BrownhillsBob's #365daysofbiking

December 30th - Up the road in Pelsall, I slipped into the village unnoticed by the border guards, who were clearly either slumbering, or skiving the night off. I like Pelsall. It’s villagey, and semi rural, but a bit up itself sometimes. I noticed a new cafe here I must try out.

I’m wondering if the letter ‘I’ went missing from the Kandu Hair salon sign as an act of sublime urban mischief or just happenstance; maybe the owners are planning to convert to an Afghan restaurant and wanted to save on a new sign.

Yes, I know it’s not quite the right spelling, but it’s close enough for Pelsall…

November 4th - Only one set of photos today, as my others went badly wrong, such was the theme of the day. A day of missed connections, late arrivals, things not working and bad chances. I got a puncture on the way to work, and cursed. I had a mechanical issue on the way home.

Still, it was a pleasant enough day weather-wise, and on my way I took the cycle path from Pelsall to Goscote. Pelsall looked great from the Mill Lane Bridge, as it always does this time of year, and the Goscote Valley was equally pastoral. I can think of far worse journeys to cycle.

Here’s a thing, though, if a shard of glass embeds itself in your tyre and pierces your innertube, why is it always coloured glass and not plain clear? Is coloured glass harder or something?

August 13th - Honeysuckle berries are unpleasant, and in most varieties of the plant, slightly toxic to humans. The berries of the most common hedgerow species I see are crimson and sticky, and beloved of birds and bugs. If you can catch them before they’re devoured, they’re beautiful, like jewels, almost. These are growing near the cycleway in Pelsall, where it crosses Mill Road. Note the airborne grime stuck to the surface of the fruit - this is why foraged stuff should always, always be washed.

But don’t forage these, they’ll make you ill…

August 6th - At the other end of the route, Pelsall. Dormitory, shady, leafy. Beautiful in places, but ever so slightly smug about it. This is Walsall’s Metroland.

August 4th - 3 former rail bridges in Brownhills, from 3 separate railway lines, all three suffering with age and the destructive tenacity of nature. The lone arch at the top corner of Clayhanger Common is slowly being pushed apart by shrubs and weeds, and is in what must be the final stages of natural reclamation. The Slough bridge, over the canal near Coppice Side, now serves as a pedestrian and cycleway over the Wyrley and Essington for National Cycle Route 54, but the familiar blue Freakley bricks are being pried apart here too by gentle, instant hydraulic pressure.

The third bridge is arguably the most interesting. One of only two listed buildings in the town, it is considered of rare enough design to be worth preserving, although it too is suffering the ravages of lack of care. As if to compound the misery, It has recently had a new nameplate installed, which reads ‘Pelsall Old Railway Bridge’.

This isn’t Pelsall, you muppets.

July 14th - I followed the track back to Ryders Mere. I hadn’t been this way for a while, and this relatively new lake - created as part of an opencast remediation 10 years ago - is maturing well. It was very quiet, with few around, and I was impressed at the number of damselflies, dragonflies and other insects there were around. The meadow was alive with grasshoppers. In the background, the gentle lap of water and calls of waterfowl. 

Beautifully tranquil.

July 14th - Returning from the Our Big Gig event in Walsall Arboretum late afternoon, I’d had enough of the traffic and heat and headed for the Goscote Valley cycleway, for a traffic-free, shady alternative. There seemed to be a fair few cats about, who in the way cats do, studiously ignored me, or hid. Loved the little black kitten near Pelsall, although Mr. Whitepaws, at Harden, seemed every bit the cat-about-town.

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 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. 

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.

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.