February 15th - A rough day. Weather was bad, with a high wind and periodic, squally rain. I needed to get some shopping in, and popped to Morrisons in Burntwood. I found myself on The Sportway, the drive to the Rugby Club that runs alongside the Chasetown bypass.
This is a good tip - I know this route well. Just where the grass is on the foreground corner of the cycleway, there is a huge, wheel-swallowing pothole unseen under the water. Because I know it’s there, I give it a wide berth. Someone coming this way for the first time, wouldn’t know.
My point is this: in this weather, be careful riding through puddles. They can hide a variety of nasties - from tire-shredding debris, to holes, to uncovered drains.
I was always told by my old man that it was gorse. So I called it this for years. Last year, I posted a picture and a somewhat irritable commenter told me it was broom, not gorse. Not checking, I took their word for it.
Linda and others, you are quite right, that’s Gorse and I am now finally clued up.
Cheers to all who drew my attention to it. I do like to get stuff right, and if ever I’m wrong, feel free to point it out. I want to get stuff right.
February 14th - And still, gently, slowly, almost imperceptibly, nature is shuffling things into place for spring. When the rain stops and the sun warms the earth, fields, hedgerows and pools, all the preparations will pay off and the cascade of flowers, green and growth will begin.
Just as it does every year.
The canals are dotted right now with floating roots. These are bullrushes looking for a new home. In winter, they readily split from their parent clumps, and drift, looking for a decent spot to anchor and regrow. Scaly and ivory in colour, they vary from a couple of feet long to small nodules.
Also, the Broom is well in flower. I’ve been erroneously calling this gorse for years, and apparently it’s actually broom. But hell, it’s bright yellow and about the only colourful thing in the hedgerows right now.
February 14th - Valentines Day, but not much love from the weather, which was back to wet and windy. I ‘d been to Darlaston early again, and left in the mid-afternoon lull before the winds really got up. Unlike the ride in, the ride out was again wind assisted and fun.
The traffic was a bit frantic in the wet and I chose to hit the canal again in Walsall Wood. An interestingly wind-cleaved tree near the Black Cock, and cutting across the new Pond and Clayhanger Common the landscape was again sodden and dripping. But there was a kind of peace to it too, which I appreciated.
Crossing the bridge back into Brownhills, the moorings at Silver Street are busier than I’ve ever seen them before (except during a canal festival) - I’m curious as to why. The waterside has been unchanged for a good few years, now, and it seemed to take the boaters ages to discover us. Is it just a pure shortage of places to moor, or the fact that there’s no charge?
February 13th - It had been, by any measure, a dreadful day. Work had been a nightmare, the journey home more so. It appeared to be ‘drive like a maniac day’ too, and yet again, I’d not seen the memo. As I came through Bullings Heath on the edge of Walsall Wood, the lights of the Black Cock were like a welcoming beacon. The urge to pull up, lock the bike and have a pint was massive, and compelling. But I was hungry, and needed to eat and unwind at home.
I did the right thing. I took a photo, got back on my bike and rode on. Sometimes, you need to be amongst those you know and love.
February 13th - An unlucky day for a number of reasons, but at least it was dry and relatively pleasant. The wind had dropped, and on the way to Telford, looking up from the platform at New Street Station, a beautiful blue sky.
Riding from the station at Telford, I was fortunate enough to spot the black ice - frozen surface water like glass, the width of the cycle path uphill from the station, dusted with what looked like the residue of a brief snow shower.
Had I not noticed, I could have gone a purler there - one of my nine lives, i think.
February 12th - Tumblr doesn’t seem to allow video and photos in the same post, but here’s the flow at the Clayhanger Overflow in the last post. I’ve never, ever seen it running like this. And all this water will end up in the Tame and Trent.
February 12th - Still tacking into the wind into Brownhills, I hopped onto the canal at Clayhanger Bridge. The towpaths, of course, were sodden and hard going. The overflow here was working at full capacity and to a degree I’ve never seen before. This certainly made me think; this water is heading to the Ford Brook, which becomes the River Tame, and meanders through North East Birmingham, then Tamworth to Alrewas, where it meets the River Trent. The water from Chasewater will find its way to the Tame, too, via the Crane and Bourne Brooks. This is serios flow, from just one overflow.
February 12th - Will it never stop? Have we somehow opened a portal to weather hell? After a wet, cold and punishingly hard ride to Darlaston very early, I left in the afternoon with a 30mph wind behind me. In what was a heart-in-mouth ride, I rode up Navvys Hill into Rushall at 35mph and made it home in only a shade over 30 minutes.
Avoiding the danger of crosswinds, I tacked over Oak Park and noticed the bowling green here still flooded. I have been told by the Council that the flood is due to a broken drain, and will be sorted out. I was promised a press release, to no avail.
This still breaks my heart - this used to be such a fine little park. It’s like seeing an old friend become destitute.
February 11th - After the snow stopped the day in Telford was dry and sunny.
'Never mind' they said. 'It'll be dry for the journey home' they said.
I left Walsall in the dry, without putting waterproof trousers on. 5 minutes later, when it was too late, the heaven opened, and then the rain turned to snow. For the second time today, I was wet, cold and fed up.
At least no one can ever accuse me of being a fair weather cyclist.
February 11th - The weather is getting worse, not better, but did hold an unexpected surprise for me today. I set out in the morning to the station, and the rain was heavy with a harsh wind. Even with waterproofs, I got soaked, and sat on the train dripping, miserable and cold. Fortunately, the subsequent train I caught to Telford was very warm, and dried me out a treat. This was by far the worst commute I’ve had for ages.
At Cosford, the torrential rain had become heavy snow, and was setting fast. When I alighted, there was about 10mm. Although wet and cold, it was a delight to see and cycle in, and I enjoyed the scenery and spectacle.
A couple of hours later, the sun was out and all the snow melted away. Glad I caught it, though.
February 10th - In the same forlorn landscape stand the abandoned, decaying former Focus DIY store. A victim of the recent recession, the chain it was part of collapsed some time ago, and this site has been vacant ever since. There had been DIY stores in this spot for a long time; an older building here was host to Big K and latterly Do It All, on whose car park many local kids learned to drive. Latterly replaced by this once smart, modern building, it now rots, a testament to commercial failure.
There is a persistent rumour that Asda will move in here; the rumour endures, like a similarly untrue one about Morrisons taking over the former Blockbuster store in Brownhills because those companies bought a handful of the previous owner’s stores when they went bust. This site was of no interest to Asda, and its future is unknown, but the empty building probably won’t stand long, as it attracts antisocial behaviour and flytipping.
The golf ball was just lying there, in the car park. I have no idea where it came from, or how it got here, so I recorded it for posterity.
BrownhillsBob biked every day for the thirty days of April 2011, part of the #30daysofbiking project, but enjoyed the process so much that he carried on. Over two years down the road, he's still cycling every day and recording a little bit of every journey.