March 7th - A great afternoon, although the wind was still very fresh. I returned via Chasewater, which was surprisingly deserted. I noticed the wakeboarding equipment had been set up for the new season, and the lake was still overflowing into the spillway. Waves broke against the southern shore with some anger and splashed any incautious walker.
The canal also looked fine as I returned to Brownhills with the sun warm on my back. This early spring is gorgeous, and it’s just what the doctor ordered - but I still can’t get the frightening thought out of my head that at the end of March last year we had the heaviest snowfalls for years.
One thing about Britain I really love: no two seasons are ever the same.
March 5th - It wasn’t until I hopped on the canal at the Black Cock Bridge and headed for Brownhills that I realised how still it was. The canal was like a millpond, and conditions were really quite silent. It hasn’t been like this since well before Christmas.
There’s definitely a change in the air. It really has been a detestable couple of months weather-wise; I really felt at one point that it was never going to stop raining.
Let’s hope the weather continues on it’s improving path for a while…
I’ve had a message today from an anonymous commenter who thinks the black bags in the lay-by at Coppice Lane, Brownhills may be rubbish collected by Community Payback crews and left for collection by organised waste disposal team.
Have to say, that’s great if that’s actually the case. However, it’s odd as Coppice Lane was as litter-strewn as ever and it is a notorious flytipping hotspot.
Interesting. I may well stand corrected, and thanks for the tipoff - but my views of flytipping remain unchanged, obviously.
March 2nd - Meanwhile, over in the layby at Coppice Lane, the flytippers had been busy. There must be 20 or 30 bags here - none were open, so I have no idea what was in them, but it looks like domestic refuse - all dropped in a pile, clearly from a van or truck.
The people that do this are criminals, and scum beneath contempt. If you know who did this, please dob them in to the Council or cops.
This stuff can present a health hazard and costs a fortune to deal with. Civilised humans don’t flytip.
March 2nd - Whilst in the public notices department, it had been drawn to my attention that the Black Path - the popular right of way from the bottom of The Parade to Watling Street by Brownhills School - had been temporarily closed by council order following the flooding I documented recently. Today, I noted that the water on the tennis courts and at the foot of the incline at the top of the path had receded. Both problems will now, without doubt, be forgotten by the council until the next period of heavy rains.
Oak Park’s bowling green is still doubling as a lido.
Is it too much to ask that these problems be fixed once and for all before the next wet winter? Closing the Black Path may not seem much, but if you have to walk it’s a very long way arouund…
March 2nd - There’s been some comment locally about a new set of speed bumps that have been installed on Silver Street, Brownhills near to the Miner Island. I knew they were coming - I’d noticed the traffic order posted on a nearby lamp-post way back in the summer, but I’m surprised to note it’s only a single set. There have been a number of minor accidents here, and with the Silver Waters development nearby, I guess there’s an imperative to try and subdue the traffic a bit.
No such measures are required on the nearby High Street, of course, where a set of cleverly installed potholes™ do the same job. Some are so large now, they have their own ecosystems and microclimate. Such is their severity and longevity, many are in receipt of birthday cards from the council. They would, without doubt, even slow the approach of a Sherman tank.
February 23rd - I was grey and very, very windy when I headed to Chasewater, but it still felt springlike as it was very warm for the time of year. Chasewater was very choppy and largely deserted, but heading back over a drying-out Brownhills Common I noted the paths and tracks were already beginning to self-heal from the felling activity here a few weeks before. I also noted some great information signs, the most interesting point on which was that the felled wood was being used locally.
This whole project has been beset by poor communications, and had some of this information been available at the outset, much of the hysterical reaction to the works could have surely been prevented.
Hopping on the cycleway at Engine Lane, I noticed someone has been hard at work there, cutting down the undergrowth and overhanging bushes and opened the whole track out - nice one.
Wonder who was responsible for that? Whoever it was, I salute them.
February 17th - There’s water everywhere at the moment, but it’s depressing to note that flooding caused by bad drains is still happening a couple of years after I first noticed it. At the Black Path, near the A5 by Brownhills School, pedestrians and cyclists are forced onto a muddy desire-path around a lake formed because the drain at the bottom of the slope hasn’t been cleaned out for years.
Similarly, and most frustratingly, at the other end of the Black Path, the money recently spent on Hoilland Park clearly didn’t extend to sorting the nonfunctional drains on the tennis court. Like the flooded bowling green at Waslall Wood, this has been ongoing for a couple of years now. A refurbishment has recently taken place here, yet it’s still flooded, and presenting a hazard.
I’d really like someone to look into sorting these problems out - a lot of people complain about them, and it’s getting harder and harder to defend the official position.
If we can find money to resurface paths, I sure we can spend a little bit sorting the blocked drains.
February 15th -The bad weather seemed to be breaking as I cycled back to Brownhills although the rains would return later. It felt warmer, and stiller. The canal that separates urban Brownhills from rural, rolling South Staffordshire was affording great views - and it looked very much like spring was insinuating itself in the fields an canal embankments.
Everything was still wet, of course, but out here there wasn’t much wind damage - that is, apart from an errant trampoline, sensibly tethered to a fence, buy sadly lacking buoyancy.
February 14th - Valentines Day, but not much love from the weather, which was back to wet and windy. I ‘d been to Darlaston early again, and left in the mid-afternoon lull before the winds really got up. Unlike the ride in, the ride out was again wind assisted and fun.
The traffic was a bit frantic in the wet and I chose to hit the canal again in Walsall Wood. An interestingly wind-cleaved tree near the Black Cock, and cutting across the new Pond and Clayhanger Common the landscape was again sodden and dripping. But there was a kind of peace to it too, which I appreciated.
Crossing the bridge back into Brownhills, the moorings at Silver Street are busier than I’ve ever seen them before (except during a canal festival) - I’m curious as to why. The waterside has been unchanged for a good few years, now, and it seemed to take the boaters ages to discover us. Is it just a pure shortage of places to moor, or the fact that there’s no charge?
Really curious about it.
January 26th - Reader Jeepboy contacted me this morning, noting that the heathland restoration work had begun on Brownhills Common and things were a bit lumpy. My curiosity piqued, I took a ride over the common west of The Parade to have a look. True enough, the conditions up there are muddy and wet - take wellies if you’re walking. But it’s interesting to see the landscape open out a bit.
Nothing much grows under the conifer plantations, which have spread widely. This threatens the historic and biodiverse heath, and the wildlife that thrives upon it - everything from red deer, who munch on the sedges and lounge in the low cover to the birds that feed from the berries and seeds of the broad-leafed trees here.
Whilst the clearance looks shocking, only selected batches of coniferous woodland are being cleared, and deciduous trees left to thrive. It’s interesting to see the landscape re-emerge here. Come some decent weather, the mud will soon dry out and conditions will improve - however, it may be some time before access from the A5 drains sufficiently… it’s the closest Brownhills has had to a lido for some time.
I know this work has been and will continue to be controversial, but I honestly think it’s for the best. It’s sad that the situation was allowed to get so out of hand that dramatic steps were necessary.
January 26th - Beware, canal towpath walkers and cyclists. As pointed out by Warren Parry on Facebook a week or so ago, the brickwork on the embankment edge of the Wyrley and Essington Canal between Catshill Junction and the Silver Street Bridge in Brownhills is falling away.
A considerable cavity is opening between the towpath and the edging brickwork, large and deep enough to take a bike wheel or foot. I guess it’s caused by a combination of the weather and general erosion.
I shall contact the Canal & River Trust tomorrow to report the problem. In the meantime, watch where you’re going!
January 25th - A horrid day. A stomach bug, too much work to do, bad weather and a migraine that kept coming back when I thought it’d finished.
The daylight was headache grey and the night wet and very dark. I spun out early evening, trying to clear my head, to no avail, but I did feel a bit better for the exercise.
This month seems to have been so long, and so very, very wet; I despair of ever seeing the town light, aired and dry again. I rode the high street, Hussey Estate and looped around Clayhanger. I barely saw a soul.
Ravens Court is particularly grim these days. So many promises, and so much talk, yet it still stands, rotting. I love Brownhills with all my heart - I really do. But today, my lack of wellbeing, the weather and the endless dark made it hateful, tense and forlorn.
January 24th - Speaking of rubbish… On the way to Chasewater, I noticed this discarded inner tube in the scrub on the canal embankment at Ogley Junction. I found this depressing, particularly in light of the previous post. A synthetic tube like this won’t biodegrade, and will present an entrapment hazard to wildlife. It was clearly replaced for another, so why toss it? Put it in your pack and take it back home.
The same goes for your bottles and wrappers. You brought it with you, please take it back.
The scumbags who do this really piss me off. One of the joys of cycling is the environment. What’s the point if you just foul it with your own rubbish? Arseholes.
January 23 - On my way home I passed the Anchor at Anchor Bridge. A large, modern pub built in the 80s, it seems popular. It was originally built in bare brick, then later pained cream, which makes it interesting when lit up at night.
I’ve no idea what purpose it serves, but I find the light net on the poles quite nice, too…