May 18th – A spin up over Clayhanger Common and a delight to see the chalk fairy had been active again and drawn a new game on the Spot Path over the common.
Just as the previous one, it’s a long trail with lots of physical activities to do to complete it – from walking squiggly lines, to hopping and counting, it really is a lovely, fun activity for kids and parents alike.
It’s lovely that people are doing this for each other in lockdown and I hope it continues beyond, too.
Oh, and it seems I’m locally famous. I’ve got my first, physical hashtag.
May 13th – It’s cow parsley time again: This prolific edgeland and hedgerow dweller is a member of the carrot family, and is plentiful everywhere I go.
Sometimes mistaken for Queen Anne’s lace or the truly horrible, much taller giant hogweed, cow parsley or keck is an innocuous, edible and some consider medicinal plant that tastes a little like chervil.
The white flowerheads make for a gorgeous, if very overlooked display at this time of year. A pretty and misunderstood plant.
May 11h – One seasonal regular I love to see is the flowering of the lupins on the canal at Clayhanger Bridge. These elegant, beautifully coloured flowers grow wild along many local canals and edgelands, and are long lasting and gorgeous.
I’m always curious why the purple flower a week before the pink ones, though.
May 7th – The sunset was still decent over Clayhanger Common as I returned to Brownhills. The sky has a real clarity at sunset at the moment; I guess it’s the dry atmosphere and low traffic levels leading to less pollution.
I was so taken by the sky that I stood and watched it as we lost the light for another day.
The outdoors, and that feeling of connection with it is really important to me at the moment.
May 3rd – An interesting surprise to note one tree near Clayhanger Common this year has been hit heavily by the gall wasp that causes oak apple galls.
These growths – protective structures grown from corrupted leaf buds – house gall wasp larva that will eat their way out of the gall as the season progresses. The corruption is caused by the parent wasp injecting the larva’s egg into the nascent leaf bud covered in a chemical that causes the cells to deform.
It’s one of the odder evolutionary parasitic actions I’ve ever come across and it fascinates me. And it doesn’t seem to affect the tree at all.
One of the more peculiar aspects is all the oak trees around the one affected are completely untouched. But this one is affected more heavily than any I’ve ever seen in my life. There must be several thousand oak apples.
April 28th – The welcome warm, dry spell ended with a crash with a very cold-feeling day and seemingly endless rain. But it is still only April.
On a sodden evening exercise ride, I rolled and splashed up the towpath – mercifully quiet – and noted the very beginnings of a surface-air inversion, with barely perceptible rolls of mist sweeping along the canal. Sadly the wind was a little to strong for it to persist.
I suppose the water was probably warmer than the air by a tad.
It is lovely though to see the green return though, even on such a grey, wet day.
April 26th – With the sudden burst of lockdown shaming, finger wagging and the boom of the morally prurient social media shamers, it’s really easy to miss small little things at this time that are actually encouraging acts of community between, mainly it has to be said, children.
Painted rainbows and teddies in windows, garden displays and other curiosities created during long, isolated lockdown days are treats and ways of communicating the shared confinement without breaking the rules, and they put a huge smile on the faces of kids out for their daily exercise, parents and me, too.
There’s been a really fun trend to revive chalked games on pavements and paths for other kids to find and participate in. More than just the old fashioned hopscotch (although most incorporate it, almost as a tribute), these courses are linear with a start and end, incorporating line following, instructions to hop or jump or do some movement, reciting games, spins, pebble target throws and races.
They are a shared happiness, but shared from a distance – the separation being time. They are an utterly joyous thing and this one, on the Spot Path over Clayhanger Common, was a brilliant one.
Sadly I think it’ll probably be erased by the oncoming rains, but I hope that won’t deter the creation of a replacement.
Well done to the creators of these, and my best wishes. Life will be normal soon and we’ll all look back on these days, and smile when we think of how we all loved the chalked games…
April 23rd – It’s appropriate for St. George’s day I guess that apple blossom is now out. For all th frilliness and glamour of the ornamental cherries, you really can’t beat traditional apple blossom. Pink and white, it’s a gorgeous spectacle, and very British.
It smells rather nice too.
It’s in hedgerows all over, but this lovely specimen is on the canal between Clayhanger Bridge and the Black Cock.
April 15th – I’ve noticed over the last few days that one of the least noted wildflowers is so far having a very good year. Yellow, rather beautiful, and dreadfully overlooked, the dandelion is a staple of verges, lawns, hedgerows, edgelands and anywhere there’s a scrinite of nutrition to be extracted from soil.
A lovely tenacious plant, I love to see these fine flowers; yet I feel I’m probably one of the very few to ever appreciate them.