June 15th - Returning from the Canal Festival at Pelsall, I stopped in the sunshine to check out the canal side wild flowers. I’m interested in them all - the only one I recognise being Bullrush. I’m particularly interested in the blueish one bottom left. Think it might be an escaped ornamental. There’s certainly plenty in bloom right now, and it’s all wonderful.
March 30th - You see, I told you Pelsall was odd. They’ll give a driving license to anybody, there.
Mind you, he’s probably a far better driver than most. The lack of opposable thumbs means he won’t text at the wheel, at least.
March 30th - Recklessly, and without any ID, I went to Pelsall for a late breakfast at a cafe I like there. Thankfully, the border guards were asleep, and I slipped into the Principality unnoticed.
Pelsall is a bit like Midwich. It all seems so right, but somewhere, nearby, you can feel that something is a bit wrong. Perhaps I watched too much junk sci-fi as a kid, but Pelsall is well odd. I never really feel comfortable there, although the village has a Royston-Vaseyish charm of it’s own. I love the terraces with front doors opening onto the street; the old-style hardware store where you can still buy caustic soda, tin buckets and clouts by the pound. The ancient and sadly unloved delivery bike hitched up outside the butchers is also fascinating, if a little frustrating. Only the newly erected, and frankly hideous health centre and library spoils the effect. Clearly Stevie Wonder is still on the planning committee.
They are, of course, out to get me. Why else would they build speed-calming chicanes with a bike bypass lane narrower than my pedal span?
If you visit, watch out. I think they’re on to us…
December 2nd - As I cycled down the bank and onto Apex Road, I noticed the council depot was silent. The roads had clearly already been gritted today, and there didn’t seem to be anyone about. The depot here is where all the gritting operations now take place from, and there’s a huge shelter here full of road salt. Walsall are generally very good at gritting the roads, and getting pebble dashed on the way home from work is now a nightly risk. The amount of machinery stored here to process and spread the deicer is startling, and makes you realise just what a huge operation this seemingly simple task actually is.
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.
July 14th - I returned home via the Goscote Valley cycle route, Pelsall, and Ryders Mere. Ryders Mere really is gorgeous right now, a lovely pool surrounded by the most delightful meadows. Wildflowers are here in abundance, everything from orchids to clovers, vetches to hawkweeds. It’s a thoroughly delightful place.
Now I’ve seen it from afar, I’m even less liking the paint job on Humphries House. Oh dear.
December 21st - Recklessly running an errand into Pelsall without my passport, I took a scout round for the village Christmas tree, which was certain to make an excellent photo. There was just one snag: I couldn’t find it. After a surreptitious scout around the obvious locations, I gave up and took some night shots of the principality looking a bit festive. The only thing that came close was a tree near station road, interestingly lit to make it look conical. I decided to quickly move on - some tyke had clearly made off with the Pelsall pine and without my visa, I’d be prime suspect….
September 10th - A leisurely Saturday breakfast followed by a spin up to Chasewater saw me call in at Ryders Mere. At this point in the day it was sunny, warm, and we seemed to have far more sky than we normally do. Looking over the mere from the Pelsall side, it becomes clear just how green this area of Walsall is. Never underestimate this. Lots of people will tell you that we live in an ugly, urban sprawl - which partially, we do. But it’s punctuated by fantastic green spaces that are a joy to the heart. Get out and explore them.
August 26th - Lunch in Pelsall, followed by a run up cycle route NCN 5 through Goscote, Walsall and Delves to the Sandwell Valley, then back on the canal. Although it was mostly raining, it was a nice ride and a good opportunity to clear my head. Passing The Railway pub in Pelsall, I noticed a banner hanging on the gable end wall imploring me to ‘Come and try our new salad cart’ - whilst I support the enterprising nature of the invitation, can’t help but think it’s missing the target market. I can honestly say I’ve never felt the urge to try any salad cart, anywhere…
July 26th - Near the end of Station Road in Pelsall, there is a fascinating row of cottages. Slender, elegant and beautiful, they’ve fascinated me for years, but I know nothing about them. Leaving the cycle trail here, I often pass them and stop and appreciate their wonderful lines. A hidden gem.
July 1st - There’s currently controversy raging in the principality about the replacement of York’s Bridge by the Fingerpost pub for a new one. Considering the project a stalking horse for open casting on Pelsall North Common, the residents of Pelsall are becoming uncharacteristically excitable. Apparently this dull, narrow, rickety canal crossing with no footpath is variously ‘picturesque’. ‘perfectly fit for purpose’ and has ‘nothing whatsoever wrong with it’. The scrapes on the parapet walls attest otherwise…
June 29th - Popping into Pelsall for a spot of lunch whilst running a few errands (the border security at the principality is clearly suffering budget cuts of late, I entered unchallenged), I spotted this highly unusual bike parked outside the bookies in the High Street. It’s a Christiana cargo bike. These Danish utility bikes are a common feature of continental life, along with their competitor Bakfiets. Such bikes can carry a huge load and are often used to transport kids to school. It’s very unusual to see one in the UK and I’d love to know who owns this fine steed, why they chose it and what they do with it. A fine thing indeed.
June 11th - Retuning via the canal, l noted that the condition of the towpath between Pelsall North Common and Highbridges, is as atrocious as it ever was. Concentrating carefully on riding, I nearly missed this fine display of semi-feral roses tumbling over the rear hedge of a Pelsall garden. A spectacle of true beauty.
May 19th - The Swag, as it’s commonly known locally, is part of the wetland band that occupies the hollow between Shire Oak Hill and Pelsall. A wet area for centuries, it stretches for miles, from the common to the north, across Clayhanger Marsh, Jockey Meadows and Stubbers Green, into the Goscote Valley. Pictured looking north from the old railway line parallel to Pelsall Road, it’s easy to see the very old spoil heaps from bell pitting in the area two centuries ago.
Nowadays, they are a peaceful, post industrial wildlife haven, as is the trackbed I stand on to capture this odd little sunset. Turning around, I see an old dog fox trotting off into the distance. This is both his territory and mine, and we are familiars. No doubt having watched my approach, he’s content that everything is in order and is away on his rounds.