February 22nd - Out early on an errand. I had to get some stuff from Screwfix, so I headed up to Walsall Wood on a fine, dry sunny spring morning. Taking to the canal, I noted that the embankment is now collapsing away near Clayhanger Bridge in addition to the area between Catshill Junction and the Pier Street Bridge. Clearly, the poor weather is taking a heavy toll, and the Canal and River Trust (which used to be British Waterways) have still yet to visibly attend to the previous problem I drew to their attention.
In the meantime, watch out if you’re cycling or walking here - the holes that open up are narrow and deep. Take care.
February 20th - The week before, the canal overflow at Clayhanger had been a raging rapid of water flowing from the canal into local drainage. I posted at the time that I’d never seen anything quite like it, and I was seriously concerned over the possibility of subsequent flooding on the River Tame, when most of the canal overflows in Walsall drain to.
A far from dry week later, the flow is reduced - still high by normal standards - but gone is the angry torrent, and my fears of flooding proven unfounded. Whilst we’ve been far more fortunate than other parts of the country, it does go to show that despite massive development over the years, the local drains and water system is incredibly capacious and resilient.
February 14th - Valentines Day, but not much love from the weather, which was back to wet and windy. I ‘d been to Darlaston early again, and left in the mid-afternoon lull before the winds really got up. Unlike the ride in, the ride out was again wind assisted and fun.
The traffic was a bit frantic in the wet and I chose to hit the canal again in Walsall Wood. An interestingly wind-cleaved tree near the Black Cock, and cutting across the new Pond and Clayhanger Common the landscape was again sodden and dripping. But there was a kind of peace to it too, which I appreciated.
Crossing the bridge back into Brownhills, the moorings at Silver Street are busier than I’ve ever seen them before (except during a canal festival) - I’m curious as to why. The waterside has been unchanged for a good few years, now, and it seemed to take the boaters ages to discover us. Is it just a pure shortage of places to moor, or the fact that there’s no charge?
February 12th - Tumblr doesn’t seem to allow video and photos in the same post, but here’s the flow at the Clayhanger Overflow in the last post. I’ve never, ever seen it running like this. And all this water will end up in the Tame and Trent.
February 12th - Still tacking into the wind into Brownhills, I hopped onto the canal at Clayhanger Bridge. The towpaths, of course, were sodden and hard going. The overflow here was working at full capacity and to a degree I’ve never seen before. This certainly made me think; this water is heading to the Ford Brook, which becomes the River Tame, and meanders through North East Birmingham, then Tamworth to Alrewas, where it meets the River Trent. The water from Chasewater will find its way to the Tame, too, via the Crane and Bourne Brooks. This is serios flow, from just one overflow.
February 7th - It had been a hard, long day. For the third time this week, I hit the canal back into Brownhills, but not before I’d stopped to reflect at Jockey Meadows in Walsall Wood. The heath there is sodden, and the meadow is still in winter clothing, but the daffodils here too are sprouting. No sign of snowdrops, though, which was sad.
The canal overflow is working to high capacity at Clayhanger Common, and I was interested to note the trash screen was clear of debris - either someone is cleaning it out or the canal isn’t that polluted these days. Think it’s probably the latter.
I paused on Catshill Junction bridge to look over to the wasteland where Bayley House once stood. One of the two high rise blocks demolished here just shy of a decade ago, permission has finally been granted for a new canalside development here.
Things change - the seasons, the weather, the skyline. But sometimes, the constancy of just loving where you are is enough after a tough day. Standing there in the weak February sun this afternoon, I really felt that attachment deeply.
I absorbed the space, the sun, the smell of the damp earth, the canal.
February 4th - Another click, and the seasonal mechanism advances a notch. On the canal bank at Walsall Wood, hazel catkins, one of the first signs of spring… Then, near Clayhanger Bridge in the undergrowth, daffodils are growing and starting to form buds.
Jack-in-the-green has tapped his cane on the ground and told the plants it’s time to grow. More power to him!
February 3rd - I was out unexpectedly early, so I left work while it was still light. The sharp wind was drying out the towpaths, so I hopped onto the canal at Aldridge to get a break from the traffic of the school run.
Passing the drain sluice near the Big House at Clayhanger, I noticed something I hadn’t previously. I always thought that if the sluice were opened, it would drain the canal onto the gardens below, as early pictures show this sluice feeding an open channel.
Now the leaves are off the trees, I see there’s actually a drain shaft on the embankment through the trees a few yards away that it must flow into; one assumes this is connected to the common drain for the area.
I’d always wondered why that sluice wasn’t better locked than it is.
January 23rd - I had to nip over to Pelsall on an errand, so I cut over The Spot and up the old railway trail. I love the view from the bridge over Clayhanger Lane. It was a great evening sky, too. If only I’d have caught it half an hour earlier, I reckon this might have been a decent spot for the sunset…
January 13th - Caught by the rain again, for heaven’s sake. My return from Darlaston was a hard ride - wet, the traffic was mad, and the New Ring Road in Walsall really shows it’s bad design in heavy rain - it’s just one long pool of standing water. Fed up with the traffic and looking for a good picture, I dropped onto the canal.
I got home soaked again. All I want is a dry week. Is that too much to ask?
December 27th - I was out taking photos for the New Year Quiz on the main blog, and I found myself in Engine Lane (no, this isn’t a clue!) as the sun set. The green lane here is nothing but a mud bath, but it was beautiful, all the same. Considering the filth and fury that would once have existed here in the form of mining, it really is hard to imagine the peace of this quiet, almost rural spot ever being disturbed; likewise, the canal between Clayhanger and the Black Cock Bridge. Where I stood, trains once crossed to a huge colliery on the other side of the canal. The air would have been full of smoke, dust and noise; the canal full of narrowboats.
As the sun set on this very, very windy but quiet afternoon, it was hard to visualise the industry that made this community.
December 13th - Further along the canal,I played again with night photography. Interesting that the lack of moonlight tonight made for such grainy images, but I like them, all the same. I hated it at first, but I’m quite getting to like the ghost-flats in Brownhills. The colour comes alive at night.
October 19th - Photography fail. I spun around Brownhills at sunset to get some night images in; fully equipped with tripod, I caught some good shots, or so I thought. It had just rained, and the air and landscape were clear, wet and hard. It was lovely.
Sadly, after taking this picture at Clayhanger, I knocked the camera into program mode and all my other shots were fuzzy rubbish. Must take more care next time.
Still, the sunset was lovely, and the canal as still as a millpond…
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.