October 15th - I returned to Brownhills late in the afternoon when it was again pouring with rain. This wasn’t everyday, lacklustre drizzle; this was dense, heavy rain that squeezed in through any not-quite-close zip or gap, and rendered me soaked.
Once again, I found myself taking a breather on a bridge, just listening to the music - a rattling percussion, accompanied be geese honking happily.
Brownhills, you ain’t no looker; but that’s OK neither am I. But I do love you. Even on the horrid days like these.
August 26th - The day was better, I guess, by virtue of being dry, but when I set out for a tentative ride mid-afternoon it was cold, and a harsh wind blew. It wasn’t a bad October day, I thought.
I’m taking it easy. My foot isn’t completely better, and I thought I’d see how far I could push it before embarking on longer rides again. I looped up to Chasewater, then down to Wall, through Chesterfield and Hilton, back to Lower Stonnall, then home. Apart from a bit of toe-burn, not too bad.
What did impress was the fruits I saw. A terrific year for large, plump conkers; the tree at Edial between Burntwood and Pipe Hill is laden, and although suffering leaf miner damage, has a huge crop this year. In a few weeks standing at that bus stop could be hazardous.
At Wall, the walnut tree has a crop too. After finding it last year, I didn’t expect it to fruit this year too, but it has, with the lime-like ripening walnuts hanging from the boughs. I picked up a few windfalls, which were firm and large. When ripe, the green husks will split to reveal the more familiar brown nut inside. That’s if any survive the squirrels.
The Walnut tree also seems to have some kind of leaf miner activity. There are ‘blisters’ on some of the otherwise healthy, waxy leaves. I wonder what the bug is?
August 25th - A wet, miserable bank holiday Monday. This was the wettest, coldest one I think I’ve ever known. I always find this day depressing; it’s the last holiday before Christmas, and for me, seems to flag the end of summer. A week later, the kids will all be back at school, the nights will be drawing in even more, and the sun will lose it’s warmth.
In short, we’re advancing to Autumn at a fair lick now.
I rode out mid morning during a lull in the rain, and spun around Brownhills and Chasewater. The fruits, glistening with rain, were gorgeous, and the heather is particularly beautiful at the moment. The still green embankments and hedgerows cut a bright dash through the gloom.
I did note puffballs on the old railway off Engine Lane, another harbinger of Autumn.
At Chasewater, the valves are fully open and the waterlevel is dropping quickly. I wonder if there’s a purpose to this, as the canal is clearly full to overflowing.
A grim ride on a grim day. Brace yourselves, summer is closing out now.
February 11th - After the snow stopped the day in Telford was dry and sunny.
'Never mind' they said. 'It'll be dry for the journey home' they said.
I left Walsall in the dry, without putting waterproof trousers on. 5 minutes later, when it was too late, the heaven opened, and then the rain turned to snow. For the second time today, I was wet, cold and fed up.
At least no one can ever accuse me of being a fair weather cyclist.
February 9th - The day was pretty grey, really, but had it’s moments. Fed up of the mud and slurry of recent haunts, I cycled down into Lichfield to pick up some shopping, and I returned via the back lanes around Wall.
The winter panorama of Hammerwich was stunning, but the wind was evil, and it blew me down Pipehill at a fearsome speed. Passing through Sandfields, I stopped to look at the Pumping Station, an architectural gem marooned in a sea of modern mundanity. I wish the preservation campaign every success.
At Wall, as the sun was beginning to set, I found my first snowdrops of the year growing in the churchyard.
Spring will come, I can feel it now. It wasn’t dark until gone 5:30pm..
January 29th - The rain finally caught me as I left Walsall. The wind had changed, too, and I found myself mashing into driving drizzle and a distinctly cold headwind. Is this the beginning of a cold spell, I wonder?
As usual on rainy days, every good photo was into the wind and therefore impossible. But I did notice the lights of the service station in Shelfield, which always look attractive, but I never stop to photograph it.
It loos so welcoming - I fuss that’s the idea. It’s one of the way markers of my commute - when I see it, I know I’m halfway home.
December 28th - Cannock Chase was great, but winter came in today; it was sunny, clear and cold. I really felt the winter in my bones. But plenty of folk were out enjoying it and it was beautiful, as only the Chase in winter can be.
The golden hour was enchanting, and caught the pines near Sow Street beautifully, as it did the heath at Rifle Range Corner. On the way back on the canal, the sunset was beautiful, and the evening light even made the canal at Armitage look a picture of tranquility.
By the way, if you’ve lost a cuddly stuffed toy horse and/or a pair of specs, they’re sat on a post at the back of Seven Springs car park. It’s unclear whether they’re normally together, or just met in their loss…
Weather gods, more of this please.
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.