BrownhillsBob's #365daysofbiking

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

Posts tagged ‘bad weather’

#365daysofbiking Shades of grey, shades of blue

Sunday 16th January 2022 – I was planning on a longer ride, but I got bogged down in changing my tyres. I’m still experimenting with studless winter specific ones, but wasn’t happy with the current set and had been given some Pirelli to try. By the time I’d changed them, and sorted other maintenance matters arising, there was little left of daylight; but it didn’t matter much because rather than being bright and pleasant as forecast, the weather was cold and grey.

I slid out for a tentative test ride in the twilight, heavy hearted – I’d been looking forward to a decent ride all week and it just hadn’t happened. The tyres, thankfully, felt much better: Even after this short 13 miler I felt I had more trust in them.

I did a speedy loop of Stonnall, Footherley, Shenstone, Wall, Pipehill and Hammerwich. The weather was very cold and closing in, and the atmosphere felt hostile. Riding was hard work, and my hands were cold.

I stopped at the top of Pipe Hill; to record a darkening Lichfield, the sprawl of which has slowly edged towards Pipe Hill in the four decades I’ve cycled here. Where there is now a large Waitrose supermarket, there was once fields, a small hospital and a cricket ground. The new houses are now spreading up Deans Slade towards Aldershawe and Harehurst Hill.

It’s sad, but that’s progress and I don’t lament these things: Such is wasted energy, as they can’t be changed or retained, and time will continue to march on. The spires I marvelled at as a boy are still there, and the impact of that view on me is just as great as it always was, I could study it for hours, even in this bitter chill.

I felt a little blue in this grey landscape. There was little sign this evening of the premature spring we found at New Year, and longer days and warmth seemed impossibly far away from me in the here and now. Whilst the view and the lanes were lovely, today they didn’t soothe me, they just made me long for better days.

They will, of course, arrive: And not a moment too soon.

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#365daysofbiking Watchers of the night

Sunday 9th January 2022 – I’ve been riding with Pickle, my 15 year old niece, for years now, as followers of my social media will know. She was always reluctant to share her images and thoughts on this journal, which she steadfastly considered to be solely my preserve. Now she’s older, we’ve debated the matter, and she’s now content to take part – after all, she shares the same enthusiasm for the places we visit and all that they contain that I had at her age, that hopefully I’ve conveyed to readers over the last decade. Sharing this passion with a youngster is contagious, and renews my fascination – not just for the places, but for cycling and life in general. Now I’m getting older, this isn’t a moment too soon.

But also being a teenager, Pickle has a full social schedule and it wasn’t until quite late on Sunday that she was free to head out. She has a new camera at the moment, and she was keen to exploit the low light features, and try out some techniques she’d read about in her continual perusal of photography forums and the device’s manual.

We needed a place that had a good atmosphere at dusk, and was within an achievable distance. I recalled that Hoar Cross church is lit at night, and the Needwood Valley it overlooks can be magical at any time of day, but especially in twilight. I thought if we headed up through Lichfield, Sittles, Croxall, Walton on Trent, then wound up through Barton, we might just hit Dunstall at the golden hour, then over Scotch Hills to Jacksons Bank and Hoar Cross by sunset.

The ride was fast, but the countryside and lanes absolutely sodden. The weather was clear and chilly, which aided in holding off twilight. Sadly, the golden hour wasn’t really happening, and the sunset had more important things to do too; but as the lass reflected, this wasn’t that kind of day.


At Dunstall Hall – a place that’s seen a number of uses in recent years – it was interesting to see the deer in the gardens before the house, and that gorgeous church on the rolling hillside was as captivating as ever. But we had another church in our sights, and we got there on time.

Hoar Cross church of The Holy Angels is without doubt, one of the finest churches in Staffordshire, if not England. Sat in the middle of nowhere next to Hoar Cross Hall, seat of the Meynell Ingram family, it sits on a ridge above the Needwood Valley. It is absolutely stunning, was erected as a memorial to Lady Meynell Ingram’s husband, killed in a hunting accident in 1871, although like all great Victorian tragic legends, some of this is disputed.

My memory was correct and the church is lit at night by a very orange sodium light that really highlights the stonework of this remarkable building beautifully – but not only that, it picks out the angels watching over the slain hunter’s grave in a most remarkable way. We took lots of photos here, and listened to the owls unseen in the trees seemingly having a dispute. The atmosphere was amazing, and experiencing nightfall here was truly magical.

It was getting increasingly cold and we were hungry, so rode back – not on our usual Hadley End – Morrey – A515 route, but I wanted to find the keen photographer some alternate subjects on the way – so we turned southwestwards and through Rough Park, the Ridwares and Handsacre, where we took a photo break on that remarkable old bridge, redundant but resplendent, still adjacent to it’s modern replacement carrying the main road over the Trent.

Here, the lights of the Armitage Shanks factory and Rugeley really made for a good muse, but neither of us can yet atone to the view without Rugeley Power Station. A sad loss, something I never would have thought of myself saying 20 years ago.

We returned home up past Grand Lodge, Goosemoor Green and Fulfen, cutting across Chasetown to Chasewater, where Pickle had something she really, really wanted to try: I think you’ll agree her starry night shots are stunning.

A 53 miler on a surprisingly cold day in quite challenging road conditions: But a good ride nonetheless, and some great photos. Always good of the soul.

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#365daysofbiking Filling the space between then and now

Saturday 8th January 2022 – Surviving winter is not trivial. If you’re a lover of summer, light and green, the lightless, lifeless season can be grim – especially when wet. The day had been awful. We’d been engaged in keeping-busy activities: Pickle had been drawing for some project and I’d been fiddling with some electronics.

Late afternoon, as dusk fell, the rain abated and we decided to take a run out on the bikes to the retail park at Cannock to get some shopping in. The night was murky but the riding surprisingly fast and enjoyable.

We returned to Brownhills in the early evening, down a deserted Black Path. Pickle stopped to take a picture, and once more, bend the dark.

This mundane, little considered edgeland was precious in that instant, and she preserved it for posterity with the camera.

Winter, and bad weather is about filling space between the better times, and keeping a watchful eye for the small, beautiful consolations.

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#365daysofbiking Back to earth

Sunday 2nd January 2022 – The warmth and fine weather departed as suddenly as it arrived, in the way that saviours generally do.

On an errand displaced from New Year’s Eve, I was in Lichfield during a sunset break in the rain. It was cold, and still windy. I went for the Lichfeldian photographer’s cliche: The Cathedral across Stowe Pool. It rewarded me suitably, with a moody, dark sunset.

I wonder what was happening in the single lit room before the Cathedral. Perhaps there was a lone cleric, forlornly asking the management for another blessed burst of better weather.

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#365daysofbiking Just this side of midnight

 

26th December 2021 – I will post a fuller explanation in coming days, but I came to within two days of this journal’s ten year anniversary on March 30th, 2021, and just stopped, because I couldn’t decide what to do with it.

It was a sort of creative block. At the time.

But it was a bit more than that. I was very ill, but didn’t realise it at the time. It’s taken most of the year to get past those difficulties both physical and mental, and find my ease again. It’s not been a comfortable journey. Part of it will be that the nature of this journal will necessarily change.

I still cycle, every day pretty much. But documenting every day was becoming hard. I’m a decade older. I’m well into my 50s. My health has not been great. When I started all this, I would regularly not go to bed until 4am and be up for work at 6am and be fine. Now, I don’t have that energy, and it was getting harder and harder to find things to photograph, and street photography has got harder. Again, more on that later.

Way back in the spring I was quite ill with my bowel again. This was making me tired, and getting that sorted at the height of summer was such a boon – but within weeks, while my immunity was suppressed, I caught a skin infection. My leg swollen, I couldn’t ride some days – not because of any pain, but because I couldn’t get trousers on. Sorting that out properly took until the autumn.

Autumn brought me a gradual, day by day recovery: Not just of my physical power, but of my sense of mischief and desire to explore things.

Then came the debate: How do I deal with 365? I don’t want it to die. It’s been a huge part of my last decade, and it’s probably the least-read but most heartfelt writing I do publicly. I don’t want to lose that, but I can’t post every day: It’s become repetitive, I’m not sure anyone’s reading it that much and It’s too rigid a format to say things I want to say now.

So this journal is going to change. But also, sort of stay the same. You’ll see what I mean in coming days, weeks, months.

As I type this on Boxing Day at just my favourite side of midnight – 1:30am in a darkened house – I post a photo taken from Ogley Junction footbridge 3 hours before on one of the most unpleasant Christmas nights I’ve known – heavy rain for hours and all was sodden, but curiously, not my spirit. I was full of a great family Christmas Day, and the subsequent evening pursuit of solitude for a while, also hoping to burn off some of the digestive load. It was, at least, warm. The nights are opening out. I survived a particularly vile Autumn suck. It’s OK. All shall be well.

One of the oddest features of this year is that although this journal withered, my passion for riding bikes actually grew to a level I’ve not experienced for years. Although I was sporadic for a week here or there, I’ve actually ridden far more miles this year and had many more long rides than usual. it was rediscovering that joy that helped make me well again, a fact I am certain of.

So here I am, just on the morning side of midnight, on the light side of the dark, on the well side of ill, ready to journey onward, but only documenting rides when I feel I have something to share.

Hopefully that will work for you.

But there’s something I have to do first.

Stay tuned. Please. And I beg you to accept my apologies. I didn’t want to let you all down. But something had to give. I have written a huge amount on this journal. I think I’ve earned a more relaxed role.

Stay tuned.

This journal is also on WordPress, where the pictures are in higher resolution and the search box works! Click here.

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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 It’s all going on

Friday March 19th 2021 – Crossing Chasewater on a dull Friday with raindrops on the wind threatening a soaking that thankfully, never materialised, I stopped on the motorway bridge and looked down to the lake.

It was good to note the emergence of the leaves on the trees in the copses and hedgerows flanking Pool Lane. It didn’t feel like spring, but it was certainly coming.

Busily, quietly, the time of renewal is getting underway – it’s all going on.

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#365daysofbiking Choppy waters

Saturday March 13th 2021 – The high winds continue, with the kind of blustery, cool weather one more expects in April than March, but without the warmth.

An evening run to Chasewater rewarded another decent sunset but the chill was biting. The noise of the water lapping against the dam was lovely, though and I stood mesmerised by it for a long while.

Through all the mess of the pandemic, Chasewater at this time of day has been a real anchor for me. However choppy the waters.

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#365daysofbiking Downtown lights

Thursday March 11th 2021 – Still very windy as I pressed home the following evening, once again battling a wind with an edge forged on Satan’s own back step. It was grim.

Passing Silver Street on the canal I was confused why Tesco was emitting not only the usual red, blue and white light, but also a piercing green, which the picture doesn’t capture too well.

It turns out it’s the traffic lights to let shoppers into the store.

If nothing else, they’re making for some lovely reflected colour on the choppy canal.

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#365daysofbiking Buffeted

Wednesday March 10th 2021 – The warmer weather bought with it high winds. I’m less tolerant of these than I used to be, and find them more of an issue when riding. I’m not sure why; perhaps I’m more risk averse as I get older.

Coming back from work against a very unpleasant headwind which was peppered with raindrops, I stopped on the canal near the Black Cock bridge to take a picture – and realised there was no moonlight.

So I improvised with the bike headlight.

Not a David Bailey, but for such a horrid night it would have to do…

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