September 20th - Things were still grey and the air quality still dreadful, but a very, very fine rain had settled on the town as I cycled to Chasewater.
It’s good to see the old place busy now, and I love the way the Wakeline people have taken over and repurposed the old pier. Boats were speeding around, despite the murk, but I also noted the low water level - lower now than it has been for a couple of years. The valves are still open, so one assumes there’s a good reason.
Cycling back along the canal, it felt more like November than September, apart from the unseasonal warmth. Or maybe it was just a cold kicking in - at least that would explain the congestion.
December 17th - I went out in darkness, and found myself in a refreshingly cold night, with a huge, beautiful, partially cloud obscured moon. I rode up the canal intending to visit Chasewater, but spent ages instead experimenting more with long exposure photography.
I’m not a photographer, I never learned any technical stuff. What I know I learned by trial and error, and finding this camera offered me a couple of really long exposures, I’ve been trying them out.
The landscape over Home Farm at Sandhills, Ogley Junction and Warrenhouse yielded some fairly interesting results, but I think I need more practice…
June 4th - Now, there’s a sign of summer - and a precious crop. At Lanes Farm on Sandhills, near Shire Oak, I see the sprinkler is already out. I can’t tell what’s growing here yet, but this is the crop that was shielded by polythene sheeting up until a couple of weeks ago.
One thing’s for sure: it’s a delicate crop. It’ll be interesting to watch it grow.
February 23rd - There’s been a lot of work going on in the fields of Home Farm, at Sandhills, as seen from the canal at Catshill. Trenches have been dug along the fields a few metres apart, and pipes buried there. It’s either an irrigation or drainage system going in - it’ll be interesting to see what’s planted here. The machinery doing the job is fascinating.
February 2nd - By chance, I caught a good sunset. Out late afternoon to go shopping, I cycled up through central Brownhills and hopped on the canal near Anchor Bridge. Near Home Farm, I caught sight of what I thought was sand spread on the fields; it was actually soft, red sunshine, although it was cloudy directly overhead. As I sped to Chasewater to catch it, the light tantalised me with glimpses between houses and over the hilltop village of Hammerwich. Beautiful.
I’d almost forgotten it was soon to be the season of sunsets again. Late autumn, early spring. Every year. Love it. As I noticed earlier in the week, the seasons wheel is turning… it wasn’t dark tonight until gone 5pm.
This makes me very happy indeed.
November 16th - A day working from home - for working, read pottering about. I had to go to the dentist mid day, and wasn’t looking forward to it. I spun out for a short ride before the dreaded appointment. It was still murky, and a gentle mist sat over the fields towards Home Farm at Sandhills. My favourite tree - my seasonal chronometer - is now leafless, heralding the end of Autumn and the barren darkness of winter. Still, it’s a beautiful thing, whatever the season. I pulled up my collar, and pressed on.
May25th - Also wearing a fine summer coat is the avenue to Home Farm and Lime Barns at Sandhills. Last time I pictured this, the trees were bare and stark; today, on a fine, arm summer evening, it was a green tunnel, the leaves rustling beautifully in the breeze. How I’d love to cycle down here… but sadly, it’s a private road.
April 20th - Mashing up Shire Oak hill at Sandhills, my gaze was snagged by this interesting sight just through the copse at the side of Lane’s Farm fields: a fair quantity of beehives. I’ve never noticed these before. I do hope they’ll see some use this year. There aren’t nearly enough bees kept in this country, and with the twin perils of Veroa and Colony Collapse Disorder ravaging the bee population, they need all the help they can get. Without the bees, we’re stuffed. And I love honey…
April 5th - Spring is in full throw now. The trees are coming into leaf, early rapeseed is flowering and despite the cold wind, the sun was warm on my neck. Trundling back from the Chasewater Transport Show, I noted one of my favourite sights was coming into being - a weeping willow over water. Such a beautiful thing, and a real sign that better days are on the way. Home or Lanes Farm at Sandhills looked gorgeous with its patchwork of rolling fields. People who say Brownhills is ugly really need to get out more.
January 5th - The antibiotics seem to be working, but it’s a slow recovery. After spending the morning pottering about feeling great, I spent an hour or so of the afternoon with stomach cramp. There seems to be some kind of battle raging in there between normal function and the infection. It’s kind of interesting in a geeky way. Modern drugs really are a wonderful thing.
I snuck out again just before sunset feeling a bit grim, but the fresh air and exercise soon picked me up. I headed up Brownhills and onto the canal, heading towards Wharf Lane. I was wondering if there would be much damage evident from the high winds, but thankfully, there was none. Stopping to survey the favoured view of Home Farm at Sandhills, I noted that the lone tree that stands where Brawn’s wind pump used to be is still standing. That’s a relief; I tell the seasons by that tree. It’s a fine specimen.
August 27th - A slightly windblown day of showers and patchy sun. The harvest now mostly complete, the fields have got their autumnal cloak on; bare earth, stubble and huge straw bales are the order of the day. Even the potatoes, formerly lush and verdant, are dying off and yellowing. Here at Home Farm, Sandhills, summer’s cauldron seems to be distinctly off the boil now.
July 14th - Sneaking out late evening, I headed for Chasewater. There was a delightfully liquid golden hour afoot, and the light was honey, heavy and ever-changing. The view along the canal over Lanes Farm and Hammerwich was awe-inspiring. Wake up people, this is Brownhills…
June 4th - heading home up the A461 Lichfield Road, fully laden with shopping, the wind was behind me and there was a gorgeous mackerel sky. It is said that ‘…makerel sky, twenty-four houurs dry’, but also that ‘…mackerel sky, never long wet, never long dry’.
I stopped to photograph it near Lane’s Farm at the foot of Shire Oak Hill. It really was stunning.
April 24th - Dull but warm. A trip out to a party in Burntwood, and a chance to speed along the canal to Wharf Lane. The oilseed rape at Lanes Farm is looking good and smelling beautiful.
April 17th - wonderful to see the swans are nesting again on the canal by Lanes Farm. They used to nest in the reeds at the winding hole further down, but in the last couple of years, they’ve gradually moved closer to the mill. Whether this will yield a brood this year or be another dry run, it remains to be seen, but it would be nice to see a full compliment of cygnets this year.