July 17th - I slipped out of work early to get some time back, and with a wonderfully hot, languid afternoon in progress I rode straight up onto the Chase, and barely stopped except for a well-deserved ice cream at Birches Valley. Dropping down into Rugeley, I enjoyed the long, cool downhill, then hopped onto the canal - a peace green sanctuary where the weeping willows looked stunning.
A perfect afternoon.
July 16th - Working late, stopped off for a Chinese takeaway on the way home.
Just what do bored staff do in such places when it’s slack, then?
A variety of animals and flowers, mostly folded from the local newspapers. I loved it. There’s creativity in the oddest places if you look out for it. There’s clearly a talent here.
July 16th - Hey, South Wigston has a station cat. With the close proximity of dense housing, and embankments and wastelands full of small, squeaky things, it was inevitable, really, but I’d never seen this young lad before.
He was doing monorail cat on the pedestrian barrier until I appeared. He hopped off when I got out my camera, but did pose for a few shots… a lovely lad, clearly.
Like pubs, every station should have a resident cat.
July 15th - Also a pain is the himalayan balsam. This tall, beautiful plant is growing in abundance now, and flowering strongly on damp waste ground, stream banks and the hinterlands and margins. It’s beautiful pink/white, metallic-scented flowers hide the real problem: this is an invasive species introduced by the Victorians.
The plant grows so tall and thickly that it chokes all beneath it, yet once established, like japanese knotweed, it’s very hard to remove.
The A461 Pipe Hill at Lichfield, and most of the verges to the waterworks at Pipe Hill are full of the stuff, season by season edging it’s way to Muckley Corner.
A beautiful undesirable.
July 15th - This journal illustrates many things, but mostly, it illustrates my ignorance.
Three weeks hence I stopped to admire this horse chestnut tree in Festival Gardens, Lichfield, and noted how fine it was looking, laden with young fruit, and that it was showing hardly any leaf miner activity.
It is now. The leaves have been absolutely infested with it.
The leaf miner is a pain - it can cause early leaf fall and there’s speculation that this tiny moth larvae can cause poor fruit development, but otherwise, this infestation doesn’t affect the overall health of the tree. It just makes the poor thing look terribly diseased.
Next time, I’ll keep my mouth shut. Can’t help feeling I cursed my poor arboreal brother…
July 14th - On my return, I needed to call on a pal in Newtown, so I headed up the canal past Ogley Junction. Whilst passing, I noticed a delivery of sectional piling and plant, and wondered if the Canal & River Trust had got it together to stabilise the slipping local embankments.
I guess time will tell…
July 14th - South Wigston station, where sadly some Philistine has been out with a brush-cutter and mown the interesting flowers back from the walkway.
However, the sweet peas growing in the centre of my favourite patch of wilding are keeping the bees busy.
There’s always something to cheer, here…
July 13th - TheMadOldBaggage is right: I’m being unduly pessimistic about autumn and the passage of summer. It’s still gorgeous, and there’s loads of stuff still to come into flower.
Today, I was delighted to spot these gorgeous wild sweat peas. Just how lovely are they? You can’t fail to see these and not be lifted.
Autumn? Not yet you don’t, matey.
July 13th - A vitally important mission begins.
These are the seed heads of my favourite flowers, cowslips, and the wee dots the seeds themselves. For the next few weeks, I’ll potter around anywhere I saw cowslips in spring, looking for the seeding plant. I’ll gently collect a little pot of seeds, and then spread them on land where it would be nice to see some in spring (praying I don’t get pulled by the coppers in the meantime).
It’s how most of the cowslips got on Clayhanger Common in the first place. I’m rather proud of that.
Guerilla planting is a random act of natural kindness. Do it now.
July 12th - At the end of the new Lichfield Southern bypass, just at the A461 end, a hazel thicket. The squirrels don’t seem to have found it yet - it’s absolutely laden with nuts.
A remarkable sight.
July 12th - Shopping in Lichfield in the morning. The city was humming, and crowded with lots to see, including the local MP who was posing foppishly outside a cafe.
The parked bikes were interesting - that maroon ladies Oxford is an interesting beast, and very continental. Roller hub brakes, basket carriers, 3 speed and a dutch lock, it’s in good nick with an interesting front light. A real utility bike, and it looks well loved - it’s actually a far better bike than many of the heavy, cumbersome Pashleys and knockoffs that seem so popular with ladies at the moment.
The Charge single speed is an interesting steed, too, I’ve seen it about a fair bit. I had thought it was fixed wheel, but it’s fitted with a flipflop hub; this is fixed one side, and normal freewheel on the other. This one is set up on the freewheel side, so it’s not really the bike of a fixie hipster.
I often wonder how many of these fashionable bikes are sold fixed, and then flipped to freewheel within hours, never to be changed back… riding fixed is bloody hard.
That rust needs attention, too…
The sand sculpture of the dogs was ace, and seemed to be a busker style thing. You could see the work and skill that went into that - and like a sandcastle, to be ultimately destroyed. It was worth a few bob for the artist.
A great morning.
July 11th - My return via Walsall for some shopping took me up through Yewtree, Delves, Highgate and over Church Hill. Rounding the corner on the cycleway, at the foot of the old, disused steps down to The Ditch (that’s the name of a place, honest), a fantastic display of flowers.
What a splendid ride for a Friday at the end of a very, very hard week.
July 11th - If you fancy a free, breathtaking aerial entertainment display, get your backside down to the Tame Valley Canal, and just look up.
High tension lines run along the canal from a control compound at Ocker Hill to another at Ray Hall, and this interlink is currently undergoing service. Huge scaffold towers and nets span roads, canals and railways, to support lowered lines; engineers scramble and dangle high above from the steel lattice-work, oblivious to the toe-curling peril they appear to be in.
They work quickly and with precision amongst a baffling array of hawsers, catenaries, safety lines and fall arresters, materials and tools being hoisted ip in a sack via a block and tackle hoist.
And below? I watch, open mouthed at these confident, sure-footed and highly skilled engineers. Whatever they’re paid, it can’t possibly be enough.
July 11th - I returned via the Trent Valley Canal, which was alive with activity. Linesmen performed feats of acrobatics on the electricity lines above me as I drank tea beneath them, watching in awe. Herons were prolific, and I saw at least 7 - yes, there are three there in just one photo. The local cat population was also languidly active, hunting bugs, birds and furry things in the newly mown opposite embankment.
And beyond? The dull rumble of traffic on the motorway, trains, and of industry, breathing. This is a peaceful artery and a wonderful place.
July 11th - Of all the little towns and villages of the Black Country, one of the places I’m fondest of is Great Bridge. Still bustling and busy, almost orphaned by the Black Country Spine Road, it survives almost in defiance of nearby out of town developments and larger town centres.
It’s a place where it pays to look up. Lost above the shop fronts (which curiously often don’t alighn with the storey above), a remarkable stucco and ghost sign.
Down a side street, one of the best Carribean meals you can find for miles around.