BrownhillsBob's #365daysofbiking

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

#365daysofbiking Waiting for a train

May 23rd – Spotted waiting for a train at Blake Street, an urbane puss undertaking some grroming duties whilst loafing on the platform like so many commuters do.

This utterly unfazed, handsome and elderly-looking cat just continued with the maintenance while a train came and went only pausing to scowl at me for daring to take his photo.

Long time since I met a railway station kitty. A pleasure to make this one’s acquaintance on such a lovely morning.

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#365daysofbiking The wind that shakes…

#365daysofbiking The wind that shakes…

May 23rd – Seemingly very early to me, but probably not: The barley is growing beautifully in the fields all around us at the moment. Every year seems to have a different crop that local farmers major on, and this year beans and alley seem to be the popular choices.

Barley is an odd crop aesthetically: it’s spiny heads interact with the wind in a beautiful way and the colours are stunning, yet close up it seems almost hostile and maybe just a bit insect-like.

Either way, it’s a sign of the rapidly advancing summer and made for a lovely sight on a beautiful morning.

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#365daysofbiking Station approach

May 22nd – Something that’s mostly been happening beyond my notice although I pass through regularly is the rebuilding of Wolverhampton City Railway Station. All of a sudden I notice from a waiting train that steelwork has sprung up and hoardings have been erected at the north end of the old station.

I don’t get the hate for Wolves station. It’s a bland, semi-modernist, semi-brutalist station in the postwar style common in the midlands on the West Coast Main Line. Save for the signs, at Wolverhampton you could be in Stafford, Tamworth, Coventry. It’s light, it’s open, it’s dull but functional.

My only criticism really is the steep access bridge and weird separate bridge for lift access. But it works.

Now it seems we’re in for a new structure, with new facilities and it’ll be interesting to see how it develops. I hope it’s better in outlook and ambition than the risible New Street revamp, and also that it has more aforethought and usability than the monstrous, ill-conceived access bridge at Telford.

Frankly, I’m not optimistic.

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#365daysofbiking By any other name

May 22nd – One of the joys of late spring and well into summer are the various varieties and colours of wild roses that populate wastelands, hedgerows, thickets and any edgeland that’s relatively sun-blessed and open.

In Telford on the way to a client meeting, the cycleway from the station to Hortonwood is lined with splashes of pink – from pale, almost white to deep, deep almost purple. And without exception, they smell divine.

Unlike cultivated roses in parks and gardens, these wayside stars get little or no care and just do their own, dishevelled thing – and to me that’s far more beautiful than some preened and nurtured hybrid.

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#365daysofbiking A tense situation

May 21st – Not many people realise, but one of the reasons we see so many herons on local waterways at this time of year is that these large grey dishevelled fishers will also take young waterfowl chicks – moorhen, coot, ducklings, hatchling cygnets and goslings.

It’s not nice to think about, but herons have to eat too, and it’s why waterfowl have large clutches after all.

Today, in Pleck, Walsall I watched from the towpath as a tense situation developed: A pair of Canada geese with three goslings were heading into the path of the watchful eye of a heron, who was clearly looking for lunch.

The heron stayed put, statuesque, but the parents had spotted it. They halted their progress, and after what seemed like a silent debate between the parents, Dad honked loudly and aggressively at the heron. Heron was clearly irritated by the attention and took flight – the geese shouting what must have been abuse after it.

But, being a heron it landed again, a mere 100 yards down the canal.

Poor goslings have to be lucky all the time, the heron? Only once.

Nature, red in tooth and claw.

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#365daysofbiking Locked out

May 21st – On a late journey to work following a meeting near home earlier, I tried to get on the canal at Smith’s Flour Mill, on the New Walsall Ring Road – but I was thwarted by…. A flood.

I’ve noticed this happen here before: Someone leaves both paddles open on the lock above and I don’t think the overflow sluice next down the line – the lowest in the Birchills flight – can handle it. As a consequence, the pound between floods under the bridge.

The cause  appeared to be inexperienced boaters who were in the lock above, looking a bit helpless.

I contacted the Canal and River Trust local team who came and sorted things out.

At least it should clean some of the detritus of the path under the bridge…

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#365daysofbiking Until next year, my springtime companions


May 20th – On the subject of things yellow, a seasonal sadness.

I guess it’s coming on summer now, and the first flush of flowering is well and truly over: the daffodils and tulips are long behind us, and late spring flowers like bluebells are dying off – as is my personal favourite, the cowslip.

Cowslips for me epitomise spring and the optimism of a new growing year; bright yellow, delicate and prolific now, they were once rare and I cherish seeing them as I ride around the area.

The ones I set on by guerrilla seeding at Clayhanger are going to seed now and I’ll have to wait 11 months to see these jolly characters again. But it’s be oh so worth the wait.

In the meantime I’ll carefully watch the seed heads develop and dry until the precious seed within is ready to collect, and I’ll gather a fair amount and sprinkle it in places where I think we need more springtime joy.

Until next year, my springtime companions. Until next year.

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#365daysofbiking Don’t break the chain

May 20th – Laburnum is a beautiful tree. Of the same family as wisteria, with similarly structured but different coloured blossom, golden chain as it is often called was for many years was a staple of parks, gardens and urban public spaces.

Sadly, the seeds are very, very poisonous, and after a number of well publicised poisoning cases in the 80s many hundreds of these trees were cut down.

A few though, remain and this one at Shelfield was looking particularly fine as I returned from work on a grey evening.

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#365daysofbiking It may not be obvious

May 19th – It was a weary run out – Through Shenstone, Weeford, Hints, Tamworth, then up the canal to Hopwas, Whittington and home via Wall and Lichfield. Not a long run, and on a grey, warm afternoon that always seemed to be just on the verge of rain.

It was nice, but I wasn’t feeling the love. My stomach was grumbling and I was tired.

But as usual, a combination of the things I found, the quirkiness of the the country I live in and the beauty of thriving nature around me perked me up.

I’m still chucking about the warning of troops training. That’s so Monty Python and utterly British. And sadly, there was no sign of the cat. I like to think it was called ‘Fluffy’ or some such.

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#365daysofbiking Stopping the line

May 19th – A fairly short ride out on a grey but warm Sunday ffternoon took me to the incredibly busy Strawberry Cabin cafe in Hints for excellent tea and cake, and from there I dropped down to Fazeley on the old A5, and went to check out the old WW2 pillbox on the aqueduct over the Tame.

Pillboxes protecting bridges on the River Tame and Trent are a familiar sight even now, and they lie in various states of decay, little more than a historical curiosity one passes by without much thought – but this one has always fascinated me.

The stop line it formed part of was envisioned to confront the possible nazi invasion at the crossing points of the river, which would have formed a natural pinch point. So this could have been a vital component in the defence of the Realm.

Now it’s just a curious anachronism in a really sleepy, beautiful waterside spot. Thank heavens it was never needed.

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