July 23rd - in the Goscote Valley on my way to work, as the day started to warm up, I was drawn to a continual crackling sound. This always fascinates me; it’s the sound of gorse pods popping open with a snap, and scattering their seeds.
The action is induced by the warmth of the sun, and makes for an interesting diversion on the way to work. I love how the pods rattle musically when you shake the bushes, too.
July 22nd - The Mad Old Baggage noted the other day that buddleia was known as the ‘butterfly bush’ - and she’s right. By a busy roadside in Walsall, the purple, masonry-destroying shrub is quietly reclaiming the built, and using it to nurture the lepidoptera.
It may be a plant of the margins, scrubs and wastes, but buddleia is a bright, beautiful shrub that clearly supports a whole host of bugs - which can’t be bad.
July 22nd - I think this must be the earliest I’ve ever seen ripe blackberries - albeit in small numbers. It’s so early in the season for them, I couldn’t quite believe it. Rosehips, too - summer is definitely cranking on a notch. With the bright sunshine and very warm days of late, so much fruit is ripening.
This is definitely one of the best summers for a good few years. Get out and enjoy it - it’s stunning.
July 11th - My return via Walsall for some shopping took me up through Yewtree, Delves, Highgate and over Church Hill. Rounding the corner on the cycleway, at the foot of the old, disused steps down to The Ditch (that’s the name of a place, honest), a fantastic display of flowers.
What a splendid ride for a Friday at the end of a very, very hard week.
June 24th - Hatherton House, one of the older, more dignified buildings of Walsall, situated on Hatherton Street. That was until it was converted into a nursery, and some arsehatted moron decided to do this to it.
June 10th - Waiting in the queue at the Arboretum Junction in Walsall this morning, I was pleased to note that this Ricketts Ltd. tipper wagon was kitted out with safety features - a reversing safety camera, cyclist warning notice. He seemed to have extensive mirrors too, but I couldn’t get them in shot.
The wagon was driven professionally and courteously, and I couldn’t fault it - it was nice to see. More and more tipper trucks seem to have these safety features - shame they aren’t on some bigger HGVs.
June 6th - I came through Walsall at 4:30pm up the Wednesbury Road, and was met with a large degree of congestion. I’d been seeing smoke from way back in Darlaston and wondered where it was emanating from. As I got closer, I discovered there had been some kind of house fire in the terraces there, and a couple of engines were in attendance. I have no idea what happened, and the incident doesn’t seem to have made the news.
Everything seemed generally calm and under control. I hope nobody was hurt and any damage wasn’t too bad.
June 3rd - I’ve often thought that one of the most attractive things in a person - male or female - is if they don’t realise just how attractive they are. As I’ve got older, I’ve begun to realise this applies to places too.
One of the reasons Walsall is such a gem architecturally - and it is, despite the abuse of it’s more conventional historic assets - is that it doesn’t realise just what a wealth of diverse riches it has. Stop in any suburb or part of town. Look around. Somewhere, close by, there will be something remarkable - not necessarily beautiful, but always engaging. And the town as a whole doesn’t really know.
I came into Walsall from Aldridge and took a route through Highgate. This house caught my eye while I waited for a reversing driver to complete their manoeuvre - just study it; take it in. Possibly not at it’s best, but from the chimney pots down to the front wall the detail is incredible. A fantastic roofline and gables, and the detail in the window arches.
There are treats like this all over this town, and Walsall just doesn’t know about them.
May 7th - I rode back from Darlaston under the threat of rain, but took to the canal for a change. Coming through central Walsall, I stopped to look back at the sky, and remembered the Majorfax chimney, one of the last Victorian skyline landmarks walsall has outside it’s churches. There’s something curious about it that’s barely visible until you look closely.
Someone, at some point, has erected a modern, tubular flue inside the chimney - It’s rain-cowl can just be seen poking over the top. Why would you do that? 25 metres of pipe, in a confined space designed as a flue in the first place. Why not just fit a roof vent next to the stack?
Is it a real flue, or a steeplejack’s joke? Whatever it is, it’s a curiosity.
April 25th - Riding in the rain when the weather is warm isn’t that bad - once you’re wet, you’re wet and with waterproofs, that takes a good while. But after a week at work, when you’re tired, the light is poor and the traffic relentless, you just want to get home, have a shower, put something fresh on and have a decent cup of tea.
These bike cam stills give a flavour of the journey. Like riding at night, it’s mentally very demanding, as there’s more stuff that you have to mentally process, and the traffic tends to be mad.
April 25th - A dreadful commuting day, really, and not a great one at work, if I’m honest. I returned home late afternoon in a rainstorm. The rain was warm, though, and what wind there was seemed to be behind me. Coming from central Walsall after picking up some shopping, I crossed the Arboretum Junction, and whilst waiting at the lights, noticed the surface water problem here was getting worse. In heavy rain, the asphalt here doesn’t seem to shed water, and a 3-4mm covering develops over the entire junction. I’ve never seen any road do this before, and must be a peculiarity of the surfacing.
It’s bad enough of a bicycle. Feel sure someone is going to aquaplane across here one day…
April 12th - I got a long ride in today, but the afternoon was dull and overcast and I hardly took any photos at all. I was just too busy, stoking the miles in. I left mid afternoon, and headed out via Stonnall, Canwell and Middleton, then on to the canal near Middleton Lakes. I headed into Birmingham against a fearsome headwind, along the canals of the city centre, then out via Smethwick, Great Bridge, Darlaston and back to Walsall. Picking up some shopping, I headed home early evening. It was a great ride - just about 50 miles in total.
As I came over the Arboretum Junction, I took this from the stopline. Walsall looks gorgeous in the dusk.
April 11th - A great day up until 4pm, then all hell broke loose. I returned home late, and was doubly slain by two separate punctures. I didn’t mind too much though, as the air was warm, the sun was out and well, it could have been worse.
What better than daffodils to cheer you up? The displays this year on Walsall’s verges and greenspaces have been terrific. This patch in Shelfield has been particularly gorgeous.
My compliments and thanks to the people who plant and tend them. They cheered up one weary, beleaguered cyclist this evening.
BrownhillsBob biked every day for the thirty days of April 2011, part of the #30daysofbiking project, but enjoyed the process so much that he carried on. Over three years down the road, he's still cycling every day and recording a little bit of every journey.