October 7th - Autumn is still merrily and beautifully doing it’s thing, although at somewhat different rates.
In Wednesbury, the gorgeously shimmering red-brown willows I spotted last week have been joined by beautiful ochre-orage beech trees (At least, I think they’re beeches). The contrast and effect are stunning, even on a grey, damp morning.
On my return, Jockey Meadows is still quite green; fitting really, as this was the last place I noticed to green up in spring. The cows have long ago moved on from this water meadow, but they cut back the scrub considerably, and the effect is still lush and verdant, all under a wonderfully dramatic sky.
Beauty, even on dull, miserable days.
November 13th - As I waited for yet another late train at Blake Street this morning, I gazed at the rails. The train service has been lousy of late - continual staff shortages and equipment failures have made the system terribly unreliable. This particular service hasn’t been on time for a fortnight at least. Normally at this time of year, London Midland, the local train operator, would institute a ‘Leaf fall timetable’. This is a much derided, but little understood thing. Falling leaves lie on the rails and get pulped by the train wheels, creating a slippery, sappy lubricant the causes wheels to slip and brakes to become ineffective. The pulp also forms an insulator which prevents signal detection functioning.
A leaf-fall timetable allows drivers to go more slowly and allows rail cleaning trains to operate in-between passenger services. The cleaning trains spray gelatinous substance on the rails called Sandite, which as it’s name suggests, contains sand to counter the grease. The rails I was looking at had clearly just been treated, and the residue could be seen. This is a huge problem for trains worldwide and not unique to the UK.
I’m unclear why there’s no leaf fall timetable this year, and the services on the Cross City line are woeful. Combined with cancellations due to staff shortages, bad signals and train breakdowns, I bet they’re losing punters hand over fist.
November 2nd - I know I keep banging on about the autumn and Arrow Valley park in Redditch. It’s just that the season, and the place, are very beautiful right now. The past few days have been a tad miserable, but when the sky has lightened, it’s really highlighted the colours of autumn. Here, near Ipsley bank, the sycamore and willow leaf fall, whilst treacherous, are rather lovely to cycle through, and a joy in the early morning.
October 17th - I noticed today in Redditch that the leaf fall had started in anger. With the buffeting winds, there was a large amount of leaf-litter on the roads and cycle paths. This is fun and beautiful right now, but something to beware of when the rains come, as they are scheduled to this evening. The first significant rainfall and subsequent traffic will mulch nature’s debris into a slimy, soapy goop that can whip your wheels from under you. Fellow cyclists, beware of this treacherous, slippery and often unexpected hazard.