August 20th - In late summer, in an overcast moment, Coppice (or Goblin) Woods between Walsall Wood and Shelfield are silent, dark and beautiful.
I think this is probably the oldest oak and holly deciduous woodland for miles and miles around. This is very traditional British woodland, of which there is precious little left.
If you fancy a walk out this weekend, why not pop down and explore it?
August 9th - Green Lane in Shelfield is being, at long last, resrfaced. I came down there tonight, and It’s officially closed, but was ridable with care. Despite the numerous ‘No Parking’ signs and leaflets, I noticed this vehicle, around which road workers clearly had to plane.
These folk may have gone on holiday I guess, and not known about the works, so one shouldn’t be too harsh.
But it would be ironic if they ever moaned about the council never fixing the potholes…
July 31st - It’s not lightly or without thought that I feature this, but it is part of rural life that’s becoming increasingly common on urban roads, too.
This is a dead badger, spotted at the side of Green Lane, Walsall Wood yesterday. Adult, large, and in generally good condition, he had been hit by a car. Either carried or finding his way to the hedgerow, he looks like he died peacefully there.
There ain’t a whole lot of road sense in your average badger, and they’re becoming increasingly active in urban areas like Brownhills. Please take care when driving at night, as these creatures often stumble out of hedges and verges.
They are heavy, and solid, and will do damage to cars if hit at speed, but to those on two wheels, they can be deadly.
Watch out for Brock, please.
July 29th - The harvest actually started a few days ago, but I was in too much of a hurry that night to get home, there was no time to stop and take photos. This was a field of oilseed rape, on the corner of Green Lane and Mob Lane, just by Grange Farm, in Walsall Wood. The dry plant has been harvested for it’s tiny, black seeds, threshed out of their pots by complex harvesting machinery. The pods, chaff and stalks are shredded, and sprayed back out on the ground to be ploughed back in.
Once the harvest starts, you know the season is marching onwards…
July 23rd - Riding back home this evening, something shiny in the road caught my eye - lying on the edge of Green Lane in Shelfield, the debris from something that really shouldn’t happen. It’s a shattered bicycle sprocket.
This would have been part of the cassette, or rear group of cogs an the back wheel of a cheap bike. It’s been used, as the teeth are worn, and the chrome coating ground through. Decent sprockets are made from high-grade alloys or steel, with some flexibility. Generally, they’re pressed or forged.
This one is low grade steel, and has been made from cast material, making it inflexible and weak. It’s a fair assumption that under load, it’s cracked, and at some point catastrophic failure has occurred, and other debris in the road suggested as much.
Cheap supermarket or discount store bikes are often fitted with this kind of cheap componentry and fail in this kind of manner. Deprending on when it failed, this kind of breakdown could be very serious, and cause the rider to be injured - imagine if this had happened when cycling up a steep hill, like Black Cock Bridge, further on?
If you need a decent bike, and haven’t got much cash, a better option is to look out for a decent secondhand steed. You’d be surprised what you can get from Gumtree or the small ads for the same money.
A very, very cheap bike really isn’t worth the risk or hassle. They’re cheap because they’re made out of cheese, bus tickets and spit…
July 21st - The lads are still working hard in a field further up Green Lane. The small herd of cattle continue to live in the watermeadow, which is looking noticeably more cropped than it was. The cows themselves are all looking in fine fettle - but I do have a soft spot for the brown and white one.
Is it me, or does he seem to be smiling?
21st July - It’s been a lovely day, but the ride home was hard. I’d been on my feet all day, and to be quite frank, the left one still hurts, and was punishing me on the way back, as were the hills and the wind. All I could do was try to relax, click down the gears and enjoy the sun.
It’s been a good season so far, warm, sunny and not too wet, and this shows in the fields around Grange Farm in Green Lane, Walsall Wood. The barley on the edge of jockey meadows is hypnotic to watch in the breeze, and the oilseed rape on the corner of Green and Mob Lanes is golden.
Soon, the harvest will be upon us, and a new range of sights and sounds.
June 25th - As the summer winds on, the next stage of the season begins; moving from the flowering, to the fruiting and seeding. In Walsall Wood’s Green Lane, there’s a patch of comfrey that’s going to seed, and I was intrigued by the way it forms from the flowers, another almost prehistoric-looking plant. Intertwined with it, the white bloom of mid and late summer, bindweed.
Soon, blackberries will be forming on the brambles, and there will be hips, haws and berries ripening aplenty, and time for a new palette of colours; but at the moment we’re passing from the purple into the white for a while.
The advancing summer makes me a little sad, but the weather is fine ad warm, and everything looks splendid. I’m in my element, to be honest.
30th April - Green Lane, Walsall Wood. The Hawthorn blossom is just coming on, and going by it’s colloquial name of May, I think it’s just about bang on cue.
A vastly under-appreciated, strongly scented blossom, and with the emergence, the seasons wheels grind on another notch.
April 24th - Meanwhile, the fly tipping I recorded had gone by the time I passed next day. I tip my hat to Walsall’s Clean & Green team. It’s a horrid job, but very well done.
April 23rd - Spinning home from work, I noticed fresh flytipping in the gateway again at the Shelfield end of Jockey Meadows on Green Lane. A mixture of what looks like building and domestic refuse, it seems to be the usual ‘pull up and shove it off the back of a wagon’ job; unless the culprits have left anything incriminating, or were witnessed, it’s sadly very unlikely they’ll be caught.
People make excuses for this behaviour, saying stuff like ‘If the refuse tips were free for commercial vehicles it wouldn’t happen’ - it would. If you’re prepared to flytip, you aren’t going to go halfway across the borough to an approved tip. The morons who do this do so because it’s easy, relatively risk free, and because, without a doubt, they’re filthy scum with no pride in their environment or concern for others.
It makes me sad and angry.
April 17th - The minutiae of drainage engineering are wonderful. I’ve been passing this array of manholes for a couple of weeks now, and noticed that new bars had been installed across the covers. It’s taken me ages to work out what they’re for. It’s not what one may imagine.
Opposite a small, automatic sewer pumping station on Green Lane at Bullings Heath, Walsall Wood, there is the concrete cap to what must be a storm buffer. A storm buffer is a large underground tank that, in time of heavy rainfall, collects drainage water and fills up, storing it and allowing slower discharge into the main network to prevent overload. There are lots around and they work well; you can tell this is one due to the large circular ‘cap’ evident with the access covers.
Recently, bars were mounted over the covers. Initially, I assumed they were to prevent access by drainers - a type of Urban Explorer that goes into sewers and storm drains to explore - but they aren’t actually secure. They’re secured with normal nuts and bolts, not locks. A couple of covers in front (not shown), which I think house pumps of valves - are not so protected.
They have actually been fitted to prevent internal pressure from blowing the access covers out. If the buffer filled to capacity due to a storm event, water pressure would increase against the hatches, and lift them out. That would then expose anyone walking through the subsequent flood liable to fall into a very deep, open manhole.
The bars are therefore a safety feature.
I wonder what has occurred, and where, to make this risk suddenly appreciated?
March 25th - The commute to work had been wet and quite, quite horrid, but the wind was more or less favourable. The roads were greasy, the traffic was mad. It wasn’t a hugely enjoyable journey.
Later in the morning, I felt rather ill, and was resigning myself to getting a lift home if I didn’t feel better. Thankfully, sweet tea, a lie down and some food sorted me out, but on leaving work during a break in the rain, I just floored it and sped home as fast as I could. I just wanted to be back, safe and sound in the dry and warm.
I noticed in Green Lane near Jockey Meadows the mist was rising off the marsh, and everywhere was sodden again. This is one of the very few places in life I find intimidating in it’s desolation. I felt it this evening. I have no idea why it makes me feel like this.
I took a photo, then pressed on homewards.
March 6th - Out for the evening and returning late, the streets were very, very quiet. I sped from Walsall with the wind at my back on silent, wet roads; I even sailed through the lights at Rushall Square on green without having to slow down.
Sadly, the night was more redolent of November than March, but the ride was nice.
Still can’t get past my unease over the eeriness of Green Lane at night…
February 21st - Returning home in the wee small hours, I was irritated to discover I’d forgotten my camera. As I sped from Walsall on deserted streets, there was a fine drizzle but the wind was behind me. I saw nothing but a handful of cars, a couple of foxes and a started badger. The phone is useless in low light, but these do capture the atmosphere quite well.
I’d quite forgotten the otherwordly atmosphere of being out on a bike at 1am…