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 other pub I know to be listed in such a manner is The Black Horse at Edingale, which closed some time before it came to Lichfield District Council’s attention,and was awarded the status primarily to prevent the former inn being converted into flats. When I passed the other day, the Black Horse was still closed, and appeared to be in use as a private dwelling.
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.
March 3rd - Great skies this evening, after a quite middling day. I can feel colder air coming in, and the wind has changed. I don’t think this is a burst of winter, but I think it might be a rude awakening; we are only just out of February, after all.
Of late, the clouds and sundowns have been really excellent, and it is the season of fine sunsets. The skyline at Tyseley always captivates me, but tonight, over Shelfield, the salmon-pink tinged clouds were astonishing.
February 21st - Returning home in the wee small hours, I was irritated to discover I’d forgotten my camera. As I sped from Walsall on deserted streets, there was a fine drizzle but the wind was behind me. I saw nothing but a handful of cars, a couple of foxes and a started badger. The phone is useless in low light, but these do capture the atmosphere quite well.
I’d quite forgotten the otherwordly atmosphere of being out on a bike at 1am…
January 29th - The rain finally caught me as I left Walsall. The wind had changed, too, and I found myself mashing into driving drizzle and a distinctly cold headwind. Is this the beginning of a cold spell, I wonder?
As usual on rainy days, every good photo was into the wind and therefore impossible. But I did notice the lights of the service station in Shelfield, which always look attractive, but I never stop to photograph it.
It loos so welcoming - I fuss that’s the idea. It’s one of the way markers of my commute - when I see it, I know I’m halfway home.
January 24th - I was out with the birds, and came home early afternoon. I hopped on the canal near Aldridge, and headed towards Chasewater, where I wanted to see if the lake was still in overflow. On the way, I noticed business was brisk at the Highfields South Landfill, just between Walsall Wood and Shelfield. The site seems to be being filled in three sections, and the one closest is currently being covered in hardcore. Gas is being tapped off from the mound and feeding a generator set connected to the mains, so at least the gas isn’t wasted.
Every time I pass this hole, it’s a bit fuller. Five days a week, trucks disgorge their waste here - things we daily throw away and never wish to see again. The trouble is, we’ll run out of holes in the ground soon. Our rubbish really is becoming an issue - and who wants a landfill nearby?
December 11th - The waste fridge problem continues. Spotted in Shelfield this morning on the way to work, this could have been waiting for a bulky waste collection by the council, or more likely, left out for tatters (scrap men) by a householder. With scrapyards now unable to take fridges and freezers due to them being classed as hazardous waste, the tatters have just stripped the valuable electrical parts - the motor, condenser and wiring - and left the rest. Such discarded whitegoods are flytipped in lay-bys, country lanes and industrial estates.
If this was left for an arranged bulky collation, great. If not, it could stay where it is for weeks. This is a reflection of what happens if waste laws are tinkered with without consideration.
Please, please, please - dispose of this stuff properly. Travelling tatters will not. By leaving stuff out for them, you’re exacerbating illegal dumping and metal theft.
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…
February 28th - This chap has appeared on a hoarding surrounding a derelict building in Shelfield. Whilst I’m not approving of the vandalism, the cheek of this did make me smile…
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.