BrownhillsBob's #365daysofbiking

July 30th - Interesting to note the cat population seems to have woken up since the temperature dropped a little. I see a lot of tails and bums sticking out of hedgerows on my travels, or furry balls asleep on house-steps, cars and shady corners. Often I’m glared at from under parked cars or over the canal from the opposite bank.

I adore cats. 

This midnight lady (I think it;s a lady) was photographed loafing in Chandler’s Keep, as I passed on my way up to Chase Road.  Wonderfully black, and those whiskers! I feel sure she could well be a witches familiar…

That’s one classy cat.

July 30th - It still seems too early to me, but it’s the time of the fruiting and berries now. I’m very familiar with the sticky red berries of honeysuckle - the glaze attracts dust and grime and makes them look grubby - but birds and bugs love them, although they’re mildly toxic to humans.

The white berry here I’m familiar with, but have no idea of the name. These used to grow on the front of a house I’d pass on the way to school, and the berries popped delightfully when thrown at the ground; this is what’s making me think they’re early. I’d have been plucking them in September, at the start of a new term. It’s barely the beginning of the summer holidays right now.

Anyone know their name?

July 29th - The harvest actually started a few days ago, but I was in too much of a hurry that night to get home, there was no time to stop and take photos. This was a field of oilseed rape, on the corner of Green Lane and Mob Lane, just by Grange Farm, in Walsall Wood. The dry plant has been harvested for it’s tiny, black seeds, threshed out of their pots by complex harvesting machinery. The pods, chaff and stalks are shredded, and sprayed back out on the ground to be ploughed back in.

Once the harvest starts, you know the season is marching onwards…

July 29th - Sorry, more cygnets. I didn’t know about these, but taking a desperate dive onto the canal to avoid traffic madness on my way to work, I passed this family of three and parents in Pleck, Walsall. 

They interested me particularly, as the young are clearly starting to develop white plumage, yet look younger than the Catshill brood (they’re smaller, too).

The adults don’t look any different, though…

July 28th - Big dreams, he had them. 

Better luck next time, puss. Maybe it was for the best…

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 27th - Brownhills High Street.
Next time you hear someone dismiss this place as a dump, a ghost town or worse, think of this.
Local traders have worked hard - with the Town Centre Partnership - to create the wonderful flower displays we have. Just look at that - it’s gorgeous.
It’s a tribute to the hard work and community spirit of the traders who’ve planted and kept watering the baskets, tubs and planters.
The place may have problems, but these people had a go, and made something beautiful. 
A wonderful thing on a lovely summer evening. Thank you.

July 27th - Brownhills High Street.

Next time you hear someone dismiss this place as a dump, a ghost town or worse, think of this.

Local traders have worked hard - with the Town Centre Partnership - to create the wonderful flower displays we have. Just look at that - it’s gorgeous.

It’s a tribute to the hard work and community spirit of the traders who’ve planted and kept watering the baskets, tubs and planters.

The place may have problems, but these people had a go, and made something beautiful. 

A wonderful thing on a lovely summer evening. Thank you.

July 27th - On Clayhanger Common, there is a thriving population of teasels. A spiky, spiny, purple, prehistoric-looking plant, our ancestors used the dried seed heads to tease wool and fabric. 

Some of these plants - once a very rare sight in these parts - are six feet tall now and in rude health. A fine symbol of the biodiversity and health of the common here - which only 35 years ago was a polluted, barren and filthy refuse tip.

July 27th - After a day of unexpected but nice things - a meal out, some good family time, a bit of productive bike spannering - I slid out on a finely-tuned steed to enjoy the cooler air that had come in during the day. At the canal in Walsall Wood, near the Black Cock Bridge, the embankment strengthening I recorded last week has come on apace. The sectional piling now seems to be working it’s way up to the bridge itself, and is fascinating to see. 

I heard last week from a comment on Facebook that residents here had been waiting for this work for years. It looks like a decent job, and I hope it solves their problems.

July 26th - I’ve recently discovered Darwin Park - the long avenue through the new housing estate in south Lichfield. It’s very impressive, if a little artificial, but I do think it’s nice, and also a very decent traffic-free route out of the city to Waitrose. 

There’s a pond there, and on this hot afternoon, Mrs. Mallard, with what I assume must be a second clutch, was promenading in the sunshine. More indolent, but no less cute, were a pair of swan parents with six offspring.

Mr. Swan was a little truculent, but his offspring were unperturbed by my presence. I’m absolutely captivated by cygnets this year. The positions they get their resting legs into are fascinating.

This is a lovely place and a new asset for Ye Olde City.

July 26th - Taking it easy with the foot, it’s clearly not going to heal quickly. It was a lovely hot day, however, and I needed to get some shopping done, so I gently pootled into Lichfield in the afternoon.

Riding down Pipe Hill I expected a cooling breeze. It was actually like being blasted by a hot-air hand drier. The day was the hottest I think I’ve known for a while, and the impression the languid, green town had on me was restorative and relaxing.

Lichfield may well be up it’s own arse, but it is beautiful in places.

July 25th - I nearly squished him (I assume it’s a he), but this common toad was quite happy in the middle of the towpath and wasn’t moving for anyone. I lit him carefully with my bike light, and I think the results aren’t too bad.

I love frogs and toads. So full of character.

July 25th - The Catshill swan family seem to spend a lot of time at Anglesey Basin, and tonight they were group-preening and loafing by the waterside, totally relaxed. The parents let me get quite close, but sadly, the  movement of the cygnets - still numbering seven - combined with low light made for terrible photos.

July 25th - The Catshill swan family seem to spend a lot of time at Anglesey Basin, and tonight they were group-preening and loafing by the waterside, totally relaxed. The parents let me get quite close, but sadly, the  movement of the cygnets - still numbering seven - combined with low light made for terrible photos.

July 25th - A busy day, but the foot improved no end, and a great meeting with an old friend started the weekend off well. I spun out at sunset, as night fell, to Chasewater. Not a bad sunset, and the warmth and light was a joy to behold.

We are so lucky to have this place on our doorsteps.

July 24th - Further on, at Sandhills, a fine crop of maize. Related to sweetcorn, it’s grown mainly for animal feed and seems a bit of a declining crop. That’s sad, really, as it’s fascinating. Already a couple of feet high, this may well grow to 4 feet or more tall, and is lush and green the whole time.

When harvested, a special machine is used that chobbles up the whole crop - seeds, stalks, leaves and cobs - into small pieces, so nothing is really wasted. 

This is one of the latest summer crops, one of the last harvested, and will provide this vivid green right into September.