September 11th - In Darlaston Green, a sight to bring joy to the coldest, hardest heart - a single, 7 foot tall sunflower, growing right in front of a living room window. I imagine it to have been planted by a child under adult supervision - possibly a grandparent.
You can’t fail to adore this.
September 2nd - I will continue to rave about the beauty of Darlaston until I have convinced the whole world how wonderful it is.
Passing through Victoria Park and past the Police Station having been knocked off course by the resurfacing, I noted the lady, content in the warm sun, lost to the world reading a book under the bolt-tree sculpture. The Police station is still a gorgeous building, and it’s leafy surrounds are the perfect setting.
It seems a world away from the Black Country, but at the same time, it’s close to the heart of it.
This is the Darlaston and Black Country I adore.
August 12th - Sweet rain fell in short, sharp showers as I rode home, often out of an almost totally clear, blue sky. The weather is certainly odd at the moment; the wind has been quite strong and it’s been very changeable.
I’ve forgot in this really quite dry summer the music of rain falling on the canal and leaves as I pass. In summer, it’s an occasional delight to the senses.
So long as it doesn’t become too frequent..
August 6th - Riding back through Walsall on a warm summer evening, you realise this is the best time of year to see it; the trees around Hatherton Street, Lichfield Street and the poncily named ‘Civic Quarter’ are absolutely wonderful. People run Walsall down as being dirty, post-industrial and architecturally barren, but it’s one of the greenest pieces of urban landscape I’ve ever seen.
Beneath these trees, a town lives and breathes.
If you don’t believe me, get somewhere high, like the New Art Gallery or St. Matthews steps on Church Hill, and look out. Walsall is a green oasis.
July 18th - By the time I was riding home through the backlanes between Shenstone and Stonnall, my energy had gone, I was hot, tired and in pain. It was hard going, but the evening views and atmosphere made it difficult to be upset.
A truly gorgeous evening, of the kind we don’t get in the UK much. Such heat, but so glorious; and a storm is coming in.
Don’t moan about the heat too much, it’ll be cold and wet again soon enough…
July 17th - I slipped out of work early to get some time back, and with a wonderfully hot, languid afternoon in progress I rode straight up onto the Chase, and barely stopped except for a well-deserved ice cream at Birches Valley. Dropping down into Rugeley, I enjoyed the long, cool downhill, then hopped onto the canal - a peace green sanctuary where the weeping willows looked stunning.
A perfect afternoon.
June 30th - I guess we’re halfway through the year now, and in high summer. It certainly seemed like it as I cycled home along the canal this evening - the greenery, the light, the still, clear water. The peace.
It also occurred to me that after 6 moths of opening out, we’re now closing in again, but summer will hopefully be around for another 10 weeks or so yet.
It doesn’t seem ten minutes ago since I was wrapping up warm and wondering if I needed to change to winter tyres.
Where has this year gone?
June 22nd - Up on the Chase on a lazy, hot summer afternoon. Gorgeous - I haven’t been here for too long, if I’m honest. A great ride down Rainbow Hill, the trails are dry, powdery and challenging, over to Birches Valley where the cafe and it’s pice list has been refurbished, then up Penkridge Bank, Abraham’s Valley, over to Stepping Stones, Milford, back through Shugborouagh and on the canal to Rugeley.
A great ride. I’d love to know what’s under that manhole near Brocton Coppice - guess it must be a well or borehole - there certainly aren’t and drains around there… and they really don’t seem to want folk getting in, either.
June 12th - Fed up of the ring road in the heat, the fumes were driving me mad. I hopped on the canal at Bridgman Street in Walsall and instantly felt transported to another world. Green, lush and limpid, it was heavenly, and unlike around Brownhills, the grass cutter hasn’t been this way yet and the embankments are still verdant carpets of grass and wildflowers.
This is near Bentley Bridge, in the heart of the industrial Black Country, yet the waterlillies are heathy, the waters clear, and a common tern hunted the water with skilful menace. And above all, peace - just the sounds of morning industry living and breathing.
The Black Country ugly? Open your eyes.
May 16th - I’m out in the elements all year round, and from the darkening in Autumn, the loss of leaves and closing in, I long for the days when everything is lush and green again. The jacket summer lends improves just about any spot - for me, it’s not just the warm air, the sun on my face or the birdsong - it’s the emerald greens of a summer in full flush, of the flowering and blossom, and of the maturing and fruiting.
For the last 5 months, this view hasn’t been worth a light, really. But today, on the cusp of another season, the sounds, sights and scents make this a lovely spot.
This has to be my favourite time of year.
May14th - I was back in Telford, and shut in an airless building with no natural light, so I missed a sunny, gorgeous day. This made it nicer to be out when I left though, and cycling home from Four Oaks in the evening sun I was struck by how green and verdant everything now is.
At Mill Green, the cottage looks lovely cloaked in it’s summertime shroud of greenery, and I noted the elders were flowering beautifully up the lane.
A wonderful evening ride.
April 27th - I was working throughout the day, and only got out late evening. It was threatening rain, and dusk was bearing down. I then realised I’d forgotten the camera, so had to use my phone. It didn’t really like the light, I think.
Nice to see that in the last week my favourite tree - the lone horse chestnut near Home Farm, Sandhills, has burst into leaf; I read the seasons by that tree, and now I know safe passage to summer is guaranteed. The canal all the way round to Newtown (and probably well beyond) is lush, and green, and beautiful. How I love this season.
Cruising up Short Street, I spotted the sky, and shot home before I got soaked. Interesting to note, though, that the street lights here have been changed for new LED ones; they’re very good, and are creeping onto many streets in Brownhills. Wonder what the rollout plan is?
So much nicer than the old orange ones.
April 26th - I nipped down to Stonnall late afternoon on an errand. It was a hazy day, but pretty clear, and as I crossed the Shire Oak junction, I noticed that a patch of sunlight was moving over Lichfield. Pulling in to the quarry gateway, I thought I’d try the new camera on the view. Not too shabby, really; it was very misty, but the Old Lady of the Vale looked splendid, as did the Coors (formerly Bass) brewery tower in Burton. In the upper shot, the disused cooling towers of Willington, near Derby, are clearly visible.
I never tire of this view, and I love the way it’s greening up as the leaves come on.
April 22nd - I rode Telford’s cycleways on my way to work. It was raining. The raindrops and fresh greenery made it simply beautiful.
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.