September 18th - From the Indian, back to the Indian summer. Darlaston, in and around Victoria Park. The leaves are turning and falling, and the park as clean and perfect as usual. Surrounded by beautiful houses, I will not cease banging on about this jewel of a place until everyone gets it.
I was intrigued by the scarlet berries on the holly-like evergreen; copious and beautiful, they seem to be holly, but the leaves don’t look much like holly leaves; more like a cross between laurel and holly. A curious thing.
Anyone know what it is?
September 17th - The Indian summer continues. It’s very dry, and the air quality is surprisingly poor, but it does make for a lovely atmosphere. Returning home through Shelfield in just a tee shirt, I was captivated by the soft light and landscape.
All autumns should be like this.
September 16th - We’re in a real Indian summer at the moment - back to cycling around without a coat, with the sleeves rolled up. The sun has been shining, and the soft, mist-suffused light - particularly in the afternoons - has been a joy to the soul.
Autumn isn’t far away, though; the trees are turning, and when the sun goes down, there’s a distinctive nip in the air my chest and bones recognise only too well.
Here on the Lichfield Road at Walsall, the atmosphere and colour were gorgeous. I love how the trees are sculpted on the underside by the double decker busses that regularly pass under their boughs.
This has been a great season, and a good year.
September 12th - Conkers, by the shedload. The tree in Festival Gardens, Lichfield is laden with them again, despite being ravaged by leaf miner. Last year, due to the season, they were small, but this year, a better size. They’re thick on the ground in their shiny, brown glory.
Like all men, I’m programmed to pick up conkers whenever I see them. They are beautiful, like jewels in leathery, nutty perfection.
September 12th - I needed to pop into Lichfield, so I rushed there from work, then took a leisurely spin back. Festival Gardens are really nice at this time of year, and I wasn’t disappointed. The trees are now perceptibly turning, but still green. I love the willows here, and the purple flowers and bulrushes on the Trunkfield Brook were nice.
The odd subway here has always fascinated me. From the way its lined with corrugated steel, I think it’s very old. Don’t think I’e ever seen one like this before.
September 10th - I’m not on form this week, not even slightly. Yesterday I got in and complained the wind had been against me both to and from work, and it was pointed out to me that there was next to no wind. Today, I forgot my camera and had to use the phone. I hate that. Oh dear.
I stopped on the way to work to answer a call. Pulling over in Rushall, I realised how autumnal it looked. This is a lovely Indian summer, but I note the leaves starting to fall, and colours slowly changing.
As autumns go, this is up there with the best so far. I just need to get things a bit more together…
September 7th - More fungi today; spotted in open pasture near Longdon, glistening ink caps, and lycoperdon puffballs and rhizopogon earthballs (I may have some, all or none of that wrong, I leave fungi to experts). Considering the relative conformity of plant life in the UK, fungi like this looks almost alien and distinctly odd.
I think that’s why it fascinates me so much.
September 6th - Well, it’s coming on to autumn, and one of the positives about that is fungi. It looks set to be a bumper year, too - caps, toadstools, polypores, puffballs will all put in appearances in the coming weeks.
These gorgeous shaggy ink caps - edible when young - were growing on Brownhills Common, in a spot where I’ve not seen them before. Pretty much perfect specimens.
September 3rd - I’d been to Redditch for a meeting. I don’t go there much these days, and it made a nice change, to be honest. Nicer still was an early finish, and riding back from Sutton, I chose to ride up through Little Aston Forge, a route I also hadn’t ridden for ages.
I must have passed those lovely cottages on the hairpin loads of times over the years, yet I’ve never noticed the pear and plum trees in the hedgerow opposite. The plums - they seemed a bit large to be true damsons - were well over now, but it looked like there had been a decent crop.
The pears had suffered from pests, and some were frost damaged, but the ones that survived were large and beautiful.
I really don’t know why I’ve failed to notice these before…
September 1st - And theres the thing. Although I’m sad for the passage of summer, I’m returning home in the golden hour. Soon, the time of great sunsets will be here.
The sky was terrified this evening, and the dying sun caught the trees by the canal beautifully.
I always think I can’t do it, but I can. There’s beauty in every season - bring it on.
September 1st - It really is coming on autumn now, and it’s getting me down a little. Cycling to work down Scarborough Road in Walsall on a grey Monday, fallen leaves already scatted on the road, it’s hard not to feel sad for the passage of another summer.
I feel this one has been good; it hasn’t seemed very wet, and although August was a tad grim, the previous months had been great. Sadly I’ve not got out for longer rides this year much at all, with a combination of work and family pressures and a healing, but still troublesome foot injury - but commuting this summer was a real joy.
It’ll be a while until this season gets beautiful, and I’ll be low for a bit yet. Every year, as I get older, this transition seems to be the hardest of the year. I’m wearing a jacket again more and more, soon the scarf and full gloves will be back out of the drawer, and dark evenings will be upon us.
Oh well, down the hatch. It’s still quite green…
August 30th - I don’t go to Shire Oak Park nearly enough. This Local Nature Reserve, which was once a sand and gravel quarry exploiting the bunter sandstone ridge on the crest of Shire Oak Hill, is a wonderful and rare place. It’s teaming with wildlife, from rabbits to amphibians, mustelids to owls. In this sandy, sheltered enclave, deciduous trees like oaks and birch (and even the odd maple) are thriving, and the outside world seems a long way away.
The reserve is maintained by Walsall Council and on this dull Saturday afternoon, it struck me how clean and litter free the place was. Like all such spots, there’s occasional nuisance from ASB and the odd idiot, but this is a lovely, little known place.
The heather in bloom is gorgeous here, but as with everywhere else, the oaks have had a bad year, with leaf miners and a lack of acorns startlingly evident. Also, I was puzzled by the white appearance of the unrecognised shrub I spotted by the main steps. Can anyone help? Is this disease, pest or normal?
August 27th - Just on the canal bank between the Black Cock Bridge and Walsall Wood Bridge, a crab apple tree with lots of good fruit.
This is the first tree along here I’ve seen with fruit this year. Normally there are three or four.
A sad reflection on the season, which seems to have been a bit strange. But never mind, this will make a lovely jelly for someone.
August 26th - In the backlanes between Stonnall and Shenstone (I’m not going to say where) there are a secluded row of apple trees. I’ve known of them for years, and they always seem to grow decent fruit. This year, they’ve excelled themselves.
The apples aren’t huge, but there are lots of them. There are several varieties, Cox’s, Russets, and I think Granny Smiths. The Russet I nabbed was sweet, juicy and ripe, the Cox too.
I always love to see these apples.
August 26th - The day was better, I guess, by virtue of being dry, but when I set out for a tentative ride mid-afternoon it was cold, and a harsh wind blew. It wasn’t a bad October day, I thought.
I’m taking it easy. My foot isn’t completely better, and I thought I’d see how far I could push it before embarking on longer rides again. I looped up to Chasewater, then down to Wall, through Chesterfield and Hilton, back to Lower Stonnall, then home. Apart from a bit of toe-burn, not too bad.
What did impress was the fruits I saw. A terrific year for large, plump conkers; the tree at Edial between Burntwood and Pipe Hill is laden, and although suffering leaf miner damage, has a huge crop this year. In a few weeks standing at that bus stop could be hazardous.
At Wall, the walnut tree has a crop too. After finding it last year, I didn’t expect it to fruit this year too, but it has, with the lime-like ripening walnuts hanging from the boughs. I picked up a few windfalls, which were firm and large. When ripe, the green husks will split to reveal the more familiar brown nut inside. That’s if any survive the squirrels.
The Walnut tree also seems to have some kind of leaf miner activity. There are ‘blisters’ on some of the otherwise healthy, waxy leaves. I wonder what the bug is?