June 13th - I took a diversion from my usual route to Darlaston and hopped on the canal, which was lovely, despite the wet weather. As I passed by the old mill at Pleck, I noticed that an old bike was still taunting me from the open side of the goods hoist. There used to be two in there, but one has disappeared. It still looks like an old steed - note the sprung saddle - but it seems to be fitted with triple derailleur gears. It might be a bit of a mongrel, as although the wheels look chunky, the frame looks quite dainty. Whatever it is, it’s such a shame to see it trapped there in the tower, like some velocipedian Rapunzel.
June 13th - At Birchills, on the way to Darlaston, I spotted coot chicks. They’re impossibly cute. I could have taken them home.
May 23rd - Cycling up Market Place, Walsall, early evening, I noticed this piece of graffiti on the buildings closed to make way for the Primark development. Painted from the canopy, you have to admire the tenacity.
I actually think it adds interest to an eyesore…
April 18th - The evening sunlight was gorgeous tonight. Late home from work, I’d been blown to the station in the morning by the most incredible tailwind, hammering 40+ miles per hour down Shire Oak Hill and making Shenstone a whole 5 minutes quicker than usual. My return from Walsall in the evening was similarly assisted, but to a lesser degree as the wind had subsided somewhat.
It was a beautiful ride, even if it deal feel a little chillier than the last few days.
April 12th - Back in Brum for the day, and I loved it. I don’t mind commuting further afield at all - an enjoy it when the trains work OK - but it’s nice to be in Birmingham, my city is always a joy. Today started damp, and somehow I managed to just miss the rain all day. But every leg of my travel was threatened by dark, heavy cloud.
It was lovely, though. The skies were dramatic and photogenic, and the air of grim threat made my legs spin a tiny bit faster. But most of all, it was warm. I don’t think it reached ten degrees, but after recent weeks, the wind was warm. The air was warm. I cycled with an open jacket.
That’s what was lovely, even though the wind was against me all the way from Walsall.
April 6th - I had to go to Walsall, and the spring was definitely here. Still that cold, cold wind, but when I stopped, the warmth on my back and face was beautiful. After visiting the bank and running a few errands, I cycled around Walsall Arboretum. It really looks good now, and I can’t wait to see the trees with some leaves again. Walsall, too, was reawakening. A great day to teach a child to ride a bike, or photograph your toddler in the park.
April 2nd - Something odd happened on the way home tonight. Spring came to me.
I came back through Walsall - when I entered the railway system at Telford, it was dull and cold. When I emerged, blinking into the light on Platform 1 in Walsall, the sun was oddly warm on my back. It was still bitter, and the easterly that sapped my essence on the way home was worthy of any winter, but I could feel the warmth. Pulling my gloves on in the odd entrance tunnel to the orphan platform, I noted the sunlight shining in from outside. From the Black Cock Bridge in Walsall Wood, it could have been an evening in April.
I was knackered, but spring is finally tapping on my window. Welcome back, old friend.
March 28th - Walsall’s second Night Market was great, I really enjoyed it. I didn’t expect these to be anywhere near as good as they are, as on the face of it the idea seems a bit daft. They succeed due to an eclectic range of traders and an almost festival-like atmosphere, which is most unusual for Walsall. Well done to all involved.
Despite the biting cold, there was a fine turnout.
My only reservation is the same as last time; why not incorporate this into a late shopping evening? Again, almost all the local shops were shut, which seems like such a wasted opportunity.
It’s like the market is happening outwit the normal retail boundary of the town, rather than enhancing it.
This was worth the tortuous journey, and I look forward to future events.
March 7th - Today was grim. The commuting weather was as miserable as it gets. It felt quite warm, but there was a persistent rain of the kind that hunted out the gap between collar and neck, or any slightly-open zip. The traffic was mental, and everything seemed to be functioning half-asleep.
Coming home from Walsall Station, I noticed the taxi rank at the side of the station seemed to be afflicted by the wet-day madness, and I found myself waiting at the lights at Rushall Square, stoically bracing for some idiot to cut me up.
I’m sure there’s valuable research to be done on why many drivers brains turn to porridge in wet weather. A real puzzler.
February 28th - I mentioned last week (at least, I think it was last week…) that Walsall has some really interesting architecture above street level. Making it back to Walsall in the daylight, I took a quick scoot around. Chineys, on Park Street - when did they last see smoke? The mosaics, still on the front of the former Priory Hotel. Crests, cupolas and cornices. The Edwars Moore building is beautiful from the front, in Leicester Street (look at the upstairs windows), but equally so from the rear. There’s fantastic detail in those chimneys. Yet the building is scarcely noticed.
Walsall still has some gems.
February 19th - A couple of snatched, quick photos in Walsall this evening, proving why we should always look up, especially in towns. Stood outside of the Saddlers Centre in Park Street, I was putting on my gloves, and idly studying the roof-line. Never notices the balustrade around the very top of WH Smiths, or the lion head corbel on the building next door, which has some very handsome windows.
I think it’s time to go exploring…
February 18th - In Lower Forster Street, Walsall, there’s a quiet revolution firing up. The Backyard Brewhouse - one of two microbreweries in Brownhills - has bought this closed pub, The Fountain, and reopened it again. By all accounts, it’s a fine house.
It’s an interesting, old-style back-street boozer, sadly surrounded by the remnants of the Jabez-Cliff building, but none the less lovely for that. There are few enough real ale houses left these days, so it’s a real pleasure to see a new one - especially when it’s selling good, local, Brownhills-brewed ale.
I wish the folks behind TheBackyard Brewhouse the best of luck in their venture.
February 6th - At the other end of the day, at Walsall, delightfully in the half-light at 5:30pm, the sunset was beautiful, and it was dry. I loved the lights, and the sky, and yet again, the exaggerated vanishing point the elongated geometry formed.
I don’t know where my love of railways at night comes from. It’s not about trains, or the experience of travel. But the light, the signals, the dark and the interaction of machinery and landscape. The windy sweep of trains passing through, and often the solitude. I think it’s from my childhood but can’t place why, exactly.
Back in the 1970s there was a record label called Late Night Feelings. One of it’s logos was a beautiful, childlike crayon drawing of the then new Intercity 125 speeding through a darkened station at night, with a pair of children watching on the platform. That’s exactly how I feel.
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 26th - Had a wry laugh at this one. Noticed yesterday that the sign was still up trumpeting the new Pier Street footbridge, over the canal in central Brownhills. The bridge is a fine thing indeed, linking as it does Clayhanger and Brownhills in style, replacing a steep-stepped footbridge that was awful, frankly.
I was unaware of Walsall Council’s ‘Drive to regenerate Brownhills District Centre’ - wonder how that’s going?
Would the last business to leave the town please switch the lights off and feed the deer? Cheers.