July 28th - Goscote Valley cycleway, on a summer afternoon.
This place is magical, and a place few would consider attractive, or even consider visiting. This former rail line is host to a whole range of wildlife, birds and flowers.
One of Walsall’s best hidden gems.
July 13th - TheMadOldBaggage is right: I’m being unduly pessimistic about autumn and the passage of summer. It’s still gorgeous, and there’s loads of stuff still to come into flower.
Today, I was delighted to spot these gorgeous wild sweat peas. Just how lovely are they? You can’t fail to see these and not be lifted.
Autumn? Not yet you don’t, matey.
July 3rd - Ragwort is one of those plants that everyone recognises, but few ever stop to look at. It’s rather beautiful. This plant was growing in Mill Green, and looked gorgeous as I passed this morning on my way to work. The buds are gorgeously dainty, and the shades and complexity of the flower parts themselves is wonderful.
At this time of year, it provides a welcome boost to the other, fading yellows of the hedgerow and verge.
Another weed that really deserves a bit closer study.
June 21st - I think the poppies growing so beautifully on the traffic island in Clayhanger must have been planted, possibly as part of the Great War commemorations this year. It’s fair to say that whether by accident or design, they’re really beautiful and a lovely display.
If you’re passing, do take a look, it’s magical.
June 16th - I called in at South Wigston on the way back, to kill two birds with one stone. The wasteland at the station there is beautiful again - brambles, ox eye daisies, thistles and dog roses mingled with a couple of unknowns. Considering this land - sitting between the access ramp and the platform - is totally abandoned and no more than 15 square metres, it holds no end of delights all year round. Stunning.
June 12th - They missed one! Thankfully, here are still one or two marsh orchids the mower didn’t slay; I spotted this healthy speciment on the opposite flank of the Clayhanger Bridge opposite the towpath. I still can’t forgive the buggers for mowing the others down.
These are gorgeous blooms. Look out for them.
June 12th - Fed up of the ring road in the heat, the fumes were driving me mad. I hopped on the canal at Bridgman Street in Walsall and instantly felt transported to another world. Green, lush and limpid, it was heavenly, and unlike around Brownhills, the grass cutter hasn’t been this way yet and the embankments are still verdant carpets of grass and wildflowers.
This is near Bentley Bridge, in the heart of the industrial Black Country, yet the waterlillies are heathy, the waters clear, and a common tern hunted the water with skilful menace. And above all, peace - just the sounds of morning industry living and breathing.
The Black Country ugly? Open your eyes.
June 7th - A slow handclap please, for the Canal and River Trust, supposedly custodians of our waterways. They have really, really pissed me off. To put it mildly.
I had nipped up to Screwfix in Walsall Wood, and with the sun fresh out and warm after heavy rainstorms, I cycled down the canal to Chasewater. It looked great, and shimmered and steamed in that way it does after summer rain. Then I realised - they’ve cut the grass on the embankments.
Initially this appears to be a good thing. Then I realised - they’ve blindly mown down the marsh orchids, and miles of other wild flowers doing so well here, providing food and breeding space for loads of different bugs, butterflies and bees.
Well played, C & RT, well payed. Not.
Acres of productive, healthy and untouched flowers destroyed without need. The grass wasn’t too long, and could comfortably have been left another few weeks.
Meanwhile, despite the complaints, the chasm in the footpath at Anchor Bridge remains unrepaired and ready to swallow a foot or bike wheel.
Custodians my arse.
May 30th - Under the rumble and roar of Spaghetti Junction, beside a quiet, limpid canal, on an aqueduct above the River Tame, a little oasis of wildflowers in a built, otherwise hostile urban environment of steel, concrete and brick.
Lupins, poppies, ox-eye daisies, red campion.
That’s my Birmingham, right there.
May 29th - Just over a week ago I noted that the honeysuckle bush overgroing the barrier at the Black Cock Bridge was in bud. Today, on another wet, grey commute, I noted that the shrub was now coming into flower. Already, it smells delightful, and is becoming a riot of colour, from yellows to dark, dark crimson, and every shade inbetween.
Honeysuckle grows like a weed these days in many hedgerows, scrubs and canal embankments. It’s delightful, and the insects love it. It fascinates me and always looks a little prehistoric.
May 27th - I got taken to task by a good pal the other day for suggesting - erroneously in their view - that the summer blooms were purples, reds and darker colours. Yes, there are some yellows and whites, but just look at these, all spotted in a 30 meter section of Aldridge canal bank.
I’m just about to make a prat of myself and name them, but welcome correction from anyone. Are you there Susan? Wilymouse, perhaps?
I think the top three are known as granny’s bonnet, aquilegia or columbine. I think the nest two are mallow. We have a rather excellent marsh orchid - first this year for me - then, I think, green alkamet.
Last one is a puzzle, but I’m guessing some sort of campion?
Whatever they are, they’re beautiful.
May 23rd - I noticed something today I’d not spotted before. Cycling back up the Chester Road from Mill Green, as the land rises and undulates (from about 130m AOD to about 175m AOD) the plant life on the grass verges and in the hedgerows changes. At the low end, there’s birds foot trefoil, ragwort, ox-eye daises and clover in abundance in lush green grass. Higher up, these plants peter out to campion, dandelions and spiky grasses. Wonder if it’s changing soil or height?
The trefoil - called egg and bacon by us as kids - is lovely this year, and always looks nice after rain.
May 21st - It really is about the flowers right now. On a weary homeward commute I noticed the honeysuckle at the Black Cock Bridge in Walsall Wood was coming into bloom - and the buds are prolific and dense this year. The unsung heroes of the scrub and verge, the buttercups, are also prolific on the canal banks, commons and heaths, providing welcome food for bugs and bees.
At the moment, every journey is rewarded with new flowers to see!
May 20th - Spotted on the way home this evening - red campion. Seeing lots of this this year; although named red, most of what I see is shades of hot pink. A lovely, delicate flower, this is growing in the hedgerow at Sandhills on Shire Oak Hill.
The wildflowers really are excellent this year.
May 19th - In Telford for the day, and what a day it was. Bright, warm and sunny, the flowers and greenery have come on here apace. I noticed my first ox eye daisies of the year, replete with spiders, and cotoneaster in flower, still with some berries from last year. I’ve never seen that before - the fruit is beloved by blackbirds and other songbirds, but the shrub is so prolific here, and the crop so abundant last year that I just don’t think there were enough birds to eat it all.
It makes an attractive display, for sure…