August 28th - Although summer is drawing to a close, some peculiar reminders remain. I don’t think I’ve ever known the canal waterlilies last as long as they have this year - white and yellow are still widely in bloom. They’re usually over by now.
Like the herons I’m so fond of, they’re an indicator of a clean waterway, and something I find beautiful and special, as you’d never see anything like this when I was a kid.
Stay as long as you like…
August 28th - A bit of a strange day. I wasn’t planning on going to work, but ended up called in anyway. It wasn’t a bad commute as it happened, and the journeys were pleasant. On the way home, I passed over the The Bridge in Walsall town centre. It was while there that I spotted something I pass by loads, that is really part of Walsall’s furniture; the concrete hippo. It occurred to me that I’d never featured it here before.
Derided and loved in equal measure, this 1970s artwork has formed a meeting point for a couple of generations of Walsallians. Up until a decade ago, the hippo basked outside BHS, and teenagers, before mobiles and social media would agree to ‘see you by the hippo at 12 o’clock’ or somesuch.
For a while, the hippo image was even used to advertise the Walsall Show.
The story of how our town came to have this bizarre object is complex and not without some debate, but I think all true Walsall folk love it. There is talk of a renovation, of fixing the broken ear. I hope they go through with it.
Walsall is full of surprises. A concrete hippo - without any apparent rhyme or reason - is just one of them. And it’s lovely.
August 27th - Just on the canal bank between the Black Cock Bridge and Walsall Wood Bridge, a crab apple tree with lots of good fruit.
This is the first tree along here I’ve seen with fruit this year. Normally there are three or four.
A sad reflection on the season, which seems to have been a bit strange. But never mind, this will make a lovely jelly for someone.
August 27th - A run out mid afternoon on an errand. I headed up the canal from Pelsall Road to Silver Street bridge, then over Clayhanger Common and the new pond to Walsall Wood.
The herons are getting really, really confident; this one was on the canal by the Watermead estate. He wasn’t a bit bothered by what was going on around him.
The Swan family were grazing by the embankment restoration near the Black Cock Bridge. The seven young I’ve followed since hatching are adult-sized now, and the first hints of adult, white plumage are beginning to show. I don’t know what the bank works have disturbed, but these graceful birds were very engaged with eating it!
August 26th - In the backlanes between Stonnall and Shenstone (I’m not going to say where) there are a secluded row of apple trees. I’ve known of them for years, and they always seem to grow decent fruit. This year, they’ve excelled themselves.
The apples aren’t huge, but there are lots of them. There are several varieties, Cox’s, Russets, and I think Granny Smiths. The Russet I nabbed was sweet, juicy and ripe, the Cox too.
I always love to see these apples.
August 26th - Even on a grim, grey day, Wall still has a fascination. Riding in via the track that constitutes Back Lane was a challenge, as it’s very overgrown, but such a delight. The fields here have been fully harvested, and look barren dressed in their underwear of stubble.
The village itself is fascinating. The half-cream, half-barebrik place with the odd gables? That was once a pub called the Seven Stars, and is now a lovely looking home.
Once, it stood on the main A5 between Brownhills and Tamworth, but the road was diverted on to a new dual carriageway half a mile to the south, and peace is restored.
A lovely little village.
August 26th - The day was better, I guess, by virtue of being dry, but when I set out for a tentative ride mid-afternoon it was cold, and a harsh wind blew. It wasn’t a bad October day, I thought.
I’m taking it easy. My foot isn’t completely better, and I thought I’d see how far I could push it before embarking on longer rides again. I looped up to Chasewater, then down to Wall, through Chesterfield and Hilton, back to Lower Stonnall, then home. Apart from a bit of toe-burn, not too bad.
What did impress was the fruits I saw. A terrific year for large, plump conkers; the tree at Edial between Burntwood and Pipe Hill is laden, and although suffering leaf miner damage, has a huge crop this year. In a few weeks standing at that bus stop could be hazardous.
At Wall, the walnut tree has a crop too. After finding it last year, I didn’t expect it to fruit this year too, but it has, with the lime-like ripening walnuts hanging from the boughs. I picked up a few windfalls, which were firm and large. When ripe, the green husks will split to reveal the more familiar brown nut inside. That’s if any survive the squirrels.
The Walnut tree also seems to have some kind of leaf miner activity. There are ‘blisters’ on some of the otherwise healthy, waxy leaves. I wonder what the bug is?
August 25th - One thing that is good about a wet ride is that it speeds up the bedding in of new brake pads. Last week I changed the ones on the front, and although greatly improved, that hadn’t yet reached best efficacy. A ride in the wet - with some nice hard stops from speed - works wonders, and the rain on the disc mingles with the metal dust from the disc and pads, forming a grinding paste that wears everything together quickly.
On my return, I swill out the brake calliper and disc with a hose.
The brakes are loads better now than they were before. I’ve never seen this documented anywhere, but seems to work a treat.
August 25th - A wet, miserable bank holiday Monday. This was the wettest, coldest one I think I’ve ever known. I always find this day depressing; it’s the last holiday before Christmas, and for me, seems to flag the end of summer. A week later, the kids will all be back at school, the nights will be drawing in even more, and the sun will lose it’s warmth.
In short, we’re advancing to Autumn at a fair lick now.
I rode out mid morning during a lull in the rain, and spun around Brownhills and Chasewater. The fruits, glistening with rain, were gorgeous, and the heather is particularly beautiful at the moment. The still green embankments and hedgerows cut a bright dash through the gloom.
I did note puffballs on the old railway off Engine Lane, another harbinger of Autumn.
At Chasewater, the valves are fully open and the waterlevel is dropping quickly. I wonder if there’s a purpose to this, as the canal is clearly full to overflowing.
A grim ride on a grim day. Brace yourselves, summer is closing out now.
August 24th - Aside from the motorcyclists, it was a lovely ride home. I’d been at a family thing, and came home via Chasewater and the canals, hoping to catch the swans again. I didn’t see them, but the fading light made everything ghostly. The canal was still flat as a millpond, and Chasewater wasn’t much livelier.
The light and the water combined to make everything precious, and despite not having my tripod, I managed to get some reasonable pictures.
August 24th - Dam wall path, Chasewater, 8:24pm. Motorbike bearing L plate carrying a pillion - neither with helmets - buzzes pedestrians, scaring their dog.
The bike is distinctive as it has two blue LED lightstrips down either side of the front fairing - I’m not certain, but I think that may be illegal.
August 22nd - At the back of Brickyard Road in Aldridge is a small marina, home to a number of moored narrowboats. Today, the water was mirror-calm, and it makes for an unexpectedly pleasant sight in an otherwise very urban, scarred landscape.
Admiring perfect waterlilies basking in the late summer sun, it’s hard to imaging this oasis of piece is wedged tightly between two landill sites, Europe’s largest toxic waste facility and a working marlpit.
There is beauty everywhere, if you look.
August 23rd - I had to pop into Aldridge on an errand, and so I took the canal. There’s an autumnal nip in the air, and everything is ripening. A fine crop of elderberries, blackberries and haws will make some fantastic pddings and wine, and the rosebay willowherb is demonstrating beautifully why it’s know as ‘old man’s beard’.
The only disappointment is the acorn crop, which is very, very bad. Only the second tree I’ve seen with any fruit this year - oddly, the acorns that grew are fat and in excellent shape, but the tree is mostly carrying the dead buds of undeveloped fruit. Most odd.
And then, that heron. He’s persistent, I’ll give him that. A fine bird.
August 22nd - The sun came out, and whilst riding over Anchor Bridge I’d noticed the swan family were headed off up the canal at a determined pace. I snatched a frankly awful picture, then went on my way. My mission in Brownhills aborted, I doubled back to get some better pictures, and quickly found the swans in a morass of at least 200 Canada Geese on the canal between Catshill Junction and Silver Street.
The swans are in fine fettle - I had been concerned last week after not seeing them awhile, and there had been a surplus of white feathers on the water near the bridge, but it turned out volunteers had been ringing them. According to reports, they spent a couple of days sulking in Aldridge, then came back.
Quite what’s attracting the numbers of geese here, I have no idea. I note there’s some outrage about Sandwell having undertaken a cull recently, but with few predators, goose numbers are skyrocketing, which increases pressure on food supplies. It’s a tricky question I guess.
After all, one does get so attached to these birds…
August 22nd - It was an odd day at work, after a very early start, I had little to do except for one late task at 4pm. Coming home, it spotted with rain most of the way, and the sky was threatening. I shot up Brownhills High Street to get to the cashpoint, then couldn’t get any money as my card had expired - I dimly remembered opening the new one the month before, and promptly forgetting about it.
An odd, frustrating day. But hey, it was Friday…