December 5th - Without a functioning rail service, there was no alternative and I cycled home from Tyseley. The wind was strong, but it had died back considerably, and the rain - apart from a brief shower as I hit Park Hall - had cleared. I didn’t fancy the traffic up the main drag over Kingstanding with a side wind, so hit the canal all the way home. It got dark in Aston, and the front light - my trusty Hope R4 - was plenty good enough all the way. The going wasn’t fast, but it was steady, and much of the time I was sheltered from the wind.
Reality checks came at Tower Hill, where rocks had tumbled from the steep cutting embankment onto the towpath, and Park Hall, where a tree had similarly come to a sad end.
There was a cracking sunset, too, but I missed most of it, hidden behind the cityscape. The views over Hamstead were great though, and it made a change to see them at this time of day. I must head here for a sunset when I get chance.
I arrived home tired, but just pleased to be back, and safe. Many, many people had a far worse time with floods, the tidal surge and severe gales. My tribulations were nothing, and I did get in a decent ride, after all.
December 5th - It wasn’t a great day for train travel in the Midlands (or the rest of the country, for that matter). Signal failures led to horrid delays getting to work, and storm damage mainly caused by falling trees stopped lines to Walsall and Lichfield during the afternoon and evening, so I cycled home from Brum and gave the trains a miss completely.
I noted that Notwork Fail have this year put up a lush, artificial Christmas Tree in the ‘New’ New Street.
It’s irritatingly not straight, buy very apposite.
December 4th - Also in South Wigston, a postie’s bike. I was intrigued by this one as it shows how heavily loaded these things are these days - and why they’re being phased out in favour of electric carts and vehicles. Postmen and women these days deliver far more parcels and packets than they used to, and less letters, which make for heavier, bulkier delivery pouches.
This bike is interesting, too; not the usual design I see around, this is a step-through and has 3spead hub gear, with Bendix hub brakes. The water bottle made me smile, too…
December 4th - I was in Leicester again, but on a better day. Feeling a lot better, the weather was quite nice too, if a little nippy. For years, I’ve been passing the care home near South Wigston station, and admiring the treestump carvings in the garden. I’ve never thought to photograph them until today. They’re all beautifully observed, and the photo of the squirrel one doesn’t do it justice. What lovely things to sit in a dayroom and look out upon…
December 4th - Circumstances appear to have dictated that sadly, these signs are now necessary at Blake Street Station. Sometimes, it comes to me that we live in a cold, hard world.
My thanks go out for the kind, patient and dedicated work of the Samaritans. Bless them all.
Nobody need suffer alone.
December 3rd - An evening ride up to Walsall Wood had me crossing the High Street at the Ogley Road junction, just by the former Warreners Arms, after checking out some of the old names scratched into the brickwork of the former pub.I noted in an instant how much this view had changed in a decade; ten years ago, there would be two tall high-rises on the right, and a row of grim maisonettes on the left. The intervening years have seen them all carried to dust, a period of dereliction, followed by new build. On the right, Knave’s Court, a care complex for the elderly, and on the left, Ogley Hay Court, modern flats and houses.
Change happens slowly. Occasionally, something snags on your memory, and you realise how much changed without you registering it.
December 3rd - A better day today. The bug had receded, and I took a day out for rest and paperwork. I took a spin up into Brownhills at lunchtime on an errand, and took the opportunity to check out the canalside at Silver Street. I note work clearing the scrub on the land formerly occupied by Silver Court Gardens has been taking place, which may indicate someone’s got plans. At Silver Street itself, the area of canal bank laughably termed a ‘marina’ in development documents of the day is looking considerably down-at-heel. The paving is breaking up, the barriers rotten and falling down. The greenery is nice, of course, but the open space really could do with a bit of a refurbishment. This seemed likely in 2007 when the new bridge was unveiled, but any plans for environmental improvements seem to have faded.
It would be easy to blame Walsall Council for this, but it belongs to the Canal and River Trust, who don’t really seem bothered over it. I know local Councillors and others have fought hard to no avail to get the barriers replaced, and local volunteers work hard here litter picking.
It’s ironic that as these moorings decline, they’ve recently been so well used by boats.
It’s all a bit sad, really.
December 2nd - Still unwell, I had important stuff to attend to in Leicester, so off I went. Headachy, still with an upset stomach, the going was hard, and I didn’t take photos today except in the one place there that never, ever disappoints: South Wigston station. Everywhere else is shades of grey, black, ochre and slate; here there are crimson rose hips, orange cotoneasters and some dainty yellow flowers I couldn’t identify. Such a lovely bit of colour on a murky, overcast, grey day. And all growing from a small parcel of wasteland. A wonder to behold.
December 1st - I swung past St. James Church in Brownhills to check a couple of things out, and taking the path between Great Charles Street and the Church, I noticed how much litter and leaf detritus was gathering there. I’m not sure who’s responsible for this path - whether it’s Walsall Council or the Church - but it’s pretty grim.
I also noticed that in the fantastic covered bike shed in the adjacent schoolyard, two children’s bikes had been left. It struck me as being a bit odd, and slightly sad: who’d go to school on a bike, and not come home on it? Surely the wee ones are missing their wheels?
Few things sadder than an abandoned bicycle.
December 1st - First of all, my apologies. On my main blog I advertised the Chasewater Christmas Fayre for the day heavily; the press release from Staffordshire Council read well, and it looked to be a great event. When I turned up for a look around at midday, it was dire. 5 stalls, one of which was promoting the Forest of Mercia did not a great Christmas event make. My apologies to anyone who attended after reading my advert - I do try to promote decent events. I shall be more careful in future.
Disappointed by the Fayre, and still suffering with a stomach bug, I set out around Chasewater on a pleasantly sunny winter day. The North Heath looked pleasingly dramatic in it’s winter jacket, but sadly, no sign of the deer. Returning, I headed back over the Common and noted some management works in progress, which was good to see.
A pleasant ride, and I would have been out longer but my energy just wasn’t there.
November 30th - Brownhills has been spoiled rotten this year by our municipal overlords at Walsall Council - they’ve brought us new Christmas lights. Likened to mint Cornettos, they seem to show holly sprigs and stars, or maybe snowfall. They complement the tree we no longer get beautifully.
Can we have another lump of coal for the fire, Mr. Bird?
November 30th - A terrible day beset by daft problems, but mainly by a rather upset stomach. I shot out for a brief ride as I saw the sunset was so good, and caught the tail end of it. I headed up onto the old railway line at Clayhanger, and even climbed the old signal post for a decent shot. A fine atmospheric sunset, and the ride made me feel better, too.
November 29th - I was out early, as the sun rose. I had to go to Telford, and the morning skies were great. It was a shame I was running to close to time to stop and take more pictures. I’d forgotten how wonderful a winter sunrise could be.
At the other end of the day, I returned to Shenstone on a very black, cold and damp night; the weather couldn’t make it’s mind up to be wet or dry. There was a keen breeze that teased me all the way home.
Although it was Friday, the homeward journey was hard, and seemed to take ages. I’m slowly getting into winter mode, but it’s still tough.
November 28th - Oh my, this is a geeky thing. I spotted on the pavement near the Warwick Road near Sparkbrook. It’s a small, orange box with a radio antenna, and some kind of display. From it, there’s a signal cable popped through the access cover of a fire hydrant. There was nobody in sight and it just sat there, protected by a road cone.
This is actually part of a very clever water leak detection system made by SebaKMT, a measurement technology company. This rechargeable device is one of two recorders placed near a suspected water leak. An audio sensor is attached to the pipe beneath the cover from each recorder, and both units ‘listen’ to the noise made by the escaping water transmitted up the pipework.
The data from each is broadcast wirelessly to a third device, held by a technician, and that calculates the exact distance of the leak down the pipe from the sensors, by time lag in the audio signals recorded.
By taking several measurements, it can pinpoint within centimeters the place where engineers should dig to fix a leak that may not e evident on the surface. Such devices can save a huge amount of time and money to utility companies.
November 28th - I don’t know who this cat is, but she has a look about her that suggests crossing her would be a very bad idea. I stopped in Hall Green to answer my phone, and she glared at me with evils from the opposite footpath. As I made my call I was watched very carefully, and I was hissed at periodically.
She’s in very good condition, and I guess her mum loves her…