BrownhillsBob's #365daysofbiking

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 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.

May 24th - There’s probably some fancy photographic name for it, but some days seem naturally high-contrast. Something about the light. I spun around very wet towpaths out of Brownhills to Chasewater, and noted that part of Sandhills was dark, and another part was remaining in light. It really was quite beautiful.

Newtown’s bunny population were out enjoying the lush wet vegetation, and could be barely bothered to run away as I approached, and the view to Hammerwich was as wonderful as ever now it’s wearing it’s summer jacket. At Chasewater, the view from the dam was remarkable, with a rather threatening sky. 

As I headed home, the heavens opened again.

But it’s summer, and warm rain is better than cold…

May 24th - Still feeling a bit ropey, and with dreadful weather, I didn’t get out until late afternoon when the sun decided to make an appearance. Sadly, the heavy rains have again blathered the towpath at Anchor Bridge. Where the water streams down the embankment, the shale footpath has washed from the side of the concrete drain cover again,leaving an 8-10 inch deep channel, 6 inches wide across nearly the full width of the towpath.

This is deep and large enough to wedge a bike wheel in, or lose a foot down - especially with inexperienced cyclists or kids. Take care. The rest of the path northwards to the bridge is also eroded badly and is quite hazardous.

Horridly enough, that’s a used syringe in cavity. I suspect it washed down with the storm water, possibly out of a drain. 

I shall contact the CRT on Tuesday.

May22nd - I left Leicester early in the afternoon, when it was still a pleasant day; I’d set off in light morning rain, which had cleared. I did what I had to, then nipped over to Spinney Hills to pick up Indian snacks, and headed home. As the train pulled from Leicester, the rains came. 

I had an inkling from passenger information that there was disruption to northbound local services out of Brum, and changed trains at Nuneaton for a service to Lichfield Trent Valley, which was also heavily delayed. It was the right decision though, which was a relief.

I alighted at Lichfield in a thunderstorm and torrential rain. Waiting it out, I gave up, and cut a run for it.

I got soaked. The roads home were like rivers, and progress was slow. I hadn’t been that glad to get in, and have a hot shower for a very long time.

May 11th - I’d really not been well. My stomach was bad, and my body ached, so it was just as well the weather during the day was poor, as I didn’t feel like I’d missed much. I got out at dusk, and took in the sunset, spinning up a wet canal towpath to check up on the swan family. Sadly, I didn’t catch them - once the cygnets hatch, they tend to move around a lot so I’m not overly concerned - but I did catch an impressive sky. 

In the distance, I could see it was raining still out towards Tamworth. A fitting end to a pretty horrible day.

May 8th - I spun home after heavy rain, and had to nip to Chasetown. On the way, I was fascinated by the profusion of slugs and snails, the wet undergrowth and a really, really dramatic sky. I’m always fascinated by gastropods, as they get such a bad press, but we couldn’t really exist without them, and close up, they’re fascinating things. 

Over towards Hammerwich, the oilseed rape is going over now, but today, Lichfield Cathedral spires were clearly visible if you know where to look. I often wonder how many people realise you can see that from here, in just the right spot?

It wasn’t a great day weather wise, but still plenty of interest in Summer’s brewing cauldron.

April 25th - Riding in the rain when the weather is warm isn’t that bad - once you’re wet, you’re wet and with waterproofs, that takes a good while. But after a week at work, when you’re tired, the light is poor and the traffic relentless, you just want to get home, have a shower, put something fresh on and have a decent cup of tea. 

These bike cam stills give a flavour of the journey. Like riding at night, it’s mentally very demanding, as there’s more stuff that you have to mentally process, and the traffic tends to be mad.

I was glad, If I’m honest, to get home.

April 25th - A dreadful commuting day, really, and not a great one at work, if I’m honest. I returned home late afternoon in a rainstorm. The rain was warm, though, and what wind there was seemed to be behind me. Coming from central Walsall after picking up some shopping, I crossed the Arboretum Junction, and whilst waiting at the lights, noticed the surface water problem here was getting worse. In heavy rain, the asphalt here doesn’t seem to shed water, and a 3-4mm  covering develops over the entire junction. I’ve never seen any road do this before, and must be a peculiarity of the surfacing.
It’s bad enough of a bicycle. Feel sure someone is going to aquaplane across here one day…

April 25th - A dreadful commuting day, really, and not a great one at work, if I’m honest. I returned home late afternoon in a rainstorm. The rain was warm, though, and what wind there was seemed to be behind me. Coming from central Walsall after picking up some shopping, I crossed the Arboretum Junction, and whilst waiting at the lights, noticed the surface water problem here was getting worse. In heavy rain, the asphalt here doesn’t seem to shed water, and a 3-4mm  covering develops over the entire junction. I’ve never seen any road do this before, and must be a peculiarity of the surfacing.

It’s bad enough of a bicycle. Feel sure someone is going to aquaplane across here one day…

April 22nd - I rode Telford’s cycleways on my way to work. It was raining. The raindrops and fresh greenery made it simply beautiful.