BrownhillsBob's #365daysofbiking

August 18th - He was only a kitten, really; a sharp eyed, keen whiskered black and white mog exploring his world. This is where I saw the smokey grey pedigree chap a few weeks ago, just on the far side of the canal at Barrow Close in Walsall Wood. 

Puss didn’t seem bothered about me, and was initially hunting something in the water. Foiled, he took a drink instead.

A lovely lad with a smudge-black nose and a remarkably long tail. Oh, to be an inquisitive young cat in summertime…

August 18th - If you haven’t noticed by now, I love herons. Adore them. I make no apology for featuring this one, just a day from featuring the last one - this was was on the restored embankment at the Black Cock Bridge in Walsall Wood.

Love the way he had his back to the water, and was stood on one leg, resting pensively.

I could never tire of watching these fellows.

April 16th - Spinning up to Screwfix in Walsall Wood, I noticed that the bank  restoration works near the Black Cock Bridge were still ongoing. It seems that after the sectional piling was installed, earth has  been spread to the level of it and dropped in front.

This work has primarily been to stabilise the bank and counter erosion, and is not to do with subsidence, as some have asserted. It is interesting to note at this point, that the fall from the embankment on that side is very steep, and the consequences of a breach on that side could be severe.

I do hope they get around to stabilising the brickwork on the other side, though, it’s falling away and is still hazardous to users.

August 13th - The wind had changed direction slightly, and the rains were scarcer, but conversely, the skies were far more threatening. As I headed home to Brownhills, I was struck by the drama of it. I’m not greatly struck by Humphries House in snow white, but it doesn’t half show off an angry sky well.

Hope it settles down a bit for the weekend.

August 12th - Sweet rain fell in short, sharp showers as I rode home, often out of an almost totally clear, blue sky. The weather is certainly odd at the moment; the wind has been quite strong and it’s been very changeable.

I’ve forgot in this really quite dry summer the music of rain falling on the canal and leaves as I pass. In summer, it’s an occasional delight to the senses.

So long as it doesn’t become too frequent..

August 4th - He was fishing in the canal from the gardens at the back of Barrow Close in Walsall Wood. He is absolutely gorgeous, and I think I’m in love. He has to be a pedigree.

Look at the length of that tail! A fine cat whose staff should be very proud.

July 31st - It’s not lightly or without thought that I feature this, but it is part of rural life that’s becoming increasingly common on urban roads, too.
This is a dead badger, spotted at the side of Green Lane, Walsall Wood yesterday. Adult, large, and in generally good condition, he had been hit by a car. Either carried or finding his way to the hedgerow, he looks like he died peacefully there.
There ain’t a whole lot of road sense in your average badger, and they’re becoming increasingly active in urban areas like Brownhills. Please take care when driving at night, as these creatures often stumble out of hedges and verges.
They are heavy, and solid, and will do damage to cars if hit at speed, but to those on two wheels, they can be deadly.
Watch out for Brock, please.

July 31st - It’s not lightly or without thought that I feature this, but it is part of rural life that’s becoming increasingly common on urban roads, too.

This is a dead badger, spotted at the side of Green Lane, Walsall Wood yesterday. Adult, large, and in generally good condition, he had been hit by a car. Either carried or finding his way to the hedgerow, he looks like he died peacefully there.

There ain’t a whole lot of road sense in your average badger, and they’re becoming increasingly active in urban areas like Brownhills. Please take care when driving at night, as these creatures often stumble out of hedges and verges.

They are heavy, and solid, and will do damage to cars if hit at speed, but to those on two wheels, they can be deadly.

Watch out for Brock, please.

July 30th - It still seems too early to me, but it’s the time of the fruiting and berries now. I’m very familiar with the sticky red berries of honeysuckle - the glaze attracts dust and grime and makes them look grubby - but birds and bugs love them, although they’re mildly toxic to humans.

The white berry here I’m familiar with, but have no idea of the name. These used to grow on the front of a house I’d pass on the way to school, and the berries popped delightfully when thrown at the ground; this is what’s making me think they’re early. I’d have been plucking them in September, at the start of a new term. It’s barely the beginning of the summer holidays right now.

Anyone know their name?

July 29th - The harvest actually started a few days ago, but I was in too much of a hurry that night to get home, there was no time to stop and take photos. This was a field of oilseed rape, on the corner of Green Lane and Mob Lane, just by Grange Farm, in Walsall Wood. The dry plant has been harvested for it’s tiny, black seeds, threshed out of their pots by complex harvesting machinery. The pods, chaff and stalks are shredded, and sprayed back out on the ground to be ploughed back in.

Once the harvest starts, you know the season is marching onwards…

July 27th - After a day of unexpected but nice things - a meal out, some good family time, a bit of productive bike spannering - I slid out on a finely-tuned steed to enjoy the cooler air that had come in during the day. At the canal in Walsall Wood, near the Black Cock Bridge, the embankment strengthening I recorded last week has come on apace. The sectional piling now seems to be working it’s way up to the bridge itself, and is fascinating to see. 

I heard last week from a comment on Facebook that residents here had been waiting for this work for years. It looks like a decent job, and I hope it solves their problems.

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 21st - The lads are still working hard in a field further up Green Lane. The small herd of cattle continue to live in the watermeadow, which is looking noticeably more cropped than it was. The cows themselves are all looking in fine fettle - but I do have a soft spot for the brown and white one.

Is it me, or does he seem to be smiling?

July 20th - A day coloured mainly by the sad news of the loss of a good man, but as I rode the canal mid-afternoon, taking it gentle, I reflected on life. I noted a family of 4 cygnets and mum - dad seems to be gone - doing well up in Walsall Wood. I think they’re from up the canal in Pelsall. They are healthy birds, clearly getting by just fine.

Further down the water at Catshill Junction, the swans from Catshill still numbered seven youngsters and two parents. Nature is cruel, but the cycle of life continues.

I’ve grown very attached to these birds, have many of the local residents. It’s odd that we take such beautiful but grumpy and obstreperous characters to our hearts, but we do.

We feel great sadness at the toll of nature, and predators. But that’s the roll of nature’s dice, and it was ever thus.

And life continues, as it always has.

July 20th - Last week, I noted a quantity of sectional piling had been delivered to Ogley Junction maintenance yard ready for a job locally. I wondered where the site was - and now I know.

My attention was drawn by a couple of readers to a work cabin appearing at the Black Cock Bridge, and it seems the work is being done on the embankment at the rear of houses in Bans Close, Walsall Wood, fifty metres or so from the bridge itself.. 

The interlocking piling is driven into the bank to strengthen it, and minimise the effects of erosion. Here the canal runs above ground level, and the embankment is built up to it, and the top level of the bank is only a couple of inches above the waterline.

Surveyors were here in the spring, and left their telltale spray paint and post datums, and this must be the result - fixing up the canal and securing it in a weak spot for another few decades.

Let’s hope they attend to the erosion on the towpath side, too.

July 3rd - Cleavers, or sweethearts as they’re colloquially known hereabouts are fascinating little things. A creeping, grippy weed, it elevates itself from the ground by hooking on to other plants with it’s spiny, sticky hairs. The seeds themselves employ the same mechanism of almost velcro-like attachment, adhering well to clothing, feathers and animal fir. 

The owners of dogs and cats with longer coats will know well the hours spent picking these devilish little balls out of their animal’s hair… but as a seed dispersal tactic, it’s brilliant, as animals preen the seeds out, and they germinate where they land.

Natural engineering is damned clever.

I’ve no idea what the bug is, but he’s an interesting wee thing.