BrownhillsBob's #365daysofbiking

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

#365daysofbiking Sweet rain

July 18th – A flower which I’m convinced has had me puzzling before is St. john’s Wort. This tidy, bushy shrub is planted ornamentally on a lot of industrial estates, and I never identify with it as being British – it seems exotic.

Also when people talk about wort I always think off plants like ragwort, or sticky wort.

Having caught the morning’s showers the whole bush glistened and shimmered. A coating of raindrops can only ever add to a plant’s appeal, after all…

Thanks to everyone on Facebook who helped me identify this one.

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#365daysofbiking Dark centre

July 18th – Yesterday, I found a plant that I considered may be wild carrot due to the presence of a tiny, dark flower in the centre of it’s otherwise creamy white umbrel. I wrote:

The reason I think this is wild carrot is the presence of a tiny dark flower in the centre of the head to attract insects – I’ll have another look tomorrow to verify this.

That is definitely a tiny, dark purple flower, so this plant is indeed wild carrot. Another baffling, wondrous feature you have to wonder the path towards.

This lovely wildflower was certainly keeping the overflies busy too.

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#365daysofbiking Well spotted

July 17th – Near Jockey Meadows on the way home, I stopped to take a call on the phone, and whilst mooching around on handsfree, I noticed this 10 spot ladybird in the adjacent hedge.

It appears to be native and not a an invasive harlequin, and yes, 10 spot ladybirds often have 12 spots apparently! There’s a similar yellowish harlequin but the pattern is markedly different and there’s no tell-tale dimple on the rear of the wing cases on this one.

I guess I must have done but I don’t recall seeing one this yellow before. A rather charming and endearing find – and the client who called me had no idea what I was doing.

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#365daysofbiking There’s always carrots

July 17th – Looking back over previous years, this prolific plant in various places has been puzzling me for ages – but I think I’ve sussed it: It’s possibly Queen Anne’s lace, or wild carrot.

This example was growing on the industrial estate where I work near Darlaston.

It looks a lot like the familiar cow parsley, but isn’t: The shape is all wrong.

The reason I think this is wild carrot is the presence of a tiny dark flower in the centre of the head to attract insects – I’ll have another look tomorrow to verify this. The plant itself is edible like normal carrots, but only when young. It has a variety of folkloric uses, including as a contraceptive, apparently.

I think I’m closer to solving this one.

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#365daysofbiking A different stripe

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July 16th – Oh dear. Catshill Junction’s cosy spot by the narrows, previously occupied by the black and white sleepyhead was this evening occupied by a new tenant, a rather splendid tabby sporting a rather fetching collar.

A fair sized puss in good condition, someone loves that cat without doubt.

I wonder if they have a timeshare arrangement?

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#365daysofbiking Fruitful endeavours

July 16th – We tend to think of summer as the flowering season, but really that’s only half true. Flowering is mainly spring and early summer, and from high summer on, it’s the time for fruiting.

Starting with cherries and rowan berries, fruits, nuts, haws, hips and seeds are now developing well. The green hawthorn berries are plentiful this year after a thin year last time; and blackberries look like they’ll be in good supply too.

Although this time of plenty should really be celebrated, it always makes me just a bit wistful for a summer passing.

But of course, the fruit will bring colour of it’s own to brighten my hedgerows and waysides for weeks to come.

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#365daysofbiking From little acorns

July 15th – More galls: I mentioned knopper galls recently and pointed out these wasp galls deform acorn buds to form a home for the wasp larva within. I found an illustration of this in Victoria Park Darlaston.

This is a knapper gall starting to form. The acorn cap is normal, but where the smooth, rounded nascent acorn should be, there is a knobbly, textured growth which will expand to form the gall.

The DNA of the acorn has literally been corrupted or reformed to grow a home for the wasp egg within by a chemical the egg was coated with.

How does such a mechanism evolve? It’s truly wonderful.

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#365daysofbiking Herbivore

July 15th – The flowers continue to appear daily. Rosebay willowherb is the latest – a beautiful, tall weed, it paints wasteland, hedgerows, scrubs and derelict land with a beautiful hade of purple, complimenting the buddleia which it competes against for light and space.

In a few weeks it will seed with fluffy, wind-born seeds that float on the breeze and were locally known as ‘fairies’ when I was a kid, hence it’s colloquial name ‘Old man’s beard’.

We really should look more closely at the plants we dismiss as weeds.

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#365daysofbiking The neighbourhood watch

July 14th – So pleased to see the cats out and about at last, as I noted last week. This ride was all about the cats.

As usual there are a whole variety in the feline watchers of life: From the lithe white puss resting in Kingsley Wood Road to the stately black and white overseer of the canal towpath. But the real star was Wilf, the ginger narrowboat cat who was helping his dad fishing.

I love to see cats out and about, it’s a real sign of summer and one I’ve really missed so far this year.

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#365daysofbiking The thrill of The Chase

July 14th – Working in the morning, I slipped out late afternoon for a fast ride over Cannock Chase and back through Rugeley via the canal and Longdon.

The sun, canal and golden hour were just the tonic after a hectic day, but my energy was low.

I don’t often visit the Chase in summer, as it’s usually crowded and bikes and dogs don’t really mix, but this evening – probably due to sporting excitement on TV – it was very quiet and away from the centres at Marquis Drive and Birches Valley I saw hardly anyone.

I note Rugeley Power Station is looking forlorn now: The desulphurisation plant has been removed and demolition continues with most of the ancillary plant no gone. It won’t be long now before the huge icon and photographic muse will be nothing but a memory.

It was a long, slower haul home but a lovely ride.

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