October 23rd - Back in Leicester for the day, and passing through South Wigston station, I stopped briefly to study my favourite bit of wild land, not expecting much to be showing well. How wrong I was. Cotoneaster, a yellow berry I don’t recognise, roses, rose hips, clover all made for a fine splash of colour. The cotoneasters were particularly impressive, and they’ll make a handsome winter feast for the blackbirds.
A fine end to yet another wet commute.
September 26th - Winging back along the canal to Brownhills, I took another scout along the fringes of Clayhanger Common. Locals will know that 40 years ago, the was a benighted site of contaminated land used as a refuse tip. Careful and brave reclamation in the early 1980s saw the lad reclaimed and planted, and this is the result. Even with autumn on their heels, still the thistle, bindweed and meadow cranesbill are flowering strongly, teasels stand tall and ripe, and the shiny black gloss of elderberries hang heavy on the boughs. This is such a long way from how this land was, and something everyone in Brownhills should cherish and be proud of.
August 28th - For some reason today, my photos were all really rubbish and these are the best of a rum lot, so my apologies. These yellow flowers are dotting the hedges and canal banks at the moment. Colloquially called ‘butter and egg’ they are common toadflax, often mistaken for snapdragons (which I did, last year). They’re a lovely, dainty little flower and make a change from the predominantly dark tones of most of the flowers around at this time of year.
July 3rd - Bird’s Foot Trefoil - which previously I’ve erroneously referred to as Vetch, sorry - is a beautiful plant. As kids, we used to call it ‘egg and bacon’ due to the crimson and egg-yolk colours. It’s growing in abundance around the canals and meadows of the area, and here near the new pond at Clayhanger. The delicate little flowers keep the bees buzzing, and are a constant delight.
June 25th - In Leicester today, and out early. This gave me chance to see my favourite patch of scrub, the embankment at South Wigston station.
I’m acutely aware that not many people have favourite patches of scrub, and this does mark me out as a little eccentric.
South Wigston is only a tiny dot of a suburban halt on a busy goods junction, and is totally unmanned. At some point, I think the green margins around the platforms and walkways were managed and planted, but haven’t been so for many years; the perennials that were planted here, plus some wild imports, run riot now all throughout the year, and reward me continually with colour, beauty and bounty.
It feels like I’m the only person ever to notice this; the only one ever to stop and watch the bees busy in the daisies, or bustling around the cotoneaster. Meanwhile, all around the sound of clanking industry, rumbling goods traffic and the joyful hubub of children from the nearby school.
It’s a wild place in the city, and I love it.
June 21st - The north end of Chasewater Dam is currently carpeted in a beautiful display of moon daisies, which not only look delightful, but smell beautiful, too. I love the fact that the rangers stopped mowing the bank and left them to bloom.
In a day riven with toothache, chaos and general bad luck, these cheered me no end.
June 19th - It’s honeysuckle time again. On the southwestern flank of the Black Cock Bridge in Walsall Wood, a large scrub of the delightful climber rambles and spreads its velvet red love to passers by. In a few days, this will be alive with bees and insects, and smell divine. It’s actually huge, too, quite the largest, healthiest patch of the plant I’ve ever witnessed.
If you can, do go check it out. It’s stunning.
June 18th - A bit of a disaster, photographically. I forgot my trusty camera, and was reduced to my phone. I’ve never used the phone for close up stuff before, and took 20-0dd pictures of wildflowers that looked OK on the screen in sunlight, but turned out to be out of focus smudges of colour.
The only images any good were of the new pond in Clayhanger, and the remarkable meadow that surrounds it. Alive with buttercups, dandelions, vetches, trefoils, clover, and multiple species of grass. It’s buzzing with insects and small mammals, and really is a place to explore and take in with all the senses.
A beautiful thing, rendered rather flat by a poor camera. My apologies.
June 17th - I love lupins. These tall flowers grow wild along the canal towpaths and scrubs of Black Country canals, and set the cuts ablaze with purples, lilacs and pinks at this time of year. I don’t suppose they’re a native species, I suspect more of a formerly cultivated feral fancy from gardens. But they seem to thrive untended on the rough embankments and thickets alongside out waterways.
When I see lupins, I know it’s summer at last.
June 15th - Returning from the Canal Festival at Pelsall, I stopped in the sunshine to check out the canal side wild flowers. I’m interested in them all - the only one I recognise being Bullrush. I’m particularly interested in the blueish one bottom left. Think it might be an escaped ornamental. There’s certainly plenty in bloom right now, and it’s all wonderful.
June 10th - A day of pottering around on errands and short journeys, during which I spotted these lovely huge poppies growing in the hedgerow in Hall Lane, Walsall Wood. They look too large to be native, and think they must be garden escapees. But whatever their origin, they’re very, very beautiful. A joy to the heart.
May 24th - Out early evening, and speeding towards Stonnall, I glanced to my left as I enjoyed the downhills. Fishpond Wood is gorgeous right now. After last year’s poor bluebell showing, they’re really excellent this year - and these are true British ones, not the Spanish impostors. The light was awful, but the atmosphere great.
I asked a mate about the tin shack. He said it used to house a pump, and he thought it was something to do with the quarry once. Never noticed it before.
These woods are private property and I was trespassing, so don’t do it, kids.
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 10th - Spring is still going strong. Delightful flowers speckle the hedgerows, and the oilseed rape isn’t quite out yet on Home Farm near Catshill. Mrs. Swan still dozes the day away, hopefully on a decent clutch of eggs, and apart from the wind and rain (which are admittedly pleasantly warm), one might be convinced winter was finally over…
April 23rd - To be in England, in the springtime. I had to go to Leicester, and the patch of waste ground that so enthrals me at South Wigston Station was, as ever, a joy to the heart. Beebuzz and birdsong greeted me as I hefted my bike of the train in the bright, warm sun; peacock butterflies flitted about the lush flowers. Grape Hyacinth, primrose, gorse, dandelion. Performing for me, in this moment, in the middle of urban sprawl. A small wayside oasis, hardly noticed by anyone.
It doesn’t get much better than this.