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 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 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 25th – Saturday morning, again shockingly quiet despite protests of ‘too many people ignoring the lockdown’ on social media. Brownhills and the countryside around it simmered gently in the warm sun.
Things are greening over nicely now. The azolla bloom on the canal is gradually decreasing and everything looked magnificent.
I need to record and cherish these times, for they will, I think, get me through future bad ones. These times when you can enjoy the peace of the old cement works bridge or the view over Home Farm and not hear traffic, not see people but just drink in the warmth, the season and the song of birds and the buzz of bees.
Nature is regardless of human woes and that’s a good reason to keep taking the next steps.
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.
April 13th – Easter Monday was colder. Quite bitter, in fact, so I did essential maintenance on the bikes and pottered at home, before shooting out for a late spin up the canal to test the bike out.
At Clayhanger Common the cowslips are fully in bloom now and the sight of them fill me with pride – as I scattered the seeds that formed these colonies a fair few years ago now. I collected the seed heads from a patch in Stonnall and spread the seed at various spots on Clayhanger Common, not expecting them to take hold.
But they did.
I then used seeds from those patches to expand and create new ones elsewhere on the common.
April 6th – Working from home when I can means shorter exercise rides, so I try to make them quite challenging in the short time I’m out, mindful of the busybodies who currently seem to be revelling in their mantel as self-appointed lockdown police.
I hammered a fast, offroad circuit of Brownhills, and up around the track that runs around the new pond at Clayhanger. The heavily rutted, drying out trails are quite fun and I enjoyed the sight of swans pairing off on the water below.
Lots of people who formerly wouldn’t walk are doing so now; taking advantage of their daily exercise allowance. This is making me feel quite obtrusive: Quiet routes and trails that were usually mine alone I now share with those new to them.
I’m surprised nobody has got lost on the common yet…