August 11th - I nipped to Telford early to make a quick adjustment, and returned within the hour. At the station, glowing in the sunlight on a small patch of forgotten earth, these beautiful purple flowers.
All they want is to be noticed - and sometimes it’s the little stuff that makes life so fine.
August 10th - I realised I hadn’t really done a circuit of Brownhills like this for a while, and despite the grim weather warnings, it’s wasn’t a bad day at all. The light was bright, and the scenery good. It was a good day to photograph landscape, I guess.
A the Pelsall Road bridge on the canal, I discovered how the otherwise inaccessible flowerbed was being maintained - formerly I’d wondered if it was from the boat so often moored nearby.
At Chasewater, the lake was very, very choppy. The wakeline had been abandoned for the day, and only a few very brave windsurfers were out.
I note that the valves are currently open, and the water level at the reservoir is steadily lowering, probably to the lowest level since last summer, the high watermark evident on the spillway bridge in a line of white surface scum.
An unexpectedly great day to be out.
August 10th - A remarkable season, and now the fruiting begins in earnest. The wind was gusting hard, and the threat of rain not far away, but I slid out mid afternoon in defiance of Hurricane Bertha (spit). I let the wind blow me along the wet canal to the cyclway over the common - on the way, I noticed what I think are cherries growing ripe on a tree by the Pier Street Bridge. They look rather fat and large to be such gems in Brownhills. Can anyone help there?
There’s also been a remarkably prodigious crop of hazelnuts from the hedge thicket opposite the Watermead estate - but what wasn’t already squirrelled was blown down in the wind; the towpath is thick with nobbled and wind-fallen nuts.
On the cycleway, a similarly bountiful crop of blackberries, and the elderberries too are ripening to a beautiful black-crimson gloss.
Summer coming to an end is always sad, but how can one remain so in the face of such wonderful fruits?
August 9th - Green Lane in Shelfield is being, at long last, resrfaced. I came down there tonight, and It’s officially closed, but was ridable with care. Despite the numerous ‘No Parking’ signs and leaflets, I noticed this vehicle, around which road workers clearly had to plane.
These folk may have gone on holiday I guess, and not known about the works, so one shouldn’t be too harsh.
But it would be ironic if they ever moaned about the council never fixing the potholes…
August 9th - I pootled into Brum on the train for an early evening curry on the Soho Road, and did a little shopping in Brum while I was about it.
These street performers were drawing good crowds of astonished onlookers, which amused me as it was clearly separating those with some mechanical knowledge from those without.
It is very clever and visually stunning, but it can’t be comfortable for extended periods, so hats off to the chaps doing it.
Can you spot how it’s done?
August 8th - I came to the top of Shire Oak Hill in light rain, and stopped at the quarry entrance to look at my beloved view to Lichfield. Rain was sweeping in along the Trent Valley, and the hills to the west were obscured by low rain clouds.
It had been another tough week,and I was glad to crest the hill and be nearly home. I love my job, but sometimes it’s tough to keep everything going.
But knowing home was downhill from here, the promise of good company, the family and a decent mug of tea was strong, and cheering.
Home is where the teapot is.
As it happened, the rain never really reached here.
August 8th - In contrast to recent days, it was dark and overcast with a very threatening atmosphere for most of the day. Racing home, I could smell rain on the wind, and it felt ominous.
A bit of rain is welcome; it’s needed. But we haven’t had weather like this for any length of time for a long period, and this felt dramatic and alien.
As I rode down Mill Lane in Stonnall, I noticed a flock of starlings had settled on the field, hedgerow and overhead lines. Perhaps it’s just the Hitchcock thing, but even those little birds in silhouette felt menacing…
August 7th - Closer to home, across the spread of Springhill and Sandhills, it’s harvest time. At Cartersfield Lane, wheat was ripe, and ready to be harvested, a process already underway at Home Farm, where the combine was sending up a terrifically dramatic cloud of cereal dust as it worked. Also growing on the lower fields of Sandhills, a healthy and verdant maize crop, now quite tall.
This does seem to have been a most favourable summer for the farmers, but I’m sure they’ll find something to complain about before long…
August 7th - I had to nip into Brum on my way home from work, and hopped on a train to Shenstone on the way back. I haven’t been this way much lately, and the familiar wooded hill with church tower - just the one in summer, the other being obscured by trees - looked splendid in the early evening sunshine. I love how you can see the gargoyles at the vertices from a very long way away.
The station and it’s complex, partially mansard roof is still gorgeous, too, despite being neutered of it’s tall, elegant chimneys several decades ago.
Shenstone is gorgeous, and there are few better places to be on a warm, sunny evening.
August 6th - This is in response to a recent request by top bloke and Brum social media whizz John Hickman. This is a saddlebag vomit.
Don’t be alarmed, is a meme, or idea carried from something common elsewhere - handbag vomit/daily carry - where someone posts pictures of what they carry in their bag daily.
Here, minus personal stuff like paperwork and work junk, is what I carry daily in my saddlebag. I regard these things as essential. I suspect some folk will find them surprising.
The items are, in roughly back to front order:
- 1l flask of earl grey or chai, sugar and milk
- Sharpie marker
- Cheapo multitool thing
- 2 spare tubes for different bikes
- Apple mac network adaptor
- clean paper towels and disposable gloves for mechanicals
- Emergency sweets (milk gums) for bonks and sugar crashes
- Pack of self-ahesive patches still in blister as case is crap and they pop open
- Muji box with sheets/tubes of meds - Sudocrem, painkillers, hay fever pills etc.
- Nasal decongestant for troublesome sinuses
- Pedro’s tyre levers - the best I’ve found
- Aquapac for keeping phone dry in the wet
- 2 Rema conventional puncture kits
- Spokey spoke wrench (again, the best there is)
- Emergency work phone
- Bahco mini socket, ratchet spanner and bit set. Brilliantly useful.
- 15mm stubby spanner
- Spare camera, GoPro and GPS batteries
- Mini torch
- Memory cards and sticks in waterproof box
- Various everyday USB and charging leads on a keyring with thumb drive
- Huawei 4g mobile WiFi router with selection of SIM cards for different networks
- 7000mAH USB battery for charging phone etc.
- Google tablet (interchangeable with iPad/macbook air depending on work requirements)
- Not shown: cable ties, pager, security access cards, clean socks and about 100g of assorted detritus
The tools and survival items have evolved over years and changes of bike. Surprisingly, this lot doesn’t weigh much and leaves plenty of space for the junk of the day and shopping if necessary.
Is this the geekiest saddlebag out there? What do you lot carry?
August 6th - Riding back through Walsall on a warm summer evening, you realise this is the best time of year to see it; the trees around Hatherton Street, Lichfield Street and the poncily named ‘Civic Quarter’ are absolutely wonderful. People run Walsall down as being dirty, post-industrial and architecturally barren, but it’s one of the greenest pieces of urban landscape I’ve ever seen.
Beneath these trees, a town lives and breathes.
If you don’t believe me, get somewhere high, like the New Art Gallery or St. Matthews steps on Church Hill, and look out. Walsall is a green oasis.
August 5th - Another saying my Grandfather used to use a lot was ‘It’s always a good year for something.’ On this, the old man - who lived life much more connected to nature than I - was bang on. Every year, every season, is detrimental to something and benificial to something else.
This year we have an absolute wealth of early blackberries. They, sycamore, horse chestnut and beech appear to have done very well indeed. Oak and fruit seem to have had a very bad year. This is the first acorn I’ve seen - last year, the boughs were heavy with crab apples, damsons, cherries and acorns. This year, very few. Rowan, Hawthorn and cotoneaster seem to be doing reasonably well, though.
I guess it’s just how the weather falls. One late frost and the fruit crops are ruined…
August 5th - Grove Hill, Stonnall, on the way to work, just past dawn. Granddad used to say ‘Mackerel sky, 24 hours dry.’ On this, his rule of thumb is generally right.
This pagan place was beautiful, and despite running close to time (as ever), I stopped to capture it.
A morning like this sets you up for the day.
August 4th - He was fishing in the canal from the gardens at the back of Barrow Close in Walsall Wood. He is absolutely gorgeous, and I think I’m in love. He has to be a pedigree.
Look at the length of that tail! A fine cat whose staff should be very proud.