October 25th - I didn’t come home until darkness had fallen, and coming up the Chester Road I felt like trying my night riding skills out in Shire Oak Park. I felt like it, then I remembered the stiles I had to get my bike over. And it was raining. It would be muddy. Perhaps not.
I think my night riding skills are probably still a bit rusty for that just yet. Maybe in a week or two…
September 25th - If you’re connected with ‘A Licence 2 Drive’ driving school, you may want to have a word with the people driving your vehicles.
One of your cars this morning was driven in such a poor way that I feared for my life, and then a passenger in the vehicle went on to shout and gesture abuse. Is this really the road behaviour competent driving instructors should espouse?
The above video stills are from a video filmed whilst I rode down the Chester Road, Stonnall, this morning. It was raining, and visibility was poor. I had full lights on and high-viz. As I approached the pinch point at the junction with Main Street, Stonnall and the Chester Road, one of your cars - a black BMW mini, BV61AUR - aggressively and unnecessarily cut through the narrow gap dangerously close to me. This was terrifying.
Having done this, a passenger in the vehicle shouted unintelligible abuse and gestured from the vehicle window, then pointed to the footpath.
This behaviour is shocking enough from any vehicle, more so from a car branded with driving school advertising.
As a cyclist, in compliance with the Highway Code, I have a right to space and respect. I don’t expect either to be compromised by those charged with educating new drivers.
May 25th - Heading back from Stonnall at sunset, down into Brownhills, and off to Chasewater. A beautiful, soft red sunset, painting the town with colour. Come on summer, more please…
May 24th - Out early evening, and speeding towards Stonnall, I glanced to my left as I enjoyed the downhills. Fishpond Wood is gorgeous right now. After last year’s poor bluebell showing, they’re really excellent this year - and these are true British ones, not the Spanish impostors. The light was awful, but the atmosphere great.
I asked a mate about the tin shack. He said it used to house a pump, and he thought it was something to do with the quarry once. Never noticed it before.
These woods are private property and I was trespassing, so don’t do it, kids.
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.