BrownhillsBob's #365daysofbiking

August 10th - I realised I hadn’t really done a circuit of Brownhills like this for a while, and despite the grim weather warnings, it’s wasn’t a bad day at all. The light was bright, and the scenery good. It was a good day to photograph landscape, I guess.

A the Pelsall Road bridge on the canal, I discovered how the otherwise inaccessible flowerbed was being maintained - formerly I’d wondered if it was from the boat so often moored nearby. 

At Chasewater, the lake was very, very choppy. The wakeline had been abandoned for the day, and only a few very brave windsurfers were out.

I note that the valves are currently open, and the water level at the reservoir is steadily lowering, probably to the lowest level since last summer, the high watermark evident on the spillway bridge in a line of white surface scum.

An unexpectedly great day to be out.

August 3rd - Chasewater itself was gorgeous. From the honeybees busy on the knapweed, which looks so very like thistles, to the thistles themselves, which are now doing the seeding thing. Amphibious bistory dabbles the western edge of the lake, and the north heath looked gorgeous.

We’re so lucky to have this nearby.

August 2nd - Still treating my injured foot with care, I took in a lazy loop of Brownhills and bimbled over to Chasewater, then back down the canal. It was a gorgeously sunny late afternoon, and after the heavy rains of the morning, all the greenery looked splendidly fresh.

In the space of 20 minutes, I admired the mature trees on The Parade, enjoyed the shimmer of Chasewater and watched spellbound as a wakeboarder practised his jumps. I also spotted the best garden chair-hammock thing ever, in a limpid, green arcadia beside the quiet, clear waters of the canal.

Don’t ever tell me there isn’t beauty in this place.

July 25th - The Catshill swan family seem to spend a lot of time at Anglesey Basin, and tonight they were group-preening and loafing by the waterside, totally relaxed. The parents let me get quite close, but sadly, the  movement of the cygnets - still numbering seven - combined with low light made for terrible photos.

July 25th - The Catshill swan family seem to spend a lot of time at Anglesey Basin, and tonight they were group-preening and loafing by the waterside, totally relaxed. The parents let me get quite close, but sadly, the  movement of the cygnets - still numbering seven - combined with low light made for terrible photos.

July 25th - A busy day, but the foot improved no end, and a great meeting with an old friend started the weekend off well. I spun out at sunset, as night fell, to Chasewater. Not a bad sunset, and the warmth and light was a joy to behold.

We are so lucky to have this place on our doorsteps.

July 17th - On my return, I was held up by some rather familiar beaked* villains. This is Coulter Lane, Burntwood, just outside the farm where they sell asparagus. It’s a good couple of miles from Chasewater - yet these honking, hissing impediments to cycling progress are clearly the Chasewater geese - domestic birds set free some years ago, that generally hang around the boating lake, grumping at anyone and anything. 

Are they regulars here? Is this actually their home? Do they commute?

So many questions, so little time…

*yes, I know they have bills, not beaks, but it doesn’t scan as well.

July 6th - Sustrans, the cycling charity who created and ostensibly look after the National Cycle Network are really annoying me locally.

A few weeks ago, I pointed out the baffling signage south of Chasewater on the canal, which appeared to prohibit a good cycling route. Here I noticed similar confusion at the level crossing by Chasewater Heaths station. Face north, and the signage correctly leads you over the crossing, onto the cycleway past the Sportway. Come in the opposite direction, and it shows you’re on Route Five. Or you’re not. 

What the hell?

Get your act together, people; you’re supposed to be promoting cycling, not preventing it.

July 6th - I wasn’t in the mood to ride much - I had lots of work to do, so just popped up to Chasewater to check out the Craft & Farmers market, which again, disappointed. I shan’t bother with that again.

I spun out for a circuit around the park, and was taken by the buddleia, water lilies and various marsh orchids, which out here, unlike the ones near the canal, hadn’t gone over yet.

I stated last week that the flowering time was passing; but I was wrong. Things are still flowering well, just in different ways and different places.

This really is a most excellent summer.

June 21st - An abortive ride terminated early due to a silly mechanical problem I hadn’t got the tool on me to fix, but I still got 20 miles in. Over at Anglesey Basin, the swan family were contentedly preening together on the canal bank between the towpath and the water, and weren’t troubled by my presence at all.

Still seven cygnets, all growing well. Lovely to see.

June 15th - The flora was also showing well, and the blackberry and dewberry brambles are flowering intensely this year - so if we get a nice few days with plenty of bees and bugs, there should be another ample crop of blackberries this autumn. The lovely, paper-white flowers are rarely studied closely, such is their proliferation, but they are most delicate, attractive things.

I was also pleased to note that following the great marsh orchid massacre - where the plants I had been lovingly watching were mown off by a C&RT grass cutting crew a week or so ago - another abundant patch seems to be growing on the slope down to the new pond at Clayhanger.

I love those orchids. I never saw anything like them here when I was younger, and cherish them as a sign of how much better the ecology generally is around here these days.

June 1st - I took a mosey up to Chasewater to check out the second Craft and Farmers Market. It was larger than last time, and better spread out, but I was disappointed with the lack of produce. As a craft market it was OK, I guess, but I got a lot of feedback on social media after advertising the event on my main blog that this wasn’t a Farmer’s Market. I concur, and unless they get some produce, I don’t really think it should be called that.

It’s a fine effort, but it’s sad not to see more food there. Hopefully, things may improve as it establishes.

May 25th - A ride out on a grey day. I’d intended to get a good, long ride in but the weather had been pretty horrid and my heart wasn’t in it. I contented myself with a ride over Chasewater, down through Burnwood, out around Whittington and back through Weeford and Shenstone.

I forgot my camera, too, and so I had to make do with the phone - which rarely makes for a good picture.

At Chasewater, I noticed that the yellow ribbons for the Stephen’s Story appeal in aid of the Teenage Cancer Trust were spreading up here, too, and were on cars, fences and gates around the railway. It was a nice thing to see.

This is a remarkable phenomena.

You can donate to the Stephen Sutton appeal here.

May 24th - There’s probably some fancy photographic name for it, but some days seem naturally high-contrast. Something about the light. I spun around very wet towpaths out of Brownhills to Chasewater, and noted that part of Sandhills was dark, and another part was remaining in light. It really was quite beautiful.

Newtown’s bunny population were out enjoying the lush wet vegetation, and could be barely bothered to run away as I approached, and the view to Hammerwich was as wonderful as ever now it’s wearing it’s summer jacket. At Chasewater, the view from the dam was remarkable, with a rather threatening sky. 

As I headed home, the heavens opened again.

But it’s summer, and warm rain is better than cold…

May 18th - I like it when things here resolve themselves and intertwine. Way back on April 28th, I spotted an unusual, willow-like tree growing by the canal I’d not noticed before. What snagged my attention were the curious, spiky, flower-like growths, and I asked at the time what the tree might be, and were the ‘blooms’ flower or seed?

The wonderful fellow cyclist Wilymouse kindly pointed out on the original post that the tree was Grey Sallow (or Grey Willow). I learned from a link supplied that what I had seen was the female flower of this tree; the male being the familiar pussy willows.

Check out Grey Sallow here, and the images down the right hand side of the page.

Moving on, Rose Maria Burnell sent me some photos this weekend of seed fluff blowing around Chasewater. Rose assumed it was from dandelions, and I think a lot of it is… but also, it’s coming in huge amounts from grey sallow trees - the spiny flowers I photographed have seeded and are shedding wind-born material into the air, and coating everything with fluff. 

The trees seem particularly dense around Fly Creek and the dam, although they’re all over Chasewater, and the atmosphere is thick with little seeds. At the creek by the boardwalk crossing, the water is white with seed fluff. It’s really quite eerie.

So, mystery solved - thanks to Wilymouse and Rose for the input!

May 11th - I came back to Brownhills through Chasewater. At Anglesey Basin, I noticed that someone has fitted a guard plank to stop narrowboats - often moored here - banging into the weir edge. It’s a rough old job; the wood isn’t treated, so won’t last long, and the grouting into the sides of the basin is very rough. I suppose it’ll do the job, though. Wonder if this has been prompted by a general concern or a specific incident?