March 6th - Out for the evening and returning late, the streets were very, very quiet. I sped from Walsall with the wind at my back on silent, wet roads; I even sailed through the lights at Rushall Square on green without having to slow down.
Sadly, the night was more redolent of November than March, but the ride was nice.
Still can’t get past my unease over the eeriness of Green Lane at night…
February 21st - Returning home in the wee small hours, I was irritated to discover I’d forgotten my camera. As I sped from Walsall on deserted streets, there was a fine drizzle but the wind was behind me. I saw nothing but a handful of cars, a couple of foxes and a started badger. The phone is useless in low light, but these do capture the atmosphere quite well.
I’d quite forgotten the otherwordly atmosphere of being out on a bike at 1am…
February 20th - The week before, the canal overflow at Clayhanger had been a raging rapid of water flowing from the canal into local drainage. I posted at the time that I’d never seen anything quite like it, and I was seriously concerned over the possibility of subsequent flooding on the River Tame, when most of the canal overflows in Walsall drain to.
A far from dry week later, the flow is reduced - still high by normal standards - but gone is the angry torrent, and my fears of flooding proven unfounded. Whilst we’ve been far more fortunate than other parts of the country, it does go to show that despite massive development over the years, the local drains and water system is incredibly capacious and resilient.
February 17th - There’s water everywhere at the moment, but it’s depressing to note that flooding caused by bad drains is still happening a couple of years after I first noticed it. At the Black Path, near the A5 by Brownhills School, pedestrians and cyclists are forced onto a muddy desire-path around a lake formed because the drain at the bottom of the slope hasn’t been cleaned out for years.
Similarly, and most frustratingly, at the other end of the Black Path, the money recently spent on Hoilland Park clearly didn’t extend to sorting the nonfunctional drains on the tennis court. Like the flooded bowling green at Waslall Wood, this has been ongoing for a couple of years now. A refurbishment has recently taken place here, yet it’s still flooded, and presenting a hazard.
I’d really like someone to look into sorting these problems out - a lot of people complain about them, and it’s getting harder and harder to defend the official position.
If we can find money to resurface paths, I sure we can spend a little bit sorting the blocked drains.
February 15th -The bad weather seemed to be breaking as I cycled back to Brownhills although the rains would return later. It felt warmer, and stiller. The canal that separates urban Brownhills from rural, rolling South Staffordshire was affording great views - and it looked very much like spring was insinuating itself in the fields an canal embankments.
Everything was still wet, of course, but out here there wasn’t much wind damage - that is, apart from an errant trampoline, sensibly tethered to a fence, buy sadly lacking buoyancy.
February 15th - A rough day. Weather was bad, with a high wind and periodic, squally rain. I needed to get some shopping in, and popped to Morrisons in Burntwood. I found myself on The Sportway, the drive to the Rugby Club that runs alongside the Chasetown bypass.
This is a good tip - I know this route well. Just where the grass is on the foreground corner of the cycleway, there is a huge, wheel-swallowing pothole unseen under the water. Because I know it’s there, I give it a wide berth. Someone coming this way for the first time, wouldn’t know.
My point is this: in this weather, be careful riding through puddles. They can hide a variety of nasties - from tire-shredding debris, to holes, to uncovered drains.
February 14th - Valentines Day, but not much love from the weather, which was back to wet and windy. I ‘d been to Darlaston early again, and left in the mid-afternoon lull before the winds really got up. Unlike the ride in, the ride out was again wind assisted and fun.
The traffic was a bit frantic in the wet and I chose to hit the canal again in Walsall Wood. An interestingly wind-cleaved tree near the Black Cock, and cutting across the new Pond and Clayhanger Common the landscape was again sodden and dripping. But there was a kind of peace to it too, which I appreciated.
Crossing the bridge back into Brownhills, the moorings at Silver Street are busier than I’ve ever seen them before (except during a canal festival) - I’m curious as to why. The waterside has been unchanged for a good few years, now, and it seemed to take the boaters ages to discover us. Is it just a pure shortage of places to moor, or the fact that there’s no charge?
February 12th - Tumblr doesn’t seem to allow video and photos in the same post, but here’s the flow at the Clayhanger Overflow in the last post. I’ve never, ever seen it running like this. And all this water will end up in the Tame and Trent.
February 12th - Still tacking into the wind into Brownhills, I hopped onto the canal at Clayhanger Bridge. The towpaths, of course, were sodden and hard going. The overflow here was working at full capacity and to a degree I’ve never seen before. This certainly made me think; this water is heading to the Ford Brook, which becomes the River Tame, and meanders through North East Birmingham, then Tamworth to Alrewas, where it meets the River Trent. The water from Chasewater will find its way to the Tame, too, via the Crane and Bourne Brooks. This is serios flow, from just one overflow.
February 12th - Will it never stop? Have we somehow opened a portal to weather hell? After a wet, cold and punishingly hard ride to Darlaston very early, I left in the afternoon with a 30mph wind behind me. In what was a heart-in-mouth ride, I rode up Navvys Hill into Rushall at 35mph and made it home in only a shade over 30 minutes.
Avoiding the danger of crosswinds, I tacked over Oak Park and noticed the bowling green here still flooded. I have been told by the Council that the flood is due to a broken drain, and will be sorted out. I was promised a press release, to no avail.
This still breaks my heart - this used to be such a fine little park. It’s like seeing an old friend become destitute.
February 11th - After the snow stopped the day in Telford was dry and sunny.
'Never mind' they said. 'It'll be dry for the journey home' they said.
I left Walsall in the dry, without putting waterproof trousers on. 5 minutes later, when it was too late, the heaven opened, and then the rain turned to snow. For the second time today, I was wet, cold and fed up.
At least no one can ever accuse me of being a fair weather cyclist.
February 11th - The weather is getting worse, not better, but did hold an unexpected surprise for me today. I set out in the morning to the station, and the rain was heavy with a harsh wind. Even with waterproofs, I got soaked, and sat on the train dripping, miserable and cold. Fortunately, the subsequent train I caught to Telford was very warm, and dried me out a treat. This was by far the worst commute I’ve had for ages.
At Cosford, the torrential rain had become heavy snow, and was setting fast. When I alighted, there was about 10mm. Although wet and cold, it was a delight to see and cycle in, and I enjoyed the scenery and spectacle.
A couple of hours later, the sun was out and all the snow melted away. Glad I caught it, though.
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 two years down the road, he's still cycling every day and recording a little bit of every journey.