July 17th - On my return, I was held up by some rather familiar beaked* villains. This is Coulter Lane, Burntwood, just outside the farm where they sell asparagus. It’s a good couple of miles from Chasewater - yet these honking, hissing impediments to cycling progress are clearly the Chasewater geese - domestic birds set free some years ago, that generally hang around the boating lake, grumping at anyone and anything.
Are they regulars here? Is this actually their home? Do they commute?
So many questions, so little time…
*yes, I know they have bills, not beaks, but it doesn’t scan as well.
December 3rd - An evening ride up to Walsall Wood had me crossing the High Street at the Ogley Road junction, just by the former Warreners Arms, after checking out some of the old names scratched into the brickwork of the former pub.I noted in an instant how much this view had changed in a decade; ten years ago, there would be two tall high-rises on the right, and a row of grim maisonettes on the left. The intervening years have seen them all carried to dust, a period of dereliction, followed by new build. On the right, Knave’s Court, a care complex for the elderly, and on the left, Ogley Hay Court, modern flats and houses.
Change happens slowly. Occasionally, something snags on your memory, and you realise how much changed without you registering it.
October 16th - It seemed a little previous, considering it’s two weeks to Halloween, but as I waited at the lights at the Pleck Road/Bridgman Street junction in Walsall on my way home I spied this real pumpkin on the parcel shelf of the car in front. Nicely carved, too; beats a nodding dog.
It certainly made me smile.
September 29th - He was annoyed that I spotted him, but this ginger and white lad was thirsty and there’s nothing like fresh canal water. He’s a lovely chap and I spotted him at the rear of the houses in Sadler Road, Catshill. Those two front feet - this is a practiced manoeuvre…
July 5th - A glorious, sunny and hot exploration of Ironbridge, followed by a wonderful ride home.
How, exactly, does one raise a pork pie? Is it like raising kids?
It’s right what they say about road cyclists eating pies, then… nice bike, though.
July 3rd - Summer in the Lichfield Street and Hatherton Road areas of Walsall Town Centre - the ‘civic’ quarter - is a joy. The streets here are tree-lined and green, and form a beautiful canopy over the busy roads below. From some aspects you could almost be in Cheltenham.
I keep banging on about this, but it’s very true: Walsall is surprisingly green, and most people don’t seem to notice.
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.
October 14th - At the junction of Woodhouses Road and Lichfield Road at Edial, near Burntwood, there’s an imperious horse chestnut tree, and this season it has fruited in abundance. I have never seen so many conkers littering the ground. I mentioned my love of the brown, shiny nuts a week or so ago. I just had to stop and take a few home. Just instinct.
October 4th - I was accompanied by a forgotten companion on my return from work this evening - nightfall. It was 6:45pm, and nearly dark when I arrived home. A little bit of a shock to the system. This made photography difficult, as I hadn’t got a tripod or gorillapod on me. Sweeping down a dark and deserted Maybrook Road, the dusk made for an interesting shot with the camera sat on a street cabinet. This part of town - on the Walsall Wood/Brownhills border - always seems deserted. Even in the daytime.
25th September - It’s damned hard to find decent photos in the rain. Leaving Walsall, I noted that the surface water problem at the Arboretum junction is ongoing. For some reason, whatever they surfaced the new road with, it doesn’t drain well. There seems to be a permeant layer of water of the surface, and that can’t be safe. It’s notably confined to new sections of the road, and I’ve never quite seen this before. Most odd.
Approaching Brownhills, I passed the decaying husk of the Wheel Inn, the lost pub on the Lindon Road, Brownhills. I had hoped something would be done with the building after the fairground people bought the yard behind, but little has changed. Walsall Council have recently been making noises about forcing owners to sort out derelict eyesores: if, as I suspect, the building is owned by Pat Collins Fairs, then that particular enforcement notice would be interesting, to say the least…
August 4th - Up at Chasewater, a cracking example of why the authorities need to sort out the anti-traffic barrier halfway across the dam at Pool Lane. Formerly consisting of plastic barrels filled with concrete, they have now been destroyed. Result? Yesterday, this car was actually parked off the road, on the site of special scientific interest that surrounds the 9-foot pool. Why? Because the owners were too bone idle to park the vehicle in the proper car park and walk a little. This needs sorting.
May 3rd - The birdlife is engaging at the moment. Swallows and martins dipped over the water at Chasewater, and a couple of crested grebes slid past as I took photos from the dam. Meanwhile, down on the canal, Mrs. Swan still sits on her eggs. Today, she was being tended to by her partner. I found this interesting - he doesn’t normally seem to be in close proximity much. I wondered if it was a sign of hatching imminent. He swam over to me as I studied them, and hissed darkly. He’s going to be a whole bundle of fun if there’s cygnets around.
February 4th - As usual when it starts snowing, I’m off on the bike like a shot. Since it had been a whole year since I last rode in snow, I took in a lazy loop of Brownhills to get my skills back. On the old cement works bridge, overlooking the council depot that used to be the Edward Rose factory, the gritting crews were in overdrive. I’d been passed by several grit wagons in the High Street, and there seemed to be a constant chain of lorries coming to be refilled. Later in the day, Walsall’s roads were far better than those of Staffordshire, yet still I saw folk complaining. I think there needs to be more public awareness over what road salt can and can’t actually do.