BrownhillsBob's #365daysofbiking

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.

August 30th - This has me flummoxed, and quite, quite furious to be honest. I rode on the cycleway onto the canal near the Jaguar plant at Castle Browmwich; from there it’s a decent ride on the canal to the city centre, via Spaghetti Junction. I do it loads. The towpaths for the whole route have been excellent in the last few years, from when they were upgraded about 10 years ago.

Today, I noted huge sections of path out of city towards Spaghetti, and further out towards Tyburn are being completely relaid. There is absolutely no need for this, and it’s a huge waste of resources that would be better employed instituting a decent towpath between Perry Barr and Rushall Junction, which is currently lousy, or from Bordesley to Solihull, which is pretty much impassible in winter or wet weather.

I’m assuming this is to do with the council and the ‘Birmingham Cycle Revolution’ - I wouldn’t trust the buggers to run a bath judging by this pointless waste.

August 28th - Although summer is drawing to a close, some peculiar reminders remain. I don’t think I’ve ever known the canal waterlilies last as long as they have this year - white and yellow are still widely in bloom. They’re usually over by now.
Like the herons I’m so fond of, they’re an indicator of a clean waterway, and something I find beautiful and special, as you’d never see anything like this when I was a kid.
Stay as long as you like…

August 28th - Although summer is drawing to a close, some peculiar reminders remain. I don’t think I’ve ever known the canal waterlilies last as long as they have this year - white and yellow are still widely in bloom. They’re usually over by now.

Like the herons I’m so fond of, they’re an indicator of a clean waterway, and something I find beautiful and special, as you’d never see anything like this when I was a kid.

Stay as long as you like…

August 27th - Just on the canal bank between the Black Cock Bridge and Walsall Wood Bridge, a crab apple tree with lots of good fruit.

This is the first tree along here I’ve seen with fruit this year. Normally there are three or four.

A sad reflection on the season, which seems to have been a bit strange. But never mind, this will make a lovely jelly for someone.

August 27th - A run out mid afternoon on an errand. I headed up the canal from Pelsall Road to Silver Street bridge, then over Clayhanger Common and the new pond to Walsall Wood. 

The herons are getting really, really confident; this one was on the canal by the Watermead estate. He wasn’t a bit bothered by what was going on around him.

The Swan family were grazing by the embankment restoration near the Black Cock Bridge. The seven young I’ve followed since hatching are adult-sized now, and the first hints of adult, white plumage are beginning to show. I don’t know what the bank works have disturbed, but these graceful birds were very engaged with eating it!

August 25th - A wet, miserable bank holiday Monday. This was the wettest, coldest one I think I’ve ever known. I always find this day depressing; it’s the last holiday before Christmas, and for me, seems to flag the end of summer. A week later, the kids will all be back at school, the nights will be drawing in even more, and the sun will lose it’s warmth.

In short, we’re advancing to Autumn at a fair lick now.

I rode out mid morning during a lull in the rain, and spun around Brownhills and Chasewater. The fruits, glistening with rain, were gorgeous, and the heather is particularly beautiful at the moment. The still green embankments and hedgerows cut a bright dash through the gloom.

I did note puffballs on the old railway off Engine Lane, another harbinger of Autumn. 

At Chasewater, the valves are fully open and the waterlevel is dropping quickly. I wonder if there’s a purpose to this, as the canal is clearly full to overflowing.

A grim ride on a grim day. Brace yourselves, summer is closing out now.

August 24th - Aside from the motorcyclists, it was a lovely ride home. I’d been at a family thing, and came home via Chasewater and the canals, hoping to catch the swans again. I didn’t see them, but the fading light made everything ghostly. The canal was still flat as a millpond, and Chasewater wasn’t much livelier.

The light and the water combined to make everything precious, and despite not having my tripod, I managed to get some reasonable pictures.

August 22nd - At the back of Brickyard Road in Aldridge is a small marina, home to a number of moored narrowboats. Today, the water was mirror-calm, and it makes for an unexpectedly pleasant sight in an otherwise very urban, scarred landscape. 

Admiring perfect waterlilies basking in the late summer sun, it’s hard to imaging this oasis of piece is wedged tightly between two landill sites, Europe’s largest toxic waste facility and a working marlpit.

There is beauty everywhere, if you look.

August 23rd - I had to pop into Aldridge on an errand, and so I took the canal. There’s an autumnal nip in the air, and everything is ripening. A fine crop of elderberries, blackberries and haws will make some fantastic pddings and wine, and the rosebay willowherb is demonstrating beautifully why it’s know as ‘old man’s beard’. 

The only disappointment is the acorn crop, which is very, very bad. Only the second tree I’ve seen with any fruit this year - oddly, the acorns that grew are fat and in excellent shape, but the tree is mostly carrying the dead buds of undeveloped fruit. Most odd.

And then, that heron. He’s persistent, I’ll give him that. A fine bird.

August 22nd - The sun came out, and whilst riding over Anchor Bridge I’d noticed the swan family were headed off up the canal at a determined pace. I snatched a frankly awful picture, then went on my way. My mission in Brownhills aborted, I doubled back to get some better pictures, and quickly found the swans in a morass of at least 200 Canada Geese on the canal between Catshill Junction and Silver Street. 

The swans are in fine fettle - I had been concerned last week after not seeing them awhile, and there had been a surplus of white feathers on the water near the bridge, but it turned out volunteers had been ringing them. According to reports, they spent a couple of days sulking in Aldridge, then came back.

Quite what’s attracting the numbers of geese here, I have no idea. I note there’s some outrage about Sandwell having undertaken a cull recently, but with few predators, goose numbers are skyrocketing, which increases pressure on food supplies. It’s a tricky question I guess.

After all, one does get so attached to these birds…

August 18th - He was only a kitten, really; a sharp eyed, keen whiskered black and white mog exploring his world. This is where I saw the smokey grey pedigree chap a few weeks ago, just on the far side of the canal at Barrow Close in Walsall Wood. 

Puss didn’t seem bothered about me, and was initially hunting something in the water. Foiled, he took a drink instead.

A lovely lad with a smudge-black nose and a remarkably long tail. Oh, to be an inquisitive young cat in summertime…

August 18th - If you haven’t noticed by now, I love herons. Adore them. I make no apology for featuring this one, just a day from featuring the last one - this was was on the restored embankment at the Black Cock Bridge in Walsall Wood.

Love the way he had his back to the water, and was stood on one leg, resting pensively.

I could never tire of watching these fellows.

August 16th - This young grey heron was fishing in the canal, just by the old marketplace on Silver Street in Brownhills. You know, right by Tesco. On a Saturday afternoon.

I’ll let that sink in a bit.

I’d never have believed we’d see this kind of thing in Brownhills when I was a lad.

Hello, heron - I wish you an excellent day’s fishing.

August 16th - Heading back towards Chasewater, I noticed the erosion that happens here every time there is heavy rain has been corrected again, in the same way it always has been: sweep the debris back into the hole, and stamp it down.
Expect a similar report next time it rains heavily. Getting an awful sense of deja-vu here.
This really needs a permanent fix. 

August 16th - Heading back towards Chasewater, I noticed the erosion that happens here every time there is heavy rain has been corrected again, in the same way it always has been: sweep the debris back into the hole, and stamp it down.

Expect a similar report next time it rains heavily. Getting an awful sense of deja-vu here.

This really needs a permanent fix. 

April 16th - Spinning up to Screwfix in Walsall Wood, I noticed that the bank  restoration works near the Black Cock Bridge were still ongoing. It seems that after the sectional piling was installed, earth has  been spread to the level of it and dropped in front.

This work has primarily been to stabilise the bank and counter erosion, and is not to do with subsidence, as some have asserted. It is interesting to note at this point, that the fall from the embankment on that side is very steep, and the consequences of a breach on that side could be severe.

I do hope they get around to stabilising the brickwork on the other side, though, it’s falling away and is still hazardous to users.