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.
July 3rd - Ragwort is one of those plants that everyone recognises, but few ever stop to look at. It’s rather beautiful. This plant was growing in Mill Green, and looked gorgeous as I passed this morning on my way to work. The buds are gorgeously dainty, and the shades and complexity of the flower parts themselves is wonderful.
At this time of year, it provides a welcome boost to the other, fading yellows of the hedgerow and verge.
Another weed that really deserves a bit closer study.
July 2nd - The onward march of summer means more purples - the urban wasteland warriors that are willowherb and buddleia come into bloom around now. This willowherb - or old man’s beard - is growing well at Telford Station near the overpass, and is a welcome splash of colour in an otherwise dull patch of scrub.
After flowering, this tall, distinctive and very common wasteland plant forms wind-borne seeds that will drift on the breeze and fill the station with white fluff.
Good for birds and butterflies, both plants grow well in urban areas and spots either beyond the reach of man, or out of his sight. They are a testament to the tenacity of nature.
July 2nd - Passing through New Street Station in the morning, I noticed a motorcycle paramedic had been dispatched to some unknown incident down on a platform. Parked on the concourse, a well used, and no doubt well loved, specially adapted BMW bike.
These bikes are incredibly well engineered; they have equipment for use by the technician mounted everywhere, and it’s all to hand very quickly. The paramedics themselves hang about town all day waiting for callouts, and off they speed with all the kit to save lives and tend the injured. I used to see them in a particular coffee shop in town, always with scissors tucked into one boot.
It must be a hell of a buzz to ride through the subways, concourses and malls of Birmingham to get to a shout. I can really appreciate the rush of that.
To Flymo and the lads who wait for the call, my total respect. And I love your steeds.
July 1st - At the other end of my morning commute, Telford. The flowerbed here that held crocuses and tulips early in the year now holds these delightful blooms - the only ones I recognise are the blue lobelia.
So many people passed this flowerbed getting off the train, and never gave it a glance. I felt sorry for the flowers, who were clearly trying very hard to get our attention.
So I shared them here.
July 1st - New Street Station is still a mess, still barely functional, and mostly, I think, now beyond reclamation. But on an early summer sunny morning, there’s something about the concrete, steel and surrounding architecture that renders it if not impressive, then rather fascinating. Architectural styles and textures clash. Machinery grinds and rumbles. Rails screech and clatter. Overhead wires buzz and crackle.
In the midst of this, the most unnatural, built environment that one would consider utterly hostile - signs of life. Shrubs and weeds, their seeds deposited by birds or wind, by luck find a little moisture, a sheltered fissure and just a little nutrition.
If only human design had such bare-faced tenacity, audacity and beauty.
June 30th - With the passage of the early summer, we move from the flowering to the fruiting. Most fruits and seeds will be weeks in development, and not become of anything until late summer and autumn, but many flowers and trees seed early. The lupins by the canal at Clayhanger have long passed their best, but the seed pods they’ve formed, resplendent with downy fur, are a treat in themselves.
The dandelions, of course, such masters of natural engineering, seed all summer through. Such common flowers, rarely studied, but so gorgeous in their perfection.
June 30th - I guess we’re halfway through the year now, and in high summer. It certainly seemed like it as I cycled home along the canal this evening - the greenery, the light, the still, clear water. The peace.
It also occurred to me that after 6 moths of opening out, we’re now closing in again, but summer will hopefully be around for another 10 weeks or so yet.
It doesn’t seem ten minutes ago since I was wrapping up warm and wondering if I needed to change to winter tyres.
Where has this year gone?
June 29th - Also showing well was the landscape. From the view down to Sandhills and Springhill over Home Farm, to the threatening skies over Hammerwich, the countryside looked gorgeous. Everywhere I surveyed was turning colour with ripening crops.
This people, is Brownhills. It has some remarkably beautiful views.
June 29th - I wasn’t feeling so hot, and after the canalside festival, headed for a spin up to Chasewater, just to get some air. I must say, the hay fever is playing havoc with me this year.
The canal is teaming with life at the moment, from the growing families of waterfowl - the swan family still stand at 7 and they’re getting huge now - to dragon and damselflies, water lilies and some rather large fish. It’s a fascinating place at the moment, and well worth a walk if you fancy it.
It didn’t help my hay fever in the slightest, but it did take my mind off the sneezing…
June 28th - At the Sandyway island on the A461 Walsall Road, just south of Lichfield, there’s a field of maturing oilseed rape stretching over to Maple Hayes, with poppies interspersed though it. It’s not as impressive as the fields were just up the hill last year, but it’s not bad; those fields have this year rotated to wheat.
I think the crop may be organic, as mixed in are all manner of wildflowers including thistles, poppies, ox eye daisies, cow parsley, and a purple blue flower I don’t recognise.
The most puzzling thing is the steel box marked ‘BT Property CC223’ hanging loosely on the gate post; it’s not fixed and can be opened, but theres little inside aside from the remnants of a mechanism in the lid.
I have a feeling it may be a cash box from an old-style payphone kiosk. Anybody know for sure? It’s certainly an odd thing in an unusual place…
June 28th - At Waitrose in Lichfield, an intriguing shopping list left on the clipboard of a discarded trolley. ‘Dr. P (Doctor Pepper, I assume), Cream Soda, Flake, Bounty, Marathon, D/eck (Double Decker?).
That’s a wicked chocolate and pop binge, or one hyperactive children’s party.
All these years, and Ye Olde City still can’t bring itself to think of Snickers either…
June 28th - I was in Lichfield on an errand. There was a parade of the Mercian regiment, which saw old soldiers and the public turn out in droves.
Later, there was drinking and high jinks including these two speeding characters.
I hope I’ve as much oil in my lamp at their age. Terrific fun.
June 27th - This post was inspired by top Pelsall geezer Matt Drew, who spotted a different clump of these fellows and posted a pic on Facebook last week, inspiring me to look out for them.
These delightfully spiky caterpillars are the larvae of the beautiful peacock butterfly. They really are rather impressively hostile-looking, but cute at the same time - I spotted them in a nettle bed at the top of Shire Oak Hill, near the old quarry there.
In summer, the adult female peacock will lay between 200 and 500 eggs at the very top of a stinging nettle in direct sunlight. 10 days later they’ll hatch, and the emerging caterpillars will spin a communal web-tent out of silk (see the top picture) which they’ll live in until large enough to leave; they live and grow in clumps at the top of nettles, and as they grow, they may move from nettle to nettle in a patch together as a group, before pupating separately.
They’re easy to spot as a dark infestation at the tops of the tallest nettles in a nettle bed.
Male peacock butterflies are very territorial, and can often be seen attempting to chase away birds that may be coming near their selected nettle patch.
I’m glad I found some - and thanks again to Matt for the inspiration to look.