January 16th - After yesterday’s tree trapped through a post and rail fence, I was on the lookout for more similarly entrapped flora. Again, in Telford, I spotted this sapling consuming a mesh fence. It’s really quite impressive.
Elsewhere, on the same cycleway, I noted that the moss thinks spring has come. I know nothing about moss whatsoever, but this one is beautiful close up, vivid green and very fresh.
I hope any cold snap doesn’t ruin it.
January 15th - I spotted this unfortunate tree on the cycleway in Telford today. It must have been growing like that for years, and I’ve never noticed it. Oddly, as yet, it doesn’t seem to be distorting the fence…
I love trees that grow unusually in response to their environment.
December 16th - on the Christmas card run again, this time in Chasetown. I also came to check out the Christmas lights here, which at least three people have asserted to me are way better than those in Brownhills. They might well be, had they actually got any…
They do, however, have a nice Christmas Tree. Shame about the ugly fencing around it though.
Chasetown remains as gorgeous at night as it ever does; the combination of close packed shops, a steep hill and quite a bit of character make this a lovely place, really. I still think it would be a great spot for a remake of the car chase from Bullit, but maybe on bikes or mopeds.
Steve McQueen, come back, we need you…
December 9th - After some years of the awful skeletal Christmas tree - literally a lighting column with a wigwam of lights strung from it - it’s nice to see Walsall has returned to the tradition of a real tree, and this years looks great to me. Tonight was the first time I’d seen it, and I must say, it’s a nice one.
Considering a couple of years ago the outrage when the tradition was threatened, it seems to be surviving well.
Welcome to Walsall, the land of political u-turns…
November 2nd - Bakers Lane, Lichfield.
Bugger off, you’re a month too early.
Sadly, Lichfield Council are getting a lot of stick for this. They have nothing to do with it - it’s erected by the owners of the Three Spires Shopping Precinct.
October 17th - This all-consuming tree is still growing healthily at Victoria Park, Darlaston, just by the old railway walk. When I last featured it here - way back on May 23rd, 2011 - the trunk had only just started to reach the second bar of the fence it was slowly and surely consuming.
I pass this remarkable example of natural growth and triumph over the built environment quite a bit, so hadn’t noticed the sum of the incremental growth until today. Note that now, the whole railing is being distorted by gentle, persistent hydraulic pressure. The overgrowth has reached the other side of the wooden kerb too.
There is no strength like the gentle, microscopic strength of nature. And she’s got all the time in the world to do it.
October 11th - One of the odder fruits of autumn is beech mast. Beech nuts have a pleasant flavour if chewed, with a green, dark and astringent taste; they grow in a prickly, hard rough burr husk that falls from the tree after opening. Since a mature beech is of a considerable size, the mast litter under such a tree is often deep, and has a distinct crackle when you walk or ride over it.
There isn’t a hint of moisture in the husks, which are hard, and they put one in mind of something prehistoric, perhaps the scales of some long-extinct dinosaur.
This example, along with several others is growing along the Lichfield Road at Sandhills. They are lovely trees.
September 20th - While taking tea in the morning with my friend, our conversation turned to this journal and the nature of repeat observation, and how you can pass the same place time after time and still spot something new. Happenstance struck in Wall village later in the day, as I stopped to fiddle with my bike in a spot I’d paused hundreds of times before. I have been crossing this point since I was 11 or 12, yet never once have I noticed the walnut tree thriving here. The boughs are loaded with fruit, still maturing in green husks. At first, they looked like limes, and I dismissed that as an impossibility. I thought maybe almonds, then found the remnants of last year’s crop in the grass.
This is the first walnut tree I’ve ever come across. I have seen this one many, many times, but never registered what it was. It seems in rude health, apart from some kind of parasitic attack in some of the leaves which reminded me of oak Knopper galls.
Now, where’s my recipe for pickled walnuts?
December 20th - It was still peeing it down when I arrived at Lichfield - soggy, muddy but exhilarated. The rain was a fun challenge to cycle in, but the traffic was murder. I haven’t been here for a while, and noted, as ever, the excellent Christmas lights. The quiet city gave me chance to get shopping done, and admire the new, Debenhams-sponsored Christmas tree, which, I have to say, is probably one of the best public trees I think I’ve ever seen.
It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas. But wetter…
December 7th - I keep seeing complaints on social media about the state of Walsall’s Christmas tree this year. Since the tree has faced a bit of an uncertain future in recent years, I’m surprised we’ve got one at all; and so I thought I’d take the opportunity to check it out. I don’t think it’s too shabby at all, to be honest. Sat in front of The Crossing at St Pauls - the church cum shopping centre by the bus station - it seems to fit well in what is possibly the only public square in Walsall that works architecturally. Seems decent enough to me…
November 27th - I see Christmas is rolling in, then. I’ve noticed Christmas lights up in Brownhills, a rather pathetic effort in Shelfield and tonight, Walsall Wood’s Christmas Tree was lit up in St. John’s churchyard. This is an interesting thing - Walsall Council long ago stopped buying trees for the lesser, satellite towns like Brownhills and Aldridge, and encouraged places to dig their own hole. Walsall Wood, for the last few years, has had a tree paid for out of the pockets of Councillors Anthony Harris and Mike Flower, a rare and welcome act of personal largesse. I don’t know for sure, but I expect they’ve done the same again.
We may not agree politically, but this is an act of true public spiritedness for which I thank them. Cheers, chaps.
October 25th - Walsall’s first Night Market. I adored these wee rag dolls. They’re absolutely gorgeous. Sold (and I think made) by Jane Sutherland at Banyan Tree Rustics, I think any little girl would treasure one. Beautiful.
December 21st - Recklessly running an errand into Pelsall without my passport, I took a scout round for the village Christmas tree, which was certain to make an excellent photo. There was just one snag: I couldn’t find it. After a surreptitious scout around the obvious locations, I gave up and took some night shots of the principality looking a bit festive. The only thing that came close was a tree near station road, interestingly lit to make it look conical. I decided to quickly move on - some tyke had clearly made off with the Pelsall pine and without my visa, I’d be prime suspect….
November 24th - Tonight, as I came from Walsall Station (always go home with the wind behind you if possible), I noticed the Christmas lights had been switched on. This is a long way from last year, when council leader Mike ‘Blofeld’ Bird was making a big show that there was no budget for Christmas, before u-turning and passing around the upturned flat cap of councillor Anthony Harris and begging enough from business to pay for a tree. It seems our leader has realised austerity is not a vote winner, as this year there’s a full timetable of events planned. The switch on this year seemed to involve a crowd of happy young kids singing round the tree, which does look rather decent in front of the Crossing at St. Pauls. So much better than the lamp-post based wigwam Amey took the piss out of the town with for a few years…
November 22nd - At least is was dry on the way home. Dry and getting colder, but as I shot through Walsall Wood the lights of St. John’s church looked warm in the gloom. I guess there was some event going on there, but I liked the contrast with the dark exterior. I noticed also that Walsall Wood again had a fine Christmas Tree - not yet lit up. This is probably the work of Councillor Mike Flower, who’s personally stepped in as an act of unusual generosity and felicity to get the Wood a decent tree since he’s been elected - a huge difference from Brownhills where they throw a string of pound shop lights over the trees by Morris Miner. Mike’s a nice lad, really. Shame he fell in with the Tories…