September 17th - The Indian summer continues. It’s very dry, and the air quality is surprisingly poor, but it does make for a lovely atmosphere. Returning home through Shelfield in just a tee shirt, I was captivated by the soft light and landscape.
All autumns should be like this.
September 10 - Riding home along Green Lane between Shelfield and Walsall Wood. Just on the Walsall Wood side of the Mob Lane junction, I’m overtaken badly by 3 mopeds, or small motorbikes.
The first has three - yes three - hemetless neds sharing an unregistered machine, the rear one actually smoking. Bringing up the rear, two lads with helmets, but one on a bike with the registration deliberately blanked out.
To make matters worse, at the Black Cock Bridge they turned off and rode up the canal towpath.
I do hope they fell in the cut.
September 2nd - A better commute this morning. The sun was out, and it was a nice day. Spinning through Darlaston I was pleased to see Bull Street being resurface at long last - it was getting to the point where it didn’t need sweeping so much as ploughing.
I’ve been quite lucky this year; Green Lane in Shelfield and Bull Street both resurfaced, two roads that were nasty to ride on.
August 20th - In late summer, in an overcast moment, Coppice (or Goblin) Woods between Walsall Wood and Shelfield are silent, dark and beautiful.
I think this is probably the oldest oak and holly deciduous woodland for miles and miles around. This is very traditional British woodland, of which there is precious little left.
If you fancy a walk out this weekend, why not pop down and explore it?
August 9th - Green Lane in Shelfield is being, at long last, resrfaced. I came down there tonight, and It’s officially closed, but was ridable with care. Despite the numerous ‘No Parking’ signs and leaflets, I noticed this vehicle, around which road workers clearly had to plane.
These folk may have gone on holiday I guess, and not known about the works, so one shouldn’t be too harsh.
But it would be ironic if they ever moaned about the council never fixing the potholes…
July 31st - It’s not lightly or without thought that I feature this, but it is part of rural life that’s becoming increasingly common on urban roads, too.
This is a dead badger, spotted at the side of Green Lane, Walsall Wood yesterday. Adult, large, and in generally good condition, he had been hit by a car. Either carried or finding his way to the hedgerow, he looks like he died peacefully there.
There ain’t a whole lot of road sense in your average badger, and they’re becoming increasingly active in urban areas like Brownhills. Please take care when driving at night, as these creatures often stumble out of hedges and verges.
They are heavy, and solid, and will do damage to cars if hit at speed, but to those on two wheels, they can be deadly.
Watch out for Brock, please.
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 - This one’s for Trevor in Oz. You may miss life here when it’s sunny… but not on a went Friday afternoon.
A horrid ride. They guy soaking me in the last 10 seconds just clinched it.
The audio is the remarkable ‘Rain Dances’ by 1970s prog-jazzers Camel. Recording used at normal speed.
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 24th - Meanwhile, the fly tipping I recorded had gone by the time I passed next day. I tip my hat to Walsall’s Clean & Green team. It’s a horrid job, but very well done.
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.