November 25th - Ladies and gentlemen, I can make an announcement. This coming winter will be warm, without much snow or ice.
I have guaranteed this by purchasing new snow tyres for this season. Therefore, fate dictates that I won’t need them. Which will probably be a shame, as they look like they mean serious business.
This has been a public service announcement to 365daysofbiking readers.
August 5th - It seems the harvest had started just before the rains came over the weekend. These fields near Stonnall were still full of wheat on Thursday, and are now no more than neat rows of cut straw, with crows looking for food in the gleanings. I noticed other fields had been cut at Springhill and Summerhill too.
And so the season ticks on. It doesn’t seem long since there were deep snowdrifts here..
April 7th - I had a shock today. Yesterday, I thought spring was here. Today, I set off in very hazy sunshine for a ride. Looping around Brownhills and up to Chasewater on the canal, I discovered the snow hadn’t quite gone yet. The towpath from Anchor Bridge to Ogley Junction is more or less impassible, with sitting snow and ice to depths of several feet. It took me some time to battle through. Considering it unique, I was further shocked to discover the same situation in Wall Lane, from Pipehill to Wall. That road was blocked to some depth, too.
The only high spot in all this was the swans are sitting again at the back of Sadler Road. Let’s hope for cygnets this year…
April 5th - While I was battling through the week, so was nature, but in a grander, more impressive way. Come Friday evening, the snow remaining from the heavy falls of two weeks previously was lying only where the heaviest drifts had been. On the hill to the south of Mill Lane, the ridge-step hedgerow had clearly been a snow trap, and was dissipating itself in a beautiful way.
Coming through underneath, the keen, bright emerald green promise of a new crop. Winter melts as spring appears.
March 31st - The contrasts continued as I got out on the Chase. Even the popular trails were too snowed up to ride, so I hit Birches Valley on the roads, which were clear and easy going. The afternoon warmed a little, and the sun stayed longer, and it was in one such moment of clarity that I took in the view of the Weaver Hills from Lady Hill. Good Friday two years ago, I was cycling over there in shorts and a tee shirt.
Dropping down to Rugeley, the snow was clear from the canals, and only lay in the lee of hedges and walls, but climbing out of the Trent Valley at Breretonhill, there were still large amounts of lying snow.
I think this is the coldest spring I’ve ever known.
March 29th - Every easter should have a bunny. This one loped across Pool Road behind the craft units at Chasewater this evening. She seemed to be a bit fearless and I think a bit hungry - there can’t have been much nutrition in the environment this week for a hungry rabbit.
I noticed when the dam works were on that there were a large number of rabbits around Pool Road, many living on the dam itself. I do hope someone is keeping an eye on their burrowing exploits…
March 29th - A lazy day. Work has left me exhausted lately, and with a long Easter weekend ahead, I slouched out and did some stuff I wanted to for a change, and slipped out late afternoon for a gentle loop of Brownhills. The thaw has really set in now, but the canal towpaths are still no go, even with the snow tires. I noted at Holland Park that the tennis courts were now tennis duckponds, complete with ducks. The sunset from Chasewater, however, was gorgeous. Water is still overflowing from the Nine-Foot, and the bird life there tonight was fantastic.
By the time I returned to Brownhills, the sunset had retreated to a magenta band on the horizon, but the sky was still stunning. A great sunset.
I could handle a few more days like this. Lets hope the snow melts away soon.
March 27th - The winter is still sat upon my shoulders, weighing me down. Today was another day fraught with bad travel connections, and tomorrow doesn’t look to be much better. Waiting at Blake Street this morning, it was bitingly cold, and snowing. Rather than the enjoyment I normally feel when it snows, today, it was just bleak, more of the same. Due to a signal failure, it took me two and a half hours to get to Telford. The circumspect mood did not improve.
Returning from Shenstone later in the day, there seemed to have a been a substantial thaw during the day - many of the fields I passes looked green, whereas they’d been white the day before. However, the larger drifts will take some time to recede. This one - currently preventing any access to Thornyhurst Lane - is huge.
March 26 - A stunning sunset, which as Jayne Howarth noted on Twitter, gave a spring-like light that wasn’t justified by the conditions. It was cold, and brisk as I cycled the backlanes from Shenstone, and the coming darkness felt threatening and sharp as I cycled home with the wind behind me. The roads were clear and largely dry, although the thaw had evidently set in during daytime. The sky changed colour a number of times, and it was thoroughly beautiful.
A gorgeous end to what had been a somewhat trying day.
March 25th - It promised to be a thoroughly dreadful journey home. Checking travel information just before leaving work, there was chaos at New Street, with overhead line difficulties causing mass cancellations and a reduction to Sunday service on all lines I could get home from. Pitching up a the station, I went for a Walsall train, then heard an announcement for a Lichfield one. Just making it to the right platform, I easily climbed aboard a 6-carriage set which had seats to spare. I actually left New Street before I would normally. This was nice and rather odd. I was very, very lucky.
Alighting at Blake Street, I found the light to be fantastic and even the backlanes clear. The wind was still sculpting powdery snow into impressive drifts, and coming from the northeast, was a distinct and formidable crosswind.
As Laura Marling says ‘I’ll never love England more than when it’s covered in snow.’
March 25th - Today was actually rather beautiful. I skipped into Walsall on ice-free roads, zipping past lines of stationary traffic. It didn’t feel overly cold, although the wind at my back was bitter. As I reached Tyseley, the sky was blue and the sun was out.
Snow upon this urban landscape makes everything old new again. I love the way it picks out rooftops and reflects the goodness of the sun back to me.
March 24th - Another bitterly cold day, and the worst snows since the early 1980s continued overnight, only ceasing late afternoon. Oddly, though, the sun tried to break through most of the day.
I slipped out mid afternoon. The main roads again, were clear, and some of the more minor ones like Coppice Lane were very clear, too, although standing water was everywhere. I spun around Brownhills, getting a feel for the evil east wind that was blowing powder-dry snow in clouds. At the old level crossing at the top, a lovely little robin caught my eye, flitting about amongst the laurels at the side of the road. As I passed the common, I noticed one of the best ice-castles I’ve ever seen, with it’s proud constructor playing nearby.
Up at Chasewater, the waterfowl were quiet following the daily visit from the Swan Lady, who drove past me on Pool Road; but there were plenty of other interesting birds about defying the positively evil wind. I fought it up the A5, to the Barracks Lane junction, where the sheep weren’t minding the snow too much. The drifts in Barracks Lane were sobering.
It’s getting on to the end of March. British Summer Time starts in a week. Can I have some spring, please?
March 23rd - Even the snow was odd today. I’ve never seen it like this before - at about 4pm it was a very fine flake, long and thin, like a tiny rod about 4-6mm long. So insubstantial, that the merest touch or breath melted it. I suppose it must be the way the water vapour and air currents formed it, but is was fascinating and beautiful.
March 23rd - I went back to Chasewater to investigate the overflow situation, and because my conscience was burning me badly. I needed to feed those poor swans. The snow still fell, and the wind was evil. This was the worst snowfall I’d seen since the early 1980s, yet I was surprised at the diversity of the a avian population I encountered. Crows, waterfowl, gulls. Pied wagtails hunted what I presume were barely visible bugs over the overflow spillway. They mingled with a small, brown sparrow-like bird I didn’t recognise. Consulting with birders online later, these cute little brown jobs with comical flight and similar feeding behaviour to the wagtails turned out to be meadow pipits, probably brought down by the snow during migration. I was fascinated by the way they clung to the spillway walls.
I needn’t have fretted about the swans, as their mum was there. The Swan Lady and her husband are legendary at Chasewater, and they feed and tend the swans, taking note of absentees and arrivals. The incongruous and greedy flock gathered round their guardians with eager and expectant joy, and much honking. Bless.
March 22nd - I was in the fortunate position of being able to work from home. I watched the snow fall as I worked, and decided to spin out early afternoon. The sky was threatening, the wind still harsh, and Chasewater barren and deserted. But something significant had happened: in the last week, the lake had achieved maximum level, and was now overflowing the exit weir at the back of the Nine-Foot pool, and flowing down the spillway.
This is momentous, and marks the end of the whole sorry dam-repair saga, 3 years after it commenced. The wildlife, and environment, can now recover.
That was an adventure.