November 3rd - Today, the season’s wheel clicked round another notch. The wind that so harangued me the day before had died right down, but the temperature had dropped, too. Today, I realised once and for all that winter, if not quite on her throne, was certainly waiting in the wings.
I left mid afternoon, with grand ideas of tearing up the Chase, but I was dressed too lightly and I felt cold and despite the sun, quite down in the dumps, if I’m honest. No reason to be, other than the passage of warmth and the advancing of the seasons; this time of year I always wonder if I have the strength inside to face another winter of dark nights, cold commutes and lifeless countryside.
I headed up over Chasewater and Cuckoo Bank, down Rainbow Hill and over Slitting Mill. A quick coffee at sunset, and back over Penkridge Bank. I saw deer, but it was too dark to get a good picture. Returning cold and in darkness, I felt a world away from warm, sunny afternoons. I was heavy hearted and my very bones ached.
I bloody hate this time of year.
October 28th - The shift from BST to GMT and the earlier fall of darkness is always depressing, but it did allow me to catch a great sunset sky over Birmingham on my way home tonight. The inclement weather had left the door open for the cold, and it felt like winter out there, cold, dark and intemperate.
Better get used to it quickly, I guess…
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.
April 2nd - Something odd happened on the way home tonight. Spring came to me.
I came back through Walsall - when I entered the railway system at Telford, it was dull and cold. When I emerged, blinking into the light on Platform 1 in Walsall, the sun was oddly warm on my back. It was still bitter, and the easterly that sapped my essence on the way home was worthy of any winter, but I could feel the warmth. Pulling my gloves on in the odd entrance tunnel to the orphan platform, I noted the sunlight shining in from outside. From the Black Cock Bridge in Walsall Wood, it could have been an evening in April.
I was knackered, but spring is finally tapping on my window. Welcome back, old friend.
March 31st - The contrasts continued as I got out on the Chase. Even the popular trails were too snowed up to ride, so I hit Birches Valley on the roads, which were clear and easy going. The afternoon warmed a little, and the sun stayed longer, and it was in one such moment of clarity that I took in the view of the Weaver Hills from Lady Hill. Good Friday two years ago, I was cycling over there in shorts and a tee shirt.
Dropping down to Rugeley, the snow was clear from the canals, and only lay in the lee of hedges and walls, but climbing out of the Trent Valley at Breretonhill, there were still large amounts of lying snow.
I think this is the coldest spring I’ve ever known.
March 31st - A day of contrasts. I needed to get to a bike shop, and with Chasewater Cycles gone, I could only think of Swinnertons, up on the Chase. I set off mid-afternoon, and crossed Chasewater, expecting it to be heavy going; but most of the paths and tracks were clear, but wet, and it was full of people taking the air. Intermittently, the sun shone through, but it was still bitterly cold. On the west shore, the wind lapped ice pieces ashore like a jingling, glass tide, but overhead, a kestrel hovered, wheeled and hunted with the joy that only the wild in spring can express. I’ve seen kestrels hunting before from the foot-pegs on that pylon. Must be a regular vantage point for them.
Meanwhile, on the north heath, the heathland management team of nine employees were hard at work, managing the heath in their own, inimitable style. The cows don’t seem to mind the snow, and carried on chewing, munching and defecating to their heart’s content.
March 29th - Every easter should have a bunny. This one loped across Pool Road behind the craft units at Chasewater this evening. She seemed to be a bit fearless and I think a bit hungry - there can’t have been much nutrition in the environment this week for a hungry rabbit.
I noticed when the dam works were on that there were a large number of rabbits around Pool Road, many living on the dam itself. I do hope someone is keeping an eye on their burrowing exploits…
March 29th - A lazy day. Work has left me exhausted lately, and with a long Easter weekend ahead, I slouched out and did some stuff I wanted to for a change, and slipped out late afternoon for a gentle loop of Brownhills. The thaw has really set in now, but the canal towpaths are still no go, even with the snow tires. I noted at Holland Park that the tennis courts were now tennis duckponds, complete with ducks. The sunset from Chasewater, however, was gorgeous. Water is still overflowing from the Nine-Foot, and the bird life there tonight was fantastic.
By the time I returned to Brownhills, the sunset had retreated to a magenta band on the horizon, but the sky was still stunning. A great sunset.
I could handle a few more days like this. Lets hope the snow melts away soon.
March 27th - The winter is still sat upon my shoulders, weighing me down. Today was another day fraught with bad travel connections, and tomorrow doesn’t look to be much better. Waiting at Blake Street this morning, it was bitingly cold, and snowing. Rather than the enjoyment I normally feel when it snows, today, it was just bleak, more of the same. Due to a signal failure, it took me two and a half hours to get to Telford. The circumspect mood did not improve.
Returning from Shenstone later in the day, there seemed to have a been a substantial thaw during the day - many of the fields I passes looked green, whereas they’d been white the day before. However, the larger drifts will take some time to recede. This one - currently preventing any access to Thornyhurst Lane - is huge.
March 26 - A stunning sunset, which as Jayne Howarth noted on Twitter, gave a spring-like light that wasn’t justified by the conditions. It was cold, and brisk as I cycled the backlanes from Shenstone, and the coming darkness felt threatening and sharp as I cycled home with the wind behind me. The roads were clear and largely dry, although the thaw had evidently set in during daytime. The sky changed colour a number of times, and it was thoroughly beautiful.
A gorgeous end to what had been a somewhat trying day.
March 25th - It promised to be a thoroughly dreadful journey home. Checking travel information just before leaving work, there was chaos at New Street, with overhead line difficulties causing mass cancellations and a reduction to Sunday service on all lines I could get home from. Pitching up a the station, I went for a Walsall train, then heard an announcement for a Lichfield one. Just making it to the right platform, I easily climbed aboard a 6-carriage set which had seats to spare. I actually left New Street before I would normally. This was nice and rather odd. I was very, very lucky.
Alighting at Blake Street, I found the light to be fantastic and even the backlanes clear. The wind was still sculpting powdery snow into impressive drifts, and coming from the northeast, was a distinct and formidable crosswind.
As Laura Marling says ‘I’ll never love England more than when it’s covered in snow.’
March 24th - Another bitterly cold day, and the worst snows since the early 1980s continued overnight, only ceasing late afternoon. Oddly, though, the sun tried to break through most of the day.
I slipped out mid afternoon. The main roads again, were clear, and some of the more minor ones like Coppice Lane were very clear, too, although standing water was everywhere. I spun around Brownhills, getting a feel for the evil east wind that was blowing powder-dry snow in clouds. At the old level crossing at the top, a lovely little robin caught my eye, flitting about amongst the laurels at the side of the road. As I passed the common, I noticed one of the best ice-castles I’ve ever seen, with it’s proud constructor playing nearby.
Up at Chasewater, the waterfowl were quiet following the daily visit from the Swan Lady, who drove past me on Pool Road; but there were plenty of other interesting birds about defying the positively evil wind. I fought it up the A5, to the Barracks Lane junction, where the sheep weren’t minding the snow too much. The drifts in Barracks Lane were sobering.
It’s getting on to the end of March. British Summer Time starts in a week. Can I have some spring, please?
March 23rd - I went back to Chasewater to investigate the overflow situation, and because my conscience was burning me badly. I needed to feed those poor swans. The snow still fell, and the wind was evil. This was the worst snowfall I’d seen since the early 1980s, yet I was surprised at the diversity of the a avian population I encountered. Crows, waterfowl, gulls. Pied wagtails hunted what I presume were barely visible bugs over the overflow spillway. They mingled with a small, brown sparrow-like bird I didn’t recognise. Consulting with birders online later, these cute little brown jobs with comical flight and similar feeding behaviour to the wagtails turned out to be meadow pipits, probably brought down by the snow during migration. I was fascinated by the way they clung to the spillway walls.
I needn’t have fretted about the swans, as their mum was there. The Swan Lady and her husband are legendary at Chasewater, and they feed and tend the swans, taking note of absentees and arrivals. The incongruous and greedy flock gathered round their guardians with eager and expectant joy, and much honking. Bless.
Mach 11th - A remarkable, and strange day. Periods of bright, clear sunshine interspersed with sudden, sharp and heavy snowstorms. They’d last for 15 minutes, then the sun would come out again. All the while, a bitter, biting wind came from the east. It really was viciously cold.
On the way home, I boarded a train at Tyseley in a blizzard, then ten minutes later cycled through Birmingham City Centre in bright sunshine. Coming home from Shenstone with the wind (thankfully) behind me, the sun was bright, but the sky to the easy was dark and threatening.
I sped home, hoping to avoid any oncoming snow - thankfully, the sky didn’t fulfil it’s promise.
An odd day to commute, and little sign of spring, although the light was gorgeous.
February 19th - A beautiful, sunny, frosty winter morning. I love days like this. It was cold, but the warmth in the sun was tangible, and felt good on my shoulders. In Little Aston, mist quivered in the hollows, before being burnt up in the sun.
A great start to the day.