April 12th - I got a long ride in today, but the afternoon was dull and overcast and I hardly took any photos at all. I was just too busy, stoking the miles in. I left mid afternoon, and headed out via Stonnall, Canwell and Middleton, then on to the canal near Middleton Lakes. I headed into Birmingham against a fearsome headwind, along the canals of the city centre, then out via Smethwick, Great Bridge, Darlaston and back to Walsall. Picking up some shopping, I headed home early evening. It was a great ride - just about 50 miles in total.
As I came over the Arboretum Junction, I took this from the stopline. Walsall looks gorgeous in the dusk.
February 27th - I’d had a tough day at work, and just wanted to get home fast. I wasn’t in the mood to faff about, and got the first train I could in the right general direction. That turned out to be the service that terminated at Four Oaks. It was a cracking ride home - dry, clear, crisp - a great spring evening. The sunset wasn’t outstanding, but it was pleasant in it’s starkness, and Castlehill looked as beautiful as ever in the half light.
What intrigued me most, however, was growing on a small patch of neglected flowerbed alongside the access ramp at Four Oaks. Violet flowers, looking a bit like poppies. Just the one small group in an otherwise weed-srewn border. Anyone any idea what this delightful flower is, please?
November 29th - I was out early, as the sun rose. I had to go to Telford, and the morning skies were great. It was a shame I was running to close to time to stop and take more pictures. I’d forgotten how wonderful a winter sunrise could be.
At the other end of the day, I returned to Shenstone on a very black, cold and damp night; the weather couldn’t make it’s mind up to be wet or dry. There was a keen breeze that teased me all the way home.
Although it was Friday, the homeward journey was hard, and seemed to take ages. I’m slowly getting into winter mode, but it’s still tough.
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.
October 24th - At the other end of the day, I came back at 6pm, and noticed it was already coming on dark. I stopped briefly at Shire Oak to sort my lights out properly, and reflected on the fact that next week, after the clocks go back, I’ll be doing this in the dark. I’d better start remembering my tripod…
I hate this time of year with a passion.
Septemebr 24th - I came home after a late finish at work full of cold. Still struck low with the weekend’s bug, the going was hard. The dusk fell during the commute, and I became painfully aware that we’re now in the few weeks where drivers seem to be re-learning to drive in the dark. I don’t understand the psychology at all, but up until about the end of November, driving standards at dusk will be very poor. Left hooks, getting pulled out on, overtaking into oncoming traffic. All tonight. I had bright lights and a generally decent road position. There must be a reason for this, I see it every autumn.
Be careful out there, folks. You never know what’s lurking at a bad junction or beyond the oncoming headlights.
July 6th - back to Brownhills in a scorching, still, languid golden hour. By some trick of the light, the High Street looks busy, and beautiful. The canal rendered gorgeous in the sunset.
I’ve waited a long time for this. Long may it continue.
July 4th - I returned to Walsall during a glorious golden hour. The town was largely deserted, and I cycled through an empty marketplace. St. Matthews, up on the hill, looked as imperious as ever, but despite the demolition of the hated Overstrand, the view of the grand old lady of Walsall is still wrecked by far inferior architecture. But get close, and she still beguiles…
July 4th - In Birmingham in the early sunny evening. The city was at ease with itself. In the warmth, folk milled around languidly, and many hung out on the grass in the grounds of St. Philip’s Cathedral, affectionately know as ‘pigeon park’ to kids or a certain generation. People sunbathed, read, chatted and just relaxed.
I love seeing the city like this.
June 3rd - Escaping from a day of tedious paperwork, I broke out at sunset and tore around Brownhills, letting of steam. The air was still and clear, the light excellent, and the town just sunk slowly, and beutifully into evening.
People will tell you this place is ugly, that it is worthless and is a hole. It’s none of these things. It’s gorgeous at times, and it’s home. This evening, with the air coursing through my shirt and power in my legs, I couldn’t have been anywhere finer.
May 21st - An odd day, I was at home until lunchtime, then had to nip out for a meeting. I returned late, and took a spin out along the canal to Chasewaer, and back to Brownhills over the common. The sunset and light were lovely tonight, but not golden. Everything had a soft pink tone, which was rather soft and charming. It looked best over water, whether it was the canal or Chasewater. A splendid evening after a hectic, stressful day.
April 22nd - i’d been working from home on an important project, and not been able to get out all day. I finally escaped as the sun was setting for a short ride. I noticed when not far from home that my front wheel had a very loose spoke, so had to cut my ride short, but I got a decent ride in around Brownhills and along the canal back towards Newtown. The evening was characterised by a magenta/orange light that suffused everything. Soon my favourite tree at Home Farm will be back in leaf, and the view to Hammerwich will look a good bit greener, too.
Still, it was past eight and still warm, and just still light. Hard to imagine that three weeks before this was all under a covering of snow.
April 18th - The evening sunlight was gorgeous tonight. Late home from work, I’d been blown to the station in the morning by the most incredible tailwind, hammering 40+ miles per hour down Shire Oak Hill and making Shenstone a whole 5 minutes quicker than usual. My return from Walsall in the evening was similarly assisted, but to a lesser degree as the wind had subsided somewhat.
It was a beautiful ride, even if it deal feel a little chillier than the last few days.
November 21st - At around 3 o’clock the weather made a sudden about-turn. The sky cleared, the air lightened. Crucially, the rain stopped, and for a brief hour, the sun came out and made the industrial backstreets of Tyseley steam. Heading home at dusk, I stopped to admire the sunset. Maybe that’s why I do this, after all.
September 8th - A great sunset. I’d been stuck in all day working, but my sunset escape was slightly hampered by forgetting my trusty camera, so I was restricted to my phone. Not too bad, I guess, but it didn’t capture a glorious golden hour around Stonnall and Brownhills quite how I would have liked. There was a delicious slight chill, and the sun was low any golden. A wonderful end to a lovely day. These days must surely be numbered now…