April 17th - The minutiae of drainage engineering are wonderful. I’ve been passing this array of manholes for a couple of weeks now, and noticed that new bars had been installed across the covers. It’s taken me ages to work out what they’re for. It’s not what one may imagine.
Opposite a small, automatic sewer pumping station on Green Lane at Bullings Heath, Walsall Wood, there is the concrete cap to what must be a storm buffer. A storm buffer is a large underground tank that, in time of heavy rainfall, collects drainage water and fills up, storing it and allowing slower discharge into the main network to prevent overload. There are lots around and they work well; you can tell this is one due to the large circular ‘cap’ evident with the access covers.
Recently, bars were mounted over the covers. Initially, I assumed they were to prevent access by drainers - a type of Urban Explorer that goes into sewers and storm drains to explore - but they aren’t actually secure. They’re secured with normal nuts and bolts, not locks. A couple of covers in front (not shown), which I think house pumps of valves - are not so protected.
They have actually been fitted to prevent internal pressure from blowing the access covers out. If the buffer filled to capacity due to a storm event, water pressure would increase against the hatches, and lift them out. That would then expose anyone walking through the subsequent flood liable to fall into a very deep, open manhole.
The bars are therefore a safety feature.
I wonder what has occurred, and where, to make this risk suddenly appreciated?
15th April - I noted when passing this evening that the field of oilseed rape at Grange Farm, on the Walsall Wood - Shelfield border was nearly fully in flower. The scent doesn’t seem to have risen yet, but it is beautiful. I love this stuff; such a striking sight in the countryside.
Even quite late this field was alive with bugs, bees and butterflies. Which has to be a good thing…
April 2nd - I spun past the St. John’s School site this morning, and noted it was now almost totally cleared, and it appears the demolition crew have left the site. The one gable remains - in use as a private residence - but otherwise, little trace of 150 years of history is evident, and the scraped ground and piles of crushed hardcore await the next stage.
Of course, the old building had been derelict for four decades, so in many ways, this is already an improvement of sorts - it means progress.
I hope construction will start here soon…
March 25th - Further up Green Lane, I glanced to my left as I winced and grunted my way over the Black Cock bridge, which was harder work than usual. This solitary house, possibly at the end of what may have been Pepper Alley years ago, continues to fascinate me. Back behind here was once a sewage farm and the municipal mortuary. Today, it’s just fields and scrub.
It wasn’t really near sunset, but it was dark, grey and damp. Like October.
Tomorrow will be a better day.
March 25th - The commute to work had been wet and quite, quite horrid, but the wind was more or less favourable. The roads were greasy, the traffic was mad. It wasn’t a hugely enjoyable journey.
Later in the morning, I felt rather ill, and was resigning myself to getting a lift home if I didn’t feel better. Thankfully, sweet tea, a lie down and some food sorted me out, but on leaving work during a break in the rain, I just floored it and sped home as fast as I could. I just wanted to be back, safe and sound in the dry and warm.
I noticed in Green Lane near Jockey Meadows the mist was rising off the marsh, and everywhere was sodden again. This is one of the very few places in life I find intimidating in it’s desolation. I felt it this evening. I have no idea why it makes me feel like this.
I took a photo, then pressed on homewards.
March 21st - Off to the new Screwfix at Walsall Wood in the morning for some odds and ends, I made a point of checking out the flooded bowling green in the old, neglected and dilapidated Oak Park. Still flooded, but with waters receding, it’s still a tragic sight. This used to be the pride of the community, left to become a waterlogged marsh with no sign of resolution. Walsall Council have allowed this to happen with poor maintenance, and stood by as it continued from one year to the next.
This land is supposed to be held in trust for the community to benefit.
The only community benefiting from this sorry mess is the wildfowl one - these two mallards were having a ball.
March 18th - I stopped to look at the Pussy Willows on the canal bank near Walsall Wood, which are currently just going over. The towpath was littered with their debris, and I found them fascinating. Sadly, my attempts to photograph them were thwarted by a blackening sky which, although dramatic, made macro photography impossible.
As I arrived home it began to rain. Looking at the weather forecast, it doesn’t seem great for the weekend, either.
Come back spring, we barely got to know you…
March 13th - So, having got the new camera and charged it up, I tried it out on the way home. I need more time with it, as many settings I’m used to have moved - but I was quite pleased, really. The flowers in Walsall Wood are a credit to the people who planted them, and are really worth a trip to see. The sunset over Walsall Wood, Bullings Heath and Clayhanger Common was great tonight, in all its misty glory.
The lone red deer hind was a surprise as I rode around the new pond at Clayhanger - I almost missed her; she was nervous and high-tailed it away almost as soon as I spotted her. I think they get in the osiers and scrub on the marsh on the far side of the pool, safe there from human contact.
I see the canal boat moorings are still busy at Silver Street, and it’s nice to see the woodsmoke drifting from the chimneys as you pass by.
Not a bad first sample, really.
March 6th - Out for the evening and returning late, the streets were very, very quiet. I sped from Walsall with the wind at my back on silent, wet roads; I even sailed through the lights at Rushall Square on green without having to slow down.
Sadly, the night was more redolent of November than March, but the ride was nice.
Still can’t get past my unease over the eeriness of Green Lane at night…
March 4th - The old bowling green at Oak Park is still flooded, and it still breaks my heart. But passing this evening, it made for a remarkable sunset.
Nice as the scene is, I wish the authorities could fix the flood, and show the park some love. It used to be such a lovely place.
February 26th - It was beautiful as I returned along the canal. The sky was dramatic, and although not a great sunset, the dying embers of the day were still quite beautiful. And the best thing about it? 5:45pm. We really are pushing the darkness back now. I’ve really enjoyed the last few commutes in the relative dry, and it’s nice seeing the ground and countryside dry out a little, finally.
I want this to be spring. It’s mild. The weather is good. Just 3 weeks until we switch to British Summer Time. But I can’t get away from the fact that on the 22nd March 2013, there was deep snow on the ground.
We’re not out of the woods, yet.
February 22nd - Spring certainly felt on her throne in and around Walsall Wood. The crocuses were coming into bloom on the High Street, the Canada geese were developing their customary mating territorial aggression on the towpaths and the display outside the florists was gorgeous. Sadly, on what was probably the best cycling day of the year, I had other stuff to do, and my ride was short - but oh my, it was enjoyable. It’s been so long since the weather felt as favourable as it does now.
February 18th - A great sky tonight, and a good sunset although I wasn’t in a good place to catch it. The day had been showery, but mostly dry and sunny, with a low wind. I really feel right now that the weather is, at last, settling down a bit.
I was on the lookout for good views of the sky on my way home from Walsall, and found myself unable to get any, but plenty of urban textures and skylines.
I bet it was beautiful at Chasewater, or up on Barr Beacon…
February 14th - Valentines Day, but not much love from the weather, which was back to wet and windy. I ‘d been to Darlaston early again, and left in the mid-afternoon lull before the winds really got up. Unlike the ride in, the ride out was again wind assisted and fun.
The traffic was a bit frantic in the wet and I chose to hit the canal again in Walsall Wood. An interestingly wind-cleaved tree near the Black Cock, and cutting across the new Pond and Clayhanger Common the landscape was again sodden and dripping. But there was a kind of peace to it too, which I appreciated.
Crossing the bridge back into Brownhills, the moorings at Silver Street are busier than I’ve ever seen them before (except during a canal festival) - I’m curious as to why. The waterside has been unchanged for a good few years, now, and it seemed to take the boaters ages to discover us. Is it just a pure shortage of places to moor, or the fact that there’s no charge?
Really curious about it.
February 13th - It had been, by any measure, a dreadful day. Work had been a nightmare, the journey home more so. It appeared to be ‘drive like a maniac day’ too, and yet again, I’d not seen the memo. As I came through Bullings Heath on the edge of Walsall Wood, the lights of the Black Cock were like a welcoming beacon. The urge to pull up, lock the bike and have a pint was massive, and compelling. But I was hungry, and needed to eat and unwind at home.
I did the right thing. I took a photo, got back on my bike and rode on. Sometimes, you need to be amongst those you know and love.