March 9th - At Sittles, north of Whittington, a surprise. It’s amazing the things you get overtaken by in country lanes…
March 9th - I passed through Lichfield on a bright, warm, sunny Sunday afternoon, and the place was bustling. People were queueing for ice creams, browsing in the shops and just taking the air. It was an absolute joy to be there.
Interestingly, there were a huge number of bikes around the city - people really seem to be increasingly turning to bicycles these days for leisure trips at least.
A fine thing to see that lifted my spirits.
March 8th - On the former railway embankment that is now a cycle track, I stopped to survey the council depot at Pelsall Road. Slumbering in the evening, there was nobody around. This time last year, the gritting hoppers would have been on lorries and working hard. This year, they’ve barely been used at all.
Let’s hope there’s no further call upon them until next winter…
March 8th - Out late at sunset, and only time for a short loop around Brownhills. The town always looks good at sunset, and everything from Humphries House to the Pelsall Road looked great in the sundown light.
I’m really, really enjoying the early spring this year.
March 7th - A great afternoon, although the wind was still very fresh. I returned via Chasewater, which was surprisingly deserted. I noticed the wakeboarding equipment had been set up for the new season, and the lake was still overflowing into the spillway. Waves broke against the southern shore with some anger and splashed any incautious walker.
The canal also looked fine as I returned to Brownhills with the sun warm on my back. This early spring is gorgeous, and it’s just what the doctor ordered - but I still can’t get the frightening thought out of my head that at the end of March last year we had the heaviest snowfalls for years.
One thing about Britain I really love: no two seasons are ever the same.
March 7th - After the despondency of the previous day, spring returned with a fresh passion today. I managed to escape work while the sun was still shining, and headed to Burntwood to pick something up. On the way back, in bright spring sunshine, I happened to glance through the gates of the cemetery opposite St, Anne’s Church. What I saw astonished me: the finest display of crocuses I have ever seen in my life. These are incredible when seen in person, and I commend any reader to go take a look. An astonishing, and beautiful thing.
Forget what I said yesterday: spring isn’t shaping up too badly right now…
March 6th - Out for the evening and returning late, the streets were very, very quiet. I sped from Walsall with the wind at my back on silent, wet roads; I even sailed through the lights at Rushall Square on green without having to slow down.
Sadly, the night was more redolent of November than March, but the ride was nice.
Still can’t get past my unease over the eeriness of Green Lane at night…
March 6th - The spring evaporated today. On the way home, it rained, and the the wind was horrid. It wasn’t a good day to be out on a bike and I found myself longing for the mild weather to return.
Sadly, the dry towpaths I’d been enjoying for a couple of weeks took a set back into muddy slurry again.
Ah well, there’s always tomorrow…
March 5th - It wasn’t until I hopped on the canal at the Black Cock Bridge and headed for Brownhills that I realised how still it was. The canal was like a millpond, and conditions were really quite silent. It hasn’t been like this since well before Christmas.
There’s definitely a change in the air. It really has been a detestable couple of months weather-wise; I really felt at one point that it was never going to stop raining.
Let’s hope the weather continues on it’s improving path for a while…
March 5th - The nascent spring seemed to tone it down a bit today. It was a nice enough day to commute, but the light wasn’t as good as it has been for the past few days, and it felt chilly. I really wasn’t inspired at all by the light, until I was coming through Walsall Wood and noticed that Jockey Meadows hadn’t really started spring yet. Whilst other places were greening up, it still looks grey and lifeless here. Come to think of it, I haven’t seen the deer here for a while, either.
In these deciduous woods, hedgerows and water meadows spring always comes late.
March 4th - The old bowling green at Oak Park is still flooded, and it still breaks my heart. But passing this evening, it made for a remarkable sunset.
Nice as the scene is, I wish the authorities could fix the flood, and show the park some love. It used to be such a lovely place.
March 4th - I came through Acocks Green today, a place I haven’t visited for a while. I love the sleepy, suburban Metroland feel to the backstreets, the Art-Deco townhouse terraces mingling with much older cottages from a more bucolic history. On the corner verge, a roadside flowerbed, planted with polyanthus and miniature daffodils.
I’m sure there’s an aspidistra in one of these front rooms. I hope they keep flying it.
March 3rd - The Four Crosses at Shelfield is a classic community boozer. Basic, but comfy, it serves fine real ale and is friendly and welcoming. I love the place. It’s telling that this small pub survived, while the plusher and larger Spring Cottage less than 50 yards away closed and became a retail grocery store.
Recently, following a frankly bizarre planning application, the venerable pub has been declared an ‘Asset of Community Value’ by Walsall Council. This declaration is essentially meaningless, but does show the council’s commitment to support this tiny pubs existence, which is appreciated.
The other pub I know to be listed in such a manner is The Black Horse at Edingale, which closed some time before it came to Lichfield District Council’s attention,and was awarded the status primarily to prevent the former inn being converted into flats. When I passed the other day, the Black Horse was still closed, and appeared to be in use as a private dwelling.
The unescapable fact of these things - ACVs, Local Listing and other such declarations - is that although planning can sometimes stop stuff being changed, you can’t force a business to continue to exist; you may well preserve a building, but not the pub itself.
A quandary for our times, and a demonstration that planning, heritage and community are uneasy bedfellows.
I wish the Four Crosses, it’s regulars, landlord and community well. If ever a pub deserves to thrive, it’s that one. Long may it do so.
March 3rd - Great skies this evening, after a quite middling day. I can feel colder air coming in, and the wind has changed. I don’t think this is a burst of winter, but I think it might be a rude awakening; we are only just out of February, after all.
Of late, the clouds and sundowns have been really excellent, and it is the season of fine sunsets. The skyline at Tyseley always captivates me, but tonight, over Shelfield, the salmon-pink tinged clouds were astonishing.
I’ve had a message today from an anonymous commenter who thinks the black bags in the lay-by at Coppice Lane, Brownhills may be rubbish collected by Community Payback crews and left for collection by organised waste disposal team.
Have to say, that’s great if that’s actually the case. However, it’s odd as Coppice Lane was as litter-strewn as ever and it is a notorious flytipping hotspot.
Interesting. I may well stand corrected, and thanks for the tipoff - but my views of flytipping remain unchanged, obviously.