November 18th - I came out of work, and just caught the tail end of an incredible sunset over Tyseley station. I hurried caught these shots in the four or five minutes before my train arrived. It ws gorgeous, and I was glad I caught it.
November 14th - Now winter darkness is upon me, that Late Night Feelings thing is haunting me once again. I pitched up at Tyseley station this evening on the threshold between day and night, and all it took between the two was the journey downstairs to the platform.
The lights, the skyline, the signals. Bright, warming, steady, reassuring, control. The glistening, ever-crossing parabolas of the rails; the ever present shadow of the incinerator, innocuously operating unnoticed in the dry warm air of summer, but now with it’s dirty secrets revealed into the chill air in the form of a plume of steam.
Cityscape, geometry, light. Can’t stop the fascination, I really can’t.
November 10th - Remembrance. I called in at Hopwas to get a shot of the War Memorial here (there is none at Wall, to my surprise). It was darkening as I arrived, and having forgotten my tripod, I struggled. But this is a beautiful building and a delightful place, especially on an autumn evening.
Hopwas is the most curious, lovely church in all of Staffordshire. There, I said it.Yet what gazetteer or guide breathes it’s name? Who ever mentions this delightful country church?
Sitting in the shadow of Hopwas Hays Wood, high on the hillside, it gives the air of a country farmhouse, with white and timber gables, chimney and leaded pocket windows. Built in 1881 and designed by John Douglas of Cheshire, it’s a building that, to the best of my knowledge, is unique, and in a beautiful spot.
I was glad to see a wreath from the local Scouts, and several crosses. This is a fine place to be remembered.
September 22nd - I cycled down the spot path in near darkness, and total solitude. As the path opened out near the bend, I realised how eerie this was, and decided to take a picture. I then found I wasn’t alone at all. Just as this long exposure ended, a large male fox wandered out of the scrub on the left, turned to look at me for the briefest of moments, then walked off over the meadow to the canal.
Clearly, even in the quiet dusk of a Clayhanger Common Sunday night, there is important fox business to be done, if only the humans would mind their own bloody business…
August 8th - A long, long day. Out as dusk fell, I cycled around Brownhills, fighting low energy reserves and an aching back. Looking for a decent sunset, I cycled over the rite by Catshill Junction, to look over Clayhanger Common. Alone, apart from the odd dog walker, I reflected on this place; 35 years ago the spot I was stood in was a 20 feet deep ditch, and before me would have been piles of (often burning) festering refuse. This beautiful, treed-lined landscape - replete with rabbits, deer and all manner of birds - is testament to how landscape can be reclaimed, restored and rehabilitated if there exists the vision, will and determination.
may 28th - After a dreadful day of travelling - 7 hours of commuting just to get to Telford and back - I came home from a day unusually not on my bike. Hopping out as dusk fell, I shot up the Parade to Chasewater, then back along the canal. After a very wet, miserable day the air had begun to clear, and the rain ceased. The sunset wasn’t great, but after the murk, the crack in the clouds seemed heaven-scent. The Parade looked great with the fresh foliage, but I think we could do with some sun now. I need to feel more of the summer warmth.
May 3rd - As I spun around the canals at dusk to get some exercise and food in, I noticed there were a lot of narrowboats moored up - I passed at least 5 that weren’t regulars. I guess it must be the sudden onset of good weather and a holiday weekend. It was chilly, but the air was clear and hard, and in the dying light, living aboard one didn’t seem like a bad idea.
March 6th - The guard rails on the Black Cock Bridge in Walsall Wood have been missing awhile. The bridge itself is ageing badly, perilously steep and in poor condition. Following a temporary bodge - cable tying mesh over the missing rails which kept snapping off - locals complained and now, next Tuesday, 12th March 2013, the road will be closed while they are properly repaired. That in itself will be no mean feat, as the supports of heavy angle iron have rusted to dust.
It’s good to see repairs being made, but I can’t help thinking this particular canal crossing can’t be far from the end of it’s useful life. The problem is, it would be so difficult to engineer a solution complying with modern standards, that I can’t ever see it being sorted, to be honest.
February 27th - What a difference a day made. Yesterday I was lamenting the grey, the cold and the murk. Today, it was grey in the morning, but as I came home - in the light - the sun shone softly and the sunset was terrific - so much so that I was contacted by friends who asked me if I saw it.
Sadly, as I was returning from Walsall at the time, I couldn’t get a good vista on it, but I managed to catch a little of it at Bullings Heath as it died to darkness.
A beautiful, beautiful evening that brought joy - and spring - to my soul. Just what I needed.
February 25th - A dull, grey, chilly day. Again, I came back via Shenstone to avoid a punishing northeasterly wind, but also hoping to find some inspiration in the nascent spring. Sadly, there was none in the dull, grey, darkening lanes, but the spirit of the Footherley Brook remains.
April, come she will, but she’s a long time arriving.
February 21st - It’s been cold, and the wind has been evil. Not particularly strong, but it’s from the east and is lazy; it doesn’t so much blow around you as straight through. Tired tonight after a hard day at work, I really couldn’t face the prospect of a headwind all the way home. So I got the train to Shenstone, and cycled back home from there.
I stopped for a picture just at the bottom of Shire Oak Hill. I haven’t cycled this route much this winter. The wind was behind me, but it was still cold. This hill doesn’t get any less steep either, but the lights are gorgeous in the dusk.
Tonight, this hill gave me a very hard time. Shire Oak Hill is an old adversary, and like all old adversaries, life wouldn’t be the same without it.
January 31st - Evening, Birmingham. It’s about a quarter past five, and the city is sliding gracefully into darkness at the end of another working day. I was here to see the lights come on, in and around Colmore Row and the Cathedral, the grounds of which are affectionately known as ‘Pigeon Park’.
People slag Birmingham off continually. It’s beautiful, if you open your eyes. This could almost be Belgravia.
My city, my past, present and future. How I adore it.
December 7th - Tyseley Station continues to fascinate me, and I still have no idea why. Coming up Wharfdale Road towards it last night on my way home, it looked stunning in the sunset. I think it’s the air of faded Victorian grand purpose that does it; a once proud architectural endeavour, surrounded by factory yards, industrial units and empty streets. I just love the welcoming glow of it’s lights in the darkness. It’s somehow more powerful in winter than summer. A conundrum.
November 25th - Chasewater’s water level was higher today than even the night before. Remarkably, the level is now to the bottom of the balancing culvert between the main lake and the Nine Foot pool. A long, careful shot in the dusk showed the scale was at 6cm from top, whereas 3 weeks ago, it was at 54cm from top. That’s a rise of 48cm or 480mm in three weeks, an utterly astounding figure. This means the reservoir isn’t far from full.
Since the water is now lapping at the bottom of the balancing culvert, I’m interested to see what happens. There is a second such culvert at the same level out from the Nine Foot to the spillway, which seems to be sluice controlled. at the moment, that one is empty so any overflow will pass straight through, and the lake will not get higher. I’m wondering if this is the final intended level, or if the second balancing culvert will be shut off and the water level between the Nine-Foot and the main pool be allowed to rise.
I hope so, otherwise the shoreline will be a shadow of it’s former self.
At least the sailing club now have enough water. If anyone had told me Chasewater would refill this quickly, I’d have told them they were mad. Remember, back in May we were expecting a drought…
November 17th - A trying day, for various reasons, but a rather good sunset. I’d been busy all day and hit home as darkness fell, before shooting out again. A day when I really couldn’t catch my breath, when it was suddenly taken by the sunset over the canal at Catshill Junction. A harbinger of a cold night, it was beautiful, and I wished I’d see more of it. Ah well, there’s always tomorrow…