July 10th - I’m really concerned about an early autumn, or maybe I’m just being paranoid because I’m missing so much sunny weather being trapped at work. These rowan berries - great for wine and jam - are ripening really well and seem very early to me.
I spotted them on the way to work at Clayhanger. It’s nice to see, and the colour - bright, vivid orange - will be excellent. But it feels like the summer is slipping away…
July 7th - Working late, I returned at sundown and winched my way up Shire Oak Hill from Sandhills. I noticed that lots of trees along here are laden with developing fruits - beach nuts, acorns, pine cones and these, unusually abundant sycamore seeds, or ‘helicopters’ as we used to call them as kids.
They seem to be already ripening - but this is only just the beginning of July.
Am I imagining it, or are we heading for an early autumn?
June 30th - With the passage of the early summer, we move from the flowering to the fruiting. Most fruits and seeds will be weeks in development, and not become of anything until late summer and autumn, but many flowers and trees seed early. The lupins by the canal at Clayhanger have long passed their best, but the seed pods they’ve formed, resplendent with downy fur, are a treat in themselves.
The dandelions, of course, such masters of natural engineering, seed all summer through. Such common flowers, rarely studied, but so gorgeous in their perfection.
November 25th - Sorry, but it was a great sunset. I was late for my train, and took a short cut through an industrial park. As I cut through the access tunnel, the sun pulled me up short. In the winter days, light is short and precious, which is why I think the sunsets are so much more beautiful to me. Within ten days, I’ll miss the sunsets completely.
November 24th - I enjoyed today’s ride more than I was expecting to. When I left home, it was cold and the air was murky. For some reason, the chill didn’t seem to get to me today - I just wrapped up warm and went for it. The leaves are beautiful now - this is the kind of scene I always expect in late October, but doesn’t seem to happen until later. I shot around Hilton, Wall Butts, Chesterfield, Shenstone, Weeford and Hints. From there, I dropped onto the canal at Hopwas and returned via Whittington and Wall. Between Weeford and Hints, I cycled Dog Lane, a green lane I try to ride at least once a year. The colours were great, and had this been a sunny afternoon, would have been stunning.
If you get chance this week, go for a walk in your nearest countryside, before the next big winds. It’s gorgeous.
November 23rd - I hit Chasewater for the sunset, which looked to be pretty decent, but sadly, wasn’t as great as I’d hoped. The light was good though, the park pretty much deserted. The gull roost - despite the last few boats only just leaving the water - was absolutely huge, with what must have been thousands of birds bobbing on the lake. I even saw an angler - the first I’ve seen on the main body of water since the reservoir refilled. It’s still a wonderful place to be, more so now the park has recovered.
The street light through that footbridge still fascinates me. It’s like a portal.
November 22nd - Passing through Aldridge on the canal on my way home, the scent of woodsmoke was never far away. There are few things better than seeing an occupied narrowboat with a nicely smoking chimney. The sight and smell are a joy to behold - and the whole scene was set off beautifully by the autumn colours.
November 18th - I left for work a little early today, I took the backlanes for a change. Despite the grey, overcast weather, they were beautiful in late autumn colours. A good wind now, and these trees will be stripped of their last leaves.It really is gorgeous out there at the moment.
November 11th - The weather is stuck in repeat. A lousy, wet and heart-in-mouth commute to Darlaston, and I hopped onto the canal as soon as I could. The roads were mad today, really, truly awful.
The rain varied between a light drizzle and very heavy, and was again glad of good waterproofs. Twice I stopped for shelter under bridges. The autumn colour is gorgeous, but I’d love to see a bit more of yesterday’s sun rather than this endless rain we seem to be cursed with tis last couple of weeks.
November 10th - I was still tired, and it took me a long time to get moving, but it was a gorgeous afternoon. I headed to Hopwas Hays Wood, again to test my mettle on the downhill there that fascinates me. On the way through, I stopped at Wall in a gorgeous golden hour. I studied for the first time the new milepost erected there in 2012. It’s an impressive thing, but like a lot of statuary these days, it’s so inoffensive, I don’t really see the point; commemorating the Queen as it does, it’s neither historically accurate or informative, but the carving is lovely. On the post’s crown, a last ladybird seemed to be enjoying the sun. I hope it found somewhere decent to hibernate.
The real star of Wall for me is not Roman but Victorian - the church, with it’s gorgeous, well-kept terraced churchyard. It’s always peaceful here, and the golden light rendered the light Sandstone church and all else it touched golden.
November 7th - A gorgeous morning commute, nippy but sunlit and in clear air. After the rain and unpleasantness of the day before, a real treat. The canal towpaths were very muddy, but the sunlight and autumn leaves combined to make even this bit of canal - through the industrial hinterlands of Walsall town centre - look beautiful.
November 4th - Only one set of photos today, as my others went badly wrong, such was the theme of the day. A day of missed connections, late arrivals, things not working and bad chances. I got a puncture on the way to work, and cursed. I had a mechanical issue on the way home.
Still, it was a pleasant enough day weather-wise, and on my way I took the cycle path from Pelsall to Goscote. Pelsall looked great from the Mill Lane Bridge, as it always does this time of year, and the Goscote Valley was equally pastoral. I can think of far worse journeys to cycle.
Here’s a thing, though, if a shard of glass embeds itself in your tyre and pierces your innertube, why is it always coloured glass and not plain clear? Is coloured glass harder or something?
November 3rd - Today, the season’s wheel clicked round another notch. The wind that so harangued me the day before had died right down, but the temperature had dropped, too. Today, I realised once and for all that winter, if not quite on her throne, was certainly waiting in the wings.
I left mid afternoon, with grand ideas of tearing up the Chase, but I was dressed too lightly and I felt cold and despite the sun, quite down in the dumps, if I’m honest. No reason to be, other than the passage of warmth and the advancing of the seasons; this time of year I always wonder if I have the strength inside to face another winter of dark nights, cold commutes and lifeless countryside.
I headed up over Chasewater and Cuckoo Bank, down Rainbow Hill and over Slitting Mill. A quick coffee at sunset, and back over Penkridge Bank. I saw deer, but it was too dark to get a good picture. Returning cold and in darkness, I felt a world away from warm, sunny afternoons. I was heavy hearted and my very bones ached.
I bloody hate this time of year.
October 31st - I cycled to Darlaston in soft, warm drizzle. The rain couldn’t make up its mind to stay or go, and just hovered in an indecisive, grey mizzle that painted most things I saw shades of murky grey. However, it’s time to point out that despite the grey, your local parks right now are marvellous. Whether it’s Walsall Arboretum, Holland Park in Brownhills or as shown here, Victoria Park in Darlaston, the trees are really showing great colours right now that can brighten the most dull days.
My has is tipped to those who work so hard to maintain them. Thanks, folks.
October 29th - A the risk of being repetitive, now we have cooler, drier weather, the sunsets are great. This was (again) the view from Tyseley this evening. I never tire of that view of central Birmingham - ever changing, yet changeless. Such a fine sky tonight, too.