May 16th - Spring is here, too, at the verges, hedgerows and field-margins. An assortment of cowslips, bluebells, ramsons, alliums and other wildflowers are all competing for attention. This selection was growing at the side of the Chester Road, in a short, 10 years stretch near Stonnall. It’s been a long time coming, but I’m loving the spring, even when it rains…
April 3rd - A great sunrise today, clear, and bright, but cold, with the kind of chill that hurts your forehead - but still the sharp, evil, lazy easterly. The snow is gradually fading away, and by my return this evening, it had mostly gone.
My muse this morning - Grove Hill, near Stonnall - looked beautiful. Some say it’s a mythic, pagan place, and it’s certainly beautiful, and a known landmark for miles. To sit under that lone tree on a summer evening is a joy to the heart. I adore this place.
February 25th - Stopping to make a quick mechanical adjustment on the Chester Road near Shire Oak, I took time to take a quick shot of the descent into town. I must have done that hundreds, if not thousands of times. Shire Oak is a very unkind hill: climb it from any direction and it’s a long, slow grind. Sadly, the only decent descents are towards Lichfield and Sutton, the one to Brownhills is constantly interrupted by junctions and hazards, and ends far too quickly. But I still enjoy it. No more so than when I’m going home on a cold, windy, dark night.
February 21st - The first of the year. , but I look for this wee clump of daffodils mid-February every year. For me, they are the harbingers of spring. They appear every year at this time, without fail; the earliest daffodils I’ve ever experienced.
They sit under the road sign on the corner of Wood Lane and Chester Road, just between Stonnall and Mill Green.
People will no doubt consider me mad or perhaps eccentric, but I’ll freely admit to greeting them vocally. Every morning, as I pass them. I feel I owe it to them, these small, slightly tatty yellow flowers. They tell me that spring is near, darkness is reaching its end and that better days are within reach.
It would be rude not to show one’s appreciation.
November 19th - Country Gardens Garden Centre, Chester Road, Mill Green. Bugger off, it’s too early…
September 28th - Finally, when I got home, I got some cycling in. I had to nip down to Stonnall in the early evening, and as the dusk fell, I realised I hadn’t got my gorilla pod - the adaptable camera mount I use for night shots. Since I don’t have steady hands, I had to rely on my fallback night photography trick - standing the camera on street furniture and fences, and setting it on self timer.
The results were’t too bad.
23rd September - This is an awful photo, but it was an awful evening. It does, however, show that the flooding problem at Anchor Bridge, Brownhills, has been alleviated somewhat. In very heavy rain, a pool still forms on the southbound side, but of nothing like the severity it was, and I think most of that is more to do with the physics of the road than any drain blockage. It’s taken a long time, and an awful lot of folks to sort this out. Well done to everyone who’s had a go over the years - from councillors to locals.
Sorting stuff like this shouldn’t be that hard…
July 31st - Maize was a very popular crop hereabouts for a few years, now you don’t see too much of it. Usually grown for animal fodder, and harvested by machines that cut the whole plant into tiny chunks, planting seemed to suddenly cease about 3 years ago. I’m glad to see it back, although this crop on the Chester Road, near Stonnall seems a little lacking in something. Hopefully, with a bit more warm, dry weather, this harvest should recover.
July 24th - Grove Hill is a local landmark that’s very visible from the Chester Road. The subject of huge mythology, there’s really very little known about it. Presumably, but not necessarily a burial mound, the lone tree on top makes a lovely viewpoint and a distinctly notable feature. I noticed a recent conversation on Facebook where it was asserted that the hill was called Gallows Hill, and was once the site of a military encampment. Sadly, I think the physical geography has a simpler explanation.
I believe the tree still exists - and I doubt it’s original - to keep the soil on top of the hill. It’s windy up there, and soil erosion is a problem. The root system will work to contain the earth, giving the reason why the farmer never removed it and put up with ploughing round it year after year. Note the short ridge hedgerow to the left - it’s on the generally windward side of the hill. The difference in soil height is caused by the hedge doing it’s job, which is also to prevent erosion by the wind.
It’s a lovely spot, with some fascinating folklore. However, like most fantastical tales, I suspect the actuality is somewhat mundane.
July 9th - All I want is a day - one day - without rain. Sadly, it wasn’t to be. Returning from Birmingham, the train disgorged it’s charges unexpectedly at Four Oaks, so I cycled up the hill out of the suburb, and then cruised down to Little Aston. At Mill Green, it began; a soft rain fell steadily. Coming up the hill to Shire Oak, I was hot, sweaty and tired. Then I realised: It had stopped raining. 100 metres round the bend, the roads were bone dry and it hadn’t rained at all.
The weather we’re having right now is crazy.
June 19th - continuing with the flora, there are lots of these delightful purple flowers in the hedgerows along the Chester Road from Stonnall to the Shire Oak crossroads. At first glance, thy look like a thistle, but are smooth leaved, not prickly. They put me in mind of clover, almost. Anyone any ideas? Is it another type of cornflower, perhaps? Whatever, it’s absolutely divine.
May 14th - It’s been eight months now since I recorded the closure of the Mango Tree restaurant on the Chester Road in Aldridge. Soon after that, it was reported the building had been bought, and a new venue was to open there. Well, when I cycled past at 4pm today, it seemed that Voujon is now ready to reopen, if it hasn’t done so already. Looking smart, and totally refurbished, it’s nice to see the building back in use again. There’s a long history of eating establishments of this site - from transport cafes to a Little Chef. I wish the new proprietors well in their venture.
October 19th - Another moron who can’t wait a couple of seconds, causing me to brake to make allowance for his impetuosity. There’s really no need for this - he didn’t save any time, and just pissed me off. Is there a gene that makes some folk like this, or is it a hormone thing?
For fans of the ride videos, they’re difficult right now because of the sun angle at the time I got to work. Hence this one is a bit dingy. Hoping the situation will improve soon.
September 5th - I’ve only just noticed that the former Mango Tree Indian Restaurant, near Stonnall on the Chester Road, has closed. It’s clearly been shut for quite a while. I’ve never found it anything other than average and nobody ever seemed to rave about it. Once this building was a transport cafe, open 24 hours, then a Little Chef. Nothing ever seems to prosper here. Wonder what will become of it?