December 1st - I swung past St. James Church in Brownhills to check a couple of things out, and taking the path between Great Charles Street and the Church, I noticed how much litter and leaf detritus was gathering there. I’m not sure who’s responsible for this path - whether it’s Walsall Council or the Church - but it’s pretty grim.
I also noticed that in the fantastic covered bike shed in the adjacent schoolyard, two children’s bikes had been left. It struck me as being a bit odd, and slightly sad: who’d go to school on a bike, and not come home on it? Surely the wee ones are missing their wheels?
Few things sadder than an abandoned bicycle.
November 10th - Remembrance. I called in at Hopwas to get a shot of the War Memorial here (there is none at Wall, to my surprise). It was darkening as I arrived, and having forgotten my tripod, I struggled. But this is a beautiful building and a delightful place, especially on an autumn evening.
Hopwas is the most curious, lovely church in all of Staffordshire. There, I said it.Yet what gazetteer or guide breathes it’s name? Who ever mentions this delightful country church?
Sitting in the shadow of Hopwas Hays Wood, high on the hillside, it gives the air of a country farmhouse, with white and timber gables, chimney and leaded pocket windows. Built in 1881 and designed by John Douglas of Cheshire, it’s a building that, to the best of my knowledge, is unique, and in a beautiful spot.
I was glad to see a wreath from the local Scouts, and several crosses. This is a fine place to be remembered.
November 1st - On the other hand around by St. Jame’s Church, things were atmospheric in a different way. None of the street lighting in the paths through the church grounds is working, and the area is dark, peaceful and atmospheric. The photography was poor, but I liked the shadows, the sodium light and the otherworldliness. Must come back and do this with a better camera.
October 22nd - That’s more like it. I returned home from work after yet another wet morning commute on a bright, sunny afternoon. There was a great sunset over Little Aston, and after the recent rainy days I dawdled, loving it.
Ah, for the blessed sunlight.
October 14th - I was in Darlaston, and had to nip into Wednesbury, so I shot over King’s Hill on the way home. It’s a funny area, combining a post industriaair with pockets of modern commercial units and surprisingly beautiful old buildings. This one - the former Kings Hill Methodist Church is one such lovely old building. Sat on the edge of the glorious King George park, it sits unused. It was up for auction on the 5th October - wonder if anyone bought it? It would convert into a lovely home to someone with the imagination (and budget) to do so.
October 3rd - I’m not a big fan of domestic roses - I much prefer their wild, more fragrant cousins. However, even cultivated blooms look great with a fresh rainfall upon them. I spotted these glorious flowers outside Shenstone Church.
A real splash of colour on a very murky day. There’s beauty everywhere if we’re open to it, I guess.
September 20th - Meeting a good friend and respected local historian for morning tea in Lichfield, and time flew by. I took lunch in the city, did a little shopping and returned home through Wall on what seemed like an almost spring-like afternoon. The sun was warm on my back, the birds sang and freshly ploughed and planted fields were emald green with new growth. The peculiarly angular church looked lovely against the blue sky, and had I had more time, I’d have popped in for a look at the Roman remains.
A great day.
July 15th - I snatched a ride out at 3pm, and headed for Hoar Cross. I rocketed through the countryside of Longdon, Handsacre and the Ridwares, only stopping at the old church at Pipe Ridware to take a quick couple of photos. The pretty little building is now a theatre whose latest show was only a few days ago.
I continued to Hoar Cross, and returned via the Needwood Valley,with the countryside looking gorgeous in the hazy, hot summer sun. I was hurrying a 35 mile journey and didn’t stop to take many photos, but it was a lovely, fast ride.
June 8th - From Lichfield, out to Croxall, Edingale, Harlaston and back via Hopwas. The countryside is a riot of colour and biordsong right now. The meadows are stunning with dandeliions and buttercups, oilseed rape in still flowering strongly, and all the fresh foliage glows in the sunshine.
I love the view of the wind turbine from Huddlesford: such a graceful machine.
June 6th - If you’re a cyclist, when summer comes - I mean, truly comes - you can feel it in everything and see it everywhere. It’s not just, or even sunshine; it’s not only warmth in the air. It’s the way people dress, the way commuters are at stations. It’s views that have been harsh, and clear and dark, suddenly being green and hazy. It’s the air of growth, and pollen and lazy meadows. It’s like a beautiful, vague infection that laces all it touches with languor and grace. It renders the ugly, beautiful. It makes dull journeys once more a delight. It’s joyful, and noisy, with birdsong, laughter and insect buzz, be it the riot of open countryside or the human din of an inner city street.
Welcome back, old friend. Stick around this year, you’re very welcome.
May 7th - The ruined second church tower at Shenstone is now in hiding again, behind a curtain of vivid green. Lynn Lane is lined with the same emerald hues. Meanwhile, further away towards Lynn, the oilseed rape looks and smells fabulous, still not yet fully in bloom.
I’m loving this.
March 30th - Off to work early, and a return via Slowloaf in Mellish Road. Rushall Parish Chuch - that of St. Michael the Archangel - is fittingly made from local limestone, and is a handsome, Francophile church with an imposing, tall broach spire. It has a long history, although this incarnation is Victorian. History hereabouts of the village, the hall and environs go back to the Domesday book. All of which are somewhat impressive.
Reflecting on this, whatever aberrant demon possessed the architect of the modern hall, bizarrely erected in the churchyard really needs to be expunged. Sadly, the exorcism wasn’t undertaken quickly enough and similar architectural defecations occurred at many Lichfield Diocese churches in the 80s and 90s; Brownhills, Pelsall, Walsall Wood, Canwell.
They make me think distinctly unholy thoughts.
March 21st - I returned from Walsall in the beginnings of a storm of wet, heavy-flaked snow. It soaked through my jeans, and made me cold, wet and miserable, a mood not helped by the utterly relentless and unforgiving easterly headwind.
Walsall Wood church looked good in the cold night, and the lights of the new Co-op store on Streets Corner - only opened that morning - were cheering.
March 5th - A beautiful, late winter/early spring day. I left when the morning fog was thick and cold, and headed to Telford. As I got nearer the station, the mist was gradually burned off by the sun. I came back to Tyseley later, and it seemed the colour of the day was gold. The mist lingered, and made for beautiful skylines.
This spring thing? I think it could be a goer…
January 27th - The snow, thanks to heavy rain and a sudden ramp in temperature - had gone. Only the remnants of snowmen remained, melancholy mementoes of the whiteness of the week before. The consequent darkness around St. James Church shocked me in it’s foreboding.
I’d been to drop something off to a friend, and the weather was wet, warm and inclement. I cycled up the dark pathway from School Avenue, up past the cemeteries and churchyard, and the church itself was unoccupied at 5:45pm on a Sunday, which I found oddly sad. Brownhills Church is one I’ve always had difficulty with architecturally; It’s not ugly, and it’s not remarkable. Apart from an odd spire and hideous extension, it’s pretty plain, really. It’s position, however, is excellent. It’s like the centre of the town was built around it, and the warren of streets take curious right angles around the grounds.