May 12th - I have a horrid feeling that the three glorious days of the May Day bank holiday were, in fact, summer. Today was wet, but warm, so I donned waterproofs and hit Cannock Chase. It rained steadily for pretty much the whole journey, and the light was awful for photos. There is a huge spread of cowslips at Brindley Valley, and everything else was vivid shades of green - even Rugeley Power Station was surrounded by verdant pasture. The Chase was lovely, and peaceful, and I didn’t see another soul from Rifle Range Corner all the way to Seven Springs.
Anyone would think humans were made of sugar… the forest is lovely in spring rain.
May 12th - Not often I see this. In fields just to the east of Penkridge Bank on Cannock Chase, a herd of about 40 fallow deer, grazing and browsing on the pasture. It was raining, and very quiet, and I think they were taking advantage of the generally human-free conditions. The herd was split into two groups, the other being in and beyond the treeline.
I watched them for a good 20 minutes. A remarkable sight.
March 31st - The contrasts continued as I got out on the Chase. Even the popular trails were too snowed up to ride, so I hit Birches Valley on the roads, which were clear and easy going. The afternoon warmed a little, and the sun stayed longer, and it was in one such moment of clarity that I took in the view of the Weaver Hills from Lady Hill. Good Friday two years ago, I was cycling over there in shorts and a tee shirt.
Dropping down to Rugeley, the snow was clear from the canals, and only lay in the lee of hedges and walls, but climbing out of the Trent Valley at Breretonhill, there were still large amounts of lying snow.
I think this is the coldest spring I’ve ever known.
January 19th - Out on Cannock Chase, with plenty of pictures on the main blog - but something in the current patch of cold weather is really making me smile: the art of snowman making is returning. Never used to see good ones when I was a kid. Nowadays, folks are getting creative. The little fella was sat at the side of the track down Abraham’s Valley in the middle of nowhere on the Chase. He was perfect. I loved him.
Meanwhile, at Seven Springs, another was taking a breather on a picnic table. Shame about the leg. Let’s hope the government disability assessors don’t spot him loafing with that missing leg, or they’ll have him working for free in Tesco within the week…
Seriously, loving the wit of it.
January 1st - Happy new year! A great ride was first of the year, up onto the Chase. A clear, chilly day, but not terribly cold. Chasewater was rammed, as were most public spaces I passed through. There was winter sun, and everything was drying out; folk walked, spotted birds, or accompanied children on new Christmas bicycles. I watched families feeding the gulls from the balcony boardwalk on the south shore with water lapping underneath. That was a sight to see after so long being land-locked.
Further on, the Chase was similarly packed, but in the remoter spaces at sunset, the beauty of solitude remained. An unsuccessful badger spotting foray meant cycling home at dusk, and returning via Rugeley.
This was the Christmas break I wanted, not getting wet all the nine. Oh well, never mind…
December 30th - I’d been going stir crazy, and the weather was more or less OK when I set out. I went round Chasewater, then up through Hednesford and up onto the Chase. Birches Valley was packed with people, dogs and bikers, despite the drizzle and wind, and so I doubled back up Penkridge Bank to Rifle Range Corner and on to Abrahams Valley for peace, quiet and a chance to do some badger watching in the dusk. Heading back on the A51, I surveyed the floodplains of the Trent. The wind blew me to Rugeley, and over to Breretonhill; but fought me all the way home to Brownhills. A great ride, but the weather was hell.
Hopefully, conditions will steadily improve now.
December 25th - On the way to Castle Ring, weak sunshine mingled with sharp showers. As I was stood looking down at the power station, the air cleared and the view improved. On the embankment near the wood on Holly Hill Lane, a tine waterfall has developed., confirming my feeling that the whole forest seems absolutely saturated. As I left, I noted the view towards the Black Country from opposite the Park Gate Inn; I never realise you could see Dudley Castle from here…
November 18th - My second attempt to find badgers. On Cannock Chase, In the dark, I found them. They were wonderful, but the light was too bad to take pictures. I won’t say where they were for obvious reasons, and I watched them way too long. I was left to rush home, back through the forest in darkness. It was brilliant, but very cold. All I could hear was owls, the flow of water, and small animals scuttling through the undergrowth. The Chase at night is a wonderful, full-on sensory experience.
November 11th - An afternoon on Cannock Chase, with mixed results. It was chilly, but clear, and I was looking for badgers. I found the sett I was after, but approached with the wind the wrong side of me and they stayed resolutely hidden. No such shyness, however, from the Penkridge Bank fallow deer who were loafing in their usual spot. The handsome young stag - too young for the recent rutting, I suspect - was drawn by my offerings of carrot and flapjack. These animals are usually here, but usually very skittish. I think the recent chillier weather has drawn them a shade closer to humans. beautiful creatures. Shame the light was so bad.
October 21st - Up on the The Chase and over Shugborough for an afternoon ride. Autumn has really taken hold now. The pines in Abraham’s valley are a lovely yellow, and everything had an aura from the low sun. Soon, the clocks will go back and I’ll be doing this run at dusk. The year advances, slowly, inexorably… where did it go?
October 7th - up on Cannock Chase for the first decent ride in a while. Due to bad weather and work commitments, I haven’t got out so much this year, which saddens me. But this was worth waiting for. There’s a bigger post from this journey over on my main blog - but the Chase, together with Shugborough and it’s environs, were just pulling on their golden autumn jackets. Superb. I must redouble my resolve to get out more…
May 20th - The greening is now in earnest. All over Cannock Chase and the Shugborough Estate, nature is doing it’s damnedest to get our attention. From Brindley Heath to Severn Springs, Milford to Haywood everything is a fluorescent, vibrant, verdant shade of growth. To be in England: can there be anywhere finer right now?
By the way: Cycling over the Shugborough Estate at 8pm, when all the tourists have gone is the way to see it. Hardly a soul, and very, very peaceful.
May 13th - After visiting the MG car show at Chasewater, I headed up the old Ironstone Road over Cuckoo Bank and over to the chase. On the way, I checked out the Hednesford Hills, which I hadn’t been up for a very long time. It was as lovely and deserted as I remembered it. Up on Cannock Chase, I did Birches Valley, but the presence of hoards of mountain bikers was more of a hinderance than company, although the beautiful scenery was as lovely as ever. Returning on the canal through Rugeley, I spotted my first mallard ducklings of the year. Bobbing adrift in the wake of a narrowboat, the flapping balls of fluff found their mum and regrouped.
It was a nice afternoon’s ride, but the wind became increasingly difficult and made for a challenging, draining ride home.
May 6th - A glorious but chilly ride over Cannock Chase and south Staffordshire. Find out more about my day in the post on my main blog. The peculiar arrangement od what looks like a bench with a ratchet sticking through is a sluice gate control on the canal at Rugeley. Took me a while to work out that most of the mechanism had been removed…
March 11th - The encroaching spring doesn’t trouble the fallow deer at Penkridge Bank, Cannock Chase much. Here rain or shine, winter or summer, tis sizeable herd of deer loaf in this area as there’s ready food and ideal woodland close by. These animals are used to humans and merely wary of me and my camera, losing interest when they realise I’ve no carrots. What a joy it must be to live here and see them daily. The children of a nearby house are so used to them, they take no notice….