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.
July 19th - I was still suffering with my left foot, so rest was in order and I didn’t do anything except cruise out for a bit of fresh air and some shopping. It was an odd evening - at 6pm on Saturday, Brownhills is usually dead and deserted, but it had rained nearly all day, and right now, from the Pier Street bridge, the town was coming alive - people were walking, jogging and getting shopping in.
All the time under a dramatic, somewhat threatening sky.
July 19th - I see this wonderful Christiana cargo bike about a lot - huge covered box on the front, hub gears, massive bell and brooks saddle. It’s built like a brick outhouse. I often see it in Pelsall. Today, it was parked up outside Aldi in Brownhills.
These are tremendously popular in northern mainland Europe, as well as other brands like the Dutch Bakfiets. You often see children being conveyed to school in them by parents over there - but here, this is clearly on a shopping trip, and a rare thing indeed.
A wonderful utility bike and I salute the owner.
July 14th - On my return, I needed to call on a pal in Newtown, so I headed up the canal past Ogley Junction. Whilst passing, I noticed a delivery of sectional piling and plant, and wondered if the Canal & River Trust had got it together to stabilise the slipping local embankments.
I guess time will tell…
July 13th - TheMadOldBaggage is right: I’m being unduly pessimistic about autumn and the passage of summer. It’s still gorgeous, and there’s loads of stuff still to come into flower.
Today, I was delighted to spot these gorgeous wild sweat peas. Just how lovely are they? You can’t fail to see these and not be lifted.
Autumn? Not yet you don’t, matey.
July 11th - I made an escape, of sorts.
The rush now over, I had loads of errands and calls to make in the Black Country, and I took the opportunity to make them on my bike - nothing better after a stressful period at work than a sunny afternoon in the industrial heartland I love. Wednesbury, Moxley, Great Bridge, Lanesfield, Netherton and lots of canals made for a great day - including an excellent portion of hake and dumpling from the excellent Carribean takeaway in Great Bridge.
`Talking of bridges, between Moxley and Toll End, I spotted this one; the eagle eyed will note that this decaying, derelict railway crossing - The Hempole Bridge - is almost identical in construction to the railway bridge over the canal near the Pelsall Road in Brownhills, which is a listed structure, due to it’s rarity. Note the same blue Freakley Brothers bricks; the pattern in the cast plates, the pre-girder hot-rivet and cast truss metalwork.
Sad to see it lost.
July 9th - I’ve worked 40 out of the last 64 hours. It isn’t leaving a lot of time for anything much, but I’m still cycling; it’s my interregnum between home and work, and enables me to straighten things out and relax a bit.
This was my journey home tonight from New Street Station, in snatched photos.
Stations at night again, I can’t help myself. It’s that Late Night Feelings thing coming to the surface again…
July 4th - Sweet rain.
It’s been a long, dry and warm spell. Today was fraught, stressed, tired, sweaty. I was struggling against the urge to just go home, the heat, tiredness, irritation. But I could smell the rain on the wind. Sweet, distant, but present. I stood on the threshold of an open fire escape at work and filled my lungs with the smell of moisture on the wind.
As I left work, it began. I enjoyed it. Not torrential, but steady. Gently saturating the plants, refreshing the greenery, and making me feel if not less tired, more alert.
A sensory delight.
I was glad the week was over. And welcomed the rain.
June 29th - Also showing well was the landscape. From the view down to Sandhills and Springhill over Home Farm, to the threatening skies over Hammerwich, the countryside looked gorgeous. Everywhere I surveyed was turning colour with ripening crops.
This people, is Brownhills. It has some remarkably beautiful views.
June 29th - I wasn’t feeling so hot, and after the canalside festival, headed for a spin up to Chasewater, just to get some air. I must say, the hay fever is playing havoc with me this year.
The canal is teaming with life at the moment, from the growing families of waterfowl - the swan family still stand at 7 and they’re getting huge now - to dragon and damselflies, water lilies and some rather large fish. It’s a fascinating place at the moment, and well worth a walk if you fancy it.
It didn’t help my hay fever in the slightest, but it did take my mind off the sneezing…
June 26th - Without my trusty camera, the phone was employed again on the way home - but I hate it, and inadvertently set it to take square images, which are no use to man nor beast.
I took some photos of a lovely black and white puss that walked out of the hedge in Green Lane, and mewed a greeting at me, but the images were terrible. Just as well that I noticed this impressive pile drilling machine on the building site near Catshill Juntion. It will be drilling foundation piles for the new maisonettes here.
That’s a large drill bit and an impressively complex piece of equipment. Bet it would be fun to play with…
June 24th - The wildflowers have peaked now - as summer draws on, only the old familiars will really remain as the more showy specimens fade. One of my favourite long lasting flowers - up there with birds foot trefoil - is this vetch, an electric blue/violet delight. It’s growing in abundance on Clayhanger Common and near the Pier Street Bridge in Brownhills, and is really rather splendid.
It always seems alive with bugs, too, so it serves a useful purpose to boot.
June 21st - An abortive ride terminated early due to a silly mechanical problem I hadn’t got the tool on me to fix, but I still got 20 miles in. Over at Anglesey Basin, the swan family were contentedly preening together on the canal bank between the towpath and the water, and weren’t troubled by my presence at all.
Still seven cygnets, all growing well. Lovely to see.
June 17th - It had been a tough day, but recent issues should improve now, and I slipped out again, this time at sunset. I just took a lazy loop of the canal out of Brownhills, over Catshill Junction and up to Chasewater.
At Newtown, the dying sun caught the water and rush-irises, and rendered everything precious. A pleasingly serene end to a difficult, scary day.
June 17th - Thanks are due to reader Julie P., who I think was the last one to report the canal bank falling away on the bend between Catshill Junction and Pier Street, Brownhills. There are signs that six months after being initially (and repeatedly since) reported, the Canal & River Trust (C&RT) have finally sent someone out to survey the problem.
Not sure on the longevity or effectiveness of those post flags and polythene tape, though - but it’s a start, and at least they’ve acted.
Dealing with the C&RT is like trying to nail blancmange to a tree…