BrownhillsBob's #365daysofbiking

5th September - At the top of Digbeth High Street in Birmingham, one of about 130 or so left.

Highly unusual, it captures a fleeting moment in British history. Been meaning to feature this for some time - and it’s not the only one in Brum, either.

A fine bit of British quirkyness on a fun afternoon.

September 5th - I’m rediscovering my love for Birmingham. It’s a great place. I spent time in Digbeth, and mooched around the fruit market and Chinese quarter.

Birmingham is vibrant, beautiful, and buzzing. If you know where to look.

September 5th - An afternoon off work and errands in Birmingham. In the backstreets of Aston, a sign raised a smile - that’s a very ambitious business model.

'Yes, that's right. If you quote for Wolverhampton and Coventry, any chance of throwing Lichfield in for half price?'

September 4th - I forgot my camera today, so instead I grabbed it and my little tripod when I had to run a late evening errand. It was quite still in Brownhills this evening, and there were few people around. 

I am fascinated by the new white LED streetlights the council are installing in some places. Unlike the ones in Birmingham, these seem much brighter and clearer than the sodium ones they replace, and the cold white light the spread is somewhat otherworldly, particularly on street corners where old and new technologies overlap.

At the Pier Street bridge, I was fascinated by the lights shining off the surface of the canal, something I’d forgotten in the light days of a summer now passed.

Now autumn is upon us, I must sharpen up my night photography techniques.

September 3rd - I’d been to Redditch for a meeting. I don’t go there much these days, and it made a nice change, to be honest. Nicer still was an early finish, and riding back from Sutton, I chose to ride up through Little Aston Forge, a route I also hadn’t ridden for ages.

I must have passed those lovely cottages on the hairpin loads of times over the years, yet I’ve never noticed the pear and plum trees in the hedgerow opposite. The plums - they seemed a bit large to be true damsons - were well over now, but it looked like there had been a decent crop. 

The pears had suffered from pests, and some were frost damaged, but the ones that survived were large and beautiful.

I really don’t know why I’ve failed to notice these before…

September 3rd - Arum Maculatum is a common sight in hedgerows and woods at this time of year. Known variously as Wild arum, Lords and Ladies, Devils and Angels, Cows and Bulls, Cuckoo-Pint, Adam and Eve and even Naked Boys, it’s a very unusual plant which sheds it’s foliage before fruiting leaving a 6 to 12 inch high column of bright orange-red berries. These berries are highly poisonous and this is the plant responsible for most hospital admissions due to accidental ingestion in the UK.

The berries contain a toxin which makes the oral tract tingle, and causes sickness and swelling of the throat. Always avoid touching it, although the temptation to do so us great, it has an almost artificial appearance that renders it grimly fascinating.

What always worries me about this plant is that it’s at a perfect height, and so brightly attractive, that young kids may be drawn to it. What yours if you’re out walking.

This example is growing, along with lots of others, on the riverbank near the Arrow Valley cycle path in Redditch.

September 2nd - I will continue to rave about the beauty of Darlaston until I have convinced the whole world how wonderful it is.

Passing through Victoria Park and past the Police Station having been knocked off course by the resurfacing, I noted the lady, content in the warm sun, lost to the world reading a book under the bolt-tree sculpture. The Police station is still a gorgeous building, and it’s leafy surrounds are the perfect setting.

It seems a world away from the Black Country, but at the same time, it’s close to the heart of it.

This is the Darlaston and Black Country I adore.

September 2nd - A better commute this morning. The sun was out, and it was a nice day. Spinning through Darlaston I was pleased to see Bull Street being resurface at long last - it was getting to the point where it didn’t need sweeping so much as ploughing.
I’ve been quite lucky this year; Green Lane in Shelfield and Bull Street both resurfaced, two roads that were nasty to ride on.

September 2nd - A better commute this morning. The sun was out, and it was a nice day. Spinning through Darlaston I was pleased to see Bull Street being resurface at long last - it was getting to the point where it didn’t need sweeping so much as ploughing.

I’ve been quite lucky this year; Green Lane in Shelfield and Bull Street both resurfaced, two roads that were nasty to ride on.

September 1st - And theres the thing. Although I’m sad for the passage of summer, I’m returning home in the golden hour. Soon, the time of great sunsets will be here.

The sky was terrified this evening, and the dying sun caught the trees by the canal beautifully.

I always think I can’t do it, but I can. There’s beauty in every season - bring it on.

September 1st - It really is coming on autumn now, and it’s getting me down a little. Cycling to work down Scarborough Road in Walsall on a grey Monday, fallen leaves already scatted on the road, it’s hard not to feel sad for the passage of another summer. 
I feel this one has been good; it hasn’t seemed very wet, and although August was a tad grim, the previous months had been great. Sadly I’ve not got out for longer rides this year much at all, with a combination of work and family pressures and a healing, but still troublesome foot injury - but commuting this summer was a real joy.
It’ll be a while until this season gets beautiful, and I’ll be low for a bit yet. Every year, as I get older, this transition seems to be the hardest of the year. I’m wearing a jacket again more and more, soon the scarf and full gloves will be back out of the drawer, and dark evenings will be upon us.
Oh well, down the hatch. It’s still quite green…

September 1st - It really is coming on autumn now, and it’s getting me down a little. Cycling to work down Scarborough Road in Walsall on a grey Monday, fallen leaves already scatted on the road, it’s hard not to feel sad for the passage of another summer. 

I feel this one has been good; it hasn’t seemed very wet, and although August was a tad grim, the previous months had been great. Sadly I’ve not got out for longer rides this year much at all, with a combination of work and family pressures and a healing, but still troublesome foot injury - but commuting this summer was a real joy.

It’ll be a while until this season gets beautiful, and I’ll be low for a bit yet. Every year, as I get older, this transition seems to be the hardest of the year. I’m wearing a jacket again more and more, soon the scarf and full gloves will be back out of the drawer, and dark evenings will be upon us.

Oh well, down the hatch. It’s still quite green…

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 - ‘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.