February 23rd – Chasewater Country Park is currently astoundingly wet. The reservoir has overtopped now and is sending a continuous deluge over the weir and down the spillway into the Crane Brook culvert.
The network of creeks and ditches across the heaths are all swamped, and pools and huge puddles are on every trail.
Even the old mine spring that normally trickles a red, rust-tinted flow of water through the marsh at the foot of the dam is flowing pure and clear through it’s gap in the trail concrete block that acts as a crossing.
This is going to take a very long, dry spell to restore to normal.
January 22nd – This is a very strange winter we’re having. I hope spring and summer prove more traditional. It’s not really been very cold, but it’s been horrendously wet. I’m so used to rain now that it barely surprises or bothers me, and I think I’m developing a love of it, like some weird meteorological Stockholm syndrome.
At the moment, the warm damp is masquerading as a heavy, cloying mist-drizzle that’s settled here for the best part of a week, really. It’s grimy and horrible to ride in, and is also keeping the fumes and smell down from the local landfills and industry, making the whole atmosphere feel dirty and polluted.
Leaving Bloxwich station I passed a couple of the town’s many backstreet boozers: The venerable Romping Cat, as classic a Black Country pub as one could find, and the more boisterous Spotted Cow, which despite a chequered history, hangs on as a popular local’s pub.
In the murky, nasty mist they looked beautifully warm and welcoming. I could have slipped in there and then for a pint.
But this wasn’t 1995, and that isn’t the current version of me. So I admired these watering holes from the street, remembered fondly long gone days with workmates and their many, many post-work pints, then rode home.
December 26th – I love Chasetown High Street – day or night, it’s actually a great little thoroughfare: Busy due to the mix of housing and shops, the hill combined with the mixed architecture makes it fascinating.
On a wet Boxing Day evening, on the way back from seeing family it was nice to stop and take a picture.
I’d still like to make a low rent version of the Bullitt car chase here. But on choppers or BMX bikes. It’d be fab.
October 14th – A damp morning showed a remarkable range of fungi on the way to work. From what I thought was going to be a very disappointing season, there have been some remarkable displays of this remarkable kingdom.
These specimens were all in one short stretch of cycleway in Goscote and were absolutely fascinating.
One of the few redeeming features of autumn for me is definitely the fungi…
September 24th – Passing by the memorial gardens in Bloxwich on my way home, a bright flash on a damp tree stop caught my eye.
Stopping and rolling back, some remarkable toadstools growing there. They look almost like tiger bread, and were brighter than even honey fungus. I have no idea what they are and haven’t had chance yet to look them up.
August 31st – A welcome return with the damper weather has been the fungi, which has been mostly absent all through the dry summer.
I love to see toadstools and fungus in all it’s variety and this example on the towpath – some sort of Suillus I suspect – was glistening in the morning rain and was alive with bugs feasting on it.
October 23rd – Specially for a lady in Brownhills who commented over the weekend that I didn’t photograph frogs and toads anymore – well, the truth of the matter is… I do if I see them!
No the damp, dark evenings are here I’m more likely to see the amphibian community taking the air, just as I spotted this lovely frog near a garden fence in Sheffield this evening on my way home.
I love the patterns frogs have; they seem unique in colour and variety from frog to frog.
July 1st – Out and about for a ride to Elford and Croxall, I spotted that the Himalayan balsam was now in flower in many places.
An absolutely beautiful flower, but it smells metallic and unpleasant, and is an invasive species brought here by the Victorians. It now densely populates riverbanks, brooks and any damp ground, growing to a meter or two high and shading out anything beneath it.
A real, but beautiful problem.
February 19th – I had to be in work on a Sunday, unusually, early in the morning. After spending a few hours there, I decided to make the best of the day and head on to the canals of the Black Country. I shot over to Tipton, then through the Netherton Tunnel, wound around Brierley Hill to Stourbridge, out to Stourton and then all the way up to Wolverhampton on the Staffs and Worcester, heading back home on the good old Curley Wyrley to Bloxwich.
I love riding the Netherton Tunnel – at 3036 yards it’s a long one, and the effects of water seepage and time make it an interesting and dramatic journey.
Those air vents still remind me of something out of Doom or Quake.
Didn’t see another soul down there, either, which was odd. Bumble Hole at the far end was busy, though.