April 10th - returning down the dam, another sign of spring. The bugs have risen.
This isn;t a murmuration of starlings, or even a flock of sparrows. I don’t know exactly what they are, but the air was thick with drifting, buzzing, irritating clouds of insects that got in my hair, eyes and clothes.
Interesting how they all seem to emerge at exactly the same natural trigger point. In a day or so, they’ll be gone.
April 10th - I took a spin out to Burntwood after work on an errand, but never got to where I set out for. Even at a fairly late hour, it was good to see the wakeboarding lines busy and in use. It really is great to see people having fun on the water here.
April 5th - I’ll never make a wildlife photographer - or indeed, any type of photographer - as long as I have breath in my body. I rode up onto the dam bridge at Chasewater, and passed the time of day with a great friend I happened to meet there by chance. As we chatted, I spotted a crested grebe on the water in front of us. I joked that every time you take a picture, they dive just before you hit the button. I was moderately lucky on two shots out of 11.
I don’t think Simon King will ever have anything to worry about. But I do love these gorgeous little birds.
March 29th - I left Lichfield and the madness of the crowds as soon as I could, and took a leisurely line through Beacon Park, past the brook and the willows, currently in bud. From there, I took Cross in Hand Lane to Farewaell, then hopped over to Burntwood and back home via Chasewater. A great afternoon in sandals and shirtsleeves, and some great spring sights in the hedgerows and fields, crowned by a stark but beautiful sunset.
Spring really is here now, and this was the last night of darkness until the end of October, a spring, summer and autumn away.
March 22nd - It was sunshine and showers on the way home, and often at the same time. This gave rise to a great rainbow - but sadly, it was too fleeting to capture at it’s best. Still, it was rather beautiful, all the same…
March 22nd - There’s been a death locally. The victim will not be mourned, although being viciously cut down by a diamond blade. Cyclists, pushchair wranglers and normal-width people throughout the area who walk this way will know what I’m talking about.
The post that had for years pointlessly stopped even the narrowest bikes and people getting though the gap at the foot of Anglesey Basin without a struggle, has finally been cut down.
It served no purpose - access to motorbikes either side of it was always possible. It just existed as a royal pain in the arse, and I was hugely irritated that the metre high steel post filled with concrete survived the dam works.
Someone, somewhere has finally cut the bloody thing down. I’ve vowed to do so many a time, but never been quite motivated enough.
My thanks to the executioner, you have done the community a great service.
March 21st - Off to Chasewater for the first time in a while, I took the canal up from Brownhills. Spring is everywhere; in the hedgerows, in the fields, on the water. Despite a grim wind, birds were bountiful, and the sun, when you caught it, was warm.
My favourite tree at Home Farm is still in winter mode, but the field surrounding it is a warm green. At Catshill, the swan-pair with three unsuccessful breeding years behind them are having another go, and the landmarks of Hammerwich tested the zoom on the camera.
At Chasewater, the canal valve is now open again, and we’re about 40mm off maximum level now, but the wind drove waves onto the spillway weir quite ferociously. Due to the same wind, the Wakeboard lines were closed, but workmen were busy around the boating lake laying lovely new tarmac paths instead of the uneven old slabs.
March 7th - A great afternoon, although the wind was still very fresh. I returned via Chasewater, which was surprisingly deserted. I noticed the wakeboarding equipment had been set up for the new season, and the lake was still overflowing into the spillway. Waves broke against the southern shore with some anger and splashed any incautious walker.
The canal also looked fine as I returned to Brownhills with the sun warm on my back. This early spring is gorgeous, and it’s just what the doctor ordered - but I still can’t get the frightening thought out of my head that at the end of March last year we had the heaviest snowfalls for years.
One thing about Britain I really love: no two seasons are ever the same.
February 23rd - I was grey and very, very windy when I headed to Chasewater, but it still felt springlike as it was very warm for the time of year. Chasewater was very choppy and largely deserted, but heading back over a drying-out Brownhills Common I noted the paths and tracks were already beginning to self-heal from the felling activity here a few weeks before. I also noted some great information signs, the most interesting point on which was that the felled wood was being used locally.
This whole project has been beset by poor communications, and had some of this information been available at the outset, much of the hysterical reaction to the works could have surely been prevented.
Hopping on the cycleway at Engine Lane, I noticed someone has been hard at work there, cutting down the undergrowth and overhanging bushes and opened the whole track out - nice one.
Wonder who was responsible for that? Whoever it was, I salute them.
February 23rd - There’s enterprise for you. I noticed this van parked up at Chasewater Basin, and it seems to belong to the owner of the narrowboat moored nearby. It never occurred to me that boaters may need a chimney sweep. But advertising the wedding gig? Canny.
February 2nd - As I got back to the Innovation Centre at 5:25, I caught sight of the lights reflecting on the boating lake, and just had to take a picture. It was then I realised it was only just coming on to dusk. In January, we clawed back about an hour from the darkness, and all the time the rate of change is increasing.
February 2nd - It was a gorgeous day, much better than of late, but I was sadly confined to sorting out the computer for most of it. I slipped out for a quick spin around Chasewater at 4pm and caught a good sunset. Everything was still dripping with mud, of course; the going on the towpaths and trails is chewy, to say the least; but there was a chill and hardness in the air that suggested the warm, wetter weather might be on the way out.
The canal sluice is still closed and Chasewater is still overflowing into the spillway.
January 30th - The return was equally wet and grey - but did have the added excitement of wet, sleety snow. The sluices are still shut at Chasewater, and everything is still sodden and muddy. The photography was awful. I was glad to get home.
It was nice to see Morris in the snow though, even if it was very short lived…
BrownhillsBob biked every day for the thirty days of April 2011, part of the #30daysofbiking project, but enjoyed the process so much that he carried on. Over two years down the road, he's still cycling every day and recording a little bit of every journey.