September 16th - We’re in a real Indian summer at the moment - back to cycling around without a coat, with the sleeves rolled up. The sun has been shining, and the soft, mist-suffused light - particularly in the afternoons - has been a joy to the soul.
Autumn isn’t far away, though; the trees are turning, and when the sun goes down, there’s a distinctive nip in the air my chest and bones recognise only too well.
Here on the Lichfield Road at Walsall, the atmosphere and colour were gorgeous. I love how the trees are sculpted on the underside by the double decker busses that regularly pass under their boughs.
September 16th - There’s a shop opened up in the former bank in Darlaston, just on the Walsall Road at the lights. I say shop, it’s more of an… emporium.
It’s called something like Beer Bank, and I’ve not really taken much notice, as I thought it was purely an off-licence, but it’s far more than that. Told about it by mates, I popped in on my way through Darlaston this afternoon. It’s incredible.
The owner of this place sells all manner of British, Asian, Carribean and Eastern European groceries. From fresh fruit and veg to cosmetics, from pickled cabbage to spiced soda, I think I’m going to have fun exploring the products here.
There’s clearly a fierce entrepreneurial spirit at work - every square foot of floorspace is piled high with a whole load of diverse stuff. I loved to see the krela (bitter gourd), okra, chillies and ginger. I’ve no idea what the pumpkin-like green things are. The range of pickles also looks fun.
I love the free bag of onions when you spend £20, too. This is what I love about the Black Country; something unexpected around every corner.
September 15th - Returning to Birmingham via Snow Hill station, an absolutely remarkable view up Great Charles Street to Paradise Circus over the Queensway Tunnels. Several styles of architecture here from Victorian to Brutalism.
And beneath it all, a beautiful, glorious city lives and breathes.
September 14th - Back up on Cannock Chase for the first time in ages, and I really loved it. From the Heron near Ogley Junction, to Abrahams Valley and Parrs Warren, I had a great afternoon, racing around and generally throwing the bike around. It made a change, it’s been a long while.
That foot injury has been really holding me back. So glad it’s healed now.
September 14th - The boating lake at Chasewater has been drained for cleaning, and the old water spread on the west heath, by the railway. Odd to see this pool empty, but the feral white geese and opportunist wagtails didn’t seem to mind too much.
I noted they had warning signs out to avoid the area where the old water was spread, like it was suddenly a health hazard; whereas when it was in the pond, we were invited to sail toy boats and paddle canoes in it…
September 13th - I whizzed up to Walsall Wood in the morning on an errand. Coming back, I noticed the canal alive with small fish, and wondered if there was an oxygen problem there, but the fish seemed lively enough. No wonder the herons are so prolific here at the moment.
I stopped to look at the old Black Cock Bridge. Around a century old, I think, and in poor repair, it desperately needs some love. Since alternate routes exist, I think one day this steep and high crossing will be closed to through traffic like Hollanders Bridge in Walsall Wood, as replacement would be difficult and expensive.
Mind, a lick of paint and a good clean wouldn’t hurt…
September 12th - Conkers, by the shedload. The tree in Festival Gardens, Lichfield is laden with them again, despite being ravaged by leaf miner. Last year, due to the season, they were small, but this year, a better size. They’re thick on the ground in their shiny, brown glory.
Like all men, I’m programmed to pick up conkers whenever I see them. They are beautiful, like jewels in leathery, nutty perfection.
September 12th - I needed to pop into Lichfield, so I rushed there from work, then took a leisurely spin back. Festival Gardens are really nice at this time of year, and I wasn’t disappointed. The trees are now perceptibly turning, but still green. I love the willows here, and the purple flowers and bulrushes on the Trunkfield Brook were nice.
The odd subway here has always fascinated me. From the way its lined with corrugated steel, I think it’s very old. Don’t think I’e ever seen one like this before.
September 11th - Less charming than the sunflower, but fascinating to me, just under a bridge in Pleck, I pull up to a halt to allow a rat to get out of my way. Brown, and in good nick, it loops around the path before diving into a drain hole in the bridge underwall. If you watch closely, it briefly pokes it’s nose back out of the hole.
Rats are a fact of life with canal cycling, and there are lots in urban areas. Previously, I’ve seen them swimming here. Humans have a symbiotic relationship with rats, and we’ve co-existed for millennia.
I don’t find them repulsive, I find them fascinating. Their adaptability and nimbleness are fascinating.
Worth watching full screen. Click on the little square box on the vide toolbar.
September 11th - In Darlaston Green, a sight to bring joy to the coldest, hardest heart - a single, 7 foot tall sunflower, growing right in front of a living room window. I imagine it to have been planted by a child under adult supervision - possibly a grandparent.
September 11th - I only went and forgot the camera again. This week can’t end quickly enough. Something is not functioning at all well.
On the way to work, in central Walsall the traffic felt risky, so I hopped on the canal and rode to Darlaston that way. On the way, I bumped into this family of swans.
This bunch are very attentive to humans - I suspect they get fed regularly. They were almost harassing me for food. The adults seem smaller than the Catshill brood, and there’s only three cygnets, but they’re lovely, healthy birds, and seem to have been ringed.
As soon as they realised I wasn’t going to produce bread, they went back to foraging in the weed and quickly drifted away. Cupboard love.
September 10 - Riding home along Green Lane between Shelfield and Walsall Wood. Just on the Walsall Wood side of the Mob Lane junction, I’m overtaken badly by 3 mopeds, or small motorbikes.
The first has three - yes three - hemetless neds sharing an unregistered machine, the rear one actually smoking. Bringing up the rear, two lads with helmets, but one on a bike with the registration deliberately blanked out.
To make matters worse, at the Black Cock Bridge they turned off and rode up the canal towpath.
September 10th - I’m not on form this week, not even slightly. Yesterday I got in and complained the wind had been against me both to and from work, and it was pointed out to me that there was next to no wind. Today, I forgot my camera and had to use the phone. I hate that. Oh dear.
I stopped on the way to work to answer a call. Pulling over in Rushall, I realised how autumnal it looked. This is a lovely Indian summer, but I note the leaves starting to fall, and colours slowly changing.
As autumns go, this is up there with the best so far. I just need to get things a bit more together…
September 9th - As I rode home along the canal through Walsall Wood, I came upon a Mexican standoff. A small, black and white kitten one side of the canal, staring out a Heron on the other who was meeting the stare eye-to-eye.
They’d probably both still be there, but a clumsy cyclist with tea on his mind broke the moment.
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 three years down the road, he's still cycling every day and recording a little bit of every journey.