BrownhillsBob's #365daysofbiking

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

#365daysofbiking First

Wednesday March 30th 2021 – Sorry for the grainy phone photo, but I found something on my way home tonight on Clayhanger Common that always fills me with joy.

First cowslip of the year.

I know cowslips will never win any wards for complexity or outstanding beauty, but these humble members of the primrose family are so gorgeous, and herald the spring like no other flower.

Coming as the daffodils fade, they assure you that summer is indeed on its way, and when I was a child, were very rare in these parts.

Thankfully, due to declining weedkiller use, improved habitats, and guerrilla seed scatterers like me, Clayhanger Common and other grassy areas are now awash with this wonderful wildflower.

Seeing the first one of the year is always a joy to the very soul.

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#365daysofbiking Surprises along the way


Tuesday March 30th 2021 – I’m enjoying riding back from Telford so much I’m doing something I’ve not done in years, really – blindly exploring. I’m varying my route to find the best one, and today, I had an extra hour to play with as I left early. So at Stanton Hill, near RAF Cosford, I took a dive down Neachley Lane.

My word, it’s gorgeous. A lovely, quiet, long downhill run through woodlands. I loved ever turn of the pedals.

Then, as I left Bilbrook heading Coven, Brinsford ways on, I was looking for a decent backway – they’re thin on the ground in this motorway and trunk road bisected area. I found one on the map – part of the Monarch’s Way from just north of Pendeford to Coven Heath. It crossed the motorway via a pedestrian bridge, and wound around the side of the Landrover Engine Plant, horridly called ‘I54′.

Skirting a building site, it was an interesting and worthwhile route – but the best thing was the surprise I found on the far side of the motorway: A huge solar farm.

It’s so good to see this sort of thing and I just love the technology of it. I stood and admired it for some time.

I’ve passed this spot many times on the motorway to Telford, without ever realising the solar farm was there.

This my friends, is what’s great about riding a bike.

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#365daysofbiking Certainly not mad, well, maybe not

Monday March 29th 2021 – When I said here the other day that I’d been riding home all the way from Telford I had a message telling me I must be mad. I strongly disagree. I’m getting more bike/open air time, my mental health is improving daily as is my physical heath. This lockdown porkbarrel will not be in a hurry to depart at my decrepit age, I can tell you. It needs this kind of help.

It isn’t that far. I wouldn’t do it in bad weather, or if very tired. There’s always the rail alternative. and there’s the sights one sees: Like today. Riding near Brewood, the plethora of pheasants were tricky from a safety point of view (they have no road sense) but they are such handsome birds and their antics can be hilarious.

But I had most time for the tiny black puss I met on the edge of a stable yard at Coven: In beautiful condition with the kind of piercing green eyes that make you feel guilty for the sins of your elders. Puss sat her ground (sure she was female) and stared me out resolutely. She was gorgeous.

I got home feeling happier, more relaxed and better physically than I’ve felt for weeks. And only 20 minutes later than had I gone by train, and 30 minutes later than driving.

That’s all win while the weather is so nice.

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365daysofbiking On a lost day like this

Sunday March 28th 2021 – I had errands to do for a relative. They did not go well, but that didn’t matter really as the weather was windy and often wet, and the wasted time did not matter so much.

The only splash of colour in a grim day – The first of British Summer Time – was found in the forsythia growing by the canal at Catshill that I noticed on my return at dusk, at a pleasing 7:40pm.

Forsythia – immortalised in a great song by the band Veruca Salt that US college rock fans of a certain age will know well – used to be really popular in the UK as an ornamental shrub, but seems to have gone out of fashion. It forms a mass of yellow blossom before coming into leaf, and is truly gorgeous.

The reason for it’s decline I can only guess at, but wonder if people confused it with the highly poisonous and similarly yellow laburnum, which flowers much later but there was much anguish over in the 80s and 90s, leading to it’s steady decline.

It’s nice to see, especially on a lost day like this.

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#365daysofbiking Windswept and happy

Saturday March 27th 2021 – The long rides of summer are underway now, fittingly on the last day before British Summer Time starts.

The day was characterised by a very strong southwesterly,

There was some sun from time to time as I and a friend headed up the A515 to Hoar Cross, Newborough and over Marchington Cliff to Woodroffes, the lonely church on the hill overlooking the Dove valley and Uttoxeter.

From there, down to Uttoxeter itself, along the cycleway to Doveridge and over Roston Common to Ellastone and that gorgeous bridge on the frontier.

From Ellastone, the weather turned grey and rain periodically joined the harsh wind. But it didn’t matter: Up over the Weaver Hills at dusk, down Star Bank into Oakamoor and along Red Road on the Churnet Valley floor by night, listening to owls and enjoying the oddly now warming up air.

Home was via Bramshall, Loxley and Rugeley. A terrific ride of more than 80 miles that was totally enjoyable. Great to be back.

Interesting too was the Peli case we found chained to the guard rail by the Trent between Kings Bromley and Yoxall: An Environment Agency water quality monitor, it had sensors in the water, presumably monitoring particulate and runoff pollution from the demolition site of Rugeley Power Station. Great to see.

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#365daysofbiking Behind me now

Friday March 26th 2021 – After a long day at work, I stood in the dark yard at work astride the bike ready to ride home.

I looked at the bike computer, which gives me sunset and sunrise times and noted sunset had been at a nicely round 6:30pm.

Just one more day and British Summer Time begins – the clocks go forward an hour and light floods back into my evenings. As you all know, I hate the dark in winter, and I’ve never known a winter as dark, persistently challenging and as devoid of light spiritually as the one now behind me.

Unlike many people, a few known to me, who did not make it through this far, I am still here, still riding and made it through. I remember those we lost with sadness every day.

Never have the light, and the summer days been so welcome.

Let’s ride into the warmth and sun together.

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#365daysofbiking The run of the mill


Thursday March 25th 2021 – Another beautiful spring day with a little sunshine warmth – but wrapping up was still necessary.

For the first time in a good while I came back from Darlaston to Goscote on the canal and flipped to the McClean Way (formerly the Goscote cycleway): I avoid this route in winter as the towpaths tend to be very slippery and hazardous despite their recent resurfacing.

But they’ve dried up now, and a lovely potter back through Walsall getting acquainted with old friends. No sign of swans nesting yet, though.

Birchills lock flight looked splendid in to the low sun, as did the millennially constructed flats complex forming part of Smiths Flour Mill, which up until the 1990s was a functioning flour producing plant.

Outsiders would never suspect Walsall had such splendid spots right in its heart like this.

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#365daysofbiking A beautiful mystery

Wednesday March 24th 2021 – I have no idea what the two species of flower in this photo are, but they’re thriving in the spring flower patch planted a few years ago in the grass beside the entry to Kings Hill Park near the old chapel.

Gorgeously violet and china blue, the crocus and miniature daffodils are passing now and handing the baton to these delicate wonders.

I don’t know who planted that patch of  flowers there but they did a beautiful thing.

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#365daysofbiking Thick and fast now

Tuesday March 23rd 2021 – Up on the Hortonwood cycleway in Telford, the signs of a new growth year are everywhere coming thick and fast now, and one of my favourites is just emerging: The hornbeam leaves.

Gorgeously green, ridged in a beautiful way with delicate serrated edges, few new leaves are so beautiful.

It’s a lovely thing to find and a great way to kick off the season proper.

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