April 20th - For an evening spin, it was pleasant enough; the wind was grim, but at least I’d fixed the problem with my gears. At Chasewater, the sunset was nice, but unremarkable, and I was surprised at how tiny the gull roos was. I could hear an owl calling near the dame, but I couldn’t see it. On the way back home, the sky darkened, and it looked very, very black over Bill’s mother’s.
Luckily, I just got home and got the bike in as the heavens opened… I do hope that nice spell wasn’t summer.
April 19th - I was fiddling with a mechanical fault all day. I love my bikes, but the gears can be perplexing when not quite right. I spun out late to Chasewater, and unexpectedly bumped into a good friend while I was there, which brightened me up no end. On the way, I noticed the oilseed rape at Hammerwich was looking gorgeous. Still not quite peaked, it’s a lovely colour nonetheless, and I love how the tractor trails in the crop highlight the landscape contours.
As long as I live I’ll always love this changing, fascinating landscape.
April 14th - Clayhanger Common is wonderful. On this sunny, spring afternoon, it was green, clean and beautiful. The meadow looked verdant, and the forget-me-nots, cowslips and dandelions were all well in flower.
The new pond too - usually the last place to green-up in spring, is looking great, although the swans don’t seem to be nesting here this year yet.
There’s little here to indicate the polluted, barren wasteland this all once was. A fantastic thing.
April 13th - Hmm. Something is happening. Put on to this by local history wonk [Howmuch?], he told me in the week that he’d noticed that there was a crew drilling a borehole on the former marketplace in Brownhills.
Today, I swung past to take a look. He was right - a pile of fresh earth, and an access cover. Marked further towards the pedestrian bridge, a surveyor’s mark ‘BH2’ - presumably borehole 2, yet to be sunk. If that’s all the spoil to be removed, they’re not very deep.
Coupled with reports of surveying in the area of late, someone’s either taking measurements in preparation of building something, or there’s a problem underground, like a leaking drain.
Whatever it is, it’s very much worth keeping an eye on.
April 7th - Damn me, but this squirrel seems happy. Mind, he ought to be; he’s living in the hazel copse just opposite the Watermead in Brownhills. The cheeky little fellow didn’t scarper until I came quite close.
I’d swear he’s laughing there…
If Gradboy is reading this, sorry mate, but it was too good to miss…
April 5th - I wasn’t feeling great. I wasn’t down anymore, but I felt achey and muzzy like I had a cold coming, the weather was grey and windy, and I contented myself with a trip to Chasewater. On the way I passed the remarkable shrine to Jamey Coleman, who was tragically killed here in a hit and run incident a week before.
It pulled me up short. Don’t think I’ve ever seen so many tributes.
Please - if you know anything at all about this incident - no matter how inconsequential you think it may be, please do contact the police.
Please see their appeal here.
March 31st - I hopped on the canal to check out if the swans were nesting yet at the new pool at Clayhanger, but I couldn’t get a close enough look properly. As I pressed on homewards to Brownhills, I noticed that the land where the Bayley House towerblock used to stand near Catshill Junction is being prepared for the newbuild development planned there, with plant clearly operating and equipment arriving.
This land has been idle for a decade this May. It’s good to see it come back into use.
March 23rd - It’s always good to get home. I’m quite liking this new camera, too…
March 21st - Off to Chasewater for the first time in a while, I took the canal up from Brownhills. Spring is everywhere; in the hedgerows, in the fields, on the water. Despite a grim wind, birds were bountiful, and the sun, when you caught it, was warm.
My favourite tree at Home Farm is still in winter mode, but the field surrounding it is a warm green. At Catshill, the swan-pair with three unsuccessful breeding years behind them are having another go, and the landmarks of Hammerwich tested the zoom on the camera.
At Chasewater, the canal valve is now open again, and we’re about 40mm off maximum level now, but the wind drove waves onto the spillway weir quite ferociously. Due to the same wind, the Wakeboard lines were closed, but workmen were busy around the boating lake laying lovely new tarmac paths instead of the uneven old slabs.
A great afternoon to be at Chasewater, for sure.
March 16th - For what was once an old sand and gravel quarry that’s had minimal post-industrial landscaping, Shire Oak Park is a beautiful place, Down by the frog pool at the north hollow, in the golden hour reflected of the very red, red sand soil was gorgeous. It is of course, sandy here - and the stratified sandstone reveals the geology beautifully, but there is also greenery and wildlife. Not just the frogs croaking in the pool, but birds calling and foxes stalking in the scrub. The whole place feels beautifully secluded, and is complex enough to explore and get lost in for a while.
Shire Oak Park is not just a hidden gem of Brownhills, but of the Midlands in general.
March 15th - Coming down from Shire Oak back into Brownhills I rode into a fantastic sunset. Don’t ever let anyone tell you Brownhills can’t be beautiful. I wouldn’t have missed this for the world.
March 15th - Not brilliant photos, as the light was bad and I’m still not down with the new camera… but hey, frog soup. Shire Oak Park, and the shallow pond in the north is one huge amphibian love-in. Another of spring’s triggers released, and the frogs and toads are out in abundance, obeying nature’s imperative.
Isn’t wildlife wonderful?
March 12th - Despite it being a lovely, misty afternoon, the photoraphy was surprisingly lousy. I did, however, get a pleasing photo in of a very challenging view: Ogley Hay from Shire Oak Hill.
I love this view, but like all the views from Shire Oak, it’s difficult to capture in a photo due to too much stuff being in the way in the foreground; the view of Walsall to the southwest is cluttered, as is the view of Lichfield to the northeast. To the northwest, the view of Brownhills is actually enchanting to me, but translating it to an image never quite works.
I’m quite pleased with these, although the haze distorts them a little.
March 8th - On the former railway embankment that is now a cycle track, I stopped to survey the council depot at Pelsall Road. Slumbering in the evening, there was nobody around. This time last year, the gritting hoppers would have been on lorries and working hard. This year, they’ve barely been used at all.
Let’s hope there’s no further call upon them until next winter…
March 8th - Out late at sunset, and only time for a short loop around Brownhills. The town always looks good at sunset, and everything from Humphries House to the Pelsall Road looked great in the sundown light.
I’m really, really enjoying the early spring this year.