17th August - At Home Farm, Sandhills, the harvest seems complete, and the wheat in the top field has been harvested. The day before, the straw lay in neat rows; today, it had been baled into neat, cylindrical rolls.
I love to see this, it appeals to my urge to grab order from chaos, and always looks dramatic.
And with this, the season’s mechanism advances another notch - it can’t be a coincidence that the weather is now colder and more changeable.
August 16th - This young grey heron was fishing in the canal, just by the old marketplace on Silver Street in Brownhills. You know, right by Tesco. On a Saturday afternoon.
I’ll let that sink in a bit.
I’d never have believed we’d see this kind of thing in Brownhills when I was a lad.
Hello, heron - I wish you an excellent day’s fishing.
August 16th - Heading back towards Chasewater, I noticed the erosion that happens here every time there is heavy rain has been corrected again, in the same way it always has been: sweep the debris back into the hole, and stamp it down.
Expect a similar report next time it rains heavily. Getting an awful sense of deja-vu here.
This really needs a permanent fix.
August 13th - The wind had changed direction slightly, and the rains were scarcer, but conversely, the skies were far more threatening. As I headed home to Brownhills, I was struck by the drama of it. I’m not greatly struck by Humphries House in snow white, but it doesn’t half show off an angry sky well.
Hope it settles down a bit for the weekend.
August 10th - I realised I hadn’t really done a circuit of Brownhills like this for a while, and despite the grim weather warnings, it’s wasn’t a bad day at all. The light was bright, and the scenery good. It was a good day to photograph landscape, I guess.
A the Pelsall Road bridge on the canal, I discovered how the otherwise inaccessible flowerbed was being maintained - formerly I’d wondered if it was from the boat so often moored nearby.
At Chasewater, the lake was very, very choppy. The wakeline had been abandoned for the day, and only a few very brave windsurfers were out.
I note that the valves are currently open, and the water level at the reservoir is steadily lowering, probably to the lowest level since last summer, the high watermark evident on the spillway bridge in a line of white surface scum.
An unexpectedly great day to be out.
August 10th - A remarkable season, and now the fruiting begins in earnest. The wind was gusting hard, and the threat of rain not far away, but I slid out mid afternoon in defiance of Hurricane Bertha (spit). I let the wind blow me along the wet canal to the cyclway over the common - on the way, I noticed what I think are cherries growing ripe on a tree by the Pier Street Bridge. They look rather fat and large to be such gems in Brownhills. Can anyone help there?
There’s also been a remarkably prodigious crop of hazelnuts from the hedge thicket opposite the Watermead estate - but what wasn’t already squirrelled was blown down in the wind; the towpath is thick with nobbled and wind-fallen nuts.
On the cycleway, a similarly bountiful crop of blackberries, and the elderberries too are ripening to a beautiful black-crimson gloss.
Summer coming to an end is always sad, but how can one remain so in the face of such wonderful fruits?
August 8th - I came to the top of Shire Oak Hill in light rain, and stopped at the quarry entrance to look at my beloved view to Lichfield. Rain was sweeping in along the Trent Valley, and the hills to the west were obscured by low rain clouds.
It had been another tough week,and I was glad to crest the hill and be nearly home. I love my job, but sometimes it’s tough to keep everything going.
But knowing home was downhill from here, the promise of good company, the family and a decent mug of tea was strong, and cheering.
Home is where the teapot is.
As it happened, the rain never really reached here.
August 3rd - Terrible angle, sorry, but the heavy rains of Saturday morning again washed the footpath away on the canal bank at Anchor Bridge, for the fourth time in a year.
Watch out if on bike or foot; it’s a trip and fall hazard.
Just what will it take for the Canal & River Trust to repair this properly for once, instead of just sweeping the washdown back into the cavity?
August 3rd - Still laying off the long rides for the sake of my sore foot, I had to run some errands and get some shopping in - so I headed on a sunny, but windy afternoon to Morrisons at Burntwood.
A lovely day, for sure - and the harvest at Home Farm, Sandhills, had started, but the wheat still wasn’t ripe enough. Hopefully, it will be before the next lot of rains midweek…
August 2nd - Still treating my injured foot with care, I took in a lazy loop of Brownhills and bimbled over to Chasewater, then back down the canal. It was a gorgeously sunny late afternoon, and after the heavy rains of the morning, all the greenery looked splendidly fresh.
In the space of 20 minutes, I admired the mature trees on The Parade, enjoyed the shimmer of Chasewater and watched spellbound as a wakeboarder practised his jumps. I also spotted the best garden chair-hammock thing ever, in a limpid, green arcadia beside the quiet, clear waters of the canal.
Don’t ever tell me there isn’t beauty in this place.
August 2nd - I suspect you readers might be getting fed up with my obsession with swans, but with several local broods this year it’s made me more aware of these fascinating birds and their habits.
This afternoon, the Catshill brood - still at an impressive seven plus mum and dad - were on the canal between Catshill Junction and the Pier Street bridge, just to the rear of Lindon Drive.
They were doing something I never knew that swans would do - they were eating blackberries from brambles growing at the canal side. The youngsters were positively devouring the fruit.
I never knew they ate such things.
When they realised I was watching, they regrouped, and headed off.
July 30th - Interesting to note the cat population seems to have woken up since the temperature dropped a little. I see a lot of tails and bums sticking out of hedgerows on my travels, or furry balls asleep on house-steps, cars and shady corners. Often I’m glared at from under parked cars or over the canal from the opposite bank.
I adore cats.
This midnight lady (I think it;s a lady) was photographed loafing in Chandler’s Keep, as I passed on my way up to Chase Road. Wonderfully black, and those whiskers! I feel sure she could well be a witches familiar…
That’s one classy cat.
July 27th - Brownhills High Street.
Next time you hear someone dismiss this place as a dump, a ghost town or worse, think of this.
Local traders have worked hard - with the Town Centre Partnership - to create the wonderful flower displays we have. Just look at that - it’s gorgeous.
It’s a tribute to the hard work and community spirit of the traders who’ve planted and kept watering the baskets, tubs and planters.
The place may have problems, but these people had a go, and made something beautiful.
A wonderful thing on a lovely summer evening. Thank you.
July 25th - The Catshill swan family seem to spend a lot of time at Anglesey Basin, and tonight they were group-preening and loafing by the waterside, totally relaxed. The parents let me get quite close, but sadly, the movement of the cygnets - still numbering seven - combined with low light made for terrible photos.
July 20th - A day coloured mainly by the sad news of the loss of a good man, but as I rode the canal mid-afternoon, taking it gentle, I reflected on life. I noted a family of 4 cygnets and mum - dad seems to be gone - doing well up in Walsall Wood. I think they’re from up the canal in Pelsall. They are healthy birds, clearly getting by just fine.
Further down the water at Catshill Junction, the swans from Catshill still numbered seven youngsters and two parents. Nature is cruel, but the cycle of life continues.
I’ve grown very attached to these birds, have many of the local residents. It’s odd that we take such beautiful but grumpy and obstreperous characters to our hearts, but we do.
We feel great sadness at the toll of nature, and predators. But that’s the roll of nature’s dice, and it was ever thus.
And life continues, as it always has.