October 1st - Spotted this bike on the train today. It’s a Cannondale, a brand I’m not keen on, mainly for their curious approach to design and resolute defiance of industry standards.
I snatched these images on the phone, as the owner was clearly happy with his new steed. The bike has an interesting feature - ‘Headshok’ suspension. Rather than conventional front systems, where both fork legs travel together and work in tandem, this system is at the fork crown, and much of the mechanism - dampers etc. - is in the head-tube and between crown and fork.
Initially appealing, it means all the load in work is on one member, rather than two; the system is utterly proprietary, and requires frequent, expensive, short milage interval services. Finally, you only have to look at them funny and they stop working.
There are avid Cannondale fans out there, and many love Headshok. My experience was that it was a whole bag of hurt.
I wish my fellow cyclist all the best of luck with his new bike. I think he’ll need it.
July 6th - Sustrans, the cycling charity who created and ostensibly look after the National Cycle Network are really annoying me locally.
A few weeks ago, I pointed out the baffling signage south of Chasewater on the canal, which appeared to prohibit a good cycling route. Here I noticed similar confusion at the level crossing by Chasewater Heaths station. Face north, and the signage correctly leads you over the crossing, onto the cycleway past the Sportway. Come in the opposite direction, and it shows you’re on Route Five. Or you’re not.
What the hell?
Get your act together, people; you’re supposed to be promoting cycling, not preventing it.
April 3rd - The poor air quality brouhaha at the moment isn’t all hype. As a chap given to a degree of sinus trouble, it’s hell out there at the moment. There’s an appreciable wind, and the air isn’t wet like in normal mist; yet it feels oxygen-less, like being stuck in an unventilated house with the heating on. It makes me feel breathless faster, and stings my eyes, as well as causing a blocked nose.
I’ve never experienced days like these before. I’m used to traffic fumes in the city in high summer, and the effect it has on my hayfever, but I’ve never seen this before.
The New Ring Road in Walsall looked ethereal and grey, even dystopian. But I did notice one thing; that’s a fine weathervane on the roof of the old Workhouse Guardians office, there.
March 30th - The vehicle entrance to Shire Oak Park - which was formerly the main access to the quarry, and the route used by rangers to get into the lower are of the reserve - had the gate damaged and/or stolen about 12 months ago. It was never replaced by Waslall Council’s Greenspaces team, instead being haphazardly blocked with three light planks nailed between the gateposts.
A couple of weeks ago, the one remaining plank was smashed by a truck reversing through it, which then proceeded to flytip a large quantity of refuse.
This is the state of the ‘repair’, one good tug and those planks will be off. The previous, broken one still lies cast asunder in the ditch by the fence.
I support the Greenspaces team and have fought their corner many times. But come on, this is piss-poor.
This really needs sorting properly. If it had been fixed properly previously, the council probably wouldn’t have had to pay for the rubbish removal of the previous week, either.
March 28th - I stopped at the lights at the Spring Cottage junction in Shelfield this morning, and noticed some poor sod dressed as an animal, dancing whilst wearing an advertising board for a local pet store.
There were more of these characters at other junctions into Walsall, and they were still there, dancing in the rain at 6:30pm when I returned.
How I felt for them - how desperate do you have to be to do that for money? They ones on my return were soaked to the skin, advertising a pet shop that had shut for the day.
Welcome to modern Britain. It filled me with sadness at the thought of it. I doubt I’ll shop there again.
February 6th - I’d been in Telford, in a building with no windows. When I came to leave, I realised it was raining fairly heavily. Nothing to do, but don the waterproofs and go for it. The journey was pretty miserable, really; delays at Telford and Birmingham made for a long, damp trudge home, but at least the wind was behind me.
I don’t think I’ve ever seen a continuously warm, wet winter like this. Last year was bad enough, but at least we had variety with the snow. This is just getting boring now…
January 27th - I was stood on platform 5 waiting for a train at New Street Station. I looked up at the odd, tube-like access bridge hastily added as a second access system here in the early 1990s, in the wake of the Kings Cross Fire; because New Street was classed as a subterranean station, it had to have separate access. So cranes added this monstrosity, now out of use.
Looking up in my early morning fug, I noted the arrangement of walkways, barriers, rails and safety harness mounting points spanning the top of the structure.
The only purpose to be up there is to clear the skylight windows.
If you design something, and most of the complex steelwork is to ensure the safety of a window cleaner whose job is to clear less than 15 square meters of glass, you’ve failed as a designer.
Sadly this monstrosity looks set to survive the renovations.
July 12th - Crossing Shire Oak with a saddlebag full of food, I was caught by the lights. The junction is quite, quite horrid, and desperately needs resurfacing. Later on that evening, there would be a serious road accident here, blocking the junction for several hours.
It really was about time something was done to improve this junction or all users.
July 11th - My dislike of the Arboretum Junction in Walsall knows no end. It seems difficult for most users - be they motorised or human powered. It’s particularly bad for pedestrians, who have to use multiple crossings to cross one road - so a simple negotiation can involve four or five waits. It’s horrid.
I noticed this lady yesterday evening. She was still negotiating the junction when I crossed, and I felt quite sorry for her - by road is the easiest way, but it’s very, very intimidating. Nice bike, though, and it looks well used.
The traffic engineers who thought this batshit crazy junction up should be forced to cross in on foot for perpetuity.
November 29th - Walsall Station is an odd, ugly place. The original, stunning and imperious victorian station was demolished in the 1970s and the current concrete and steel afterthought bolted into the then new Saddlers Centre shopping mall. Partially in a tunnel, visually the external aspect is very busy and jarrs the eye. To use, it’s grey, dingy and unpleasant, full of dark spots and blind corners, which multiply and threatenn at night.
An awful place.
September 22nd - a bright, sunshine autumn day. A ride through Staffordshire. My goodness, it was nippy as evening fell. It’s been one hell of a bad year for the oaks. I’ve previously recorded the absolute plague of knopper galls around Brownhills, devastating the acorn crop, and I’ve hardly seen any unharmed ones at all. Out in Staffordshire the story was the same. The ones that aren’t victim to the tiny, drilling wasp are small and sickly, affected by the lousy summer.
I hope they (and we) have a better time next year. To me, oaks are the epitome of the English tree, and when they suffer, I feel we all do a little bit.
July 10th - There’s no end to the rain and grey weather. The light was so poor all day that my photos were all drab, lifeless and depressing. I’m sorry about that, it’s just the conditions. However, it’s July and high summer, and I’m commuting in high viz, full waterproofs and with lights on in daytime. This can’t go on: we must get the sun back eventually. Stuff Chasewater for a week or two, I want to feel the sun on my back and the freedom of cycling in a teeshirt and shorts again.
June 16th - First time I’d been to Walsall on a Saturday for over 18 months, and I quickly remembered why. It may have just been the rain, but the lack of anything decent in the town centre, the grinding misery of the shoppers, and the general air of shabbiness the place wears just ground the joy out of me. I walked up Chuch Hill, and then cycled to Caldmore to pick up my favourite sweets and savouries, then back to Crown Wharf and Maplin. Not finding what I was after, I went for a coffee in Starbucks, and locked my bike to the railings out front, as many others were doing. As I left the retail park, I noted with a wry smile that the cycle parking provided - a large quantity of Sheffield stands - was unused. Hidden away, with no CCTV cover, you’d be mad to lock your ride there. These town planning types just don’t get it, do they?