May 5th – A gorgeous day for riding, hindered by the need to do favours for mates and a bit of a bad tummy saw me leave for a fast, warm and beautiful sSaturday Evening ride that really did catch the best of Staffordshire and all that I had been missing with the dreary spring.
You can see a full set from this ride on my main blog by clicking here.
On my way out, I noticed that my favourite tree, the horse chestnut on Home Farm at Sandhills, visible from the canal at Catshill, is now in leaf.
I love that tree. I gauge the seasons by it. It looks beautiful and green.
Summer has begin!
April 25th – The weather is still quite intemperate, but improving. Temperatures climbed at the weekend, then sank again, but on the whole it’s been a drier week – but windier – although the sun too has been welcome.
This improvement has meant trees are now well into the greening phase and it’s starting to look like summer is coming.
With blue skies and emerald embankments and hedgerows, the canal is looking gorgeous again.
It’s a pleasure to see.
March 11th – A ride out to a farmer’s market then on tho Middleton Hall for cake, and back via Hints and the A5. The day wasn’t the best of weathers, but is was pretty good, and I didn’t get rained on until very late in the ride.
I noticed the animals on this ride particularly: the first spring lambs up at Barracks Lane; the goose at Middleton Hall. But what stole it were the cats: the lovely chap drinking from the canal at Catshill Junction; the weary, wary looking farm cat at Raikes Lane; the black tiny one in Fazeley.
Spring must be coming, the cats are starting to emerge.
March 1st – Allegedly the first day of spring, but a better one insomuch as I was better prepared for the cold. I wrapped up better, and rode a more sensible bike. It was just as cold, with more persistent, more powdery snow – but on leaving work early, I did a loop of Brownhills before nightfall to enjoy the spectacle.
Enjoy it I did, although again, the wind and cold were punitive and pugilistic. The powder drifted in clouds like dust devils over canal ice and bone-dry roads. Snow depths went from nothing at all to 150mm. At 4:30pm it was already minus 5 degrees C. When my hair started to develop lumps of ice, I decided to go home.
I noted the gritting operation at the council depot was in full swing, and the grit barn looks very depleted. The coos up at Highfields Farm, Chasewater looked peaceful and unconcerned, and the fox I scared into woodland across the common near Watling Street was as usual for foxes in snow, apparently apologetic for his higher than usual visibility.
These have been remarkable days to be on a bike. They have been very hard, but I wouldn’t have missed them for the world.
It’ll be interesting to see what the weekend brings.
December 24th – The workboat I noted in the ice last weekend has been engaged in the process of cutting back trees on the far canal banks locally, clearing overhang from the waterway. I noted as I passed over Catshill Junction that once more, the sculpture here was now visible, if looking a bit sad and jaded. The trees that shade light from the new flats also seem too have been thinned.
I always feel sad about the Cycle of Life sculpture here: In utterly the wrong place, even when not overgrown (as it is every summer) it’s impossible to see in detail from and point publicly accessible on the towpaths around the junction and is therefore overlooked and wasted.
I hope one day someone realises and moves it somewhere a little more suitable nearby.
September 9th – It’s been a while since I las saw eyebrow cat for long enough to take a photo, as it’s normally avoiding me for some reason. Captured taking the air on the grass beside the canal where the old tonnage house and toll point used to be at what is now the private development of Chandlers Keep.
Eyebrow cat didn’t mind me too much but did give me some very thorough stares. I don’t think this cat ever looks pleased with itself.
September 1st – I returned from work mercifully early and did some work on the bike, before taking a spin late in the afternoon. Despite it being colder of late, the cat population is still active (well, as active as these laid back creatures get) and I spotted two cats I’d not met before: a black one peering at me from behind a car near Catshill Junction, and further up as I headed to Chasewater, the splendid grey and white youngster in a back garden near Millfield School.
Oh how I love these impromptu neighbour watches…
August 19th – I was having a terrible day: I had plans to get out early, but the wind and weather were grim, and everything I did seemed like wading through treacle.
After miserably writing blog posts, messing up dates and publicity schedules, I finally got a grip and went out, to find a bright periodically sunny late afternoon in which harvest was being completed and the fields of stubble were golden delights over towards Sandhills and Hammerwich.
The sight of that lovely church and converted windmill cheered me, as did the bright, surprisingly warm if short-lived sunshine.
A nice pick me up on an awful day.
August 9th – The day ended much better than it started. Still feeling sad, but the rain had stopped, the sun had come out and all around me things were trying to make me smile.
The chocolate lab enjoying the wind flapping his ears in traffic in Walsall town centre; the kitten dozing on the bins in The Butts; the coos actually came to see me at Jockey Meadows and a chance encounter with normally snooty eyebrow cat at Catshill Junction all made me feel a bit better.
When stuff’s bad and life feels grim, sometimes the best thing to do is keep riding and enjoy the small things life shows you.
July 31st – Well, I said a bit dull. What I actually meant was under a really, really threatening sky.
As it happened, the rain never came, and the sky cleared again.
The weather may be challenging at the moment but at least it’s not boring…