BrownhillsBob's #365daysofbiking

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

Posts tagged ‘Chasewater’

#365daysofbiking On the skyline

Thursday 13th January 2022 – Crossing Chasewater on an errand I’d deliberately held back until sunset, my studied tardiness was rewarded handsomely.

Chasewater is the best place locally to catch a sunset, and the gull roost was massive with thousands of birds too, so the spectacle was twofold. The deer were out on the North Heath and obliged beautifully.

I’ve said this many times and I’ll continue to do so: This place is beautiful. But you have to want to see it, and actively go look. Had I not had one eye to the skies I’d never have seen this.

There’s nowhere I’d rather have been than here, this night.

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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 The thinness of the air, and turning for home

31st December 2021 – It’s been a weird old Christmas. The weather has been the worst over the holiday period I’ve known in many years: Pretty much constant rain and drizzle for over a week.

The festive period is normally an opportunity for us to get out on some seriously nice rides – often in the lead up to Christmas, the traditional Christmas and Boxing Day rides, and there’s usually good fun to be had in the period up to and including new year.

But not this time. The ceaseless downpour has meant that although I’ve been cycling every day, it’s been for utility only; delivering presents or cards, seeing friends and relatives, going to the pub, getting shopping in or getting fresh air.

Every journey has been in waterproofs, and I’ve come back sodden. It’s not been nice.

But on New Year’s Eve, a day I usually hate, the rain stopped. The sun came out. But odder than that, it was warm. And I mean, really warm: 14 degrees. It was like spring out there.

I set off later than I’d planned with my young pal for a loop around the local area, as we had an errand to do in Lichfield, and another in Burntwood.

The riding was fast and easy: There was a strong wind, but frankly, it didn’t matter. Up over Stonnall, Thornes, and the backlanes into Shenstone – but as we neared the village on the hill, we realised something was different. The old, ruined thirteenth century church tower – a remnant of an older, nicer church before the gothic horror that stands today was born of Victorian hubris – was sheathed in plastic sheeting and scaffold. It seems to be undergoing renovation. This is interesting, as it’s been derelict for all of the 40 or more years I’ve been riding around here.

It seems that a group have got together, raised money and are renovating the tower to save it out of charity and community spirit. Yet again, communities pay for Church of England neglect, it seems. But the plan is good and seemingly very competent. Searching when we got home we found the tower has a website here which is pretty useful on history, but not on the future. For that, we found Lichfield Live had reported plans to add a viewing platform to the tower last March. To my surprise, these have been approved.

I do hope this will be open to the public periodically. I bet the view is incredible. I salute those undertaking this project – it’s remarkable. This has largely passed me by over the summer and is an indication of my failure to ride much that ways on last year. I must rectify the neglect.

Further on, we caught a fair sunset up at Chesterfield, between Shenstone and Wall – any sunset is a bonus right now. Pickle caught it well, as she did a somnambulant, subdued Lichfield. The bars seemed busy but the streets less so. As ever, the festive lights and night sky combined with the muted, orange street lighting to make a magic that Pickle was all too keen to capture.

Returning down the wonderful Chasetown High Street, Pickle noted that the Christmas lights were switched off, but it didn’t matter, as it’s always festive at night on the beautifully lit, inclined High Street. I don’t really know what it is about Chasetown, but it shares the phenomena with Walsall Wood. At night, it always seems much busier than it actually is, and has a lovely homely, soft glow to it.

As New Year’s Eve rides go, this has been the best for a few years. We both enjoyed the absence of rain, and the thin, clear air. Such a change from the last couple of weeks… But as we stood at Chasewater, with nothing but the sound of water lapping against the dam, we reflected on the year gone. It’s been hard. There have been times when I wondered if I’d ever do another long ride again. But there has also been great joy: Recovery, the longed for autumn long rides, the return to the outdoors, the sharing of moments like this.

So we turned for home feeling positive, and light with the optimism of a new riding year ahead. There will be winter yet, yes – but spring and the daffodils and cowslips. Long rides on the Moorlands and Peaks. Green on the trees and hedgerows. Summer days and cafe stops and ice cream, and even the odd pub garden. It’s all to come. It was impossible not to face the prospect with an open, happy heart.

Happy new year to you all.

Thank you too for all of your messages of support and encouragement over the last week. Dry Valleys summed it up when he said you cannot serve from an empty vessel. For a while, I was empty. But now… I am feeling somewhat replenished.

Thank you to the wonderful community that support me here.

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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 Going with the flow:

Sunday March 14th 2021 – An errand over to Burntwood meant crossing Chasewater dam for a second day running. I note that the water level in the Nine-Foot pool is still high and overflowing into the spillway.

With the lack of boat traffic on the canals due to lockdown, there has not been the demand for water in the canals, and Chasewater has filled and been in overflow for most of the last twelve months. Over winter particularly, through very wet weather, releasing water into the canal to flood the upper Tame overflows would be problematic, so the excess has been steadily feeding the alternative path via the spillway to the Crane Brook, to some local consternation.

An odd effect of the pandemic, it’s worth remembering that when water is released in large volumes it doesn’t just affect us locally, but all the way down the drainage system.

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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 Unfixed

Saturday March 6th 2021 – The bike was giving me problems I was finding it hard to fix, so I snatched a quick test ride to Chasewater as the sunset looked decent – I really wasn’t disappointed.

It was one of those brooding, dark evenings when you don’t expect much of the dusk but it surprises you – and so it did.

It was still cold though, as the smoke from the narrowboat moored in Anglesey Wharf attested. I know it’s only really just March, and not even too late for snow, but some warmth wouldn’t go amiss.

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#365daysofbiking Glad to see it


Friday February 26th 2021 – It looks like I was right: The period of fine sunsets has commenced.

Some springtimes, it’s better than others, but that’s the luck of the weather.

I spotted it coming on, and powered up the canal on the daily exercise ride to Chasewater where it looked superb, and despite the biting cold, it was fabulous to witness. Catching the moon over my favourite tree at Sandhills on the way back was a real bonus, too.

We really do live in a wonderfully beautiful area.

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#365daysofbiking An annual treat for the initiated

Saturday February 20th 2021 – Just north east of Chasewater dam, behind the houses that were once the homes of mine managers, there’s an early spring spectacle every year that’s a must see for the initiated – the annual snowdrop glade.

Sadly, in all the vears I’ve visited it, I’ve never caught it on a sunny day.

But even on a dull Saturday, these carpets of what must be tens of thousands of tiny white wildflowers are stunningly beautiful, on land that was formerly industrial.

And visible from here, people pass by on the dam and nearby footpaths without realising the beauty they’re missing not 50 years away.

It’s just a secret for those who know…

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#365daysofbiking A total bore

Thursday February 18th 2021 – Haring around Chasewater dam on a working from home exercise ride – for once in the daylight – I nearly came a cropper.

I was a shade off catching my pedal on this protruding piece of steel pipe.

It has a close fitting cap and is padlocked shut.

This erstwhile cyclist and walker boobytrap is not some idle lump of former mining equipment stuck in the ground, or a piece of scrap the local tatters have missed – but a monitoring well for the land around.

Ground engineers monitor the area around Chasewater Dam for groundwater pollution and signs that the dam may be leaking. To do that they have a number of these bores, drilled and sleeved, which are dipped and monitored regularly for changes in water level and the chemical composition of the water within.

These are a familiar sight around Chasewater, but also many of the public open spaces in the area that require ground monitoring – like Brownhills Common, Shire Oak Nature Reserve and Clayhanger Common.

So mind your step and watch out when cycling off road: They are quite sturdy and not very forgiving…

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