April 3rd - the mist, poor air and lack of sun means something remarkable is happening unnoticed. In the last week, the trees, hedgerows and shrubs have mostly been bursting into leaf. The deciduous copse at the rear of the new pond in Clayhanger is alive with willow, oak, birch and elder, all sprouting a variety of foliage. At Catshill, the blackthorn blossom is gorgeous, and everywhere there are the vivd greens of fresh growth.
If the sun would only shine, they’d positively glow.
February 15th -The bad weather seemed to be breaking as I cycled back to Brownhills although the rains would return later. It felt warmer, and stiller. The canal that separates urban Brownhills from rural, rolling South Staffordshire was affording great views - and it looked very much like spring was insinuating itself in the fields an canal embankments.
Everything was still wet, of course, but out here there wasn’t much wind damage - that is, apart from an errant trampoline, sensibly tethered to a fence, buy sadly lacking buoyancy.
January 16th - After yesterday’s tree trapped through a post and rail fence, I was on the lookout for more similarly entrapped flora. Again, in Telford, I spotted this sapling consuming a mesh fence. It’s really quite impressive.
Elsewhere, on the same cycleway, I noted that the moss thinks spring has come. I know nothing about moss whatsoever, but this one is beautiful close up, vivid green and very fresh.
I hope any cold snap doesn’t ruin it.
September 20th - Meeting a good friend and respected local historian for morning tea in Lichfield, and time flew by. I took lunch in the city, did a little shopping and returned home through Wall on what seemed like an almost spring-like afternoon. The sun was warm on my back, the birds sang and freshly ploughed and planted fields were emald green with new growth. The peculiarly angular church looked lovely against the blue sky, and had I had more time, I’d have popped in for a look at the Roman remains.
A great day.
September 2rd - Despite the encroaching autumn, everything along the canals is still very verdant. Racing towards Brownhills, I thankfully beat the rain… that never came. An odd day of bright sunshine and very black clouds that promised much, but never delivered.
August 17th - A spin through a damp Brownhills wasn’t feeling terribly picturesque, but as I sped down the cycle route that follows the old railway line from the canal to Engine Lane, I noticed how green and lush the vegetation was, how perfect the track, the light.
Even dull days can be beautiful in their own way.
July 22nd - I had to do a favour on my way home from work, so I returned from Walsall through Pelsall and hopped on to the old railway line across the common at Brownhills. Although half of it’s length is a cycle way and part of National Route 5, the northern section to Brownhills West is not. Whilst the southern section is surfaced and a little overgrown, it’s unofficial section is open and a green, a verdant arcade. On this balmy summer evening, this greenway was shady and cool, and full of bird and animal life. A real gem, and relatively unknown to all but Brownhillians.
July 8th - I need your help, folks. This crop is the one that started under polythene at Home Farm, Sandhills, in the spring. It seems to require constant attention, and is very lush. It doesn’t look like spuds, or any other vegetable I can think of.
Can anyone ID this for me, please? Cheers.
July 3rd - Summer in the Lichfield Street and Hatherton Road areas of Walsall Town Centre - the ‘civic’ quarter - is a joy. The streets here are tree-lined and green, and form a beautiful canopy over the busy roads below. From some aspects you could almost be in Cheltenham.
I keep banging on about this, but it’s very true: Walsall is surprisingly green, and most people don’t seem to notice.
June 16th - A ride out to Cannock Chase in the afternoon. The weather was way better than forecast, with little wind and plenty of sun, although there was very light rain at one point. I tore around the Chase, loving having the forest apparently to myself, then hit the canal at Little Haywood and headed to Rugeley. From canal side gardens to boater cats lazing in the sun, it was truly beautiful. A peaceful, green, gorgeous sanctuary from traffic and speed. Lovely.
June 6th - If you’re a cyclist, when summer comes - I mean, truly comes - you can feel it in everything and see it everywhere. It’s not just, or even sunshine; it’s not only warmth in the air. It’s the way people dress, the way commuters are at stations. It’s views that have been harsh, and clear and dark, suddenly being green and hazy. It’s the air of growth, and pollen and lazy meadows. It’s like a beautiful, vague infection that laces all it touches with languor and grace. It renders the ugly, beautiful. It makes dull journeys once more a delight. It’s joyful, and noisy, with birdsong, laughter and insect buzz, be it the riot of open countryside or the human din of an inner city street.
Welcome back, old friend. Stick around this year, you’re very welcome.
May 27th - Today was spent cycling up to Cannock Chase via Chasewater, then over Shugborough and back down the canal to Tuppenhurst and back home over Longdon edge. The wind on my return was horrendous, and very hard work, but the sunlight and greenery of the rest of the day more than compensated for it. From atop the old pit mound at Chasewater, the view is stunning, and very hard to capture in a single image. The Chase has a lovely emerald jacket on, and the dandelion meadow at Shugborough was lush and gorgeous.
I was relieved to note at Hanch that the wild garlic, which seems to have had a fairly bad year, seems very prolific at the roadside. It’s the only spot this year that seems up to usual standards.
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.