May 16th - A day without rain, for me at least, and quite pleasant, if a little cold. The rain seems to have made everything bolt - these growing plants, in a field just west of Shenstone - were not evident last week. Wonder hat they are? Anyone know?
May 13th - But my, the skies did look black. For most of the day, and it seems it’s in for the week. I really, really want the fine weather to return.
We need to all wish together…
May 12th - I have a horrid feeling that the three glorious days of the May Day bank holiday were, in fact, summer. Today was wet, but warm, so I donned waterproofs and hit Cannock Chase. It rained steadily for pretty much the whole journey, and the light was awful for photos. There is a huge spread of cowslips at Brindley Valley, and everything else was vivid shades of green - even Rugeley Power Station was surrounded by verdant pasture. The Chase was lovely, and peaceful, and I didn’t see another soul from Rifle Range Corner all the way to Seven Springs.
Anyone would think humans were made of sugar… the forest is lovely in spring rain.
May 11th - I had to go to Aldridge in the afternoon. It was one of those intensely frustrating days when it was bright sunshine one minute, and raining heavily the next. I returned via the canal, always a joy. The view of the marina from Northycote Bridge was wonderful in the sunshine. It rained twice again before I got home…
Hope the warm weather returns soon.
May 9th - The journey home was a tad challenging. I elected to return from Blake Street, to best employ the strong wind that had built up. When I got off the train, the rain was horizontal. Even with waterproofs and wrapped up, it was vile. I’m just glad it was mostly blowing me home, and not against me.
Mill Green looked good, though, and this rain should provoke a growth spurt in the flora.
Let’s hope for a better day tomorrow.
April 13th - Spinning around Brownhills in the rain, it was nice to see a group at the Canoe and Outdoor Centre braving the grim weather. I love to see folk out enjoying the canal and the outdoors, and after recent uncertainty, it’s also reassuring to see the facility in use.
Next Sunday - the 21st April - the centre team are holding a family introduction day, when there will be free taster sessions and fun activities. Why not pop along and check it out?
April 8th - It’s that time of year again. Following the big freeze, potholes and fissures open up in the roads. This is a normal process caused by wear, and the hydraulic shearing action of water under vehicle tyres. I notice many main roads have suffered this year - maybe worse than the side routes. Here at Lichfield Road, Sandhills, ice seems to have lifted and crazes the tarmac, which has broken down to grit - itself dangerous to the incautious cyclist.
Report anything like this directly to the appropriate council using http://www.fixmystreet.com - it’s free and surprisingly effective.
April 7th - I had a shock today. Yesterday, I thought spring was here. Today, I set off in very hazy sunshine for a ride. Looping around Brownhills and up to Chasewater on the canal, I discovered the snow hadn’t quite gone yet. The towpath from Anchor Bridge to Ogley Junction is more or less impassible, with sitting snow and ice to depths of several feet. It took me some time to battle through. Considering it unique, I was further shocked to discover the same situation in Wall Lane, from Pipehill to Wall. That road was blocked to some depth, too.
The only high spot in all this was the swans are sitting again at the back of Sadler Road. Let’s hope for cygnets this year…
April 4th - Time for my usual post-snow warning. The roads are murder at the moment, especially ones where snowploughs have been used. What’s happening is that melting snow that collected grit, marbles and detritus from the road, is concentrating the horrid payload and depositing it on the surface where many cyclists ride.
Hitting the polished gravel - known as marbles to motorcyclists - that gathers over junctions, on cambers and in gutters can be like hitting black ice. Silt and mud can conceal deep potholes and steal your wheels from under you. Debris like sticks, branches and littler can jam your wheels. Until the wind, rain and local authorities have done their cleansing thing, be careful out there.
April 1st - Today is the second anniversary of starting this journal and project. It was 2 years ago that Renee Van Bar challenged me to do 30daysofbiking for a laugh. I just kept rolling ever since. Apart from the infamous two days laid low by a rogue pie over New Year 2012, I’ve cycled every day for those two years. Since 2012 was a leap year, that’s 729 days. That’s a lot of cycling, in all weathers and states of mind, I can tell you.
Today, a new 30daysofbiking starts. Naturally, I signed up…
Today, I took a ride out to Hints and Hopwas, returning via Lichfield and Burntwood. It was cold, and the easterly was still very sharp. But I ground on, and the originally very dark afternoon brightened. In the field near Rookery Wood, Hints, I noticed a first for me this spring: lambs. Not very old, but gorgeous and full of beans. They cheered me immensely.
March 29th - Every easter should have a bunny. This one loped across Pool Road behind the craft units at Chasewater this evening. She seemed to be a bit fearless and I think a bit hungry - there can’t have been much nutrition in the environment this week for a hungry rabbit.
I noticed when the dam works were on that there were a large number of rabbits around Pool Road, many living on the dam itself. I do hope someone is keeping an eye on their burrowing exploits…
March 27th - The winter is still sat upon my shoulders, weighing me down. Today was another day fraught with bad travel connections, and tomorrow doesn’t look to be much better. Waiting at Blake Street this morning, it was bitingly cold, and snowing. Rather than the enjoyment I normally feel when it snows, today, it was just bleak, more of the same. Due to a signal failure, it took me two and a half hours to get to Telford. The circumspect mood did not improve.
Returning from Shenstone later in the day, there seemed to have a been a substantial thaw during the day - many of the fields I passes looked green, whereas they’d been white the day before. However, the larger drifts will take some time to recede. This one - currently preventing any access to Thornyhurst Lane - is huge.
March 23rd - I went back to Chasewater to investigate the overflow situation, and because my conscience was burning me badly. I needed to feed those poor swans. The snow still fell, and the wind was evil. This was the worst snowfall I’d seen since the early 1980s, yet I was surprised at the diversity of the a avian population I encountered. Crows, waterfowl, gulls. Pied wagtails hunted what I presume were barely visible bugs over the overflow spillway. They mingled with a small, brown sparrow-like bird I didn’t recognise. Consulting with birders online later, these cute little brown jobs with comical flight and similar feeding behaviour to the wagtails turned out to be meadow pipits, probably brought down by the snow during migration. I was fascinated by the way they clung to the spillway walls.
I needn’t have fretted about the swans, as their mum was there. The Swan Lady and her husband are legendary at Chasewater, and they feed and tend the swans, taking note of absentees and arrivals. The incongruous and greedy flock gathered round their guardians with eager and expectant joy, and much honking. Bless.
March 22nd - If you can, please visit Chasewater and feed the waterfowl on the boating lake. This mixture of ducks, swans, coots and geese are all ravenous due to the snow, cold weather and lack of benevolent visitors. The swans were so hungry, they forgot to be aggressive. I forgot to bring them food. I felt guilty, they clearly felt cheated,
March 22nd - I was in the fortunate position of being able to work from home. I watched the snow fall as I worked, and decided to spin out early afternoon. The sky was threatening, the wind still harsh, and Chasewater barren and deserted. But something significant had happened: in the last week, the lake had achieved maximum level, and was now overflowing the exit weir at the back of the Nine-Foot pool, and flowing down the spillway.
This is momentous, and marks the end of the whole sorry dam-repair saga, 3 years after it commenced. The wildlife, and environment, can now recover.
That was an adventure.