BrownhillsBob's #365daysofbiking

October 21st - I was lamenting a couple of days ago that the fungus had been poor this year - it hasn’t up on the canal bank near Wharf Lane; I never noticed before, but in a short space, tucked in with the heather and gorse are lots of toadstools.

Mostly, fly agaric, I passed these spotty red wonders a couple of days ago and never noticed.

I’d love to know what the shiny brown one is…

October 21st - A dreadful wind and threatening rain menaced me on the way to work, but fortuitously, it also blew me back. I left after the rain had stopped, and found conditions challenging. As I rode, I noted a developing sunset I couldn’t ignore, so I hopped on the canal to Chasewater, hoping to catch it. 

Sadly, by the time I got there, the gathering dark had swallowed it up - but it was an interesting ride. 

October 19th- a busy, fraught and not terribly productive day, I spun out past teatime into a dark, deserted and somnambulant town. I had the little tripod, and I welcomed the darkness back into my life.

I spun up the High Street, over Anchor Bridge, and back down the canal, and didn’t see a soul; there was life on the narrowboats, as the chimneys were gently smoking, yet there were no other signs of life at all. 

I love the new LED floodlights on Silver Court - and Anchor Bridge will always be a muse.

Time to embrace the blackness again…

October 18th - Certainly seeing that family with five cygnets about a lot. They were tooling around the canal, grazing and generally patrolling. I saw them several times during the day, but by mid afternoon, they were loafing and preening in one of the canalside back gardens near Humphries House.

I don’t know why, but these gorgeous, grumpy and truculent birds have me captivated.

October 16th - The patch of grass near Anchor Bridge in Brownhills is not something I ever pay much attention to, if I’m honest; it just exists, and it never occurred to me until recently how odd it is that it has never been built upon. 

It remains unspoiled, mowed regularly by the council, and separates the canal from the Lindon Road. There are a good few deciduous trees here and in Autumn, they’re beautiful.

An odd little patch of beauty in an otherwise unremarkable urban landscape.

October 15th - I returned to Brownhills late in the afternoon when it was again pouring with rain. This wasn’t everyday, lacklustre drizzle; this was dense, heavy rain that squeezed in through any not-quite-close zip or gap, and rendered me soaked. 

Once again, I found myself taking a breather on a bridge, just listening to the music - a rattling percussion, accompanied be geese honking happily.

Brownhills, you ain’t no looker; but that’s OK neither am I. But I do love you. Even on the horrid days like these.

October 13th - It rained heavily all the way home, and with a driving headwind it really wasn’t a pleasant journey at all. I hopped on the canal in Walsall Wood to escape the mad traffic, and stopped at Catshill Junction to have a breather as I often do. It was quiet, except for the music of rain falling on water. There was not a soul around, and even the houses in Chandlers Keep looked deserted. 

I was wet, cold and tired, but you couldn’t hate it like this. This was a moment of unexpected peace in a very grim day.

I got back on my bike, and rode home.

October 12th - It was a beautiful misty morning, and there was nothing for it but to head off for a ride. I couldn’t go far, so settled for a spin around Chasewater. It was gorgeous. From the mist lifting from the canal to the cobwebs on the bridge rail, everything was precious. But the sun was warm, and soon, a tipping point was reached: the mist disappeared in about 10 minutes, to reveal a beautiful sunny autumn day.

Good to see the valves finally closed, too: Chasewater has been quite low of late and it would be good to see it fill up a little.

October 8th - As dusk fell, the sky cleared, and heading into Brownhills on this quiet, damp evening it was actually quite beautiful. It’s been a month or two since I last saw the canal look like this… I also noted that these were probably the last days of my commuting home in the light.
Everything must pass.

October 8th - As dusk fell, the sky cleared, and heading into Brownhills on this quiet, damp evening it was actually quite beautiful. It’s been a month or two since I last saw the canal look like this… I also noted that these were probably the last days of my commuting home in the light.

Everything must pass.

October 5th - I returned to Brownhills from Pelsall over Ryders Mere and the old rail line. Dropping onto the canal just by the Pelsall Road, I notices two fresh pieces of street art by Voms on the inside parapets of the old rail bridge.

They’re competent, and well-excuted; I like them a lot. An interesting thing.

October 4th - Another enchanting golden hour, and I needed something important. Having had no luck at the big Sainsbury at Cannock the day before, I struck gold at Reedswood.

Progress was slow, but I wended up the canal and down the cycleway to north Walsall in the most gorgeous light, and back in a equally gorgeous but cold sunset.

The weather really is great at the moment.

September 26th - Another great sky as I nipped down into Stonnall in the dying light. Coming back into Brownhills form Shire Oak, the view, as ever, surprised with it’s beauty.

The view down Shire Oak Hill to Brownhills is one of the best around here, but few ever seem to notice it. Yes, it’s urban, and not beautiful, really. But it has an interesting, busy urban charm I rather love - particularly at sundown, when the buildings catch the light and are rendered precious.

September 21st - A horrid, horrid day. Laden with a cold, the sun was out but I was in. Feeling cranky, miserable and ill, I battled technology and social media at home, and finally left for a restorative ride at 5pm. 

The air was still poor, but it caught the sun beautifully. Looking from Hammerwich over the fields to Brownhills, I was fascinated by the glow of the Lichfield Road as it rose to cross the Anglesey Branch. Riding over to Wall and back through the lanes around Chesterfield, the villages and old building looked beautiful, as did the odd flower of the evergreen, growing in the hedgerows at Wall.

It may have been a terrible, terrible day, but the golden hour was just what I needed.

September 20th - Things were still grey and the air quality still dreadful, but a very, very fine rain had settled on the town as I cycled to Chasewater. 

It’s good to see the old place busy now, and I love the way the Wakeline people have taken over and repurposed the old pier. Boats were speeding around, despite the murk, but I also noted the low water level - lower now than it has been for a couple of years. The valves are still open, so one assumes there’s a good reason.

Cycling back along the canal, it felt more like November than September, apart from the unseasonal warmth. Or maybe it was just a cold kicking in - at least that would explain the congestion.

September 17th - Recently on Facebook there was some concern over a swan that was found dead in Pelsall. The bird had been decapitated, and many were accusing vandals. The truth is less controversial, but sadly a little more gory.

The swan was, in all probability, killed by a fox. Anyone who’s seen the aftermath of a fox in a henhouse will know that Reynard goes for the neck.

At this time of year, this year’s cubs are driven out of the den by their parents to seek their own territories - that’s why we often see foxes sleeping on roofs and in quiet but open spots in late summer. Quite frankly, these canines are homeless.

The young, inexperienced adolescents are forced to fend for themselves - that includes finding food - and many will attempt kills that are well above them. So it probably was with the Pelsall swan.

Swans are not bright birds. As I came home along the canal, I spotted this usually aggressive lone bird fast asleep, drifting on the water. It had floated into the bank around the overflow, at Clayhanger Bridge, and the thicket nearby is usually host to a den of Brer Fox.

It would be fairly trivial for the fox to sneak up to the bird unseen, and go straight for the neck, which is about the only bit the fox can attack without the risk of being ferociously pecked. The kill, to an experienced fox, would be fast and efficient and lead to food for a week or more.

The fox that attacked the Pelsall bird was probably scared off, or attacked by other swans roused by the commotion, leaving their kill behind.

I couldn’t knowingly leave this swan to a similar fate, so after taking a few pictures, I gently woke it by speaking. I was greeted by wing-flapping, honking and hissing, and the white bird swam away from me.

Job done.