BrownhillsBob's #365daysofbiking

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

Posts tagged ‘change’

#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 A ghost of a chance

Thursday April 1st 2021 – Riding home late afternoon, I spotted this amusing tribute to science by local street artist Ghost on a canalside wall in Pleck, Walsall. It’s beautifully executed, and marks a trend of the pandemic often inspiring street art. I think if covid has done anything positive, it seems to have engaged street art and counterculture in a way that current affairs have generally failed to do for two decades.

But that’s a bit of a side issue. This post was suck in draft from April until Christmas because I was so undecided what to do with this journal. As I noted in my last post, I was tired, and ill. And not able to raise the energy to continue it at the time with the passion it needed. So I entered three quarters of a year of writers and creative block.

The reason for April 1st being significant is that on this day in 2011, I started this journal as part of the worldwide #30daysofbiking project, prodded into taking part by fellow utility cyclist and top Dutchperson Rene Van Baar on Twitter. 30Days was a commitment to ride every day of April. It still happens, and one thing that’s always amused me is that the organisers over in the US, upon hearing that I just carried the project on for years, showed nothing but indifference. I never quite worked that out.

I didn’t quite do a decade continuously though, over new year the following Christmas I missed two days due to a really nasty bout of food poisoning – but other than that, I rode every single day for a decade, and documented every day with a photo post (or occasionally, a bit of video). I’m proud of that. There are a lot of words in the archive. A lot of images; a lot of my life, and this area as well as others I visited along the way.

My first post was matter of fact, and terse. It took me a month to develop my style. You can read it here.

Since then there have been 6,955 entries, and somewhere around 11,000 media items – mostly images, but around 70 videos and even the odd bit of audio.

So with all that behind me, where am I going now?

…Nowhere, that’s where.

I’m just going to post when I have something to share. So it’s be less frequent, but I will be aided by a riding companion whom many of you will already be familiar with, who deserves a voice and to be heard too.

This means hopefully there will be less filler, and more passion. I think you’ll prefer it in the long run, And it’ll be easier for me to keep up.

One thing that has changed in recent years is street photography has got really hard. Nobody used to bat an eye if they saw you with a camera. These days, you get noticed. Curtains twitch. People ask what you’re doing. You half expect to be on the local neighbourhood watch group as a suspicious individual. So the new format will be probably more picturesque stuff I think.

I find that a bit sad but it’s the way the world is at the moment.

So, are you coming with me? Let’s ride into the blue together… Hopefully it’ll stop raining soon.

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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 Lane’s end

Monday March 8th 2021 – I was discussing online the other day a local lost stub of a lane that used to be Bullmoor Lane. Bullmoor Lane ran from Raikes and Chesterfield, a mile or so north of Shenstone, shadowing the Watling Street, to a junction near Wall Butts at Hilton, where it met Cranebrook Lane and Boat Lane. As a kid it was one of my first local discoveries. I loved that quiet, undulating backway, and still do.

When the M6 Toll came through at the turn of the millennium, the last half a mile of Bullmoor Lane was diverted south, to meet Cranebrook Lane without building a second flyover, leaving the old stub abandoned.

It still exists, and is now gated, but when nostalgic one can push past the gate and ride the crumbling asphalt to the edge of the new motorway, echoing in my childhood tracks.

I always find these dead, divorced and orphaned lanes a bit sad: Dark Lane at Longdon is one, just closed as out of use, like School Lane at Norton. But other lanes were lost to the toll, especially around Hammerwich and and Shenstone Park.

It’s the feeling that they hold memories, which cannot be put back, I think.

A curious bit of melancholia on the exercise ride.

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#365daysofbiking All for the best

Wednesday March 3rd 2021 – Returning from work again in the middle evening, it was a much clearer night as I crossed the Pier Street pedestrian bridge back into Brownhills, a traditional homecoming when the canal towpaths are not too wet.

Thankfully, they seem to be drying out a little, at last.

I love the look of the new housing along the canalside here at night. This used to be such an empty, desolate area, especially in the dark. It looks so much more alive and inhabited now, almost cosy in the streetlight.

Definitely change for the better.

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#365daysofbiking A changed world

Christmas Eve, Thursday December 24th 2020 – I had a busy day – the errands mounted up, last minute shopping for groceries, dropping off presents and so forth. My last task was to nip into Walsall wo pick up some vegetables in the early evening.

It was a crisp, clear evening and the riding fast but easy in the nippy air. I decided to return through Pelsall, to check out their Christmas tree.

Unusual in the borough that it’s planted, it was handsome and looked lovely in the memorial garden.

But what a strange Christmas Eve this was: Early evening, nobody around.

What a changed world we live in at the moment.

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#365daysofbiking The changing skyline

Thursday December 17th 2020 – Another classic muse for me in winter is the view from Catshill Junction Bridge towards Brownhills, over the wide of the junction to the new flats in the foreground.

When I started this journal, only the tower block to the left was here and the rest was mostly derelict scrub, cleared of a large tower block in 2004.

As the years passed, new housing appeared and the skyline has totally changed – you used to be able to stand here in a feeling of solitude, but not anymore. Humanity is close now: You can smell cooking, cigarettes. Hear chatter, TVs and kids playing.

The skyline has changed, for the better, and I think makes for a more interesting photo. But I do miss the solitude a bit.

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#365daysofbiking The sisterhood

Thursday, October 8th 2020 – It’s coming up to the best time of year to view the twin sisters – the churches on top of the hill at the centre of Wednesbury.

Another of my favourite subjects here, these gorgeous but differing spires – of St Mary’s Catholic Church and St Batholomews Church of England – nestling above the leafy, urban slopes are a maker for me, and an illustration that the Black Country is not quite as outsiders might imagine.

Of course, like many urban churches, time has been kinder to these sisters than one would imagine: They once shook to the thump of drop hammers and buzzed with the huge amount of industry they overlooked, but now their parishes are quieter and, dare I say it, nicer places to live.

To see this lovely view from Kings Hill Park in Darlaston is a joy, and as autumn matures the view will only get better, reminding me that however far I might stray, this is my place, the Black Country, and where my heart and soul lie.

Hope they can sort the clock soon…

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#365daysofbiking Inhaling green:

Wednesday, September 16th 2020 – While I’ve been away the canals have continued as they ever were, with small changes. They got very busy with pedestrians and cyclists for a while, a product of fair weather and lockdown, so the towpaths were well worn, and the cessation in mowing gave my beloved orchids a sporting chance this year. But the waterfowl, plants and colours were broadly as ever.

Reassuringly, beautifully, peacefully as ever.

The one change that’s been interesting is the azolla bloom that dominated the water surface in 2019 has largely faded, and in its death left sporadic patches of more traditional clumping algae, which must be a pain for waterfowl and boaters alike.

There are still traces of azolla, which was a surface invasive surviving a mild winter, but it was non-stringy and readily parted for birds and watercraft, but it’s mostly gone.

On a dull, grey autumn afternoon, the green and peace here were so welcome, I felt like I was inhaling them.

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#365daysofbiking Life’s better by water

May 15th – As I get older and older, I find it much harder to explain to those younger, or newcomers to this town just how much things have improved here since I was a kid.

This is not trivial, or frivolous: The town I grew up in was poor, suffered terrible pollution from industry and and refuse tip at it’s heart, the waterways were rubbish filled ditches and there were very few of the trees here there are today.

I grew up in a smelly, wildlife-free post industrial wasteland.

Now, the waterways are limpid, but full of life; the smells and pollution have all but gone. Everywhere is green with trees and hedgerows. I regularly see deer, foxes and all manner of birds and bugs.

On a sunny, beautiful Friday evening in the golden hour, quiet in lockdown, it was hard to believe what this place once was.

But the memory will never fade.

This journal is moving home. Find out more by clicking here.

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