BrownhillsBob's #365daysofbiking
Apriul 12th - I must have passed this hundreds of times without noticing it. Facing the footpath on the Birmingham Road, just on the edge of the Highwayman Car Park at Shenstone Woodend, this Ordnance Survey monument. Cast Iron, now at a jaunty angle, it sows a benchmark in the absence of a building to carve one into.
I had no idea these ornate cast iron ones existed, and they seem relatively rare. A fine, uniquely British thing.

Apriul 12th - I must have passed this hundreds of times without noticing it. Facing the footpath on the Birmingham Road, just on the edge of the Highwayman Car Park at Shenstone Woodend, this Ordnance Survey monument. Cast Iron, now at a jaunty angle, it sows a benchmark in the absence of a building to carve one into.

I had no idea these ornate cast iron ones existed, and they seem relatively rare. A fine, uniquely British thing.

March 10th - I love it when, for a short time every spring and autumn, my homeward commute coincides with the golden hour. Even more so if it does so during a period of good weather. This evening, I returned from Shenstone specifically to catch the station and two towers in the beautiful light, and hopefully see the sunset over Ogley Hay and St. Jame’s Church. 

Neither disappointed. I’m loving this spring.

February 6th - I’d been in Telford, in a building with no windows. When I came to leave, I realised it was raining fairly heavily. Nothing to do, but don the waterproofs and go for it. The journey was pretty miserable, really; delays at Telford and Birmingham made for a long, damp trudge home, but at least the wind was behind me. 

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a continuously warm, wet winter like this. Last year was bad enough, but at least we had variety with the snow. This is just getting boring now…

January 5th - The Lammas Land isn’t at it’s best this time of year, but it is still nice to ride along the quiet trail. Running the length of the Footherley Brook along the northern perimeter of the village, it’s a lovely community project and facility, of which the villagers are rightly proud.

I’m not sure, however, about the Shining Stone. A stainless steel sculpture standing in the brook by an old pedestrian bridge on the footpath to Ashcroft Lane, it looks like some alien dropping polluting the water. 

Put in place in 2002 and designed by artist Jo Naden, it’s said to take inspiration from the derivation of the name ‘Shenstone’, meaning shining or beautiful stone. It was stolen by metal thieves in 2010, to be found in a scrapyard in the Black Country, from whence it was returned (the material it’s made from isn’t that valuable as it happens).

The inscription reads ‘A flock of birds settle the green field re-echoes where there is a brisk bright stream’, an Irish traditional verse.

So help me god, it looks like some metallic turd. But the way the water swirls around it is fascinating.

An odd thing, to be sure.

January 5th - It was a thoroughly horrid afternoon. Windy, wet, dark. I went out with a heavy heart, and didn’t find much of interest in the immediate area, so I spun out to Shenstone down the very wet and muddy backlanes.

Visiting the church, I was again reminded what a gothic, ugly edifice it is. I’ve never liked it; it’s a perfectly competent architectural design, it’s just not to my taste. I find the dark grey sandstone, and heavy Victoriana dismal. Even the gargoyles look desperately unhappy.

Compare St. Johns, Shenstone with any other local church, say Hopwas. Hopwas is a place you’d feel happy to give praise in, to wed, to christen; Shenstone looks like a place to go and endure, repent and suffer - it’s full of foreboding.

More interesting to me is the old tower in the churchyard; crumbling, it’s the remains of an earlier church. Perhaps it would have been better left.

Down in the village,I headed to the Lammas Land - a strip of parkland along the Footherley Brook. On the way, I passed The Plough In, busy, bright, inviting. Newly reopened, it’s good to see. It had been derelict for a few years.

December 18th - Geekout time again. I nipped in to Shenstone in the morning to beat the storm and pick up a Christmas present. On my way, the wind blew me down Bullmoor Lane to Chesterfield, near Wall. On the bend near Raikes, there’s been an electricity pole for years that’s fascinated me. It has a really complicated arrangement of equipment mounted upon it, and it’s effectively in the middle of nowhere. I’ve always been interested in it’s purpose, so I resolved to find out.

After a fair bit of googling, it’s an ‘automatic recloser’, and a really high-tech piece of equipment with a simple purpose; it’s an 11,000V breaker, performing the same kind of job as the ones you get in a modern domestic fusebox.

It consists of the unit that switches on and off the supply - the big box at the top, which breaks the three phase supply voltage present on the lines above, and an electronic control unit called an ADVC, which detects when there’s a fault, such as overcurrent in the load. A small transformer sits high up to supply the ADVC.

The ADVC reads the signals in the line, like voltage and current, and should it detect a problem, it disconnects or ‘opens’ the recloser, breaking the supply. Since most faults with overhead lines like this clear themselves quickly (they may be weather, vegetation or vermin related, for instance), the ADVC monitors the disconnected line and automatically recloses - reconnecting the supply - automatically.

The system is monitored by complex electronics with a computerised controller, and can communicate by radio telemetry, hence the antenna; it even has batteries so it can keep working if it’s own supply is interrupted.

I’ve been meaning to find that out for years… you can read more here.

This project takes me to some strange places, sometimes…

December 13th - I got away early today, and raced the rain home. Having come from Birmingham, I took the first train in my general direction available, in light of recent hassles, and ended up alighting at Shenstone. Riding down Footherley Lane, I noticed the mud was quite thick on the ground.

This is to be expected - after all the ploughing, seeding and the like, mud is carried out of fields onto roads that are never cleaned except by the rains, and we haven’t had heavy prolonged rain for a while.

This mud can be evil on road bike tyres, or after a light frost, when it partially freezes and turns into wheel-stealing slush. The best advice is take it slow, steady, don’t brake unless you have to and no sudden movements.

All part of the fun of winter…

November 29th - I was out early, as the sun rose. I had to go to Telford, and the morning skies were great. It was a shame I was running to close to time to stop and take more pictures. I’d forgotten how wonderful a winter sunrise could be.

At the other end of the day, I returned to Shenstone on a very black, cold and damp night; the weather couldn’t make it’s mind up to be wet or dry. There was a keen breeze that teased me all the way home. 

Although it was Friday, the homeward journey was hard, and seemed to take ages. I’m slowly getting into winter mode, but it’s still tough.

November 24th - I enjoyed today’s ride more than I was expecting to. When I left home, it was cold and the air was murky. For some reason, the chill didn’t seem to get to me today - I just wrapped up warm and went for it. The leaves are beautiful now - this is the kind of scene I always expect in late October, but doesn’t seem to happen until later. I shot around Hilton, Wall Butts, Chesterfield, Shenstone, Weeford and Hints. From there, I dropped onto the canal at Hopwas and returned via Whittington and Wall. Between Weeford and Hints, I cycled Dog Lane, a green lane I try to ride at least once a year. The colours were great, and had this been a sunny afternoon, would have been stunning.

If you get chance this week, go for a walk in your nearest countryside, before the next big winds. It’s gorgeous.

November 21st - I returned to Shenstone quite late, and the night was fascinating here, too. I never tire of that station; it’s got no facilities whatsoever, but the atmosphere and architecture make it one of the most lovely stations in the Midlands.

I’m fascinated by the feeling of isolation here at night, the islands of light and the elegant perspective.

I was captivated, too by the chap waiting for his lift under the streetlight on the corner of the car park. A long range, grainy shot, but there’s something about it I can’t explain.

November 5th - Today was April again. Chilly, a morning punctuated by sharp showers, but lit up by remarkable periods of sunshine. I headed to Shenstone for no other reason than the countryside was gorgeous, and I could spare the extra time. The rainbow was wonderful.

I love these lanes.

October 23rd - Strategic mistake. I left Leicester early, and hopped on the first train out of Birmingham I could. I ended up cycling from Shenstone against a fearsome, grinding headwind. Although the lanes are taking on the beauty of autumn at last, this was a hard ride and I didn’t really appreciate the dry, sunny ride at the time.

So far, this has been a week of very grim commuting.

October 21st - It’s going to be a hard week. The Monday morning commute saw me heading to Birmingham in a rainstorm. Visibility was bad, and I abandoned the Chester Road and headed for Shenstone, as I didn’t feel comfortable in the spray and slime of the main road. When I got to Shenstone, I realised just how heavily it was raining. It rained too, on my way home; another fraught journey where I rediscovered the lack of traction on wet road markings and the fact that my jacket waterproofing seems to be failing.

The weather forecast doesn’t seem to be predicting much of an improvement. Oh well, at least it’s warm…

October 3rd - I’m not a big fan of domestic roses - I much prefer their wild, more fragrant cousins. However, even cultivated blooms look great with a fresh rainfall upon them. I spotted these glorious flowers outside Shenstone Church.

A real splash of colour on a very murky day. There’s beauty everywhere if we’re open to it, I guess.

October 3rd - I set out for work a little early on a murky, misty, wet autumn morning, and realised as I sped down the Chester Road that it was oddly photogenic. I decided to take a diversion and spun up to Shenstone, and grabbed some pictures as the season began to turn the leaves.

It worked rather well, I thought. It’s unseasonably warm right now, but I’ve got the feeling we’re on the verge of some really dramatic colours. I think this one could be worth keeping an eye on…