and Pipe Hill is laden, and although suffering leaf miner damage, has a huge crop this year. In a few weeks standing at that bus stop could be hazardous.
At Wall, the walnut tree has a crop too. After finding it last year, I didn’t expect it to fruit this year too, but it has, with the lime-like ripening walnuts hanging from the boughs. I picked up a few windfalls, which were firm and large. When ripe, the green husks will split to reveal the more familiar brown nut inside. That’s if any survive the squirrels.
The Walnut tree also seems to have some kind of leaf miner activity. There are ‘blisters’ on some of the otherwise healthy, waxy leaves. I wonder what the bug is?
August 25th - One thing that is good about a wet ride is that it speeds up the bedding in of new brake pads. Last week I changed the ones on the front, and although greatly improved, that hadn’t yet reached best efficacy. A ride in the wet - with some nice hard stops from speed - works wonders, and the rain on the disc mingles with the metal dust from the disc and pads, forming a grinding paste that wears everything together quickly.
On my return, I swill out the brake calliper and disc with a hose.
The brakes are loads better now than they were before. I’ve never seen this documented anywhere, but seems to work a treat.
August 25th - A wet, miserable bank holiday Monday. This was the wettest, coldest one I think I’ve ever known. I always find this day depressing; it’s the last holiday before Christmas, and for me, seems to flag the end of summer. A week later, the kids will all be back at school, the nights will be drawing in even more, and the sun will lose it’s warmth.
In short, we’re advancing to Autumn at a fair lick now.
I rode out mid morning during a lull in the rain, and spun around Brownhills and Chasewater. The fruits, glistening with rain, were gorgeous, and the heather is particularly beautiful at the moment. The still green embankments and hedgerows cut a bright dash through the gloom.
I did note puffballs on the old railway off Engine Lane, another harbinger of Autumn.
At Chasewater, the valves are fully open and the waterlevel is dropping quickly. I wonder if there’s a purpose to this, as the canal is clearly full to overflowing.
A grim ride on a grim day. Brace yourselves, summer is closing out now.