BrownhillsBob's #365daysofbiking

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

Posts tagged ‘churches’

#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 These days will surely pass

Tuesday November 10th 2020 – Autumn seems to have lasted for ages this year, and at the same time, seems to have passed in the blink of an eye; but then, it doesn’t seem five minutes since I was delighting in daffodils here in Kings Hill Park, but this most unusual of years has passed quickly.

I’m hoping the future holds a return to some kind of normality, but for now, my traditional anchors keep me stable, and as November ticks away and turns to my least favourite season Winter, I look to the changeless things to keep me going.

My beloved twin sisters are still watching over Wednesbury and the last of the golden leaves are now falling. They have seen this season many times, those spires and they will yet see many more. They have witnessed war, disease, boom and recession; Christenings, weddings, funerals and the Sunday worship of generations. They know as I do that these days will surely pass.

So I look to them and feel comforted that in unsteady times, there are still my anchors to rely on, here in my beloved Black Country.

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#365daysofbiking Verdant

April 29th – Kings Hill Park is looking lovely right now, with all the lovely trees in fresh green leaf; from the majestic avenue to the western hedge, everything looks just perfect for spring.

And looking on, also from a new throne of green, the twin sisters of Church Hill in Wednesbury, who always look their best in spring and high summer.

So glad that warmth and colour is returning at last.

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#365daysofbiking Maybe just a hint?

March 5th – A slightly better day, but the wind was still pretty evil. Crossing Kings Hill Park on a mission to B&Q mid day, I stopped to check out the view of the twin sisters – the two churches the overlook Wednesbury.

It may have been my imagination, but there seemed to be, just about, possibly the tiniest hint of spring in the view.

Whatever the season, it’s always gorgeous.

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#365daysofbiking Dusk:

October 23rd – The return of the dark is a welcome chance to experiment with night photography once more.

These shots of the churches of Wednesbury – the twin sisters – from Kings Hill Park were a hurried experiment with the Cannon G1X which is a camera I’m learning to love.

These are way too grainy, and I obviously need to up my game. But I love the clarity and colour.

More practice required.

May 6th – Another fine, hot day, another long ride – this time a 55 miler out via Hints and the canal through Tamworth to Orton on the Hill, Austrey and Honey Hill.

You can see a full gallery for this ride on my main blog here.

At Orton, I stopped to study the fine, Francophile church there, and noticed the classic demonstration of weather erosion on the masonry – on the windward side, the deep pits of direct wind and rain abrasion, whereas on the leeward side, the lines cause by lateral pull and frost; on side planar side, the lapped waves of parallel forces.

That church has seem some weather over the years.

November 26th – Another day of beautiful light, but cold. Probably not cold for the time of year, but after recent mild weeks it seems to be positively arctic. 

I’d been doing a lot of mechanical work on the bike in recent days, and needed to test it with a shortish run with plenty of good hill action, so I went out early afternoon, over to Shenstone, Weeford, Hints, Hopwas, up the canal to Hademore and back in darkness through Wall and Chesterfield.

I took time to study the churches at Shenstone, Weeford and Hopwas – from the hideous but triumphant Gothic of Shenstone, to the farmhouse twee of Hopwas, all three are classics. All within a short distance.

Staffordshire is unusually blessed with a stunning and varied ecclesiastical architectural tradition.

June 6th – A truly awful morning commute with 30mph headwinds and driving rain made for a squally, wolfish day; but in the afternoon the constant rain broke to showers, and I went about getting some stuff done in the Black Country. Returning home from Tipton, I headed for Wednesbury from Ocker Hill and caught my favourite twin sisters – the churches that crown Church Hill in Wednesbury – is sunlight but with threatening skies.

I love this place. Even in bad weather. It’s where my heart is.

April 22nd – The late Lichfeldian touring cyclist and acquaintance Maurice Purser used to tell me you could see 7 spires/towers and/or churches from Pipe Hill. Maurice, who enjoyed such puzzles, had me scouring for months with binoculars in the mid-80s. What actually solved it for me was not careful scrutiny of the city skyline from high up here past Mickle Hills, but a map.

Maurice liked riddles especially if they were a bit misleading. At some point I looked at a map, and noticed that Aldershawe, the country house visible 90 degrees sunwise from this view had a private chapel. So whilst the riddle was correct, it was a bit cunning.

These days, Aldershawe is divided into smaller dwellings and you can’t see any of it from here for trees.

With a decent zoom on a reasonable day though, Lichfield’s churches, spires and rooftops still come alive, and a middle aged cyclist remembers this view as a young lad, with a leathery, weathered older gent telling tall tales of derring-do.

Wherever you are Maurice, may it be hawthorn free, the wind at your back, the sun on your face, and speed in your wheels. And a good cafe stop.

February 21st – Unfortunately, I forget my camera so just one picture for today, and that’s not brilliant, sorry.

I had to nip into Tipton on a day with an evil southwesterly, and crossing theBlack Country New Road at Moxley, I was once again captivated by that marooned, beautiful church – like Wood Green, and a host of others in the conurbation, urban churches are often extant on odd islands or spurs as road systems grow around them.

Thirty years ago, this view would have been completely different.

I love that these wonderful buildings are preserved and they’re like lighthouses to the past in the changing landscape.