BrownhillsBob's #365daysofbiking

September 26th - I nipped over to Burntwood to get some shopping in after work. On the way, I passed through Chasewater.

Near the top of the dam I saw an older chap with a bicycle trailer, containing a handsome, elderly brown and white collie dog. When your old mate cant walk so far, but still loves the fresh air and a change of scene, you do what you can. 

In this case it was saddle up the bike, get a trailer, put some old carpet in it for comfort, and use it as a chariot.

A lovely sight; two old friends out for a constitutional - not unlike the two boater dogs I spotted on my return at Anglesey Basin. I think they’d had a falling out as they seemed to be studiously ignoring each other…

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.

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 24th - Dam wall path, Chasewater, 8:24pm. Motorbike bearing L plate carrying a pillion - neither with helmets - buzzes pedestrians, scaring their dog. 

The bike is distinctive as it has two blue LED lightstrips down either side of the front fairing - I’m not certain, but I think that may be illegal.

Unbelievable.

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.