December 10th - Walsall Wood again has a Christmas Tree that must be the envy of the borough. Purchased personally by local councillors Mike Flower, Anthony Harris and Pete Sears, it’s an act of generosity I admire and respect. I’m a million miles from them politically, but you have to recognise the clear community spirit in the lovely tree they donate.
Wee done, chaps. And thank you.
November 22nd - The great sunsets continue. Sadly, I was in the wrong place to catch today’s properly. On my way home from work, I had to pop to Aldridge, and dived onto the canal to avoid the traffic. As I came back through the wood, the dying sun set the sky ablaze. Just wish I’d had a better view. Bet it was spectacular at Chasewater.
November 12th - I had something important to do in the morning, had had planned to take the rest of the day of, but I got called in to work. In Walsall Wood on my errand, I noted with sadness the seasonal lake is filling up at the original Oak Park. This was once a bowling green.
It would bring tears to a glass eye. This water will stay here until spring, and nobody at the council - whose responsibility this virtually abandoned public park is - seems to give a toss.
November 9th - A strange day. I was at work very, very early and spent the day tired, misplaced and spare. I wrote a little, did some bike mechanics, slept an hour or so. When I emerged, it was after dark and I had a desperate run to Walsall Wood on an errand I left way too late. On the way back, I experimented with the evening townscape. From Hollander’s Bridge, the road that no longer bears the same name looked almost dreamlike, and somnambulant. Binary Wharf, nearby, looked impressive in the street light. Even Bullings Heath, once tiny hamlet but now extension of Walsall Wood seemed villagey again.
What is it about night, the urban landscape and this atmosphere that I love so much? It’s almost addictive to me.
October 30th - The flytipped fridge problem continues. Recently, the law changed and scrap yards can’t accept old chiller appliances, which must now go for specialist recycling. Sadly, people are still leaving them out for scrap men, who strip the easiest to separate metal parts, and flytip the rest. Dumped fridges and freezers are currently a huge issue for local authorities all over the country.
When you leave stuff out for the tat men, you are encouraging this scumbag behaviour - please don’t do it.
These are in Green Lane, Walsall Wood, just past the houses beyond the Black Cock pub, just pushed off the back of a vehicle into a lay-by.
This is what happens if you fiddle with waste disposal legislation without thinking through the consequences.
October 24th - At the other end of the day, I came back at 6pm, and noticed it was already coming on dark. I stopped briefly at Shire Oak to sort my lights out properly, and reflected on the fact that next week, after the clocks go back, I’ll be doing this in the dark. I’d better start remembering my tripod…
I hate this time of year with a passion.
October 18th - Autumn colour abounds along the canal banks, hedgerows and open spaces. The leaves are really falling now, the nights are drawing in and we won’t see a post-6pm sunset for a few months. Amongst the crimsons, golds and yellows of the season, a lone honeysuckle flower, defiantly awaiting the first frost.
It’s been a great summer, and like the Bullings Heath honeysuckle, I can’t quite accept it’s now passed.
October 16th - Autumn is in full swing now. As I cycled down Green Lane from Shelfield to Bullings Heath, the golden hour pre-sunset sunlight caught the hedgerow and set it afire. It was so lovely, I had to stop and take a photo.
Maybe this autumn thing can work out after all…
October 8th - Also in Walsall Wood, change is incremental. This was once the site of Walsall Wood Library. A squat wooden hut, it wasn’t much, but I spent loads of time there as a kid, just as I did at the one in Brownhills. The library was moved into a better building some years ago, and the plot stood derelict and empty for ages. Planning applications came and went, and finally, the site has become a car sales showroom.
You’d not think a library was ever here; but then, you’d not think there was ever a working men’s club where the gym is next door, or greenspace where there’s now a vile-smelling KFC.
Those cars are parked on my memories.
October 8th - Today, I cycled past Rod, the Walsall Wood angler. I’ve never been fond of this artwork, even though it is modelled on David Evans, local character and contributor to my main blog. Rusting so badly now that the writing can barely be discerned, Rod had his copper fish stolen some time ago.Since then, wags have hung alternative objects from the angler’s pole, namely a gold wellie boot and olympic rings. Rod is symbolic of the fortunes of the Wood; unveiled in a public artwork binge ostensibly to record the village’s mining past, he sits corroding, while the real mining memorial - the original Oak Park - also decays.
October 8th - I noted today as I passed that the Wheel Inn is still derelict, and slowly rotting away. I had thought the former pub - or at least, the land it stands on - may be in for a renaissance a year or so ago, when the new gates went up beside it, and some attempt was made to clear the yard. Sadly, this has not been the case, and the building remains forlorn, unloved and an eyesore.
I wish whoever owns this once fine boozer would take responsibility and either demolish or renovate it. It stands on Lindon Road, a grim welcome to Brownhills for any arriving traveller. I wish the owners could be forced to clean it up.
October 2nd - I know I keep banging on about this, but it’s on my mind and I’m seething about it.
This is the original Oak Park in Walsall Wood, on the south east side of the 1970s leisure centre bearing the same name. This park was for decades - and in my living memory - a neat little park with flowerbeds, tennis courts, public bowling green and paved paths. I think there was even a putting green. It stands on land held in charitable trust to be used for the enjoyment of the local residents, created to give miners and their families a lovely open space to take the air and enjoy the greenery.
On this basis, the popular and well-used leisure centre overlooking it was built, and the faithful flock to nearby Walsall Wood FC on match days. Sadly, Walsall Council who are charged with the upkeep of the park have let it slide into decay and ruin.
The flowerbeds are overgrown, the public bowling green floods every winter. Tennis courts locked out of use, the surfaces being reclaimed by weeds. The one manicured trees are overgrown. Walsall Council doesn’t care for this once lovely amenity and would rather we all forget it exists.
To me, this is sticking two fingers up to the memory of those for whom it was created.
Shame on these who would neglect our civic heritage.
October 1st - One of the relatively unsung heroes of the hedgerow is Hawthorn, or May. It’s dark red fruit - haws - are maturing well now. Full of goodness, they stay in good condition on the branches and provide sustenance for the birds in the darkest depths of winter, when softer, more palatable fruits like blackberries have long gone Just like they will with garden Cotoneasters, blackbirds will defend a laden bush at all costs against other birds, and haws are bitter enough to only be eaten out of desperation.
Hawthorn is the mainstay of most rural hedging, and populates a lot of woodland. It really is the stalwart of the great British hedgerow.
September 25th - Autumn is here now. I hate the interregnum between summer and autumn, neither one thing nor the other. I like Autumn - or at least, come to like it - when the leaves turn and the colours turn from green to gold. Despite the oddly warm weather right now, it’s starting to happen. A creeper in the hedgerow near the Black Cock Bridge has gone a deep, dark red, and along the canal to Brownhills, yellow and brown are starting to insinuate themselves into the trees and thickets. It’ll soon be time to get up into Abraham’s Valley on Cannock Chase, and capture the glory of the pines turning for another year.
Septemebr 24th - I came home after a late finish at work full of cold. Still struck low with the weekend’s bug, the going was hard. The dusk fell during the commute, and I became painfully aware that we’re now in the few weeks where drivers seem to be re-learning to drive in the dark. I don’t understand the psychology at all, but up until about the end of November, driving standards at dusk will be very poor. Left hooks, getting pulled out on, overtaking into oncoming traffic. All tonight. I had bright lights and a generally decent road position. There must be a reason for this, I see it every autumn.
Be careful out there, folks. You never know what’s lurking at a bad junction or beyond the oncoming headlights.