August 25th - A wet, miserable bank holiday Monday. This was the wettest, coldest one I think I’ve ever known. I always find this day depressing; it’s the last holiday before Christmas, and for me, seems to flag the end of summer. A week later, the kids will all be back at school, the nights will be drawing in even more, and the sun will lose it’s warmth.
In short, we’re advancing to Autumn at a fair lick now.
I rode out mid morning during a lull in the rain, and spun around Brownhills and Chasewater. The fruits, glistening with rain, were gorgeous, and the heather is particularly beautiful at the moment. The still green embankments and hedgerows cut a bright dash through the gloom.
I did note puffballs on the old railway off Engine Lane, another harbinger of Autumn.
At Chasewater, the valves are fully open and the waterlevel is dropping quickly. I wonder if there’s a purpose to this, as the canal is clearly full to overflowing.
A grim ride on a grim day. Brace yourselves, summer is closing out now.
August 16th - Heading back towards Chasewater, I noticed the erosion that happens here every time there is heavy rain has been corrected again, in the same way it always has been: sweep the debris back into the hole, and stamp it down.
Expect a similar report next time it rains heavily. Getting an awful sense of deja-vu here.
This really needs a permanent fix.
August 12th - Sweet rain fell in short, sharp showers as I rode home, often out of an almost totally clear, blue sky. The weather is certainly odd at the moment; the wind has been quite strong and it’s been very changeable.
I’ve forgot in this really quite dry summer the music of rain falling on the canal and leaves as I pass. In summer, it’s an occasional delight to the senses.
So long as it doesn’t become too frequent..
August 8th - I came to the top of Shire Oak Hill in light rain, and stopped at the quarry entrance to look at my beloved view to Lichfield. Rain was sweeping in along the Trent Valley, and the hills to the west were obscured by low rain clouds.
It had been another tough week,and I was glad to crest the hill and be nearly home. I love my job, but sometimes it’s tough to keep everything going.
But knowing home was downhill from here, the promise of good company, the family and a decent mug of tea was strong, and cheering.
Home is where the teapot is.
As it happened, the rain never really reached here.
August 8th - In contrast to recent days, it was dark and overcast with a very threatening atmosphere for most of the day. Racing home, I could smell rain on the wind, and it felt ominous.
A bit of rain is welcome; it’s needed. But we haven’t had weather like this for any length of time for a long period, and this felt dramatic and alien.
As I rode down Mill Lane in Stonnall, I noticed a flock of starlings had settled on the field, hedgerow and overhead lines. Perhaps it’s just the Hitchcock thing, but even those little birds in silhouette felt menacing…
August 3rd - Terrible angle, sorry, but the heavy rains of Saturday morning again washed the footpath away on the canal bank at Anchor Bridge, for the fourth time in a year.
Watch out if on bike or foot; it’s a trip and fall hazard.
Just what will it take for the Canal & River Trust to repair this properly for once, instead of just sweeping the washdown back into the cavity?
August 1st - My return journey was weary, wet, grey and warm. Again, it felt like being in the gust from a hair-drier, so warm was the breeze. It was raining steadily, and having popped in to Brum, I returned from Shenstone down quiet, greasy country lanes, dodging a whole host of slippery hazards in waiting, now hydrated.
I note most of the harvest is done here, but for a couple of fields. In the UK, I guess it pays not to dither, and as I was waiting at Shire Oak I reflected on the wonderful unreliability of the great British weather.
August 1st - I arrived at work early, before the rain came, but had to nip across town midday. There was a soft drizzle that made my beloved Black Country smell beautiful, and the trees and greenery, washed of dust and grime, looked splendid in their shimmering emerald wetness.
July 19th - I was still suffering with my left foot, so rest was in order and I didn’t do anything except cruise out for a bit of fresh air and some shopping. It was an odd evening - at 6pm on Saturday, Brownhills is usually dead and deserted, but it had rained nearly all day, and right now, from the Pier Street bridge, the town was coming alive - people were walking, jogging and getting shopping in.
All the time under a dramatic, somewhat threatening sky.
July 4th - Cycling in the rain presents its own hazards and challenges, but is especially hazardous in the rain following a dry, hot spell.
When roads are dry, the surface, which is gently abrasive, grinds residue from tyres and collects dust and detritus, plant matter and spilled oil, fuel and other gunk from vehicles. This is all mixed and blended by traffic action into a sort of instant-grease mix, just waiting for the atmosphere to add water.
When the rains come, the first surface waters and traffic action mingle with the powder to form a soapy, slippery fluid that actively foams and reduces traction. Cornering in this goop on narrow tires can be like cornering on ice, and wheel spin and braking skids are the signs that one needs to be careful.
Most car drivers would never notice it. But anyone on two wheels dreads the sight of the white froth on a road surface, just waiting to steel your wheels from under you.
Take care folks.
July 4th - Sweet rain.
It’s been a long, dry and warm spell. Today was fraught, stressed, tired, sweaty. I was struggling against the urge to just go home, the heat, tiredness, irritation. But I could smell the rain on the wind. Sweet, distant, but present. I stood on the threshold of an open fire escape at work and filled my lungs with the smell of moisture on the wind.
As I left work, it began. I enjoyed it. Not torrential, but steady. Gently saturating the plants, refreshing the greenery, and making me feel if not less tired, more alert.
A sensory delight.
I was glad the week was over. And welcomed the rain.
May 29th - Just over a week ago I noted that the honeysuckle bush overgroing the barrier at the Black Cock Bridge was in bud. Today, on another wet, grey commute, I noted that the shrub was now coming into flower. Already, it smells delightful, and is becoming a riot of colour, from yellows to dark, dark crimson, and every shade inbetween.
Honeysuckle grows like a weed these days in many hedgerows, scrubs and canal embankments. It’s delightful, and the insects love it. It fascinates me and always looks a little prehistoric.
May 28th - I took loads of photos of flowers on the canal bank tonight. They looked super in the rain.
Sadly, the lens had an unnoticed rain smear on it and they were all terrible. Such is life.
I did manage to record more marsh orchids. Not sure if they’re the same kind as the northern marsh orchids of yesterday - these are some way away - but they look similar. I’m fascinated by them, as they seem to be recent arrivals here. I’m sure I’d have noticed such a gorgeous flower before.
Thanks to Susan, Guest and Indesperateneedofsomeadventures for wildflower identification corrections and advice yesterday. I’ve come to the conclusion I’ll never be any cop with botany. I really am useless with the flowers.
However, I have decided my guide book is cobblers - I’m using the Collins Guide, and the pictures are too small (which explains maybe why I default to mallow!) - what guide would folks recommend? The internet isn’t much use for identifying flora and fauna.
Suggestions gratefully received!
May 28th - A foul commute to and from work, characterised by constant drizzle, wet greasy roads and drivers not concentrating. Nearly wiped out on the way to work, a lady pulled out on me from a factory forecourt so closely her car snapped the reflector off my rear mudguard. Had I been slightly slower, she’d have clipped my wheel and I’d have been off. She didn’t even stop.
Returning on a no less intemperate journey home, I was cheered to see the cows still on Jockey Meadows; a fair-sized herd, there seem to be about 12 or 15, and they were looking wet and fatalistic as only cows can.
I’m convinced they’re here to maintain the meadow and churn it up, whilst spreading the fertile love in the form of cowpats. They certainly seem to be having a good go.
They were fascinated by me and my bike. I’m sure they’d all have come to the gate had I waited long enough.
May 26th - Riding on a dull bank holiday, the weather turn to warm, soft rain. It wasn’t unpleasant, though, and I didn’t even put on a jacket. Hopping on the Trent & Mersey at Hopwas, a ride down the canal to Bodymoor Heath was excellent; swallows swooped low over the water picking of bugs one by one, as common terns did the same with fish. The hedgerows were alive with birds and flowers, and Middleton Lakes looks superb. Coming back through Middleton the wet roads were slick and fast, and very, very quiet.
A great ride on an otherwise grey day. There’s beauty in the greyest summer if one cares to look.