May 22nd - And then, returning home, I noticed this. Perspective. Straight lines and fresh growth. The canals are beautiful right now, and the Wyrley and Essington through Brownhills is no exception.
May 12th - I have a horrid feeling that the three glorious days of the May Day bank holiday were, in fact, summer. Today was wet, but warm, so I donned waterproofs and hit Cannock Chase. It rained steadily for pretty much the whole journey, and the light was awful for photos. There is a huge spread of cowslips at Brindley Valley, and everything else was vivid shades of green - even Rugeley Power Station was surrounded by verdant pasture. The Chase was lovely, and peaceful, and I didn’t see another soul from Rifle Range Corner all the way to Seven Springs.
Anyone would think humans were made of sugar… the forest is lovely in spring rain.
May 8th - Sweet rain.
As someone who spends an inordinate amount of time outdoors, I’m fairly honed to the seasons and their timetable. That was, until this year. Spring is so late, it feels like a chunk of the year has just gone missing, lost, been edited from the tape.
The natural order being disturbed, I’ve missed little things without realising them. One being the smell of the countryside in spring after rain. When I travelled to work, the drizzle was very, very fine and almost not there at all, but heavier on my return. At Shenstone, the air was damp, musty and smelled beautifully of pollen, oilseed rape, moist earth and growth.
I didn’t know how much I’d missed that smell until today. I got off my bike, and stood there, just opening my senses to it. Not just the scent, but the colour, the light, the birdsong.
It was glorious. Even dull days can be a joy.
May 7th - The ruined second church tower at Shenstone is now in hiding again, behind a curtain of vivid green. Lynn Lane is lined with the same emerald hues. Meanwhile, further away towards Lynn, the oilseed rape looks and smells fabulous, still not yet fully in bloom.
I’m loving this.
May 1st - meanwhile, on the other side of the recreation centre playing fields, this sight to gladden the heart. New leaf growth, heralding another summer of green trees and warm days.
Bring it on. It’s been a long winter.
April 23rd - I returned against the wind from Shenstone, just to ride through the sunlit backlanes. I hadn’t eaten all day and it was a bit of a battle, to be honest, but worth it, all the same. Everything is awake now, and the greening is well underway. At Shenstone, the ruined church tower will soon be hidden by leaves for another season, and the brook at Footherley will soon be an emerald arcadia once more. Some things are changeless, though, like the cottages and converted barns at Lower Stonnall. They look good whatever the season.
April 15th - Green shoots. Nature got fed up of waiting, and kicked the season’s arse. And… we’re off. Magical.
April 5th - While I was battling through the week, so was nature, but in a grander, more impressive way. Come Friday evening, the snow remaining from the heavy falls of two weeks previously was lying only where the heaviest drifts had been. On the hill to the south of Mill Lane, the ridge-step hedgerow had clearly been a snow trap, and was dissipating itself in a beautiful way.
Coming through underneath, the keen, bright emerald green promise of a new crop. Winter melts as spring appears.
February 16th - A lovely journey along the canal to Chasewater. Is it me, or is there a hint of spring in the air? A little gentle late winter sunshine, some warm air, blue sky and a hint of growth?
More please, mother nature. More!
January 24th - For the second day running, there was chaos on the trains. Spotting it before I left home, I headed for Walsall, where there seemed to be more chance of actually finding a train going to brim. As it happened, I was lucky. I noted on the way that the roads were now so clear that it was allowing some people to drive like all-out morons again…
On getting to Brum, everything was out of sequence, and I ended up getting a train to Acocks Green., I like the area a lot, but my usual route through the suburb was very icy. The townhouses looked fantastic, however.
November 15th - Autumn - season of mists and mellow fruitfulness. Well, we got the mists. Cycling on foggy days like this is unpleasant. in a short, 20 minute journey to Blake Street, 6 cars and 1 cyclist without lights at all. The usual selfish, aggressive driving. The discomfort of water condensing over your clothes and face.
It does, however, add a pleasantly enjoyable air of mystery to otherwise unremarkable scenes. A challenging day for riding, and photography too.
19th August - I again sneaked out in the early evening. I’d been working all weekend, and was aching for a bit of freedom. I spun up the canal in a lovely golden hour, and I noted the hedgerows and greenery that’s just exploded with growth since the warm weather came. Ferns, hawthorn and nettles are staging a battle to reclaim the towpath along the stretch from Anchor Bridge to Ogley Junction. It’s beautifuly green, lush and verdant.
Later, at Chasewater, I noted how the birds were returning to their old haunts on the main lake - The jetty from the waterski club is now serving as an impromptu gull roost.
A gorgeous evening.
July 17th - Working late again. I returned from Walsall, crawling wearily up through Rushall and Shelfield towards Brownhills in the last of the daylight. At the Black Cock Bridge, I hopped on the canal and headed homewards. It was grey, but oddly enough, not raining. The air felt warm, and the evening seemed oddly close. I stopped on the bend where the old Walsall Wood Colliery basins would have been. The water was clear, apart from lilies and the odd patch of algae. Everywhere was green, verdant and beautiful. Summer is sort of happening while we’re not watching. One thing I will say for it; it’s been a great year for foliage.
The area clumps bothered me; I don’t know if they’re blue-green or some other variety and the net isn’t much help. Probably best to watch your dog if they’re fond of a dip. If it is blue-green, it can be quite toxic to hounds.
July 8th - Whittington is developing a bit of a reputation as an ecologically sound, green village. They hold ‘Green’ fairs here quite often, and there are food markets here at weekends. All of which are really, really good to see.
The effect, however, is somewhat spoiled for cyclists who choose to visit the local Co-op general store. The cycle parking, consisting of two wheel bender stands, have been concreted in too close to a wall to work for an adult bike. Even if they were not, the clothes bank and bin prevent you from using them.
Well done, folks. Next time, ask a cyclist first, eh?
July 4th - People will tell you Brownhills is ugly, dirty, post industrial, a hellhole. It is variously none, all, and some of these things. But like the rest of north and central Walsall, it has one surprising trait that is often unseen until pointed out: it’s very, very green. Looking over a field of young wheat at Sandhills, over the canal and Millfield Estate at Catshill, there’s the spire of St. James’s Church, right there, nestling in the trees. Between the rooftops are more shades of green than you’d find in a pantone swatch book. It’s the same if you get up on Church Hill in Walsall. The most urban bits are host to the most remarkable trees, yet the seem to go largely unnoticed.
In case you’re wondering, last year this field held spuds. Crop rotation in action, there…