June 9th - Sad to note that like other towers in the backbone microwave network, Turner’s Hill mast in Rowley Regis is looking very bare now. The BT Tower in Birmingham now has next to no antenna on it, and No Man’s Heath and Pye Green are also looking sparse too. Turner’s Hill has only a few left, and like the others, are symbolic monuments to a past communications era, a lapsed cold war and the increasing ubiquity of the internet. I loved these installations, they fascinate and haunt me, but like so much cold war technology, their time has now gone.
June 9th - An odd little bridge on a bend in the Wyrley and Essington Canal at Wednesfield. Faced in roughcast and painted salmon pink, Devils Elbow Bridge is curious on a number of levels, not least the peculiar name. One would imagine it’s due to the bend in the canal. Anyone got any ideas?
June 8th - From Lichfield, out to Croxall, Edingale, Harlaston and back via Hopwas. The countryside is a riot of colour and biordsong right now. The meadows are stunning with dandeliions and buttercups, oilseed rape in still flowering strongly, and all the fresh foliage glows in the sunshine.
I love the view of the wind turbine from Huddlesford: such a graceful machine.
June 8th -A sunny, but windy summer afternoon. I headed out to Lichfield and the east Staffordshire plains, but on the way, I stopped to take a look around Chasewater. I haven’t seen so many little boats on the water for years, and it was great to see. Both the sailing club and watersports club were busy on the water. So different to this time last year, when there was still very little water in the reservoir. A fine thing indeed.
June 7th - The new wakeboard facility seems to be undergoing testing at Chasewater - at least, the first line is now up and in use. I hope this will bring folk to Chasewater, and it certainly looks like fun. I’m actually surprised at how unobtrusive it is, really, considering the fuss some folk made about it. Had hoped the pier would be in for a bit more TLC than it seems to have received, but it’s still nice to see it in use again.
I wish the operators well in their new venture. Welcome to Chasewater, folks!
June 7th - The waterlife went mad today. Riding along the canal to Chasewater, I noticed the tadpoles had hatched en masse; they seem very, very late. They swarmed and clumped on the algae at the canal side, and fish and birds were picking them off. I watched a common tern take something from the water, and sadly, Mrs. Swan has finally vacated the nest at Catshill. Whether she actually hatched any chicks or not, I don’t know, as there was no trace of either parent, but Mrs. mallard and brood seem to have taken advantage of the empty nest.
Pedro Cutler will appreciate this entry. This one was for you, old chap…
June 6th - If you’re a cyclist, when summer comes - I mean, truly comes - you can feel it in everything and see it everywhere. It’s not just, or even sunshine; it’s not only warmth in the air. It’s the way people dress, the way commuters are at stations. It’s views that have been harsh, and clear and dark, suddenly being green and hazy. It’s the air of growth, and pollen and lazy meadows. It’s like a beautiful, vague infection that laces all it touches with languor and grace. It renders the ugly, beautiful. It makes dull journeys once more a delight. It’s joyful, and noisy, with birdsong, laughter and insect buzz, be it the riot of open countryside or the human din of an inner city street.
Welcome back, old friend. Stick around this year, you’re very welcome.
June 6th - When you’re three months old, trains are so very boring. You just want to get out and play on such a fine day, but instead you’re in a noisy, wobbly tin box, held on a tight lead listening to the humans chatter. Nothing for it but to snooze and wait. Hopefully, there’ll be some fun and games at the end of it…
I never asked the pup’s name. But she was gorgeous. Look at the size of those paws - someone’s going to grow up into a big dog!
June 5th - Glad I spotted this advert at the junction of Footherley Lane and Hollyhill Lane on the way back from Shenstone. Footherley Hall - a home for elderly ladies run by Catholic nuns - always puts on a great fete, and if you’re in the area on Sunday I recommend you pop in for a while. You couldn’t get anything much more English than this - tea, cakes,tombola, bric-a-brac and sunshine if they’re lucky, all in great, rural gardens. A fine thing.
June 5th - The wildflowers (and not so wild) are arriving and making their presence felt in hedgerows and gardens. Everything from lobelia to forget-me-not, rhododendron to laburnam are all showing beautifully. This is the English countryside at it’s best. Get out and enjoy it while you can.
June 4th - Now, there’s a sign of summer - and a precious crop. At Lanes Farm on Sandhills, near Shire Oak, I see the sprinkler is already out. I can’t tell what’s growing here yet, but this is the crop that was shielded by polythene sheeting up until a couple of weeks ago.
One thing’s for sure: it’s a delicate crop. It’ll be interesting to watch it grow.
June 4th - A hectic one. I had a morning meeting in Redditch, and an afternoon one in Telford, so I spent most of this gorgeous, sunny day either cycling, or on the train. Redditch’s the Arrow Valley cycleway is still gorgeous. I love the way the tiny hamlet of Ipsley is preserved in the middle of a park, surrounded by urban sprawl. The wild garlic glade has improved since my last visit, too.
A joy to the heart.
June 3rd - Escaping from a day of tedious paperwork, I broke out at sunset and tore around Brownhills, letting of steam. The air was still and clear, the light excellent, and the town just sunk slowly, and beutifully into evening.
People will tell you this place is ugly, that it is worthless and is a hole. It’s none of these things. It’s gorgeous at times, and it’s home. This evening, with the air coursing through my shirt and power in my legs, I couldn’t have been anywhere finer.
June 3rd - Spotted on a sunny Monday morning in Brownhills, parked up outside the closed branch of Natwest: a fascinating 3 speed Elite ladies step-through, replete with Sturmey Archer 3 speed hub, dynamo lights, front basket and rear, homemade rackbox. A lovely, functional 80s-ish steed, in excellent nick (note the cottered cranks, bike nerds!). I have no idea to whom it belongs, but clearly a well loved, well-looked after steed of convenience.
Beautiful. Perhaps Cycle Chic has come to Brownhills at last?
June 2nd - Another sunny day, another journey to Cannock Chase. I’m really into the offroad stuff right now, and with new, strong wheels I’m a bit more adventurous. I cut over the Hednesford Hills to Marquis Drive, then over to Springslade for tea and cake. Hitting the wilds again, I stopped to reflect at the Katyn Memorial, and the thousands executed in woodlands like this in Poland on Stalin’s orders.
From there, I hopped across country to the Glacial Boulder near Chase Road, then down into Sherbrook Valley to Stepping Stones, then back to Dick Slee’s Cave and Rifle Range Corner. A great afternoon of empty trails, dust, sharp descent and breathtaking scenery. How I love Cannock Chase.