November 3rd - Today, the season’s wheel clicked round another notch. The wind that so harangued me the day before had died right down, but the temperature had dropped, too. Today, I realised once and for all that winter, if not quite on her throne, was certainly waiting in the wings.
I left mid afternoon, with grand ideas of tearing up the Chase, but I was dressed too lightly and I felt cold and despite the sun, quite down in the dumps, if I’m honest. No reason to be, other than the passage of warmth and the advancing of the seasons; this time of year I always wonder if I have the strength inside to face another winter of dark nights, cold commutes and lifeless countryside.
I headed up over Chasewater and Cuckoo Bank, down Rainbow Hill and over Slitting Mill. A quick coffee at sunset, and back over Penkridge Bank. I saw deer, but it was too dark to get a good picture. Returning cold and in darkness, I felt a world away from warm, sunny afternoons. I was heavy hearted and my very bones ached.
I bloody hate this time of year.
October 25th - Although it was lightly raining, it was warm, and with the wind behind me I took the back way back to Brownhills, down the Lichfield Road and up over Springhill at Barracks Lane.
I had a play with long exposure shots at Sandhills, and was quite pleased with the result, but puzzled too, when I looked at the images on the computer. In both, a wavy, oscillating thin trace of light is present above the main vehicle trails, which are very straight. I thought about these thin, curling traces for almost an hour, then I worked them out.
They’re the light trail created by the reflection of street lights off the car windscreen, hence the curve and double back as the car enters the dominance of another lighting column. It’s quite mathematical, and I think it could be modelled with fairly basic locus mathematics.
I could be wrong, though…
October 22nd - I noted on my way to work the other day that ownership of the former Shire Oak Quarry - now a landfill for dry construction waste - has passed from Tarmac to JPE. I’m not sure why Tarmac sold it, but it was mothballed for a while after the slump in construction after 2008, to be reopened a couple of years later.
I also noted that dust monitoring equipment has been installed, too. Wonder if that’s in response to local issues or a general requirement these days?
October 11th - One of the odder fruits of autumn is beech mast. Beech nuts have a pleasant flavour if chewed, with a green, dark and astringent taste; they grow in a prickly, hard rough burr husk that falls from the tree after opening. Since a mature beech is of a considerable size, the mast litter under such a tree is often deep, and has a distinct crackle when you walk or ride over it.
There isn’t a hint of moisture in the husks, which are hard, and they put one in mind of something prehistoric, perhaps the scales of some long-extinct dinosaur.
This example, along with several others is growing along the Lichfield Road at Sandhills. They are lovely trees.
September 4th - Spotted in the hedgerow near the top of Shire Oak Hill at Sandhills, I caught sight of this bright yellow flower. It’s an awful photo, but I’m hoping someone can ID this bright, late bloom. I’ve seen a few about, but have no idea what it might be…
August 10th - The harvest was underway everywhere I looked - out at Hammerwich, Stonnall, The slopes of Longon and the plains of Staffordshire. Everywhere I looked, there were plumes of grain dust rising in the distant fields like palls of smoke. At Home Farm, Sandhills, baling of the straw was ongoing. The parsnips in the field behind still look lush, and the oilseed rape is still not ripe, but the wheat, plump and healthy, is now stubble. And so the cycle continues.
August 5th - I returned in heavy rain and the photography was lousy. I did notice, however, that may trees seem to be fruiting better than the hazels of yesterday. This Sycamore at Sandhills has fine, plump seeds, already turning brown in preparation for what is, in their case, genuinely a fall, all be it a blade-moderated one. In my childhood, these seeds were called ‘Helicopters’, for their notorious (and I think, unique) spinning action as they fell.
Hips and haws are also doing well in the hedgerows right now, but the photos were terrible, sorry.
July 13th - It was incredibly hot, and I was tired. But at 4pm I found the energy from somewhere and headed out. I was only supposed to be going to Chasewater - but after a restorative ice cream, I found the going easy and powerful, so I headed up through Chorley and Longdon Green, to Yoxall and Barton. From Barton I took the backlanes and tracks to Wychnor, where I hopped on the canal, and rode the river section of the Trent & Mersey to Fradley, then back home through Lichfield.
It was hot, but a lovely, fast ride through gently ripening countryside. This is the summer I’ve been hoping for.
July 12th - Spinning out through Brownhills to Stonnall for tea, I crested Springhill on Barracks Lane on a languid, hot Friday evening. Even at 7pm there was little traffic, and few folk about. I noticed that a week or so of hot summer weather, and the colours of the season had changed. The bright, vivid, verdant greens have faded to more of a faded emerald jacket, and reds, golds and sandy yellows are creeping in to the landscape, colouring the fields shades of ripeness and fulfilment.
At Springhill, a field of gently ripening, plump wheat caught my eye, and at Cartersfield Lane, a healthy field of Barley.
A fine sight, but poignant too, as it indicates the seasons’ progression.
June 14th - The roadside verges and hedgerows are an unusually rich delight at the moment. With the late spring and damp weather, they’re really lush and green right now, with beautiful wildflowers peppered through them. I can’t name the flowers here but both exist in abundance along the A461 Lichfield Road at Sandhills. If you can, take an hour or two out this weekend to go exploring the country lanes around here, which are a delight right now. It’s not until you study them closely, you realise the wild and enchanting beauty they contain.
June 4th - Now, there’s a sign of summer - and a precious crop. At Lanes Farm on Sandhills, near Shire Oak, I see the sprinkler is already out. I can’t tell what’s growing here yet, but this is the crop that was shielded by polythene sheeting up until a couple of weeks ago.
One thing’s for sure: it’s a delicate crop. It’ll be interesting to watch it grow.
May 24th - After a spin around Stonnall and Shenstone in a rather grim wind, the sunset was nice. Sweeping past hedgerows glowing with cow parsley, bluebells and fields full of oilseed rape, the sky set it all off beautifully. A lovely end to a day of awful weather.
At Sandhills, the polythene covered field has had the plastic removed, and each sheet was nurturing four rows of seedlings beneath. I don’t know what they are, they look a bit like peas. It’ll be fun to watch and see what grows.
May 4th - A gorgeous, but windy, summer evening. Still taking it gently due to the sore ribs, I took a gentle run out through Brownhills to Chasewater, then back along the canal. The blackcurrant blossom at Home Farm was gorgeous, and my favourite tree is coming into leaf, at last, a sure sign of impending summer.
The Water level at Chasewater has been lowered to around 200mm - 8 inches off maximum, and the valve closed. I find this interesting; the overflow over the poor weather period was clearly to stress-test the dam, and presumably, it’s passed. It will be intrigued to see if they allow it to overflow on a regular basis - to irrigate to spillway wetland - or if this was a rare event.
A fine evening’s ride.
April 22nd - i’d been working from home on an important project, and not been able to get out all day. I finally escaped as the sun was setting for a short ride. I noticed when not far from home that my front wheel had a very loose spoke, so had to cut my ride short, but I got a decent ride in around Brownhills and along the canal back towards Newtown. The evening was characterised by a magenta/orange light that suffused everything. Soon my favourite tree at Home Farm will be back in leaf, and the view to Hammerwich will look a good bit greener, too.
Still, it was past eight and still warm, and just still light. Hard to imagine that three weeks before this was all under a covering of snow.
April 17th - I returned home late enough to catch the sunset - it was great tonight, although the winds were somewhat tempestuous. Thankfully, they were mostly behind me, and the warmth of them is still a pleasant surprise to the system. On cue, roadsides are a riot of daffodils, and everything seems busy with springtime.
It’s been worth the wait.