October 24th – Passing Jockey Meadows on the way home, the clean up from the recent sewer problems near Bullings Heath is still ongoing, with tankers pumping our sumps and groundwater in series during the day. I noted as I passed a diesel standby pump dropped in a field, and pipeline equipment. It’s either for flushing, or pumping water out of the brook into the sewers for a while.

The work here has been protracted and involved, and the efforts taken to avoid damaging the local ecology with raw sewage have been dedicated and impressive.

Let’s hope all the issues are resolved shortly.

June 10th – A little further on, on the south side of the Black Cock Bridge, one of my favourite local bits of wilding is coming into flower – the huge, rambling honeysuckle growing from the paddock up the bank to the railings.

As usual, it’s divine, and bigger than the year before.

This is a beautiful spot and the shrub itself is charming and smells delightful. A real sign of a nascent summer.

June 10th – Passing Goblins Wood (or Coppice Woods, for the hip modern kids out there), I noted how beautiful they looked. This mostly deciduous, well managed woodland is very old and suspect the only local remnant of the traditional English oak and holly copses that once dotted the area.

These woods, and the trees therein have seen many seasons, and every summer they look superb. Long may they remain (and they are protected by law now, too.)

February 2nd – Not noticing I had the camera on a poor setting, I took several photos today that came out really, really badly. By the time I realised, I was on the way home, and my hands were cold, and I was tired. But Bullings Heath – the area around the Black Cock Pub and bridge, at the north end of Hall Lane, Walsall Wood, looked great in the dusk.

It’s worth pointing out that tonight, it still wasn’t properly dark at gone 5:30. I’ll have me some more of that if I can – but it was a horrid cold evening, the kind that makes your forehead hurt and finds every sensitive part of your teeth.

I wish it would either get really cold and snow, or warm up a bit. This current cold and damp is the worst of both worlds.

November 13th – A miserable, headache-coloured commute to work found me at work on a rush job until very late; I returned on wet tarmac in light drizzle through somnambulant suburbs. I was exhausted.

Green lane felt desolate, and matched what I felt, and by the time I got to the top of the Black Cock Bridge, I barely had the energy to push on into Brownhills.

I love cycling late at night, but I did this run very much on autopilot…

September 22nd – Further on from the flytipped mattress, my dark mood was lifted by a splash of colour as I winched myself up the Black Cock Bridge. Remarkably, the honeysuckle thicket growing there is still flowering, and in seeming good health.

Think about that. We’re 8 days off October, and the honeysuckle is still gorgeous.

Looking beyond the railings, I noted the field in from of the old farmhouse had been planted with young, deciduous saplings, which are coming along rather well. An excellent thing, and great colours right now, too.

April 17th – The minutiae of drainage engineering are wonderful. I’ve been passing this array of manholes for a couple of weeks now, and noticed that new bars had been installed across the covers. It’s taken me ages to work out what they’re for. It’s not what one may imagine.

Opposite a small, automatic sewer pumping station on Green Lane at Bullings Heath, Walsall Wood, there is the concrete cap to what must be a storm buffer. A storm buffer is a large underground tank that, in time of heavy rainfall, collects drainage water and fills up, storing it and allowing slower discharge into the main network to prevent overload. There are lots around and they work well; you can tell this is one due to the large circular ‘cap’ evident with the access covers.

Recently, bars were mounted over the covers. Initially, I assumed they were to prevent access by drainers – a type of Urban Explorer that goes into sewers and storm drains to explore – but they aren’t actually secure. They’re secured with normal nuts and bolts, not locks. A couple of covers in front (not shown), which I think house pumps of valves – are not so protected.

They have actually been fitted to prevent internal pressure from blowing the access covers out. If the buffer filled to capacity due to a storm event, water pressure would increase against the hatches, and lift them out. That would then expose anyone walking through the subsequent flood liable to fall into a very deep, open manhole.

The bars are therefore a safety feature.

I wonder what has occurred, and where, to make this risk suddenly appreciated?

March 25th – Further up Green Lane, I glanced to my left as I winced and grunted my way over the Black Cock bridge, which was harder work than usual. This solitary house, possibly at the end of what may have been Pepper Alley years ago, continues to fascinate me. Back behind here was once a sewage farm and the municipal mortuary. Today, it’s just fields and scrub.

It wasn’t really near sunset, but it was dark, grey and damp. Like October. 

Tomorrow will be a better day.

March 13th – So, having got the new camera and charged it up, I tried it out on the way home. I need more time with it, as many settings I’m used to have moved – but I was quite pleased, really. The flowers in Walsall Wood are a credit to the people who planted them, and are really worth a trip to see. The sunset over Walsall Wood, Bullings Heath and Clayhanger Common was great tonight, in all its misty glory.

The lone red deer hind was a surprise as I rode around the new pond at Clayhanger – I almost missed her; she was nervous and high-tailed it away almost as soon as I spotted her. I think they get in the osiers and scrub on the marsh on the far side of the pool, safe there from human contact.

I see the canal boat moorings are still busy at Silver Street, and it’s nice to see the woodsmoke drifting from the chimneys as you pass by. 

Not a bad first sample, really. 

March 5th – The nascent spring seemed to tone it down a bit today. It was a nice enough day to commute, but the light wasn’t as good as it has been for the past few days, and it felt chilly. I really wasn’t inspired at all by the light, until I was coming through Walsall Wood and noticed that Jockey Meadows hadn’t really started spring yet. Whilst other places were greening up, it still looks grey and lifeless here. Come to think of it, I haven’t seen the deer here for a while, either. 

In these deciduous woods, hedgerows and water meadows spring always comes late.