August 30th - From the top of Shire Oak heading into Rushall, I stopped to admire the view, as I often do. It’s worth clicking on that top image and checking it out closely - beyond Walsall, Dudley Castle is clearly visible to the left. From here one can see just how green and verdant our area is in Summer, and I do think this vista - with the church tower above the treetops - is rather beautiful in summer. I’m still no wiser as to what the tower central on the skyline is.
Further down the Lichfield Road the houses being built on the former St. John’s school site are making progress. Interesting to see the old roof truss still in use on the open gable. In time, the new houses will adjoin the remainder of the old school.
A dull, overcast day, but still plenty to see.
August 28th - A bit of a strange day. I wasn’t planning on going to work, but ended up called in anyway. It wasn’t a bad commute as it happened, and the journeys were pleasant. On the way home, I passed over the The Bridge in Walsall town centre. It was while there that I spotted something I pass by loads, that is really part of Walsall’s furniture; the concrete hippo. It occurred to me that I’d never featured it here before.
Derided and loved in equal measure, this 1970s artwork has formed a meeting point for a couple of generations of Walsallians. Up until a decade ago, the hippo basked outside BHS, and teenagers, before mobiles and social media would agree to ‘see you by the hippo at 12 o’clock’ or somesuch.
For a while, the hippo image was even used to advertise the Walsall Show.
The story of how our town came to have this bizarre object is complex and not without some debate, but I think all true Walsall folk love it. There is talk of a renovation, of fixing the broken ear. I hope they go through with it.
Walsall is full of surprises. A concrete hippo - without any apparent rhyme or reason - is just one of them. And it’s lovely.
August 22nd - At the back of Brickyard Road in Aldridge is a small marina, home to a number of moored narrowboats. Today, the water was mirror-calm, and it makes for an unexpectedly pleasant sight in an otherwise very urban, scarred landscape.
Admiring perfect waterlilies basking in the late summer sun, it’s hard to imaging this oasis of piece is wedged tightly between two landill sites, Europe’s largest toxic waste facility and a working marlpit.
There is beauty everywhere, if you look.
August 20th - I had to pop into Walsall for some bits and pieces on my way home, and so I rode up Church Hill and down the marketplace.
Walsall may have changed beyond recognition in many ways, but that view of the yellow sandstone church at the top of the steps is gorgeous, iconic and unique.
Some things are timeless.
August 14th - I found myself back in Walsall at dusk, having been on a mad dash to Sutton. Finally relaxed and happy, I enjoyed the evening light and a peaceful ride home with the wind assisting me.
Some days are just frantic from start to finish. But it’s nice to feel a very hectic period come to an end. Oh for a few days off and a bit of blessed normalcy.
August 6th - Riding back through Walsall on a warm summer evening, you realise this is the best time of year to see it; the trees around Hatherton Street, Lichfield Street and the poncily named ‘Civic Quarter’ are absolutely wonderful. People run Walsall down as being dirty, post-industrial and architecturally barren, but it’s one of the greenest pieces of urban landscape I’ve ever seen.
Beneath these trees, a town lives and breathes.
If you don’t believe me, get somewhere high, like the New Art Gallery or St. Matthews steps on Church Hill, and look out. Walsall is a green oasis.
July 29th - Sorry, more cygnets. I didn’t know about these, but taking a desperate dive onto the canal to avoid traffic madness on my way to work, I passed this family of three and parents in Pleck, Walsall.
They interested me particularly, as the young are clearly starting to develop white plumage, yet look younger than the Catshill brood (they’re smaller, too).
The adults don’t look any different, though…
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.
It’s the little things that make summer, really.
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.
A fantastic sight.
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.
I have nothing further to add.
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.
Well done, H. D. Ricketts - very considerate.
June 6th - A local pizza company had people dress up in superhero costumes and stand at junctions with placards.
This has not sold me pizza, frankly.
If you use this pointless and demeaning tactic to advertise your business, I’ll not buy from you.
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.