January 31st - It was a day of ups and downs. I had to get to the dentist, which is never pleasant, but the morning was decent, and the long awaited arrival of a new computer was good news. The weather turned about lunchtime, and cleared a little around 6pm. It’s really hard at the moment to find decent photographic subjects in a wet, grey or dark landscape. I find myself really craving spring right now.
I went down to Stonnall, and experimented with long exposures without a great deal of success. The long-distance shot from the quarry gates was interesting enough - although out of focus - to feature here. I did like the ones down onto Main Street, but others I took of the Chester Road were useless.
Some days are just to dark to do anything with.
January 8th - I wasn’t expecting to be caught by the rain this afternoon. For some reason I though the rains weren’t coming in until later in the evening, and I was caught without full waterproofs. To heap on the misery, I had to nip down to Stonnall on an errand on the way home. It was wet, but not cold. I got soaked.
Surely, this rain must end soon? I’m developing webbed feet…
December 25th - A total contrast to the day before, Christmas Day was bright and sunny with little wind. As is traditional, a pre-lunch ride out this year took in Stonnall, Shenstone Woodend, Canwell, Hints, Weeford, Little Hay Shenstone and Lynn. The riding was fast and quiet, and the wet landscape beautiful. Even the young porkers at Shenstone Park were enjoying the sun. A couple of hours working up an appetite, I saw lots of folk out walking, kids trying new bikes and old timers like me just out for a spin. Best Christmas day pootle for a long, long time.
December 13th - Nice to see The Old Swan at Stonnall back open again and under new management. On a very grey Friday, mid afternoon, the car park was quite full, and the place looked homely and warm. Were it not for the encroaching downpour and lack of a bike lock I’d have nipped in for a swift one.
It’s great to see a well-loved house get another chance, and I wish the new hosts well in their endeavour.
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 26th - Heading off to work on a less than inspiring morning. I’m glad to say I’m used to the chill again now, but the greyness is still a bind. As I sped down through Stonnall, I passed Grove Hill. Last time I looked up there, it was a field of oilseed rape, and the tree, now barren, was in full leaf.
There’s a winter crop grown in the surrounding field now, which was young and vivid green, perhaps the only splash of natural colour on an otherwise dismal grey morning.
That hedge still demonstrates soil erosion beautifully, mind. The folks that planted that knew exactly what they were doing.
November 8th - I’ve noted before, that at night Stonnall is a different place. Darkness has a remarkable effect on the dormitory commuter village that I find puzzling. By day, it’s a nondescript, but pleasant place; old houses mingle with postwar new build and a few ex-council houses with neat gardens and an open, if slightly characterless atmosphere.
At night, however, I’m not sure why, but the place develops a wholly different character. The old buildings here come alive, and the new stuff just slinks into the background. You get hints, whispers of what the old village might have been like, before it was sold out to developer and speculator.
Some places seem lost, but retain their essence at certain points. Stonnall does this on dark winter evenings. I remain convinced that the spirit of some places is never lost, just hidden.
November 8th - Nipping down into Stonnall on my way home, I noted The Old Swan was in darkness. I know it had been up for let for a while, and do hope this apparent closure isn’t terminal - after all, housebuilding land in Stonnall is at a premium, and the pub stands on what would be a large site.
It’s always been a fairly popular, community pub, one of two in the village. But for those, it’s a long walk for a beer anywhere else - either Mill Green, Lazy Hill, Shenstone or Shire Oak; none short walks.
I hope The Old Swan finds a new lease of life, I really do.
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 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…
September 25th - If you’re connected with ‘A Licence 2 Drive’ driving school, you may want to have a word with the people driving your vehicles.
One of your cars this morning was driven in such a poor way that I feared for my life, and then a passenger in the vehicle went on to shout and gesture abuse. Is this really the road behaviour competent driving instructors should espouse?
The above video stills are from a video filmed whilst I rode down the Chester Road, Stonnall, this morning. It was raining, and visibility was poor. I had full lights on and high-viz. As I approached the pinch point at the junction with Main Street, Stonnall and the Chester Road, one of your cars - a black BMW mini, BV61AUR - aggressively and unnecessarily cut through the narrow gap dangerously close to me. This was terrifying.
Having done this, a passenger in the vehicle shouted unintelligible abuse and gestured from the vehicle window, then pointed to the footpath.
This behaviour is shocking enough from any vehicle, more so from a car branded with driving school advertising.
As a cyclist, in compliance with the Highway Code, I have a right to space and respect. I don’t expect either to be compromised by those charged with educating new drivers.
September 13th - A grim commute in both directions. The wind and rain had arrived and seemed set to be in for the weekend. I’d suffered a thoroughly enervating week, and had had quite enough. Train delays and overcrowding made for a tough journey home, and I was glad to be coming back along the quiet lanes between Shenstone and Stonnall with a following wind.
The green, the fresh air and smell of the rain cheered me, but it was oh so hard. It’s a long time since I was this glad of a weekend.
September 1st - Seasonal warning. Yes, it’s the hedge cutting season again, when our farming brethren flail the hawthorn hedges, in turn leaving the roads stewn with thorns made of some material that just glides into tyres. If you’re not rocking puncture proofs, avoid Gravelly Lane in Stonnall right now. It’s also quite grim up in Footherley too.
I don’t know why they don’t make weapons out of the same stuff hawthorn spines are made of. They’d never go blunt and pierce absolutely anything.
Like the Murphy’s, I’m not bitter…
August 27th - Is it late summer or early autumn? My dilemma over the seasons continues. I guess we’re in the interregnum now. Cycling back through the lanes of Stonnall this evening, It was hazy and warm, with a light, barely perceptible mist the sun had been unable to burn off. The fields looked gorgeous, and I was fascinated by the impromptu parliament on the overhead lines.
Who cares what season it is? It’s beautiful.
August 21st - To my surprise, the cereal harvest - thanks to largely dry weather - is almost over around Stonnall and Lichfield. Most of the oilseed rape seems to have been cut, too, and fields are now turning back, first to stubble and bales, then bare earth ready for replanting. I don’t think I’ve known a recent year when the process has been done and dusted so quickly. Last year in this field at Springhill, rapeseed was grown, this year, wheat. Wonder what the next crop will be?