May 18th - A late evening run to the supermarket, and one of the (very few) downsides of the summer was very, very evident; riding over Chasewater Dam the air was thick with midges and other bugs, which can be seen if you click on the image above. Glasses are essential to prevent them getting in the eyes, and they get everywhere - in you shirt, ears etc. Over the next few months my protein intake will crank up by a fair percentage.
Annoying, but one of the hazards of the season.
May 18th - I’m hoping a linesman or electrical engineer can help me with this one, I’ve never noticed it before.
Approaching Anglesey Basin on the canal at Chasewater, electricity is supplied to the dam cottages by single phase overhead lines. one of the last poles in the run has an anchor cable staked to the ground to stop the change in cable angle pulling it over. The anchor cable, bolted to the top of the pole, isn’t electrically connected to any part of the system, yet has a two to three foot long insulating piece fitted, with a pair of lightning bypass probes to create a safety arc gap.
Why would they do that? Is is a current limiter to stop lightning melting the anchor or what? Never seen an arrangement like this before.
May 17th - Interesting to note that the Wakeboarding company who applied to build facilities at Chasewater have wasted no time in getting starred on building their equipment.
Presumably, these concrete bases with tethering points will be anchor weights for the lakebed.
It’ll be interesting to see how this all works out. Looking forward to seeing the pier brought back into use, at least.
May 17th - Spring wends onward, despite somewhat indifferent weather. A late afternoon spin rewarded me with beautiful dead nettles and forget-me-nots. As a kid I can remember plucking the white blooms from the dead nettles and sucking the sweet, tasty nectar from the base of the blossom.
These days, I’d be careful to choose nettles from above dog leg height.
Meerash Hill at Hammerwich is a carpet of familiar, fluorescent yellow, and Mrs. Swan sits patiently with no little dignity on the nest at the Watermead in Brownhills, whilst just up the canal bank, Mr. Goose stood guard with paternal pride as his brood explored.
I love this time of year.
May 16th - Spring is here, too, at the verges, hedgerows and field-margins. An assortment of cowslips, bluebells, ramsons, alliums and other wildflowers are all competing for attention. This selection was growing at the side of the Chester Road, in a short, 10 years stretch near Stonnall. It’s been a long time coming, but I’m loving the spring, even when it rains…
May 16th - A day without rain, for me at least, and quite pleasant, if a little cold. The rain seems to have made everything bolt - these growing plants, in a field just west of Shenstone - were not evident last week. Wonder hat they are? Anyone know?
May 15th - It was a dreadful commute on the way to the station this morning - driving rain, cold, windy. When I got to Redditch, the rain had lessened, but conditions were still challenging.
What a difference, then, when I emerged in the afternoon sunlight. The rain had gone, skies were blue and apart from an unpleasant westerly wind, it was a joy to cycle the backlanes home. Beware, though, if using Forge Lane in Little Aston tomorrow. There’s a tree fallen over the road near the old mill. Most cars would pass OK, but if you’re in a 4WD or van it might be difficult.
May 15th - Today, I went to Redditch for the first time in more than six months. I really enjoyed the Arrow Valley Cycle route, and have missed it loads. This traffic free, quiet belt of parkland runs along the river arrow right from north to south Redditch, and is a real eye-opener. It’s beautifully tended, litter free and a haven for wildlife. The Arrow was in full flow after the heavy rains of the previous night, and the paths were wet and glistened. Canada Geese loafed as swallows dived over the central lake, and grebes scudded past. Everything was beautifully green, and the lower reaches smelled beautifully of wild garlic, although the crop this year is limited. Where there had been whole glades of this aromatic plant last year, there were only clumps.
I’ve missed this commute. It’s lovely.
May 14th - Shire Oak Hill is a very old adversary. There’s no real, practical way around it, and it’s got an awful profile - it gets steeper as you get towards the top. Going down is usually fun, but that climb comes need the end of many rides, and can be a killer. Today, it was OK as I had the wind behind me. I looked back as I reached the top and noticed the greenery, the blossom, the copper beech, and a fuzzy outline of Lichfield Cathedral, still visible in the continuous drizzle.
It’s a view I know well, yet still surprises me.
May 14th - Grim ride home. The morning wasn’t bad, but just as I started the evening commute, the heavens opened. It was thoroughly wet, dark and miserable. Not helping the mood were the remarkable number of speeding drivers on Lynn Lane at Shenstone - two were actually racing each other in very bad conditions indeed.
My glum determination was lifted, however, by the familiar cheesy, flowery scent of oilseed rape. The thick, heavy pollen was being stirred by the raindrops. In the dark afternoon, it was gorgeous.
There’s beauty in the most unpleasant days.
May 13th - But my, the skies did look black. For most of the day, and it seems it’s in for the week. I really, really want the fine weather to return.
We need to all wish together…
May 13th - Not a great day. Over to Telford early, then back to Tyseley. Transport worked well, but I didn’t get much done. The journeys were perpetually under the threat of rain - which largely went unfulfilled, thankfully. But there was sun. And spring. In Telford, a row of ornamental cherry tress provided a cascade of blossom. The canal cutting from Galton Bridge station where I changed trains was an emerald delight. Cowslips were quietly rioting in yellow on the embankment of Clayhanger Bridge.
Industrial environments aren’t what they used to be. Thank goodness.
May 12th - I have a horrid feeling that the three glorious days of the May Day bank holiday were, in fact, summer. Today was wet, but warm, so I donned waterproofs and hit Cannock Chase. It rained steadily for pretty much the whole journey, and the light was awful for photos. There is a huge spread of cowslips at Brindley Valley, and everything else was vivid shades of green - even Rugeley Power Station was surrounded by verdant pasture. The Chase was lovely, and peaceful, and I didn’t see another soul from Rifle Range Corner all the way to Seven Springs.
Anyone would think humans were made of sugar… the forest is lovely in spring rain.
May 12th - Not often I see this. In fields just to the east of Penkridge Bank on Cannock Chase, a herd of about 40 fallow deer, grazing and browsing on the pasture. It was raining, and very quiet, and I think they were taking advantage of the generally human-free conditions. The herd was split into two groups, the other being in and beyond the treeline.
I watched them for a good 20 minutes. A remarkable sight.
May 11th - As I returned, I passed a particularly intemperate Canada goose on the towpath, standing sentry on one leg. He hissed and honkey at me grumpily, and I couldn’t see why. Just as I was about to squeeze respectfully past, I followed his gaze. There, upon the opposite bank was his mate, and their brood of 3 (or possibly 4) goslings. She looked like she was still sitting. Those guys had cute in shedloads, and are the first goslings I’ve seen this season. Marvellous.