February 12th - Will it never stop? Have we somehow opened a portal to weather hell? After a wet, cold and punishingly hard ride to Darlaston very early, I left in the afternoon with a 30mph wind behind me. In what was a heart-in-mouth ride, I rode up Navvys Hill into Rushall at 35mph and made it home in only a shade over 30 minutes.
Avoiding the danger of crosswinds, I tacked over Oak Park and noticed the bowling green here still flooded. I have been told by the Council that the flood is due to a broken drain, and will be sorted out. I was promised a press release, to no avail.
This still breaks my heart - this used to be such a fine little park. It’s like seeing an old friend become destitute.
February 11th - After the snow stopped the day in Telford was dry and sunny.
'Never mind' they said. 'It'll be dry for the journey home' they said.
I left Walsall in the dry, without putting waterproof trousers on. 5 minutes later, when it was too late, the heaven opened, and then the rain turned to snow. For the second time today, I was wet, cold and fed up.
At least no one can ever accuse me of being a fair weather cyclist.
February 11th - The weather is getting worse, not better, but did hold an unexpected surprise for me today. I set out in the morning to the station, and the rain was heavy with a harsh wind. Even with waterproofs, I got soaked, and sat on the train dripping, miserable and cold. Fortunately, the subsequent train I caught to Telford was very warm, and dried me out a treat. This was by far the worst commute I’ve had for ages.
At Cosford, the torrential rain had become heavy snow, and was setting fast. When I alighted, there was about 10mm. Although wet and cold, it was a delight to see and cycle in, and I enjoyed the scenery and spectacle.
A couple of hours later, the sun was out and all the snow melted away. Glad I caught it, though.
February 10th - In the same forlorn landscape stand the abandoned, decaying former Focus DIY store. A victim of the recent recession, the chain it was part of collapsed some time ago, and this site has been vacant ever since. There had been DIY stores in this spot for a long time; an older building here was host to Big K and latterly Do It All, on whose car park many local kids learned to drive. Latterly replaced by this once smart, modern building, it now rots, a testament to commercial failure.
There is a persistent rumour that Asda will move in here; the rumour endures, like a similarly untrue one about Morrisons taking over the former Blockbuster store in Brownhills because those companies bought a handful of the previous owner’s stores when they went bust. This site was of no interest to Asda, and its future is unknown, but the empty building probably won’t stand long, as it attracts antisocial behaviour and flytipping.
The golf ball was just lying there, in the car park. I have no idea where it came from, or how it got here, so I recorded it for posterity.
February 10th - I came home in the early afternoon, just as the rain was clearing. I’d had to call in at Aldridge, so found myself in the hinterlands between Walsall Wood, Leighswood and Stubbers Green. This is a very scarred landscape, mainly from brick marl extraction. The geology of the former quarries here is perfect for landfill, and for decades, as a site is abandoned by the brickmakers, it is adopted by the refuse industry.
Now at the capping and landscaping stage, Vigo Utopia was a massive hole in the ground when I was a child, but now stands high above the surrounding area. Bulkheads tap off the methane and pipe it to a generator plant. Eventually, this mound will be a public open space, but that’s some way off yet.
Of course, the brickworks are still busy, and there’s still marl to be extracted, and there will therefore be further space for landfill. A vicious cycle of blight and nuisance, it renders this landscape hostile, ugly and barren, particularly on a dark, wet and blustery February Monday afternoon.
February 9th - I’d seen the little dog at Waitrose before - tethered to the trolley rail, he waits patiently and forlornly for his master. He’s a gorgeous little dog, but he does look so very sad. I could have taken him home.
The cat, on the other hand, clearly found me nothing more that a curiosity. Sat on a shed roof in Wall, he was surveying the comings and goings in the road below, and seemed a bit peeved that I’d spotted him. I think we met a couple of weeks before in the churchyard. He’s a lovely friendly boy.
There’s more than a hint of the Cheshire cat about the marmalade fellow, I think…
February 9th - The day was pretty grey, really, but had it’s moments. Fed up of the mud and slurry of recent haunts, I cycled down into Lichfield to pick up some shopping, and I returned via the back lanes around Wall.
The winter panorama of Hammerwich was stunning, but the wind was evil, and it blew me down Pipehill at a fearsome speed. Passing through Sandfields, I stopped to look at the Pumping Station, an architectural gem marooned in a sea of modern mundanity. I wish the preservation campaign every success.
At Wall, as the sun was beginning to set, I found my first snowdrops of the year growing in the churchyard.
Spring will come, I can feel it now. It wasn’t dark until gone 5:30pm..
February 7th - It had been a hard, long day. For the third time this week, I hit the canal back into Brownhills, but not before I’d stopped to reflect at Jockey Meadows in Walsall Wood. The heath there is sodden, and the meadow is still in winter clothing, but the daffodils here too are sprouting. No sign of snowdrops, though, which was sad.
The canal overflow is working to high capacity at Clayhanger Common, and I was interested to note the trash screen was clear of debris - either someone is cleaning it out or the canal isn’t that polluted these days. Think it’s probably the latter.
I paused on Catshill Junction bridge to look over to the wasteland where Bayley House once stood. One of the two high rise blocks demolished here just shy of a decade ago, permission has finally been granted for a new canalside development here.
Things change - the seasons, the weather, the skyline. But sometimes, the constancy of just loving where you are is enough after a tough day. Standing there in the weak February sun this afternoon, I really felt that attachment deeply.
I absorbed the space, the sun, the smell of the damp earth, the canal.
February 7th - I was over in Telford early, and returned to Darlaston at lunchtime. In contrast to the day before, the weather started out rainy, but turned springlike pretty much as soon as I left the house. The cycleways of Telford were beautiful in the sunlight, and the station at lunchtime oddly quiet, but a much nicer place to be for a bit of sunlight.
Why does the weather keep taunting me like this? Why am I scaring the sun away?
February 6th - I’d been in Telford, in a building with no windows. When I came to leave, I realised it was raining fairly heavily. Nothing to do, but don the waterproofs and go for it. The journey was pretty miserable, really; delays at Telford and Birmingham made for a long, damp trudge home, but at least the wind was behind me.
I don’t think I’ve ever seen a continuously warm, wet winter like this. Last year was bad enough, but at least we had variety with the snow. This is just getting boring now…
February 5th - I know little about this, and although peripherally aware of the Aldridge Garden of Reflection for some time (if that’s the right name), I’d never stopped to look. Today, passing through the town on my way home, I stopped to check it out.
On the corner of the High Street and Little Aston Road is a small, landscaped and sculpturally paved area with benches, flowerbeds and decorative friezes in the paving. It’s very sweet, and a little oasis. The reliefs in the paving relate to aspects of Aldrige life - history, present and so forth. There’s an interesting large compass too, pointing out the nearby major landmarks. Overall I was very impressed.
Not sure who was behind this, although Aldridge Rotary Club are mentioned. I must find out more about it.
BrownhillsBob biked every day for the thirty days of April 2011, part of the #30daysofbiking project, but enjoyed the process so much that he carried on. Over two years down the road, he's still cycling every day and recording a little bit of every journey.