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.
July 11th - I made an escape, of sorts.
The rush now over, I had loads of errands and calls to make in the Black Country, and I took the opportunity to make them on my bike - nothing better after a stressful period at work than a sunny afternoon in the industrial heartland I love. Wednesbury, Moxley, Great Bridge, Lanesfield, Netherton and lots of canals made for a great day - including an excellent portion of hake and dumpling from the excellent Carribean takeaway in Great Bridge.
`Talking of bridges, between Moxley and Toll End, I spotted this one; the eagle eyed will note that this decaying, derelict railway crossing - The Hempole Bridge - is almost identical in construction to the railway bridge over the canal near the Pelsall Road in Brownhills, which is a listed structure, due to it’s rarity. Note the same blue Freakley Brothers bricks; the pattern in the cast plates, the pre-girder hot-rivet and cast truss metalwork.
Sad to see it lost.
This one is for Bob. Spotted today just before Brownhills town centre, Mom swan and just five cygnets. I didn’t see any other swans at all until back by Aldridge marina and that was a solitary adult so it looks as though two of the cygnets have been lost. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news Bob
Fear not! This family are, I think, from Pelsall. Yesterday evening I spotted the Catshill brood up by Ogley Junction, and 7 were present in a neat line with mum and dad, presumably heading somewhere to roost.
Cheers for keeping an eye out. The youngsters are now nearly the size of their parents. I’ve been wondering when and how they learn to fly - that must be a thing to witness…
July 10th - Mission complete. It’s been a hard few days working on a rush job, and I finally handed it on now, and the crisis has passed. I returned home via Stonnall in the late evening light, almost too tired to cycle up Shire Oak Hill.
Cresting this hill - always, always hard work from any direction - is a personal nemesis and when tired, it’s punishing. But once at the top, it’s pretty much a freewheel downhill to food, rest, a good cup of tea and the welcome of family.
It’s over, for now. A great relief.
July 10th - I’m really concerned about an early autumn, or maybe I’m just being paranoid because I’m missing so much sunny weather being trapped at work. These rowan berries - great for wine and jam - are ripening really well and seem very early to me.
I spotted them on the way to work at Clayhanger. It’s nice to see, and the colour - bright, vivid orange - will be excellent. But it feels like the summer is slipping away…
July 9th - I’ve worked 40 out of the last 64 hours. It isn’t leaving a lot of time for anything much, but I’m still cycling; it’s my interregnum between home and work, and enables me to straighten things out and relax a bit.
This was my journey home tonight from New Street Station, in snatched photos.
Stations at night again, I can’t help myself. It’s that Late Night Feelings thing coming to the surface again…
July 8th - It’s been a while since I got a good sunset in the bag. I was tired. I had caffeine shakes. I was a stressed, weary mess. But Cycling home in this really sorted me out.
July 8th - Working late. Exhausted, with very sore eyes, I hit Shenstone station just as darkness was falling. Pleased to note this camera takes very decent handheld shots in low light. This rural station is a long-time muse of mine, and I find the station building and environment fascinating, particularly at night.
In high summer like this, working late and catching the dark is a rare treat, and despite my bleariness, I did try and savour the light…