March 5th - It wasn’t until I hopped on the canal at the Black Cock Bridge and headed for Brownhills that I realised how still it was. The canal was like a millpond, and conditions were really quite silent. It hasn’t been like this since well before Christmas.
There’s definitely a change in the air. It really has been a detestable couple of months weather-wise; I really felt at one point that it was never going to stop raining.
Let’s hope the weather continues on it’s improving path for a while…
January 22nd - First time in Tyseley for a while, and I’m still in love with that view and sunset. As I left work - in the blessed light, how things are improving - the soft light of the oncoming dusk cast a lovely soft orange glow. The sunset was still good by the time I reached central Birmingham too.
Today, it felt that perhaps the spring wasn’t too far away, after all.
January 8th - I wasn’t expecting to be caught by the rain this afternoon. For some reason I though the rains weren’t coming in until later in the evening, and I was caught without full waterproofs. To heap on the misery, I had to nip down to Stonnall on an errand on the way home. It was wet, but not cold. I got soaked.
Surely, this rain must end soon? I’m developing webbed feet…
December 7th - The distraction was a murmuration of Starlings. They were hypnotic, and none of my images were properly in focus or did it justice.
I’ve heard there have been such murmurations here for a couple of weeks. What happens is starlings flock together in large, mesmeric formations. These started as two groups, and merged atop the electricity pylon by Jeffrey’s Swag. Up there, they rested a while, then gradually took flight in a tight pack, swirling like a maelstrom. For 25 minutes or so they circled the Swag, taking sharp spirals, about turns, each time they came close the sound of their wingbeats disturbed the quiet. Eventually, they spotted a place they liked and descended into the poolside scrub to roost.
I’ve only ever seen this a few times in my life, and never so close. The noise, the Moire visuals as they banked, the sheer bird count were all astounding, as was the manner of their disappearance into the roost.
Glad I was out to see that.
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.