April 8th - I took the canal for the commute today, joining it in the centre of Walsall. Haven’t done that for a while, and it wasn’t the best decision I’ve ever made, to be honest. It was wet and heavy going.
Passing Bentley Bridge, it gave me chance to look at the land clearance that had gone on here of late; a whole line of trees and scrub have gone from the roadside of Bentley Mill Way. I assume this is to do with upcoming road improvements here.
I still love that you can see the two spires of Wednesbury from here. But such a blasted, scarred landscape between.
April 7th - Yay! The cowslips are here. Heading back to Brownhills from work, I took advantage of a gap in the rain, and spinning up a sodden towpath, I spotted the recurring patches of cowslips on Clayhanger Common near the Pier Street Bridge.
I’m sure I guerrilla seeded these a decade ago, and they’ve spread beautifully. Since then, further bands of these dainty little primroses have appeared all around the common. Seeing them in flower brings me enormous pleasure.
Cowslips are my favourite flower. To me, they symbolise spring; yellow, hardy, and they appear when the worst is passed. This year, they’re a good couple of weeks early.
The snail seemed quite pleased with them too…
March 28th - It had been a gorgeous day of spring sun, had being the operative word. I had errands to run in Caldmore and Walsall town centre on my return from work, and as I left there, the heavens opened. They opened again as I left Caldmore, and yet again in Walsall. For the third time this week, I got wet, cold and miserable. But hey, I had a saddlebag full of indian snacks, at least.
At 6:20pm, as darkness and rain were falling fast, Darwall Street, the heart of Walsall’s entertainment district, was deserted, but the wet street caught the light beautifully.
Let’s hope for a better weekend…
March 27th - Not a great photo, but the light was terrible as I headed home. This curious matt-brown box with a bright white light on top puzzles many folk heading east towards Chuckery on the New Ring Road in Walsall, just by Queen Mary’s School. It’s an environmental monitoring pod which takes climatic and and air quality measurements, and logs them. It features a host of sensors - the white light is a particulate analyser, shining light through the air and measuring the floating contaminants. There will be wind, temperature, humidity, and various chemical sensors humming away in what is actually a vehicle trailer. The triangular cowl on the front is covering the towing hitch.
This is a fairly expensive piece of kit, being used to tell us what anyone in Walsall already knows; the air quality here is terrible - particularly next to a badly designed junction where traffic is often static.
No shit, Sherlock.
March 26th - It was a grim commute home. The morning had been fine, but cold. Leaving work fairly late, I thought I’m missed the day’s showers so left off the waterproof trousers. This was a mistake. As I headed home through Walsall, the skies darkened threateningly. From the first spots, to a freezing-cold, wind driven downpour.
These shots follow the rain as I I rode into it, and were captured from the ride camera.
I got in soaked, tired and freezing cold. Spring, eh?
March 26th - I cycled to work in bright sunshine, but it felt bitterly cold, although I guess it wasn’t, really. Since it was so nice I took a quick loop of Kings Hill Park in Darlaston. It’s a credit to the people who work hard to maintain it. The spring flowers are gorgeous, the planters are shaping up well and the the place is clean and tidy.
It’s such a shame that Oak Park in Walsall Wood can’t get a fraction of this kind of dedication. A real shame indeed.
March 25th - The commute to work had been wet and quite, quite horrid, but the wind was more or less favourable. The roads were greasy, the traffic was mad. It wasn’t a hugely enjoyable journey.
Later in the morning, I felt rather ill, and was resigning myself to getting a lift home if I didn’t feel better. Thankfully, sweet tea, a lie down and some food sorted me out, but on leaving work during a break in the rain, I just floored it and sped home as fast as I could. I just wanted to be back, safe and sound in the dry and warm.
I noticed in Green Lane near Jockey Meadows the mist was rising off the marsh, and everywhere was sodden again. This is one of the very few places in life I find intimidating in it’s desolation. I felt it this evening. I have no idea why it makes me feel like this.
I took a photo, then pressed on homewards.
March 24th - It was a sunny morning, but cold. But it’s the cold, clear days when Darlaston really shines. Passing through, I still love the place. So many architectural gems in such a quiet, unassuming little town.
A real jewel in the Black Country.
March 20th - It’s been a very, very tough week, and I was glad of the peace and quite when I found myself having to visit Telford. Cycling to Priorslee on the cycleway, spring is on the way there, too; this line of blossom (probably blackthorn, but maybe wild plum - thanks, Linda!) along the embankment was impressive. Spring is really here now, and I’m loving it, even on this dull day.
March 11th - And at the other end, a trip from Blake Street through the backlanes for a change. A fine evening, a fine golden hour. The same sun that shines on inner city Aston shines on the country byways of rural Lower Stonnall, and just as beautifully.
March 11th - On the way home on a sunny, spring evening, with a low sun shining long over Aston. The train stopped and was held for a few minutes, dwelling on a service coming in the other direction before the points could change - as often happens. The doors were open, and I was stood in golden light, frozen.
It’s a snapshot of Birmingham, and why I love it so.
March 10th - I’ve not seen anything like this before. Today, I was travelling from Acocks Green to Tyseley, as I often do. One of the routes I take includes a shortcut down an alley that used to be Rockwood Road, which crosses the railway between Alexander Road and the Birmingham City Mission. On the footpath, just as you leave the railway bridge, there’s an pecuiar, improvised bollard made of cast iron and steel, about a foot high and 8 inches diameter. It bears the legend ‘Great Western Railway Co. Boundary 1888’.
It doesn’t take the brain of Sherlock to work out what it is, but why? I’ve never seen railway property delimited like this before. Further, I must have passed this scores of times without noticing. How did such a trip hazard survive 126 years? Is it listed? Are there more? Is it important historically, or just a curio?
March 6th - The spring evaporated today. On the way home, it rained, and the the wind was horrid. It wasn’t a good day to be out on a bike and I found myself longing for the mild weather to return.
Sadly, the dry towpaths I’d been enjoying for a couple of weeks took a set back into muddy slurry again.
Ah well, there’s always tomorrow…
March 5th - It wasn’t until I hopped on the canal at the Black Cock Bridge and headed for Brownhills that I realised how still it was. The canal was like a millpond, and conditions were really quite silent. It hasn’t been like this since well before Christmas.
There’s definitely a change in the air. It really has been a detestable couple of months weather-wise; I really felt at one point that it was never going to stop raining.
Let’s hope the weather continues on it’s improving path for a while…
March 5th - The nascent spring seemed to tone it down a bit today. It was a nice enough day to commute, but the light wasn’t as good as it has been for the past few days, and it felt chilly. I really wasn’t inspired at all by the light, until I was coming through Walsall Wood and noticed that Jockey Meadows hadn’t really started spring yet. Whilst other places were greening up, it still looks grey and lifeless here. Come to think of it, I haven’t seen the deer here for a while, either.
In these deciduous woods, hedgerows and water meadows spring always comes late.