July 9th - I’ve worked 40 out of the last 64 hours. It isn’t leaving a lot of time for anything much, but I’m still cycling; it’s my interregnum between home and work, and enables me to straighten things out and relax a bit.
This was my journey home tonight from New Street Station, in snatched photos.
Stations at night again, I can’t help myself. It’s that Late Night Feelings thing coming to the surface again…
June 27th - This post was inspired by top Pelsall geezer Matt Drew, who spotted a different clump of these fellows and posted a pic on Facebook last week, inspiring me to look out for them.
These delightfully spiky caterpillars are the larvae of the beautiful peacock butterfly. They really are rather impressively hostile-looking, but cute at the same time - I spotted them in a nettle bed at the top of Shire Oak Hill, near the old quarry there.
In summer, the adult female peacock will lay between 200 and 500 eggs at the very top of a stinging nettle in direct sunlight. 10 days later they’ll hatch, and the emerging caterpillars will spin a communal web-tent out of silk (see the top picture) which they’ll live in until large enough to leave; they live and grow in clumps at the top of nettles, and as they grow, they may move from nettle to nettle in a patch together as a group, before pupating separately.
They’re easy to spot as a dark infestation at the tops of the tallest nettles in a nettle bed.
Male peacock butterflies are very territorial, and can often be seen attempting to chase away birds that may be coming near their selected nettle patch.
I’m glad I found some - and thanks again to Matt for the inspiration to look.
May 23rd - I noticed something today I’d not spotted before. Cycling back up the Chester Road from Mill Green, as the land rises and undulates (from about 130m AOD to about 175m AOD) the plant life on the grass verges and in the hedgerows changes. At the low end, there’s birds foot trefoil, ragwort, ox-eye daises and clover in abundance in lush green grass. Higher up, these plants peter out to campion, dandelions and spiky grasses. Wonder if it’s changing soil or height?
The trefoil - called egg and bacon by us as kids - is lovely this year, and always looks nice after rain.
February 25th - Caught in a short, sharp shower. The air suddenly went clear, and glass-hard. The traffic seemed to go a bit nuts, too.
Despite it’s attempts to kill me, I love the Chester Road. Night or day, summer or winter, sunshine or rain, it’s both often my route out of here, and my way back home.
February 25th - Terrible pictures grabbed quickly in the half light… but cause to celebrate. My daffodils are here. Spring is underway!
These early ones come every year at the end of February. They grow on the verge corners by the cottage at the junction of Wood Lane and Chester Road, Mill Green. They are showing beautifully this year, after being a little sad last year.
They fill me with joy. I spotted them a couple of days ago, but have had no time to stop and photograph them. I say hello outloud, every time I pass. They are my signal to hold on, because the greening is coming again… and not a moment too soon.
January 31st - It was a day of ups and downs. I had to get to the dentist, which is never pleasant, but the morning was decent, and the long awaited arrival of a new computer was good news. The weather turned about lunchtime, and cleared a little around 6pm. It’s really hard at the moment to find decent photographic subjects in a wet, grey or dark landscape. I find myself really craving spring right now.
I went down to Stonnall, and experimented with long exposures without a great deal of success. The long-distance shot from the quarry gates was interesting enough - although out of focus - to feature here. I did like the ones down onto Main Street, but others I took of the Chester Road were useless.
Some days are just to dark to do anything with.
January 10th - Time for another cycling tip. This is one I repeat often, and is very important, so it bears repeating. Following the rain we’ve had, the roads are currently filthy. This isn’t just country lanes, but major roads, too; the Chester Road up to Shire Oak from Stonnall northbound has a band of wet silt stretching nearly a metre from the kerb for several hundred metres, and it’ as slippery as hell. In the country lanes, the wash down has deposited grit, marbles and hedge-flailings containing sharp thorns into the road, right where we cyclists normally ride..
Watch where you’re going. Beware of puddles that could hide deep potholes. Corner carefully, and maintain your space on the road, so you have somewhere to move to if an unseen hazard appears. Carry spare tubes or a means of repair.
Take it steady out there, folks.
January 4th - I’d been down to Stonnall on a fairly uninspiring ride; the weather was far more settled, the wind had dropped, but everywhere is still sodden. I couldn’t find a decent picture. Then, as I cycled up the Chester Road and over the brow of the hill, I realised we we in for a good sunset. I immediately decided to head for Chasewater, to try and catch it. On the way there, I realised it would be nearly over when I got there, so captured views along the way.
I do hope this is the start of a more settle period, but somehow, I doubt it.
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.