December 28th - Cannock Chase was great, but winter came in today; it was sunny, clear and cold. I really felt the winter in my bones. But plenty of folk were out enjoying it and it was beautiful, as only the Chase in winter can be.
The golden hour was enchanting, and caught the pines near Sow Street beautifully, as it did the heath at Rifle Range Corner. On the way back on the canal, the sunset was beautiful, and the evening light even made the canal at Armitage look a picture of tranquility.
By the way, if you’ve lost a cuddly stuffed toy horse and/or a pair of specs, they’re sat on a post at the back of Seven Springs car park. It’s unclear whether they’re normally together, or just met in their loss…
Weather gods, more of this please.
December 28th - Thankfully, my deer magnet was switched on today, although these ladies didn’t seem over fussed about food. They were loafing in their usual spot on the Chase, and spent ten minutes eyeing me up for carrot potential. When they realised I didn’t have any, they gradually drifted away.
I love these creatures. After all this time, to see them is still a delight and a pleasure.
December 28th - Up on the Chase today for the first time in ages, and oh boy, it was good, but very, very muddy and the trails were treacherous. Be careful if you’re up there yourself; some quite popular tracks are blocked by fallen trees following the high winds. It could be very easy to plant into them if not paying attention.
Take care everyone.
December 15th - At Maquis Drive on the Chase, an unexpected visitor seems to have upgraded his transport method…
December 15th - Ohmygod. Carrots!
Morning on Cannock Chase. Remembered a big bag of carrots, but, forgot the camera, hence the poor phone photos. The fallows show wonderfully for a free, crunchy snack.
It’s good to see the girls again.
December 8th - I really didn’t know what to do with these photos. I spotted the deer in their usual place, but the unusually strong sunset made the images - which were quite long exposure due to poor light - an odd pink colour. I tried fiddling with the colour balance, but that’s not me and I’m not good at that stuff, so I made them black and white.
There were lots of deer about today; I saw fallows on the Chase at Shooting Butts, Lady Hill and Pepper Slade, but the photography was so very poor. It was also poor at Brownhills Parade, where I passed a large Red Deer stag and his harem in darkness at 5pm, loafing by the roadside.
Watch out for the deer if you’re driving locally. There isn’t a whole bunch of road sense, or any sense at all for that matter, in your average Red Deer…
December 8th - Not another bloody sunset? Sorry. They are very good at the moment, and I just seem to be out when they happen. The one today was incredible, but I wasn’t in a position to get a good shot. I’d gone up on the Chase, over Cuckoo Bank and Rainbow Hill. When the sunset occurred I was around Penkridge Bank, and couldn’t get a good view. But the contrasting blue-red sky was astounding, and positively lysergic, really fairytale stuff.
It was quite cold, though, with a quickening wind that was really quite unpleasant on the way back. The Chase was as beautiful as ever, and oddly deserted. I don’t know where the year has gone - can in really be the shortest day in less than two weeks?
November 3rd - Spotted at Birches Valley, a Haibike electric assist full suspension mountain bike. An extraordinary thing, first I’ve seen in the wild, it uses the Bosh bottom bracket based drive unit that seems to be the best such solution on the market. They seem to be a Raleigh connected brand, and this is about £3,500 worth of bike. Very heavy at over 21kg (46lb), I see little point in them, but the most astonishing thing was the owner abandoned this and went inside for a coffee without locking it.
To me, electric bikes are cheating. But each to his own.
November 3rd - Today, the season’s wheel clicked round another notch. The wind that so harangued me the day before had died right down, but the temperature had dropped, too. Today, I realised once and for all that winter, if not quite on her throne, was certainly waiting in the wings.
I left mid afternoon, with grand ideas of tearing up the Chase, but I was dressed too lightly and I felt cold and despite the sun, quite down in the dumps, if I’m honest. No reason to be, other than the passage of warmth and the advancing of the seasons; this time of year I always wonder if I have the strength inside to face another winter of dark nights, cold commutes and lifeless countryside.
I headed up over Chasewater and Cuckoo Bank, down Rainbow Hill and over Slitting Mill. A quick coffee at sunset, and back over Penkridge Bank. I saw deer, but it was too dark to get a good picture. Returning cold and in darkness, I felt a world away from warm, sunny afternoons. I was heavy hearted and my very bones ached.
I bloody hate this time of year.
October 26th - A sad day for me, the closing of summertime, and the descent into early darkness. The background susurration of gloom I now feel will not lift until the shortest day in December. Once things start to open out again after December’s nadir, I will feel better.
It was a day that didn’t work out; I left late and had to go to the cycle workshop at Birches Valley, up on the Chase. In my hurry, I decided against all apparent sense to take a shortcut over Cuckoo Bank. It was a disaster. The tracks were boggy and hard going, and once up there, the paths didn’t go where I thought they did. Were I exploring and not actually trying to get anywhere, this would have been great, but I emerged a good 45 minutes later at Wimblebury, way too late to get to my destination.
Instead, I headed up over Rainbow hill, down to Moor’s Gorse and back via Upper Cliff and Lodge Bank. The wind on the way back was merciless. I was glad to get home.
There was light in the darkness though, one last hanger-on from late summer; a single, beautiful foxglove growing in the otherwise dead forest floor at Parson’s Slade. Delicate, perfect and quite alone, I doubt it’s purple flowers will ever see a bee, but they did cheer me up.
It was a great summer, for me. I’m ready for the winter now, I guess. Bring it on.
October 6th - I returned to Cannock Chase as it was a much nicer day, and I still wanted to find those wonderfully photogenic fungi. Crossing the forest from Hazelslade to Milford via Birches Valley and Seven Springs, I saw lots of lovely things: the deer were showing well, the autumn colours beautiful, and some pretty good mycology. Sadly, though, the fly agaric were still elusive in all but the most tatty forms.
October 5th - I went up on the Chase for a short, late afternoon blast. I was keeping an eye out for interesting fungus, as that’s one of my favourite things about the season. I was trying to find decent fly agaric in particular, but all the examples I found were either old, badly damaged by slugs or very young. Other than those, there was disappointingly little. Perhaps I should have tried a less well-used part of the Chase…
September 29th - I escaped mid afternoon, and didn’t have long. The sun was out, but there was a keen wind, so I headed up to Cannock Chase. The colours were brilliant, with a hint of a beautiful autumn promised. I saw 3 muntjac deer at Stonepit Green, and a herd of 30-40 fallows crossing the road at Penkridge Bank. There were a few folk about, but off the main trails, the forest was beautiful and deserted. Rainbow Hill, Wolseley Plain, Abraham’s Valley and Moor’s Gorse were all gorgeous, and topping it off, a clump of wild cyclamen at Upper Longdon. Autumn ain’t so bad when it gets going…
August 31st - Autumn knocked on my door today, and I reluctantly let her in. I set out lunchtime for a ride over the Chase - after exploring Bevin’s Birches and the old quarries last week, my quest to find the remoter parts of this beautiful place has intensified. The wind - although no terribly bad - felt like it had been wrought on Satan’s back step, after the relatively still summer. It was chilly, too, and I felt the edge of the cold. The bracken is turning, the puffballs are growing well, and there is a hint of autumn everywhere you look, from the heaths of Gentleshaw, to the charm of Birches Valley.
As fellow cyclist @Accidentobizaro said on Twitter: ’I know autumn is fab.I do.Mists, mulberries, colours, walks, scarves, cyclocross. I know. But [weeps inconsolably]’
August 25th - One good thing about the coming autumn is it’s the fungi season. I love all manner of the mycology - toadstools, puffballs, mildews, moulds, brackets and more. I love the fact that what you’re seeing isn’t the organism itself, just the flower and that the parent life form can be huge and underground, with maybe dainty little caps showing. I also love the lifecycle, speed of change and development.
These examples were at Penkridge Bank, on Cannock Chase. Bring it on.