September 28th - On a decaying tree stump near the canal just by Bishton, these fine specimens of Dryad’s Saddle polypore fungus. They were huge - dinnerplate sized. The cellular structure on the curled edge is fascinating, too.
September 20th - Must have passed this garden backing onto the canal at Anchor Bridge hundreds of times - but never once noticed the apple tree, which this autumn has a fine crop of apples. The owner doesn’t seem to have noticed, though, as the windfalls are plentiful on the ground.
A lovely sight. Wonder if they’re eaters or cookers?
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 19th - There seems to be a lot of work going on with the local canals at the moment. At Walsall Wood, the embankment has be reinforced near the Black Cock Bridge, and near the Big House in Clayhanger, a month ago a pump appeared for a few days, and disturbance in the scrub showed work had been carried out surrounding the canal sluice drains there. Coming home down the canal from Aldridge, I noted that the sluice hear had been oiled, painted and digging had been going on.
Wonder why the sudden rash of maintenance?
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.
September 14th - Back up on Cannock Chase for the first time in ages, and I really loved it. From the Heron near Ogley Junction, to Abrahams Valley and Parrs Warren, I had a great afternoon, racing around and generally throwing the bike around. It made a change, it’s been a long while.
That foot injury has been really holding me back. So glad it’s healed now.
September 13th - I whizzed up to Walsall Wood in the morning on an errand. Coming back, I noticed the canal alive with small fish, and wondered if there was an oxygen problem there, but the fish seemed lively enough. No wonder the herons are so prolific here at the moment.
I stopped to look at the old Black Cock Bridge. Around a century old, I think, and in poor repair, it desperately needs some love. Since alternate routes exist, I think one day this steep and high crossing will be closed to through traffic like Hollanders Bridge in Walsall Wood, as replacement would be difficult and expensive.
Mind, a lick of paint and a good clean wouldn’t hurt…
September 11th - Less charming than the sunflower, but fascinating to me, just under a bridge in Pleck, I pull up to a halt to allow a rat to get out of my way. Brown, and in good nick, it loops around the path before diving into a drain hole in the bridge underwall. If you watch closely, it briefly pokes it’s nose back out of the hole.
Rats are a fact of life with canal cycling, and there are lots in urban areas. Previously, I’ve seen them swimming here. Humans have a symbiotic relationship with rats, and we’ve co-existed for millennia.
I don’t find them repulsive, I find them fascinating. Their adaptability and nimbleness are fascinating.
Worth watching full screen. Click on the little square box on the vide toolbar.
September 11th - I only went and forgot the camera again. This week can’t end quickly enough. Something is not functioning at all well.
On the way to work, in central Walsall the traffic felt risky, so I hopped on the canal and rode to Darlaston that way. On the way, I bumped into this family of swans.
This bunch are very attentive to humans - I suspect they get fed regularly. They were almost harassing me for food. The adults seem smaller than the Catshill brood, and there’s only three cygnets, but they’re lovely, healthy birds, and seem to have been ringed.
As soon as they realised I wasn’t going to produce bread, they went back to foraging in the weed and quickly drifted away. Cupboard love.
September 9th - As I rode home along the canal through Walsall Wood, I came upon a Mexican standoff. A small, black and white kitten one side of the canal, staring out a Heron on the other who was meeting the stare eye-to-eye.
They’d probably both still be there, but a clumsy cyclist with tea on his mind broke the moment.
September 8th - I hit Birmingham again mid afternoon. I was drained, and feeling a bit groggy, but couldn’t waste the good weather. I rode out of town on the canal to Spaghetti Junction, then eastwards to Castle Vale and hopped on the Plantsbrook/New Hall Valley cycleway. It was gorgeous, and well worth what seemed like a Herculean effort.
The Himalayan balsam is thick by the brook for almost the entire cycleway, making the air smell of hot tin, but for all the damage it causes, it is rather beautiful.
When I got to Sutton, I was beaten, and hopped on the train to Shenstone. IBS can be a pain sometimes.
September 8th - I was in Droitwich for a meeting. I quite like the place, and it’s a nice train journey, especially on a sunny day like this. I noticed the canal as I rode up the Salwarpe Road. I believe it’s only been reopened in the last few years, and is probably worth exploring one of these days.
What a lovely view.
September 4th - I forgot my camera today, so instead I grabbed it and my little tripod when I had to run a late evening errand. It was quite still in Brownhills this evening, and there were few people around.
I am fascinated by the new white LED streetlights the council are installing in some places. Unlike the ones in Birmingham, these seem much brighter and clearer than the sodium ones they replace, and the cold white light the spread is somewhat otherworldly, particularly on street corners where old and new technologies overlap.
At the Pier Street bridge, I was fascinated by the lights shining off the surface of the canal, something I’d forgotten in the light days of a summer now passed.
Now autumn is upon us, I must sharpen up my night photography techniques.
September 1st - And theres the thing. Although I’m sad for the passage of summer, I’m returning home in the golden hour. Soon, the time of great sunsets will be here.
The sky was terrified this evening, and the dying sun caught the trees by the canal beautifully.
I always think I can’t do it, but I can. There’s beauty in every season - bring it on.
August 31st - It was a gorgeous afternoon - sunny, warm, with only a light wind. Sadly, I missed most of it due to being unwell. I finally left for a gentle spin at 5pm, and spun up the canal to Aldridge, then over Lazy Hill and back up the Chester Road over Shire Oak into Brownhills.
I had no energy at all. But it was a lovely ride, and I stopped to photograph the view at the top of Lazy Hill and at Shire Oak. I’m astounded how far you can see from Shire Oak on a clear day - those cooling towers are the derelict ones at Willington; inbetween, Burton and the huge Argos warehouse at Barton.
Note also the wind turbine at Whittington Hurst, seemingly very close in the shot of prospect house.
A great, short ride.