BrownhillsBob's #365daysofbiking

On a bike, riding somewhere. Every day, rain or shine.

#365daysofbiking Sucked down

Monday, October 12th 2020 – Back to the rain and grey. Such is the season.

I’ve been ignoring as much as possible the nights closing in, for my hatred of the darkening in Autumn causes me to get down if I think about it too much, but this evening, leaving work only a little later than usual, I hit The Suck.

The Suck is the season of commutes from when they start occurring in darkness until about Christmas, until motorists are used to the dark and bad weather again. All through this period, riding a bike home especially, is more arduous mentally and more hazardous. Unused to the gathering murk, drivers seem less attentive, more aggressive and riding safely in traffic requires absolute attentiveness in a way it doesn’t in daylight.

At around Christmas the hazard wanes as the traffic is more used to the lack of light, and the pressure and aggression gradually eases.

This evening, at Rushall feeling mentally flat, I realised how hard I’d been concentrating and that for another year, the traffic was sucking me down.

Be careful out there folks. Every other person on the road is someone’s child. Let’s look after each other.

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#365daysofbiking The long valley road

Sunday, October 11th 2020 – My wish was granted: It was a great day when the sun shone and the countryside steamed in the warm October sun. Sadly I didn’t get out until late afternoon, but still managed 70 miles.

I’d been wanting to do the Churnet Valley in autumn for years: The cycleway from Denstone on the old rail line, and Red road from Alton to Oakamoor were made for the season. I came back down the valley via Farley and Wootton Deer Park to Ellastone which was an absolutely magical golden hour ride on lanes I’d never ridden before: Thoroughly gorgeous and captivating. I must return.

The Churnet Valley – best known for the execrable Alton Towers theme park – is actually one of Staffordshire’s most wonderful places and is so much more than the gimcrack fairground attraction and is almost – with that imperious castle overlooking – a mini Loire Valley.

I came back via Ellastone, Marston and Sudbury, then blasted with the wind behind me down the A515. I just wish there had been more time.

What a difference a day made.

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#365daysofbiking Rising damp

Saturday, October 10th 2020 – A dreadful, wet autumn day of the kind that makes you want to hibernate for the whole winter. Everything was wet: Doing jobs about the house meant walking muddy water in and it was best just staying put and plan for better days and decent rides out.

Hopefully Sunday would be an improvement.

I escaped late in a lull in the deluge and did a short loop of Brownhills, yup to Anchor Bridge and back through Clayhanger. At Anchor Bridge you’d be hard pressed to spot the effects of the rain – – but the towpaths were too sodden to ride and a telltale sheen on the tarmac belied the all-pervasive damp.

I picked up a curry and headed home: Even on this short ride I felt grubby and wet. Hopefully better days will come soon.

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#365daysofbiking The united colours of autumn

Friday, October 9th 2020 – Some rides start out pretty badly, but you plough on and realise how wise you were to do so: This was just such an instance.

I wanted to be out. I’d set my heart on it, but mechanical problems delayed me, and not more than a couple of miles from home, it rained heavily. It was cold and I was feeling grim.

But I persevered and the sun came out upon a sodden south Staffordshire and I headed to Hoar Cross over Armitage and Rowley.

I returned via Woodmill, Morrey, and up the A515.

Amethyst deceivers were found near Chasewater, their vivid purple colouring marking them as one of the UK’s most beautiful toadstools; there was a cracker of a rainbow over the Needwood Valley as I rested on the bench at Hoar Cross. And the day wrapped up with a gorgeous autumnal sunset.

I went out feeling distinctly blue, but nature showed me the whole spectrum and I returned much happier.

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#365daysofbiking The sisterhood

Thursday, October 8th 2020 – It’s coming up to the best time of year to view the twin sisters – the churches on top of the hill at the centre of Wednesbury.

Another of my favourite subjects here, these gorgeous but differing spires – of St Mary’s Catholic Church and St Batholomews Church of England – nestling above the leafy, urban slopes are a maker for me, and an illustration that the Black Country is not quite as outsiders might imagine.

Of course, like many urban churches, time has been kinder to these sisters than one would imagine: They once shook to the thump of drop hammers and buzzed with the huge amount of industry they overlooked, but now their parishes are quieter and, dare I say it, nicer places to live.

To see this lovely view from Kings Hill Park in Darlaston is a joy, and as autumn matures the view will only get better, reminding me that however far I might stray, this is my place, the Black Country, and where my heart and soul lie.

Hope they can sort the clock soon…

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#365daysofbiking Really Greet

Wednesday, October 7th 2020 – I was once again visiting a client near Tyseley, and the meeting was done and dusted quickly. I’d got there by hopping onto a train to Aston, and dropping on the canal. On my return, I visited one shops in the Balti Triangle for snacks, treats and ingredients, then rode back on the canal home.

Birmingham’s inner city captivated me as it always does – but the plight of it’s Victorian pubs is concerning me, with the Swan and Mitre in Aston up for auction again, and the Marlborough in Greet still decaying, slowly.

Few things comment more eloquently on urban decay than stopped public clocks.

It was, of course, the canal and its culture that was the star. Nice to see Anatomix’s Tangram Fox is still proud on the side of the Bond, and Bill Drummond has been at it again under Spaghetti junction. But the colour was not limited to the graffiti: Autumn is really setting in now.

A lovely ride on a nice day – but quite chilly.

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#365daysofbiking This endless world of water

Tuesday, October 6th 2020 – Coming back from work at a more reasonable hour, I ventured onto the canal for the colours of autumn, and although they were beginning, everything was still decidedly emerald in tone.

It had been raining heavily, periodically throughout the day – frequently at the same time as sunshine – and the towpath was sodden.

The Canada geese didn’t mind though, and just mugged me for corn a usual.

Always nice to see and hear the overflow in full pelt. Such a life-asserting thing.

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#365daysofbiking Late of this parish

Monday, October 5th 2020 – Again back late from work, I passed up Pier Street past the new houses to the High Street. It was very late in the evening, a ways after the pub closing time now of 10pm, and Brownhills was deadly quiet; only the sound of the odd lorry and hissing air con and refrigeration plant at the nearby Tesco punctuated the night.

I turned to look back down the pedestrianised street from where I’d come, and realised the sudden change in the weather had brought on the colours of autumn.

I said a few posts back that night photos could actually be more colourful than ones in daytime…

There’s your proof.

I’m amazed how leafy this street has become in recent years. It’s becoming quite lovely.

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#365daysofbiking Becalmed

Sunday, October 4th 2020 – It’s been a horrid few days: Autumn has really swept in now with high winds and near constant rain that thankfully, petered out in the afternoon and allowed me to get some tasks sorted.

Dashing about still at dusk after popping to friends, I crossed the Silver Street bridge in Brownhills, another night-time favourite for the lights on the canal.

It was peaceful, but still damp and with a heavy week to come, I wasn’t feeling too positive. But the weather does seem to be improving a little and all things must pass.

In the solitude of the Peter-Savilleesque bridge, I felt instantly calmer and just a little more at peace with myself than I had for days.

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#365daysofbiking Surface water

Saturday, October 3rd 2020 – What was I saying about bad days and beauty? As if to challenge me, a truly foul day when the rain and wind barely ceased.

I busied myself with work, domestic tasks and a little bike maintenance, shooting out after dark to get a takeaway in.

As I came back from Walsall Wood, I realised the roads were empty, and there was something eerily stark about the Coppice Road Junction.

Here’s hoping for a better Sunday!

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