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…
July 7th - Working late, I returned at sundown and winched my way up Shire Oak Hill from Sandhills. I noticed that lots of trees along here are laden with developing fruits - beach nuts, acorns, pine cones and these, unusually abundant sycamore seeds, or ‘helicopters’ as we used to call them as kids.
They seem to be already ripening - but this is only just the beginning of July.
Am I imagining it, or are we heading for an early autumn?
July 7th - New Street, New… wet feet. 8am on a Monday morning, and water trickles through the ceiling and onto the floor of the new concourse. For a supposedly refurbished building, there aren’t half a lot of faults with the new New Street Station. The seems to be a permanent array of leaks, this one at the top of the escalator to Platform 7. Several others were in evidence.
What’s most worrying is that it hasn’t rained for a couple of days…
I wouldn’t pay ‘em in tap washers.
July 6th - Sustrans, the cycling charity who created and ostensibly look after the National Cycle Network are really annoying me locally.
A few weeks ago, I pointed out the baffling signage south of Chasewater on the canal, which appeared to prohibit a good cycling route. Here I noticed similar confusion at the level crossing by Chasewater Heaths station. Face north, and the signage correctly leads you over the crossing, onto the cycleway past the Sportway. Come in the opposite direction, and it shows you’re on Route Five. Or you’re not.
What the hell?
Get your act together, people; you’re supposed to be promoting cycling, not preventing it.
July 6th - I wasn’t in the mood to ride much - I had lots of work to do, so just popped up to Chasewater to check out the Craft & Farmers market, which again, disappointed. I shan’t bother with that again.
I spun out for a circuit around the park, and was taken by the buddleia, water lilies and various marsh orchids, which out here, unlike the ones near the canal, hadn’t gone over yet.
I stated last week that the flowering time was passing; but I was wrong. Things are still flowering well, just in different ways and different places.
This really is a most excellent summer.
July 5th - despite the advancing season, the flowers by the canal at Aldridge are still wonderfully prolific and diverse. No idea what any of these are apart from the groundsel, but all beautiful and all within 10 metres of each other.
July 5th - I popped into Aldridge, and spotted this job ad that I don’t think I can refuse.
Kids today, eh?
July 4th - Cycling in the rain presents its own hazards and challenges, but is especially hazardous in the rain following a dry, hot spell.
When roads are dry, the surface, which is gently abrasive, grinds residue from tyres and collects dust and detritus, plant matter and spilled oil, fuel and other gunk from vehicles. This is all mixed and blended by traffic action into a sort of instant-grease mix, just waiting for the atmosphere to add water.
When the rains come, the first surface waters and traffic action mingle with the powder to form a soapy, slippery fluid that actively foams and reduces traction. Cornering in this goop on narrow tires can be like cornering on ice, and wheel spin and braking skids are the signs that one needs to be careful.
Most car drivers would never notice it. But anyone on two wheels dreads the sight of the white froth on a road surface, just waiting to steel your wheels from under you.
Take care folks.
July 4th - Sweet rain.
It’s been a long, dry and warm spell. Today was fraught, stressed, tired, sweaty. I was struggling against the urge to just go home, the heat, tiredness, irritation. But I could smell the rain on the wind. Sweet, distant, but present. I stood on the threshold of an open fire escape at work and filled my lungs with the smell of moisture on the wind.
As I left work, it began. I enjoyed it. Not torrential, but steady. Gently saturating the plants, refreshing the greenery, and making me feel if not less tired, more alert.
A sensory delight.
I was glad the week was over. And welcomed the rain.
July 3rd - Cleavers, or sweethearts as they’re colloquially known hereabouts are fascinating little things. A creeping, grippy weed, it elevates itself from the ground by hooking on to other plants with it’s spiny, sticky hairs. The seeds themselves employ the same mechanism of almost velcro-like attachment, adhering well to clothing, feathers and animal fir.
The owners of dogs and cats with longer coats will know well the hours spent picking these devilish little balls out of their animal’s hair… but as a seed dispersal tactic, it’s brilliant, as animals preen the seeds out, and they germinate where they land.
Natural engineering is damned clever.
I’ve no idea what the bug is, but he’s an interesting wee thing.