BrownhillsBob's #365daysofbiking

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.

July 6th - I wasn’t in the mood to ride much - I had lots of work to do, so just popped up to Chasewater to check out the Craft & Farmers market, which again, disappointed. I shan’t bother with that again.

I spun out for a circuit around the park, and was taken by the buddleia, water lilies and various marsh orchids, which out here, unlike the ones near the canal, hadn’t gone over yet.

I stated last week that the flowering time was passing; but I was wrong. Things are still flowering well, just in different ways and different places.

This really is a most excellent summer.

June 3rd - I’ve often thought that one of the most attractive things in a person - male or female - is if they don’t realise just how attractive they are. As I’ve got older, I’ve begun to realise this applies to places too. 

One of the reasons Walsall is such a gem architecturally - and it is, despite the abuse of it’s more conventional historic assets - is that it doesn’t realise just what a wealth of diverse riches it has. Stop in any suburb or part of town. Look around. Somewhere, close by, there will be something remarkable - not necessarily beautiful, but always engaging. And the town as a whole doesn’t really know.

I came into Walsall from Aldridge and took a route through Highgate. This house caught my eye while I waited for a reversing driver to complete their manoeuvre - just study it; take it in. Possibly not at it’s best, but from the chimney pots down to the front wall the detail is incredible. A fantastic roofline and gables, and the detail in the window arches.

There are treats like this all over this town, and Walsall just doesn’t know about them.

May 17th - Out for a leisurely ride in the sun, I took the canal to Newtown. On the embankment near the Chase Road, I spotted these colours of late spring and early summer. Hawthorn, laburnum and lilac, all growing wild on the side of the canal in an otherwise unremarkable bit of Brownhills.

People will tell you this place is ugly, boring and worthless. It’s not. It has immense beauty. But your eyes have to be open to see it - and so does your mind.

April 29th - It really is all about the flowers for me at the moment. I miss them so much in winter, it’s fantastic to have this roadside splashes of colour back in my life.

Spotted returning from Sutton this evening, just minding their own business on a roadside verge: the most dramatic red tulips and (I think) delicate, pink clematis.

I’m never the fastest cyclist around, and every journey takes longer at this time of year as I have to keep stopping and looking at the flowers…

April 28th - There are a couple of unsung hedgerow stars at the moment. For everyone else, right now it seems to be about oilseed rape, bluebells, and cherry blossom. But look around. Pretty much everything is having a great year so far. The dandelions - the yellow, beautifully delicate yet ubiquitous wildflower - are really, really prolific. The apple blossom too is astonishing in its density and clarity.

It might be about the spring classics right now, but look beyond them and there’s a whole host of other stuff just trying to get your attention.

These were all on a very short section of canal bank in Walsall Wood.

March 7th - After the despondency of the previous day, spring returned with a fresh passion today. I managed to escape work while the sun was still shining, and headed to Burntwood to pick something up. On the way back, in bright spring sunshine, I happened to glance through the gates of the cemetery opposite St, Anne’s Church. What I saw astonished me: the finest display of crocuses I have ever seen in my life. These are incredible when seen in person, and I commend any reader to go take a look. An astonishing, and beautiful thing. 

Forget what I said yesterday: spring isn’t shaping up too badly right now…

January 4th - I’d been down to Stonnall on a fairly uninspiring ride; the weather was far more settled, the wind had dropped, but everywhere is still sodden. I couldn’t find a decent picture. Then, as I cycled up the Chester Road and over the brow of the hill, I realised we we in for a good sunset. I immediately decided to head for Chasewater, to try and catch it. On the way there, I realised it would be nearly over when I got there, so captured views along the way.

I do hope this is the start of a more settle period, but somehow, I doubt it.

August 16th - Also at Hopwas on the canal, a beautiful flower garden at a canal side bungalow. The house is gorgeous, and if only I were rich… but the flowerbeds were a riot of colour; unusual for this point in the season when the brightest blooms start to fade. I just had to skid to a halt and take a picture. Sadly, it doesn’t do justice to the stunning display.

July 9th - It was an unexpected delight this evening to note the flowers along the Ring Road in Walsall, at the Arboretum Junction. Walsall Council always does this really well, and the lovely blooms are a joy to the heart. 

My thanks to whoever plants and tends them - a lovely thing indeed.

June 27th - a third day at Leicester, and another day admiring the flowers at South Wigston. I’m not sure if that’s a thistle (it wasn’t spiky) or a type of cornflower. Even the dandelions going to seed are pretty. Nothing has done more to make me look closely at the margins, the unwanted, the wasteland, than this place. Beautiful.

June 25th - In Leicester today, and out early. This gave me chance to see my favourite patch of scrub, the embankment at South Wigston station.

I’m acutely aware that not many people have favourite patches of scrub, and this does mark me out as a little eccentric.

South Wigston is only a tiny dot of a suburban halt on a busy goods junction, and is totally unmanned. At some point, I think the green margins around the platforms and walkways were managed and planted, but haven’t been so for many years; the perennials that were planted here, plus some wild imports, run riot now all throughout the year, and reward me continually with colour, beauty and bounty.

It feels like I’m the only person ever to notice this; the only one ever to stop and watch the bees busy in the daisies, or bustling around the cotoneaster. Meanwhile, all around the sound of clanking industry, rumbling goods traffic and the joyful hubub of children from the nearby school.

It’s a wild place in the city, and I love it.

June 21st - The north end of Chasewater Dam is currently carpeted in a beautiful display of moon daisies, which not only look delightful, but smell beautiful, too. I love the fact that the rangers stopped mowing the bank and left them to bloom. 

In a day riven with toothache, chaos and general bad luck, these cheered me no end.

June 19th - Jockey Meadows and Bullings Heath, Walsall Wood, are beautiful right now. The water meadows are yellow - not with oilseed rape or dandelions, but millions of buttercups, clearly responding to some favourable condition they found in the dreadful spring. But what reward! Rabbits, hares, deer, all manner of birds and plants vie for attention in this gorgeous landscape, narrowly sandwiched in-between areas of huge urbanisation and industry.

I love this place, this area, my town. This, right here, is why.

June 17th - I love lupins. These tall flowers grow wild along the canal towpaths and scrubs of Black Country canals, and set the cuts ablaze with purples, lilacs and pinks at this time of year. I don’t suppose they’re a native species, I suspect more of a  formerly cultivated feral fancy from gardens. But they seem to thrive untended on the rough embankments and thickets alongside out waterways.

When I see lupins, I know it’s summer at last.