June 4th - A hectic one. I had a morning meeting in Redditch, and an afternoon one in Telford, so I spent most of this gorgeous, sunny day either cycling, or on the train. Redditch’s the Arrow Valley cycleway is still gorgeous. I love the way the tiny hamlet of Ipsley is preserved in the middle of a park, surrounded by urban sprawl. The wild garlic glade has improved since my last visit, too.
December 1st - A better day. I was off to work in the early morning, and returned from Darlaston in the afternoon. I was tired, and with a headwind, I opted for the shelter of the cycle track down through the Goscote Valley to Pelsall. Even still, it was hard work. Stopping on the old railway bridge over Vicarage Road, I realised the Pelsall was now wearing it’s winter jacket. This view of the village always looks so nice, but at this point in winter it always appears so barren.
October 18th - Road safety in a time of austerity? Too expensive. Here at Station Road in Harden, there used to be a pedestrian crossing where National Cycle Route 5 crosses the road. This is a busy trail is a recognised safe route to school that takes a heavy cyclist and pedestrian load. Station road is busy and quite fast. Up until six months ago, there was a pedestrian crossing here, which was damaged by vandalism and taken out of use.
Solution? Remove it. Well done Walsall Council. Victory for common sense and safety there - not.
October 18th - For the first time in ages, I was in Darlaston. I also had to pop into Brownhills on my way, so I pottered up to Pelsall and on to Walsall via NCN 5 - the National Cycle Route. It was a lovely ride to work, but the southerly headwind was a tad sharp for my liking. I guess readers must be getting fed up of the cliched autumn pictures by now, but today, my beloved Black Country looked gorgeous. Escaping early, I popped into the Arboretum at Walsall to check out the colour. At 4pm, it was all but deserted, which I found surprising. It really is lovely there. Get up there before it’s too late…
July 28th - After going to see some mates in Walsall, I returned down a somewhat breezy Goscote Valley on a sunny afternoon. Joining the cycle route at the Butts, though Mill Lane Nature Reserve, I was immediately struct by the range and beauty of the plants and flowers, which were alive with awakening insects. The elegant, almost Francophile church spire of Rushall was visible above the trees across the valley, and this old railway line just screamed for attention. A wonderful place. Get your arses down there before summer passes.
May 17th - I had a huge amount to think about on the way home from work tonight. It was a warm, pleasant afternoon, so I took NCN5 from Walsall and headed through Pelsall and up the old railway to Chasewater for a bit of quiet contemplation. I hadn’t been up this track for a few weeks - in fact, since I saw the deer here last month. It was now wearing it’s late-spring jacket of fluorescent green. In the greening times, this path transforms into an emerald tunnel, almost totally cut off from its surroundings, permanently damp and scented with growth, flowering and earth.
February 14th - This is the stray horse problem Walsall Council claims it hasn’t got. To be fair, horses are cheap to acquire right now; market prices have never been lower, and any bit of common land around the Goscote Valley has a variety of nags tethered or just wandering free. These three forlorn animals - not one with access to water - were tethered within a short section of the cycle route running through the area. In total, there must have been about 15 of these unfortunate beasts, yet the council bafflingly announced recently that we don’t have a problem with this sort of thing. The council can’t actually do much. People won’t claim the horses if taken away, and the sanctuaries are, by and large, full. It’s a thorny, and worsening, issue.
November 27th - The sunset was also good at the old railway bridge over the canal near the old cement works in Brownhills. This is an odd bridge, and now conveys national cycle route 5 from the canal below to the former level crossing at Engine Lane. It has odd, reduced level parapets and a very scant guard rail, but has been well-known to generations of Brownhills Kids. Here, looking west, it could have easily been a summer evening; not a soul about and just the sound of ducks and coots in the reeds. A peaceful spot.
27th June - Of all the flowers taking part in the riot of summer colour right now, my heart is stolen mostly by the vetch that grows on verges and field margins, forming a thick, yellow, orange and red carpet of vivid, joyous colour. When I was a kid, we used to call this delicate but hardy plant ‘Egg & Bacon’. I think it’s gorgeous.
This fine example is proliferating on the embankments to the cycle tack through the Goscote Valley. A fine sight indeed.
June 25th - I’m quite fond of public art, but some just baffles me. I have nothing against this steel cube - standing as it does near Ryecroft Cemetery on National Cycle Route 5 through the Goscote Valley - it’s just a bit dull. Possibly one of the few artworks improved by graffiti. The most startling thing about it, considering it’s location, is that it hasn’t been nicked for scrap. They’re an enterprising bunch round here when it comes to such things…
June 8th - Cycling the old railway route up through Goscote to Walsall often throws up unexpected challenges - gangs of loafing youth, grass fires in summer, intemperate canada geese. By far the most frequent seems to be negotiating the wrath of often rather stroppy horses. This particular equine highwayman casually stops me, presumably after a mint or food, receives a bit of welcome fuss and then lets me pass.
May 21st - NCN 5 - the cycle track from the former cement works canal bridge near Pelsall Road to the the old level crossing at Engine Lane. This is either alcoholic OCD or too much time on someone’s hands. It’s a bit odd, because if you remove the cans, they’re replaced soon after. I don’t know either. Brownhills never has operated in the conventional space-time continuum.
April 26th - On my return journey, I hopped off the canal at Goscote, and on to National Cycle Network route 5 through the Goscote Valley. There are lots of horses tethered on the grassland here. I noticed this wee chap alsleep in a field nearby.
April 6th - The beginning of the Arrow Valley cycling route in Redditch, part of the national cycle network. I ride this as a commute quite often. The route is a ribbon of green surrounded by urbanisation, and is really quite wonderful.
The pause in the middle of the river bridge is to look for Kingfishers, which are a frequent sight here.
BrownhillsBob biked every day for the thirty days of April 2011, part of the #30daysofbiking project, but enjoyed the process so much that he carried on. Over two years down the road, he's still cycling every day and recording a little bit of every journey.