BrownhillsBob's #365daysofbiking

April 18th - Between Harlaston and Clifton Campville, there’s a small, Catholic hamlet called Haunton. There’s a church, a small convent, a huge old folk’s home that used to be a private school and a lot of odd architecture. This is a tiny place, but it has surprising corners.

In the churchyard today, I noticed this railing remnant being consumed by two separate trees engaged in a slow, determined tug of war. I was fascinated in the distortion, and wondered how old the railings were.

I swear that if you put your ear close, you could hear the trees grunting…

April 18th - A great long ride today, on a warm, wonderful spring day. I headed out to Honey Hill, at No Man’s Heath via Canwell, Hints, Hopwas and Harlaston, returning via Netherseal, Lullington, Edingale and Lichfield. On the way, I stopped, as I always do, at the old ROC post at Harlaston. It was still in a very sorry state, but I was reminded of something. 

Stopping for a drink and a breather at the top of Willowbottom Lane, just by the bunker, I looked down and noticed a barely visible square of bricks and concrete. This is another reminder of past conflict, for these are the remains of a second world war anti-aircraft watchpost.

High on the hill above Tamworth, it’s an excellent spot for it. A sobering thing on a sunny, spring afternoon.

April 17th - Cowslips everywhere this year. From a rarity 15 years ago to being all over everywhere like a cheap suit, these wee, delicate primroses come in a whole variety of subtly different forms, and are just crying out for attention.

My favourite flowers, without a doubt. Go find some and take a look for yourself. Wonderful little things.

April 17th - The minutiae of drainage engineering are wonderful. I’ve been passing this array of manholes for a couple of weeks now, and noticed that new bars had been installed across the covers. It’s taken me ages to work out what they’re for. It’s not what one may imagine.

Opposite a small, automatic sewer pumping station on Green Lane at Bullings Heath, Walsall Wood, there is the concrete cap to what must be a storm buffer. A storm buffer is a large underground tank that, in time of heavy rainfall, collects drainage water and fills up, storing it and allowing slower discharge into the main network to prevent overload. There are lots around and they work well; you can tell this is one due to the large circular ‘cap’ evident with the access covers.

Recently, bars were mounted over the covers. Initially, I assumed they were to prevent access by drainers - a type of Urban Explorer that goes into sewers and storm drains to explore - but they aren’t actually secure. They’re secured with normal nuts and bolts, not locks. A couple of covers in front (not shown), which I think house pumps of valves - are not so protected.

They have actually been fitted to prevent internal pressure from blowing the access covers out. If the buffer filled to capacity due to a storm event, water pressure would increase against the hatches, and lift them out. That would then expose anyone walking through the subsequent flood liable to fall into a very deep, open manhole.

The bars are therefore a safety feature.

I wonder what has occurred, and where, to make this risk suddenly appreciated?

April 16th - Of course, the real star of this year’s Springs Got Talent is the blossom, which has been extraordinarily abundant this year. Apple and ornamental cherry line the cyclepaths of Telford. The falling petals are a delight, and shower any passing cyclist with confetti, like some groom of the spring.

Fantastic stuff.

April 16th - It’s all about flowers at the moment. I was in Telford for the first time for a couple of weeks, and spring has come on incredibly fast in the intervening period. As ever, the bed of tulips and other flowers at Telford railway station is incredible - but the daffodils - now going over a bit - were gorgeous at Hortonwood. It was sunny, and warm, and the wind seems to be dying a bit at long last. As I ground my way up Shire Oak Hill late afternoon, I noticed the first Spanish bluebells in the hedgerow by Lanes Farm. 

This was worth the wait.

15th April - I noted when passing this evening that the field of oilseed rape at Grange Farm, on the Walsall Wood - Shelfield border was nearly fully in flower. The scent doesn’t seem to have risen yet, but it is beautiful. I love this stuff; such a striking sight in the countryside.

Even quite late this field was alive with bugs, bees and butterflies. Which has to be a good thing…

April 15th - I seem to be going through a mechanical rough patch. It happens, I guess, but it’s frustrating. My bikes are never the cleanest around, but I like to keep them mechanically tip-top. Thus when you have a rash of failures, it can be really disheartening. Following a spate of punctures last week, and the bizarre failure of the crank, yesterday the tension bolt on my saddle snapped, making for an uncomfortable ride home.
I use Brooks saddles - traditional, made in Birmingham, they’re the best thing I’ve found for my bum, and they give years of service. Lauded and hated equally by the cycling community, there are all kinds of myths surrounding Brooks saddles; you need 500 miles to ‘break one in’, they need constant oiling, they’re ruined if you adjust the tension. 
A saddle is a saddle - it either fits your arse or it doesn’t. If a Brooks doesn’t feel nice when you first get on, it’ll never fit you and you’ll hate it forever. But if it does fit, wearing it in will make it fit even better. I oil mine using Proofide once a year. I occasionally nip the tension up a half-turn when it gets a bit hammocky to ride. Again, about once a year.
I have never been as comfy on a bike as I have with a Brooks between me and the miles. I love them. I can ride all day (and often do) and never feel sore on them. But that’s me. 
Always try a saddle before you buy it.
My only criticism of these posterior wonders of comfort is the tension pins are crap. They snap usually at the point where the thread finishes, as this one has. The head fits in a socket at the nose of the saddle, and there’s a nut (not shown) that tightens against a shackle acting against it, and the rails. This takes most of my weight, and fatigues. The threaded part above has been filed to enable me to get the nut off without damaging it’s threads.
Easy enough to replace, this is the second time this pin has broken on this saddle in it’s ten year lifespan. What’s annoying is they’re a cheap £4 replacement, but postage doubles the price. Fortunately, last time this happened, I ordered a spare, too.
I love Brooks saddles. But they ain’t perfect and they’re not for everyone…

April 15th - I seem to be going through a mechanical rough patch. It happens, I guess, but it’s frustrating. My bikes are never the cleanest around, but I like to keep them mechanically tip-top. Thus when you have a rash of failures, it can be really disheartening. Following a spate of punctures last week, and the bizarre failure of the crank, yesterday the tension bolt on my saddle snapped, making for an uncomfortable ride home.

I use Brooks saddles - traditional, made in Birmingham, they’re the best thing I’ve found for my bum, and they give years of service. Lauded and hated equally by the cycling community, there are all kinds of myths surrounding Brooks saddles; you need 500 miles to ‘break one in’, they need constant oiling, they’re ruined if you adjust the tension. 

A saddle is a saddle - it either fits your arse or it doesn’t. If a Brooks doesn’t feel nice when you first get on, it’ll never fit you and you’ll hate it forever. But if it does fit, wearing it in will make it fit even better. I oil mine using Proofide once a year. I occasionally nip the tension up a half-turn when it gets a bit hammocky to ride. Again, about once a year.

I have never been as comfy on a bike as I have with a Brooks between me and the miles. I love them. I can ride all day (and often do) and never feel sore on them. But that’s me. 

Always try a saddle before you buy it.

My only criticism of these posterior wonders of comfort is the tension pins are crap. They snap usually at the point where the thread finishes, as this one has. The head fits in a socket at the nose of the saddle, and there’s a nut (not shown) that tightens against a shackle acting against it, and the rails. This takes most of my weight, and fatigues. The threaded part above has been filed to enable me to get the nut off without damaging it’s threads.

Easy enough to replace, this is the second time this pin has broken on this saddle in it’s ten year lifespan. What’s annoying is they’re a cheap £4 replacement, but postage doubles the price. Fortunately, last time this happened, I ordered a spare, too.

I love Brooks saddles. But they ain’t perfect and they’re not for everyone…

April 14th - Clayhanger Common is wonderful. On this sunny, spring afternoon, it was green, clean and beautiful. The meadow looked verdant, and the forget-me-nots, cowslips and dandelions were all well in flower. 

The new pond too - usually the last place to green-up in spring, is looking great, although the swans don’t seem to be nesting here this year yet.

There’s little here to indicate the polluted, barren wasteland this all once was. A fantastic thing.

April 13th - Back up on the Chase for the first decent, dry ride in what seems like an age. Still the heavy wind, but a joy to fly down Rainbow Hill to Moor’s Gorse.
Note the young bloke who overtakes me. He was absolutely flying. I topped out about 35mph and bottled it. He just floored it. Respect.
Music is Lindsay Buckingham’s ‘Don’t Look Down’ from the chronically overlooked ‘Out of the Cradle’ album. Video is real time.

April 13th - Up on Cannock Chase. The ears. That’s all.

Sorry for the poor quality - caught by the bike cam, some way off. Heavily zoomed, and slowed down for clarity.

April 13th - Up on the Chase properly for the first time in ages. I rode up through Chasewater, Cuckoo Bank and over Rainbow Hill to Birches Valley; then up Penkridge Bank, the old ranges and Abrahams Valley.

It’s a good spring up there this year - everything so green and fresh. It was wonderful, although yesterday’s punishing westerly remained, making the going very tough at times.

I think my deer magnet needs retuning. They took one look at me today from afar, and walked off…

April 13th - Hmm. Something is happening. Put on to this by local history wonk [Howmuch?], he told me in the week that he’d noticed that there was a crew drilling a borehole on the former marketplace in Brownhills.

Today, I swung past to take a look. He was right - a pile of fresh earth, and an access cover. Marked further towards the pedestrian bridge, a surveyor’s mark ‘BH2’ - presumably borehole 2, yet to be sunk. If that’s all the spoil to be removed, they’re not very deep.

Coupled with reports of surveying in the area of late, someone’s either taking measurements in preparation of building something, or there’s a problem underground, like a leaking drain. 

Whatever it is, it’s very much worth keeping an eye on.

April 12th - I got a long ride in today, but the afternoon was dull and overcast and I hardly took any photos at all. I was just too busy, stoking the miles in. I left mid afternoon, and headed out via Stonnall, Canwell and Middleton, then on to the canal near Middleton Lakes. I headed into Birmingham against a fearsome headwind, along the canals of the city centre, then out via Smethwick, Great Bridge, Darlaston and back to Walsall. Picking up some shopping, I headed home early evening. It was a great ride - just about 50 miles in total. 
As I came over the Arboretum Junction, I took this from the stopline. Walsall looks gorgeous in the dusk.

April 12th - I got a long ride in today, but the afternoon was dull and overcast and I hardly took any photos at all. I was just too busy, stoking the miles in. I left mid afternoon, and headed out via Stonnall, Canwell and Middleton, then on to the canal near Middleton Lakes. I headed into Birmingham against a fearsome headwind, along the canals of the city centre, then out via Smethwick, Great Bridge, Darlaston and back to Walsall. Picking up some shopping, I headed home early evening. It was a great ride - just about 50 miles in total. 

As I came over the Arboretum Junction, I took this from the stopline. Walsall looks gorgeous in the dusk.

Apriul 12th - I must have passed this hundreds of times without noticing it. Facing the footpath on the Birmingham Road, just on the edge of the Highwayman Car Park at Shenstone Woodend, this Ordnance Survey monument. Cast Iron, now at a jaunty angle, it sows a benchmark in the absence of a building to carve one into.
I had no idea these ornate cast iron ones existed, and they seem relatively rare. A fine, uniquely British thing.

Apriul 12th - I must have passed this hundreds of times without noticing it. Facing the footpath on the Birmingham Road, just on the edge of the Highwayman Car Park at Shenstone Woodend, this Ordnance Survey monument. Cast Iron, now at a jaunty angle, it sows a benchmark in the absence of a building to carve one into.

I had no idea these ornate cast iron ones existed, and they seem relatively rare. A fine, uniquely British thing.