BrownhillsBob's #365daysofbiking

July 24th - One of the sights of summer I’ve so far missed is the crop sprinkler. Near Shenstone today, one solitary spray, watering a field of fine looking potatoes. Sometimes, if you’re lucky, you can get a full rainbow in their mist, but my efforts to find one today wee fruitless. 

If you’re even luckier, it’s near the road, and there’s a delicious game of dare as you try to cycle past without getting sprayed.

Wehen I was a youth, you could hear these - and there would have been large numbers of them - for miles, the light rushing sound and the toc-toc-toc of the rotator, but since crops have switched more to cereals, they’re a rarer sight.

July 23rd - Riding back home this evening, something shiny in the road caught my eye - lying on the edge of Green Lane in Shelfield, the debris from something that really shouldn’t happen. It’s a shattered bicycle sprocket.
This would have been part of the cassette, or rear group of cogs an the back wheel  of a cheap bike. It’s been used, as the teeth are worn, and the chrome coating ground through. Decent sprockets are made from high-grade alloys or steel, with some flexibility. Generally, they’re pressed or forged. 
This one is low grade steel, and has been made from cast material, making it inflexible and weak. It’s a fair assumption that under load, it’s cracked, and at some point catastrophic failure has occurred, and other debris in the road suggested as much.
Cheap supermarket or discount store bikes are often fitted with this kind of cheap componentry and fail in this kind of manner. Deprending on when it failed, this kind of breakdown could be very serious, and cause the rider to be injured - imagine if this had happened when cycling up a steep hill, like Black Cock Bridge, further on?
If you need a decent bike, and haven’t got much cash, a better option is to look out for a decent secondhand steed. You’d be surprised what you can get from Gumtree or the small ads for the same money.
A very, very cheap bike really isn’t worth the risk or hassle. They’re cheap because they’re made out of cheese, bus tickets and spit…

July 23rd - Riding back home this evening, something shiny in the road caught my eye - lying on the edge of Green Lane in Shelfield, the debris from something that really shouldn’t happen. It’s a shattered bicycle sprocket.

This would have been part of the cassette, or rear group of cogs an the back wheel  of a cheap bike. It’s been used, as the teeth are worn, and the chrome coating ground through. Decent sprockets are made from high-grade alloys or steel, with some flexibility. Generally, they’re pressed or forged. 

This one is low grade steel, and has been made from cast material, making it inflexible and weak. It’s a fair assumption that under load, it’s cracked, and at some point catastrophic failure has occurred, and other debris in the road suggested as much.

Cheap supermarket or discount store bikes are often fitted with this kind of cheap componentry and fail in this kind of manner. Deprending on when it failed, this kind of breakdown could be very serious, and cause the rider to be injured - imagine if this had happened when cycling up a steep hill, like Black Cock Bridge, further on?

If you need a decent bike, and haven’t got much cash, a better option is to look out for a decent secondhand steed. You’d be surprised what you can get from Gumtree or the small ads for the same money.

A very, very cheap bike really isn’t worth the risk or hassle. They’re cheap because they’re made out of cheese, bus tickets and spit…

July 23rd - in the Goscote Valley on my way to work, as the day started to warm up, I was drawn to a continual crackling sound. This always fascinates me; it’s the sound of gorse pods popping open with a snap, and scattering their seeds.
The action is induced by the warmth of the sun, and makes for an interesting diversion on the way to work. I love how the pods rattle musically when you shake the bushes, too.
It’s the little things that make summer, really.

July 23rd - in the Goscote Valley on my way to work, as the day started to warm up, I was drawn to a continual crackling sound. This always fascinates me; it’s the sound of gorse pods popping open with a snap, and scattering their seeds.

The action is induced by the warmth of the sun, and makes for an interesting diversion on the way to work. I love how the pods rattle musically when you shake the bushes, too.

It’s the little things that make summer, really.

July 22nd - The Mad Old Baggage noted the other day that buddleia was known as the ‘butterfly bush’ - and she’s right. By a busy roadside in Walsall, the purple, masonry-destroying shrub is quietly reclaiming the built, and using it to nurture the lepidoptera.

It may be a plant of the margins, scrubs and wastes, but buddleia is a bright, beautiful shrub that clearly supports a whole host of bugs - which can’t be bad.

A fantastic sight.

July 22nd - I think this must be the earliest I’ve ever seen ripe blackberries - albeit in small numbers. It’s so early in the season for them, I couldn’t quite believe it. Rosehips, too - summer is definitely cranking on a notch. With the bright sunshine and very warm days of late, so much fruit is ripening.

This is definitely one of the best summers for a good few years. Get out and enjoy it - it’s stunning.

July 21st - The lads are still working hard in a field further up Green Lane. The small herd of cattle continue to live in the watermeadow, which is looking noticeably more cropped than it was. The cows themselves are all looking in fine fettle - but I do have a soft spot for the brown and white one.

Is it me, or does he seem to be smiling?

21st July - It’s been a lovely day, but the ride home was hard. I’d been on my feet all day, and to be quite frank, the left one still hurts, and was punishing me on the way back, as were the hills and the wind. All I could do was try to relax, click down the gears and enjoy the sun.

It’s been a good season so far, warm, sunny and not too wet, and this shows in the fields around Grange Farm in Green Lane, Walsall Wood. The barley on the edge of jockey meadows is hypnotic to watch in the breeze, and the oilseed rape on the corner of Green and Mob Lanes is golden. 

Soon, the harvest will be upon us, and a new range of sights and sounds.

July 20th - A day coloured mainly by the sad news of the loss of a good man, but as I rode the canal mid-afternoon, taking it gentle, I reflected on life. I noted a family of 4 cygnets and mum - dad seems to be gone - doing well up in Walsall Wood. I think they’re from up the canal in Pelsall. They are healthy birds, clearly getting by just fine.

Further down the water at Catshill Junction, the swans from Catshill still numbered seven youngsters and two parents. Nature is cruel, but the cycle of life continues.

I’ve grown very attached to these birds, have many of the local residents. It’s odd that we take such beautiful but grumpy and obstreperous characters to our hearts, but we do.

We feel great sadness at the toll of nature, and predators. But that’s the roll of nature’s dice, and it was ever thus.

And life continues, as it always has.

July 20th - Last week, I noted a quantity of sectional piling had been delivered to Ogley Junction maintenance yard ready for a job locally. I wondered where the site was - and now I know.

My attention was drawn by a couple of readers to a work cabin appearing at the Black Cock Bridge, and it seems the work is being done on the embankment at the rear of houses in Bans Close, Walsall Wood, fifty metres or so from the bridge itself.. 

The interlocking piling is driven into the bank to strengthen it, and minimise the effects of erosion. Here the canal runs above ground level, and the embankment is built up to it, and the top level of the bank is only a couple of inches above the waterline.

Surveyors were here in the spring, and left their telltale spray paint and post datums, and this must be the result - fixing up the canal and securing it in a weak spot for another few decades.

Let’s hope they attend to the erosion on the towpath side, too.

July 19th - I was still suffering with my left foot, so rest was in order and I didn’t do anything except cruise out for a bit of fresh air and some shopping. It was an odd evening - at 6pm on Saturday, Brownhills is usually dead and deserted, but it had rained nearly all day, and right now, from the Pier Street bridge, the town was coming alive - people were walking, jogging and getting shopping in.

All the time under a dramatic, somewhat threatening sky.

July 19th - I see this wonderful Christiana cargo bike about a lot - huge covered box on the front, hub gears, massive bell and brooks saddle. It’s built like a brick outhouse. I often see it in Pelsall. Today, it was parked up outside Aldi in Brownhills.
These are tremendously popular in northern mainland Europe, as well as other brands like the Dutch Bakfiets. You often see children being conveyed to school in them by parents over there - but here, this is clearly on a shopping trip, and a rare thing indeed.
A wonderful utility bike and I salute the owner.

July 19th - I see this wonderful Christiana cargo bike about a lot - huge covered box on the front, hub gears, massive bell and brooks saddle. It’s built like a brick outhouse. I often see it in Pelsall. Today, it was parked up outside Aldi in Brownhills.

These are tremendously popular in northern mainland Europe, as well as other brands like the Dutch Bakfiets. You often see children being conveyed to school in them by parents over there - but here, this is clearly on a shopping trip, and a rare thing indeed.

A wonderful utility bike and I salute the owner.

July 18th - By the time I was riding home through the backlanes between Shenstone and Stonnall, my energy had gone, I was hot, tired and in pain. It was hard going, but the evening views and atmosphere made it difficult to be upset.
A truly gorgeous evening, of the kind we don’t get in the UK much. Such heat, but so glorious; and a storm is coming in.
Don’t moan about the heat too much, it’ll be cold and wet again soon enough…

July 18th - By the time I was riding home through the backlanes between Shenstone and Stonnall, my energy had gone, I was hot, tired and in pain. It was hard going, but the evening views and atmosphere made it difficult to be upset.

A truly gorgeous evening, of the kind we don’t get in the UK much. Such heat, but so glorious; and a storm is coming in.

Don’t moan about the heat too much, it’ll be cold and wet again soon enough…

July 18th - Again, I made my escape, and I slipped into Birmingham mid-afternoon and got the train to Kings Norton, intending to ride into Birmingham University where I had a call to make, and then on to the city centre along the canal, which is great from King’s Norton all the way into the city.

It is when it’s open, that is…

It turns out the towpath is shut until September between Bourneville and University, for resurfacing. I slipped through the barriers easily at Bourneville, and rode a peaceful and generally rideable route all the way to the barriers at the other end, which were impossible to transgress, so I doubled back and found a way over wasteland down to the Aston Webb Road. 

Hot and bothered, I made the visit I intended to, and rode into Brum on the canal, which was lovely.

It was again a great afternoon - but very, very hot indeed.

Just one thing spoiled it - I have a foot injury, or so it would seem. I don’t know what I’ve done, but my foot is agony to walk on; not bad to cycle on, but it makes it more difficult. This is unusual for me, and I hope it heals soon.

Rather than ride home from Birmingham, I caught the train. 

July 17th - On my return, I was held up by some rather familiar beaked* villains. This is Coulter Lane, Burntwood, just outside the farm where they sell asparagus. It’s a good couple of miles from Chasewater - yet these honking, hissing impediments to cycling progress are clearly the Chasewater geese - domestic birds set free some years ago, that generally hang around the boating lake, grumping at anyone and anything. 

Are they regulars here? Is this actually their home? Do they commute?

So many questions, so little time…

*yes, I know they have bills, not beaks, but it doesn’t scan as well.

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 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.