21st July - It’s been a lovely day, but the ride home was hard. I’d been on my feet all day, and to be quite frank, the left one still hurts, and was punishing me on the way back, as were the hills and the wind. All I could do was try to relax, click down the gears and enjoy the sun.
It’s been a good season so far, warm, sunny and not too wet, and this shows in the fields around Grange Farm in Green Lane, Walsall Wood. The barley on the edge of jockey meadows is hypnotic to watch in the breeze, and the oilseed rape on the corner of Green and Mob Lanes is golden.
Soon, the harvest will be upon us, and a new range of sights and sounds.
June 12th - This one is for Fresh Rosemary, as I know she likes the coos.
These particular coos - all lads - are currently being grazed on Jockey Meadows, just off Green Lane, between Walsall Wood and Shelfield. They have been brought here to churn up the meadow, eat the more aggressive species of plants, and to fertilise the land… naturally. One could say that it’s absolute bullshit.
They’re certainly working well, and hopefully this will allow the less strong species of meadow fauna to thrive. As to the coos, they go home somewhere every night. When I pass in a morning, they’re all out grazing around the field; when I come back late afternoon, they always seem to be waiting by the gate for their lift home. Coos certainly seem to know what time it is.
They’re certainly going somewhere, as I passed by again at 10pm and they’d definitely gone. This begs the question of how my bovine brothers see this: is it like a job to them? ‘Hey Steve, that’s enough grazing. Time to knock off. Where the hell’s the herdsman?’
I’ve asked them. They’re not telling. Bloody inscrutable creatures, coos.
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 13th - Greetings from the West Midlands conurbation.
This is post industrial land, between Shelfield and Walsall Wood; scarred by mining, marl extraction and years of poor drainage. Now partially a site of Special Scientific Interest, the land here is a beautiful green lung.
The Oilseed Rape on the corner by Grange Farm is nearly over now, but the may is out, and with cowparsley bobbing in the wind, one might be somewhere more rural.
Cows have been let loose on Jockey Meadows again - I assume it’s part of the rotational heathland management here. They seem in their element in this boggy watermeadow.
Wen did this space - in my youth a hinterland of desertion and scrubby, polluted bog - get so beautiful?
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.
April 24th - Commuting in spring is a joy. Sod the traffic, taking 10 minutes extra and hopping on the canal, or taking a backway rather than the main road provides all manner of rewards. From the beautiful deep pink blossom in Shelfield, to my first set of mallard ducklings at Bentley Bridge, to the guerrilla seeded cowslips on the bank of Clayhanger Bridge the ride is full of contrasts: colour, life and sound.
April 23rd - First time my deer magnet has been switched on for weeks. Just over Jockey Meadows, 200 metres or so from the site of the flytipping in the last post, two red deer hinds. One older than the other, both wathced me nervously from right at the bottom of the field, near the brook. These are very long-range photos, so apologies for the poor quality.
Both ladies were in the moult, so looked a bit threadbare, but otherwise appeared healthy enough. I think they’re part of a larger herd that loafs in the scrub there.
Nice to see them, and a sign as to why we need to look after our vital green spaces like Jockey Meadows and work against the kind of environmental damage caused by the flytipping shown in the previous post.
April 23rd - Spinning home from work, I noticed fresh flytipping in the gateway again at the Shelfield end of Jockey Meadows on Green Lane. A mixture of what looks like building and domestic refuse, it seems to be the usual ‘pull up and shove it off the back of a wagon’ job; unless the culprits have left anything incriminating, or were witnessed, it’s sadly very unlikely they’ll be caught.
People make excuses for this behaviour, saying stuff like ‘If the refuse tips were free for commercial vehicles it wouldn’t happen’ - it would. If you’re prepared to flytip, you aren’t going to go halfway across the borough to an approved tip. The morons who do this do so because it’s easy, relatively risk free, and because, without a doubt, they’re filthy scum with no pride in their environment or concern for others.
15th April - I noted when passing this evening that the field of oilseed rape at Grange Farm, on the Walsall Wood - Shelfield border was nearly fully in flower. The scent doesn’t seem to have risen yet, but it is beautiful. I love this stuff; such a striking sight in the countryside.
Even quite late this field was alive with bugs, bees and butterflies. Which has to be a good thing…
April 11th - A great day up until 4pm, then all hell broke loose. I returned home late, and was doubly slain by two separate punctures. I didn’t mind too much though, as the air was warm, the sun was out and well, it could have been worse.
What better than daffodils to cheer you up? The displays this year on Walsall’s verges and greenspaces have been terrific. This patch in Shelfield has been particularly gorgeous.
My compliments and thanks to the people who plant and tend them. They cheered up one weary, beleaguered cyclist this evening.
March 28th - I stopped at the lights at the Spring Cottage junction in Shelfield this morning, and noticed some poor sod dressed as an animal, dancing whilst wearing an advertising board for a local pet store.
There were more of these characters at other junctions into Walsall, and they were still there, dancing in the rain at 6:30pm when I returned.
How I felt for them - how desperate do you have to be to do that for money? They ones on my return were soaked to the skin, advertising a pet shop that had shut for the day.
Welcome to modern Britain. It filled me with sadness at the thought of it. I doubt I’ll shop there again.
March 3rd - The Four Crosses at Shelfield is a classic community boozer. Basic, but comfy, it serves fine real ale and is friendly and welcoming. I love the place. It’s telling that this small pub survived, while the plusher and larger Spring Cottage less than 50 yards away closed and became a retail grocery store.
Recently, following a frankly bizarre planning application, the venerable pub has been declared an ‘Asset of Community Value’ by Walsall Council. This declaration is essentially meaningless, but does show the council’s commitment to support this tiny pubs existence, which is appreciated.
The unescapable fact of these things - ACVs, Local Listing and other such declarations - is that although planning can sometimes stop stuff being changed, you can’t force a business to continue to exist; you may well preserve a building, but not the pub itself.
A quandary for our times, and a demonstration that planning, heritage and community are uneasy bedfellows.
I wish the Four Crosses, it’s regulars, landlord and community well. If ever a pub deserves to thrive, it’s that one. Long may it do so.
BrownhillsBob biked every day for the thirty days of April 2011, part of the #30daysofbiking project, but enjoyed the process so much that he carried on. Over three years down the road, he's still cycling every day and recording a little bit of every journey.