December 13th - Further along the canal,I played again with night photography. Interesting that the lack of moonlight tonight made for such grainy images, but I like them, all the same. I hated it at first, but I’m quite getting to like the ghost-flats in Brownhills. The colour comes alive at night.
November 13th - Heading home from work late again, I hit the canal for a bit of a mental challenge. It’s been a hard couple of days, and night riding in a darker than usual environment is really good for clearing the head. I wait until I get to a dark spot, then kill the lights for a bit. It’s great fun.
This image is taken without flash, and this is how it looks from the bike.
The front light I’m using at the moment - a Hope Technology Vision R4 - is great, and bright enough to stun a badger. Here, it’s on the lowest of three ‘trail’ settings, and it’s more than adequate for tiding in woodland at night.
As soon as the weather clears, going to try it out on the Chase one evening…
November 12th - Meanwhile, at the other Oak Park, something is happening. The 70s recreation centre and sports ground is up for a rebuild, and I’m hoping that should it happen, the council might be able to renovate the old park adjacent. All around the grounds of the leisure centre there are surveyor’s marks on the tarmac, highlighting measurements, cables and pipes. Meanwhile, on the football pitches, a small drilling machine was boring test holes to measure ground conditions. This plan is clearly serious.
Meanwhile, the row of ornamental cherry trees on the east side of the site rain golden beauty on the Brownhills road. Hope they can be preserved in any new development; they’re lovely.
November 12th - I had something important to do in the morning, had had planned to take the rest of the day of, but I got called in to work. In Walsall Wood on my errand, I noted with sadness the seasonal lake is filling up at the original Oak Park. This was once a bowling green.
It would bring tears to a glass eye. This water will stay here until spring, and nobody at the council - whose responsibility this virtually abandoned public park is - seems to give a toss.
November 11th - I think the rain made this, in a funny kind of way. When I came past the war memorial in Darlaston, it was raining quite heavily, but the statue, wreaths and tributes positively glowed in the murk. It looks like Darlaston did it’s fallen proud. So touching, and beautiful, it was a great sight on a wet, grey monday morning.
A few minutes later in the town, I saw the regular street sweeper cheerfully litter picking in the rain. Just as I passed, a lady from a local shop shouted to him, and came out with a cup of tea for him, and praised him for his hard work.
Life here, distilled. I love this place.
November 11th - The weather is stuck in repeat. A lousy, wet and heart-in-mouth commute to Darlaston, and I hopped onto the canal as soon as I could. The roads were mad today, really, truly awful.
The rain varied between a light drizzle and very heavy, and was again glad of good waterproofs. Twice I stopped for shelter under bridges. The autumn colour is gorgeous, but I’d love to see a bit more of yesterday’s sun rather than this endless rain we seem to be cursed with tis last couple of weeks.
November 10th - Night ride home. Long exposure experiment without a tripod. Again, the camera is stood on the guard rail on 15 second exposure, looking west up the A5 bypass from the Jerry’s Lane flyover at Weeford. In the distance, and ambulance is coming. When I took this, it was almost total darkness.
November 10th - Remembrance. I called in at Hopwas to get a shot of the War Memorial here (there is none at Wall, to my surprise). It was darkening as I arrived, and having forgotten my tripod, I struggled. But this is a beautiful building and a delightful place, especially on an autumn evening.
Hopwas is the most curious, lovely church in all of Staffordshire. There, I said it.Yet what gazetteer or guide breathes it’s name? Who ever mentions this delightful country church?
Sitting in the shadow of Hopwas Hays Wood, high on the hillside, it gives the air of a country farmhouse, with white and timber gables, chimney and leaded pocket windows. Built in 1881 and designed by John Douglas of Cheshire, it’s a building that, to the best of my knowledge, is unique, and in a beautiful spot.
I was glad to see a wreath from the local Scouts, and several crosses. This is a fine place to be remembered.
November 10th - I was still tired, and it took me a long time to get moving, but it was a gorgeous afternoon. I headed to Hopwas Hays Wood, again to test my mettle on the downhill there that fascinates me. On the way through, I stopped at Wall in a gorgeous golden hour. I studied for the first time the new milepost erected there in 2012. It’s an impressive thing, but like a lot of statuary these days, it’s so inoffensive, I don’t really see the point; commemorating the Queen as it does, it’s neither historically accurate or informative, but the carving is lovely. On the post’s crown, a last ladybird seemed to be enjoying the sun. I hope it found somewhere decent to hibernate.
The real star of Wall for me is not Roman but Victorian - the church, with it’s gorgeous, well-kept terraced churchyard. It’s always peaceful here, and the golden light rendered the light Sandstone church and all else it touched golden.
A Day at RSPB Leighton Moss. No bird pictures, the light was just too awful. Saw the starlings coming in to roost but no murmuration, it was far too wet. The best light came at the end of the day, for just a few minutes before it started raining again. We still enjoyed a lovely day though.
A beautiful sunny Sunday at Ladywalk Nature Reserve and RSPB Middleton Lakes.
Lovely! And a fine crop of shaggies, to boot!
November 9th - A strange day. I was at work very, very early and spent the day tired, misplaced and spare. I wrote a little, did some bike mechanics, slept an hour or so. When I emerged, it was after dark and I had a desperate run to Walsall Wood on an errand I left way too late. On the way back, I experimented with the evening townscape. From Hollander’s Bridge, the road that no longer bears the same name looked almost dreamlike, and somnambulant. Binary Wharf, nearby, looked impressive in the street light. Even Bullings Heath, once tiny hamlet but now extension of Walsall Wood seemed villagey again.
What is it about night, the urban landscape and this atmosphere that I love so much? It’s almost addictive to me.
November 8th - I’ve noted before, that at night Stonnall is a different place. Darkness has a remarkable effect on the dormitory commuter village that I find puzzling. By day, it’s a nondescript, but pleasant place; old houses mingle with postwar new build and a few ex-council houses with neat gardens and an open, if slightly characterless atmosphere.
At night, however, I’m not sure why, but the place develops a wholly different character. The old buildings here come alive, and the new stuff just slinks into the background. You get hints, whispers of what the old village might have been like, before it was sold out to developer and speculator.
Some places seem lost, but retain their essence at certain points. Stonnall does this on dark winter evenings. I remain convinced that the spirit of some places is never lost, just hidden.
November 8th - Nipping down into Stonnall on my way home, I noted The Old Swan was in darkness. I know it had been up for let for a while, and do hope this apparent closure isn’t terminal - after all, housebuilding land in Stonnall is at a premium, and the pub stands on what would be a large site.
It’s always been a fairly popular, community pub, one of two in the village. But for those, it’s a long walk for a beer anywhere else - either Mill Green, Lazy Hill, Shenstone or Shire Oak; none short walks.
I hope The Old Swan finds a new lease of life, I really do.
From November 6th - Walsall new ring road, Green Lane Junction about 5:10pm, Wednesday 6th November 2013. I didn’t feel it safe to stop as the guy behind was stuck to me like a wet T-shirt. This is far from unique driver behaviour here - get in the wrong lane trying to queue jump, then bugger everyone else trying to sort it out.
More of this run later.
Best viewed large by clicking on the youtube logo, and click on the wee gear symbol and select 1080 for best video quality.