June 9th - An odd little bridge on a bend in the Wyrley and Essington Canal at Wednesfield. Faced in roughcast and painted salmon pink, Devils Elbow Bridge is curious on a number of levels, not least the peculiar name. One would imagine it’s due to the bend in the canal. Anyone got any ideas?
May 22nd - I was heading home today from work, and for some reason I hopped on the canal near Anchor Bridge, and headed up and took a look at Clayhanger Common. The sun was bright after a somewhat dull day, and I guess it was my quest for green. Everything is so vivid at the moment you could almost inhale it. Everywhere you look, there is bright, fresh foliage, in shades of emerald more precious and life-affirming than any jewel.
One thing I did notice on my way over Catshill Bridge, is the clock tower added to the roof of a garage in Chandler’s Keep. Has that always been there, or is it new? I’ve never noticed it before.
May 13th - But my, the skies did look black. For most of the day, and it seems it’s in for the week. I really, really want the fine weather to return.
We need to all wish together…
May 11th - I had to go to Aldridge in the afternoon. It was one of those intensely frustrating days when it was bright sunshine one minute, and raining heavily the next. I returned via the canal, always a joy. The view of the marina from Northycote Bridge was wonderful in the sunshine. It rained twice again before I got home…
Hope the warm weather returns soon.
May 6th - The English are still rather eccentric in their habits.
These cars - disgorging a variety of men with step ladders and camera gear - were parked on the approach to the Haselour railway bridge, near Elford, normally a quiet backlane. They were, I was informed, waiting for a couple of old diesel locomotives to come through - Class 20s, apparently, but nobody knew when they were due exactly. This was the cause of much anticipation.
I’ve not seen anything like this before. Bizarre. It takes all sorts of folk to make a world. I hope their locos came, I really do.
May 3rd - This is an interesting one. Just by the Pelsall Road bridge in Brownhills, a lovely bed of daffodils, tulips and other spring flowers, where once there was just grass. The odd thing is that the triangle forming the bed is inaccessible, except by boat, or maybe by ladder from the road above.
Ingenious, perplexing and lovely. Beautiful.
April 24th - Ten years ago I bought a shedload of wild cowslip seeds from a National Trust shop - Sudbury Hall, I think. I bought about 10 packs. I set out on a guerrilla seeding mission. They took surprisingly well.
Many (but not all) of the patches of cowslips on Brownhills and Clayhanger Common were started by me. I love cowslips, my favourite flowers. This patch are growing - and thriving - on the banks of Clayhanger Bridge. The clump seems to double in size every year.
Hello, old friends.
Do something beautiful today. It’s an investment.
April 23rd - I returned against the wind from Shenstone, just to ride through the sunlit backlanes. I hadn’t eaten all day and it was a bit of a battle, to be honest, but worth it, all the same. Everything is awake now, and the greening is well underway. At Shenstone, the ruined church tower will soon be hidden by leaves for another season, and the brook at Footherley will soon be an emerald arcadia once more. Some things are changeless, though, like the cottages and converted barns at Lower Stonnall. They look good whatever the season.
March 12th - The Black oak bridge has been in a grim state for a while, having recently lost some of it’s guard rails. When I noticed last week that the bridge was to be closed today for repairs, I was interested to see how the people repairing it overcame the problem of the the rotten angle iron rail supports that hold the guard planks up.
It seems we’ve been visited by Bodgitt & Scarper. When I crossed the bridge tonight, I too a look at the fix. The planks were only painted one side, and not cut or erected very well. On the northern side, they aren’t fixed to the uprights, but fresh supports have just been hammered in between the top and bottom rails to do the same job.
It’s a fix, of sorts, but it isn’t well executed, and on the northern side, will probably fall apart at the next vehicle scrape. I know the Canal & Rivers Trust - formerly British Waterways - are short of cash, but there’s little excuse for such poor work.
Disappointing, I’d say.
February 24 - Flowers have again appeared on the miner railings in Brownhills, and I have no idea why. There is no note. They are attached firmly with cable ties, and there are three separate bunches, bundled together. I can’t think of any fatalities here. The wreaths tied here at Christmas were soon cut down and taken away, which I though was rather sad.
Does anyone have any idea what this is all about?
January 26th - Had a wry laugh at this one. Noticed yesterday that the sign was still up trumpeting the new Pier Street footbridge, over the canal in central Brownhills. The bridge is a fine thing indeed, linking as it does Clayhanger and Brownhills in style, replacing a steep-stepped footbridge that was awful, frankly.
I was unaware of Walsall Council’s ‘Drive to regenerate Brownhills District Centre’ - wonder how that’s going?
Would the last business to leave the town please switch the lights off and feed the deer? Cheers.
December 31st - Sometimes, you come across a scene by chance that’s really, oddly, uniquely beautiful, and in a really unexpected place. On the footbridge between Poole Cresccent and Chasewater, over the M6 toll, a street light shines through the safety cage. I’ve never noticed it before. It’s like a portal. It fascinated me.
December 26th - The dirty old river Tame that gives it’s name to Tamworth and doubles the Trent by draining Birmingham, was in impressive form yesterday. I’m interested in the flood pattern of this river, which runs in a natural channel from Minworth to Cat Holme, near the National Memorial Arboretum. heading out when the sun was shining, I looped through Lichfield and Whittington as the rains came. At Elford, I surveyed the path of the recent flood, and the houses on The Beck - which are so attractive in summer -looked vulnerable. The old Elford bridge, however, looked as steadfast as ever. Following the river down through Tamhorn, I viewed it again from Hopwas, where it’s natural flood channel can be seen. That shallow berm is more than enough to protect the houses of the village, as to the eastern side, the plain is wide. It’s interesting to note anti-erosion work going on there.
The waters look brown, angry and filthy, and they currently are. Undoubtedly contaminated with all manner of pollutants, including possibly sewage, it will take a few dry weeks to settle before returning to it’s clear, glass-like self.
There’s no avoiding the spirit of the water.
December 18th - The weather has become warm, drizzly and misty once more. On my return from Chasetown, I noticed the streetlights on the road below were highlighting the thin mist. I’m fascinated by the view from this bridge. This is the new road system constructed a decade ago to support the M6 Toll. The roads are wide, open and fast, and without the expected traffic level, seem impressively large at night. In the background glow the red lights of Sutton Coldfield’s transmitters. There’s something almost inhuman about the design of these roads - no footpaths, a world prohibited to pedestrians, yet they have a very human beauty. I find them fascinating.
December 8th - Brownhills isn’t beautiful by any stretch of the imagination, but it can be rather striking, particularly at night. I’ve always been fascinated by the view from the Pier Street Bridge of the canal at night. There’s something about the combination of lights and water that’s rather wonderful. The whole area of the bridge is quite enchanting in the darkness. It’s proof that even the most unprepossessing area can be strikingly beautiful when you least expect it.