November 6th - An absolutely lousy commuting day. It was raining for the entirety of journeys both to and from Darlaston, and the traffic - still stuck in autumn muppet mode - didn’t make it easier. There were lights in the darkness, though; at Green Lane, Shelfield, I stopped to take a phone call and felt someone was watching me - so beware eavesdropping moggies when out and about. The canal at Bentley Bridge still looked green, depute the murk. On the way home, the roads glistened and shone in the spray-sweep of passing traffic.
It’s not shaped up to be a great bike commuting week, if I’m honest… at least the forecast for tomorrow is better.
April 19th - I hadn’t wandered over Jockey Meadows for years - I must do it again. Leaving the bike in the hedge, I waded through the water meadow towards the deer. The land here is saturated, and appears very fertile. Globeflowers are in bloom, and frog, toad and newt spawn are evident in the shallow water (frog spawn is in clumps, toad in ribbons. Newt spawn is laid in small pockets on the stems of underwater plants or in the curls of leaves and fronds). There is a healthy greenness here. I can see why the deer love it. This is a Site of Special Scientific Interest, and I can see why.
April 18th - The landfill at Highfields South, just over the Lichfield Road from Jockey Meadows, is notable for a number of reasons. It’s pretty well managed, and is being filled in a very controlled way. It’s now generating electricity from the landfill gasses it produces, and it has a very diverse selection of gulls, and attracts birdspotters from far and wide.
I noticed as I passed tonight that the bulkheads bored into the mound were now all connected. Like the former Vigo Utopia landfill a mile away, this one will generate electricity by burning the methane it produces for some years to come.
Don’t kid yourself that this is green, however; it’s still burning fuel, it’s not renewable and merely utilises gas that would otherwise be lost. But it’s still a neat use of an unusual resource.
15th March - After a couple of dry, largely sunny days, the rains returned. It rained on me on the way to work, and again as I travelled home. In Tyseley, what was a light shower became a downpour as I left Walsall; by Shelfield, I was soaked, it was still hammering it down, yet over to the north, the sky was clearing and the sun was out.
Commuting on a bike on days like these is hard - damned hard. The hardest bit of winter is often the endgame; this year’s is beginning to seem endless.
March 7th - Meanwhile, on the Walsall Wood-Shelfield border, Green Lane is currently in a sorry state. There is flytipping in various spots, and the litter is building up, too. My contempt for the scum that do this is immeasurable. However, the first undealt-with dumbing begets more; and so it has been. At the entrance to the Sewage Works, the main barrier, which put an end to regular violations of the driveway, has been stolen, and the tipping problem returned there, too.
The whole lane needs a good clean up and the selfish bastards who dump rubbish and drop litter need stringing up by their toes…
January 30th - Another sign of the season’s wheel inexorably rotating came to my attention tonight. Stopping to attend to a sticking gear cable in Shelfield, on the corner of the verge, just under a hedgerow, something is stirring. Quietly, determinedly, a yellow army is emerging. Using only the power of cellular hydraulic action and the mystical imperative for growth, some celestial trigger has kickstarted spring. Soon, the foot solders will be amongst us, bright, yellow and beautiful.
It’s started now. There’s no going back. This makes me very happy indeed.
January 23rd - The little camera seems to really struggle with light on snowy nights. I’m not enough of a photographer to make it work quite the way I want. But these two shots show something. When I was banging on about gritting a couple of days ago, I was unaware of what a wide and generally welcome reception the piece would get. A good demonstration of my point - that road salt isn’t the magic solution folk think it is - is illustrated in the upper photo, taken at Shelfield lights. I’d been passed by gritters here several times the previous week. With the lack of rain, the brine strength on the road surface must be very high, yet the triangle of slush in the foreground remains. The reason is because the salt isn’t ground in that part by passing traffic, so although it’s been coated in salt numerous times, because there’s no meltwater, the ice remains. There’s a similar band of virgin snow on the centre of the Chester Road that’s been there since last Friday. it must get coated in grit nearly every day.
Returning via Green Lane, I was interested in how the snow lit up the normally dark, wooded road. This road was very clear, and as I came through, a grittier came past in a shower of sharp crystals. In some respects, this road was clearer that the Lichfield Road, and I struggled to understand why. Then I realised - this is a low point. What meltwater does exist, gathers in this lowland. That lane must be like a brine bath.
Must remember to regrease the wheel bearings when the weather warms up… the bike will need to be washed well, too. All this salt will be eating the metalwork…
November 28th - This somewhat poor photo was quite difficult to take, due to the traffic, but after yesterday’s photo of the splendid Walsall Wood Christmas tree, I thought I’d feature the festive decorations in Shelfield. Yes, that’s a normal tree, one quarter covered with colour changing lights. That’ all there is. Utterly bizarre.
November 14th - Further on, I stopped to take a photo and ponder. I’m a grown bloke, and nothing much scares me. Heavy traffic? No problem. Speed? Not at all. Heights? Maybe a little. Darkness? Not at all, love cycling in the dark, especially in rural places. Green Lane, between Shelfield and Walsall Wood at night? Hell yeah. I’ve no idea why, it’s the only place I ever feel nervous out at night, and I’ve cycled in some grim places. Something about the darkness, the woods and the traffic combine to really make me feel queasy down here after dark.
I think it’s to do with finding a car accident down here a few years back. The imagery of that stays with me.
I must be turning into a right wuss in my old age.
October 15th - Returning along Green Lane, Walsall Wood at dusk, something caught my eye on the verge near Shelfield School. I stopped to take a look at what seemed to be small peaches, and found they were actually really nice, perfect little crab apples. These would probably make a decent wine or jam - whilst too acid for conventional culinary purposes, these tiny apples are highly prized amongst jam-makers and home brewers. I’m surprised nobody has picked up the windfalls, to be honest…
October 8th - I don’t like to see the gradual erosion of our pubs. But since so many are being lost, it’s nice to see when they’re saved - if repurposed. I’m thinking here particularly of The Muckley Corner, which is now dwellings, or The Brown Lion, in Pleck, which is a refuge. Like the Knave of Hearts in Bloxwich, the Spring Cottage in Shelfield has been converted into a bustling Co-op store. Whilst the loss of the pub is sad, at least the building was saved, and not altered too much. If only more closed pubs could be saved like this…
September 9th - Returning to Brownhills via Green Lane on the Walsall Wood/Shelfield border, I noted flytipping here was on the increase. After a relatively quiet summer with few incidents, the arseholes are back. Sadly, I can’t report these dumped window frames to the council as they’re on private land. It’s clear the idiots who did this just smashed the gate open with their truck. The same gateway has the remnants of other’s flytipping also.
Please think before you employ a very cheap workman. One of the ways they can be so cheap is to flytip, like this. Think on.
July 6th - Green Lane, Walsall Wood, after a day of heavy rain. It always floods here, and I doubt it can ever be stopped. Nothing to do but wait for a gap in the traffic, close your mouth and go for it.
Note the exemplary driving by the four-wheel drive. It takes real skill to be that much of an inconsiderate cock.
Sorry about the video quality, bad weather and an unwiped lens.
July 7th - One standing water issue I know it’s unreasonable to expect anyone to ever solve is Green Lane, at Jockey Meadows between Walsall Wood and Shelfied. It has always flooded here; it’s the lowest point on the road between the two places, and sits in the marshy wetlands that drain Shelfield, High Heath, Pelsall and Brownhills. I think there’s little that can be done in civil engineering terms to solve this, that wouldn’t involve pumps and huge expense. There’s nothing to do but pick your moment, and plough through it. It’s not like a rural flood, though, so take care. The sewage works is nearby, and when overwhelmed, it will discharge to the Ford Brook. There’s a very real chance of contamination in that water. Close your mouth and go slowly…
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 two years down the road, he's still cycling every day and recording a little bit of every journey.