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.
March 25th - Further up Green Lane, I glanced to my left as I winced and grunted my way over the Black Cock bridge, which was harder work than usual. This solitary house, possibly at the end of what may have been Pepper Alley years ago, continues to fascinate me. Back behind here was once a sewage farm and the municipal mortuary. Today, it’s just fields and scrub.
It wasn’t really near sunset, but it was dark, grey and damp. Like October.
March 23rd - The Chase is still very muddy. This is a normal speed clip, from Castle Ring to Stonepit Green this afternoon. Top speed about 30mph. I was absolutely plastered in mud. But by heck, it was funn.
February 17th - I had to be in Burntwood in the late afternoon for a meeting. After the spring of the day before, it was drizzly winter again, although the wind was still low. I quite like Burntwood, and more so Chasetown, although I’ve still yet to receive a funding offer for my planned remake of the chase scene from Bullit, on bicycles, down the sharply inclined High Street.
It occurred to me today why the place looks more prosperous than Brownhills - it’s the fact that a high percentage of buildings on the High Street are homes, not shops. Therefore, there’s a normal, bustling, lived-in atmosphere. It’s an interesting effect.
I love the Old Mining College, too. It’s long since abandoned it’s mining role, and is a community centre. Sadly, many of its services and staff are falling victim to budget cuts, which is a tragedy. It’s a wonderful thing, and well-loved by the community.
February 11th - After the snow stopped the day in Telford was dry and sunny.
'Never mind' they said. 'It'll be dry for the journey home' they said.
I left Walsall in the dry, without putting waterproof trousers on. 5 minutes later, when it was too late, the heaven opened, and then the rain turned to snow. For the second time today, I was wet, cold and fed up.
At least no one can ever accuse me of being a fair weather cyclist.
February 11th - The weather is getting worse, not better, but did hold an unexpected surprise for me today. I set out in the morning to the station, and the rain was heavy with a harsh wind. Even with waterproofs, I got soaked, and sat on the train dripping, miserable and cold. Fortunately, the subsequent train I caught to Telford was very warm, and dried me out a treat. This was by far the worst commute I’ve had for ages.
At Cosford, the torrential rain had become heavy snow, and was setting fast. When I alighted, there was about 10mm. Although wet and cold, it was a delight to see and cycle in, and I enjoyed the scenery and spectacle.
A couple of hours later, the sun was out and all the snow melted away. Glad I caught it, though.
February 6th - I’d been in Telford, in a building with no windows. When I came to leave, I realised it was raining fairly heavily. Nothing to do, but don the waterproofs and go for it. The journey was pretty miserable, really; delays at Telford and Birmingham made for a long, damp trudge home, but at least the wind was behind me.
I don’t think I’ve ever seen a continuously warm, wet winter like this. Last year was bad enough, but at least we had variety with the snow. This is just getting boring now…
February 5th - One step forward, two back. I was again out early, and returned mid afternoon, and unthinkingly clashed with the school run yet again. I hopped on the canal as I did the previous afternoon - but the the day’s downpour had transformed the drying out towpaths of the day before into slimy, slurry-smothered watercourses once more.
Whoever’s doing the rain dance, you can stop now. Honest, it’s OK…
January 30th - The return was equally wet and grey - but did have the added excitement of wet, sleety snow. The sluices are still shut at Chasewater, and everything is still sodden and muddy. The photography was awful. I was glad to get home.
It was nice to see Morris in the snow though, even if it was very short lived…
January 29th - The rain finally caught me as I left Walsall. The wind had changed, too, and I found myself mashing into driving drizzle and a distinctly cold headwind. Is this the beginning of a cold spell, I wonder?
As usual on rainy days, every good photo was into the wind and therefore impossible. But I did notice the lights of the service station in Shelfield, which always look attractive, but I never stop to photograph it.
It loos so welcoming - I fuss that’s the idea. It’s one of the way markers of my commute - when I see it, I know I’m halfway home.
January 17th - I went up onto the Chase. It wasn’t an inspiring afternoon - there was a good sky, but the light was poor and it seemed to be mostly on the point of raining. The forest was stunningly bleak and beautiful as it ever is in it’s winter jacket, but the going was made tough by the sodden ground. The trails and tracks were all muddy soup, and I was covered in it.
All I want is a week or two without rain, with some bright days. I don’t care if it’s warm or cold - but snow would be nice. Just an end to this ceaseless damp.
January 10th - I don’t know where the rain came from. It had been a decent day, but I’d not taken any photos, but then I came to ride home and it rained quite heavily. For the second time this week I was caught without waterproofs, and I was not amused.
As I crossed the lights at Shire Oak I noticed the pub was busy. Apparently recent changed hands, it looked welcoming and friendly on an otherwise wet and grim night.
January 7th - The nights are opening out already. This makes me happy. Stood on Tyseley station, it was pretty much still light, which was an improvement. It had just rained, and everything shone. I liked the lines, the perspectives, the lights. Tyseley Incinerator chimney acting like a windsock, an approaching train. The lights of the Birmingham skyline.
Late night feelings again. I never get bored of this.
January 5th - It was a thoroughly horrid afternoon. Windy, wet, dark. I went out with a heavy heart, and didn’t find much of interest in the immediate area, so I spun out to Shenstone down the very wet and muddy backlanes.
Visiting the church, I was again reminded what a gothic, ugly edifice it is. I’ve never liked it; it’s a perfectly competent architectural design, it’s just not to my taste. I find the dark grey sandstone, and heavy Victoriana dismal. Even the gargoyles look desperately unhappy.
Compare St. Johns, Shenstone with any other local church, say Hopwas. Hopwas is a place you’d feel happy to give praise in, to wed, to christen; Shenstone looks like a place to go and endure, repent and suffer - it’s full of foreboding.
More interesting to me is the old tower in the churchyard; crumbling, it’s the remains of an earlier church. Perhaps it would have been better left.
Down in the village,I headed to the Lammas Land - a strip of parkland along the Footherley Brook. On the way, I passed The Plough In, busy, bright, inviting. Newly reopened, it’s good to see. It had been derelict for a few years.
BrownhillsBob biked every day for the thirty days of April 2011, part of the #30daysofbiking project, but enjoyed the process so much that he carried on. Over two years down the road, he's still cycling every day and recording a little bit of every journey.