October 17th – I’ve been casually interested into the decomposition of the robin’s pincushion gall I found in the summer in Darlaston.
This once beautiful red and green hairy, spiny gall – created by a tiny wasp laying it’s DNA corrupting eggs in the rose leaf buds of it’s host – is now decaying fast and I’m interested to see how this ball of plant matter wastes away, and if it shows any evidence of the adult gall wasps escaping to freedom.
I’ll never stop being fascinated by these things.
July 12th – One indicator of an advancing summer I always have mixed feelings about is buddleia. This purple-flowering, profuse shrub, sometimes known as the butterfly bush is great for bugs and bees and lepidoptera of all kinds – but the one issue I have is it’s the shrub of urban decay.
This versatile plant will grow anywhere it can find – gutters, chimneys, soot-filled fissures in brickwork, and once it takes hold it will destroy masonry as it grows. It’s the sign of dereliction in summer, growing old disused rail lines, factory yards and edgelands of all types.
A fascinating, but destructive plant.
May 19th – At Pipe Ridware, the former St James church, closed in 1983 became the charming and well-loved Ridware Theatre for a further 20 years before finally shutting around 2015. This tiny performance space barely held 60 but put on some great shows.
Sad to see it closed and decaying. I hope a new use can be found for it.
May 4th – I’ve noticed over the ;past few days that engineers have been examining a lot of local roads since the cold, wet winter left many in a parlous state.
Walsall Council on the whole have been very good at dealing with damage, but more can always be done. Here in Darlaston on a number of streets – but most noticeably Station Street and Darlaston Road – technicians have taken periodic core samples to see how thick the road surges is and what it’s composed of.
This helps with resurfacing, and knowing how much to plane away before laying new tarmac.
When the sample is taken, the perfectly round hole left is filled, leaving this curious scar.
Looks like we’ll be getting some better road surfaces in Darlo soon, then…
March 7th – Returning via Shenstone, in the new-found evening commute dusk, I noticed that the tiny, log abandoned bungalow at Owletts Farm on Lynn Lane is now visible, before another summer’s leaf growth conceals it once more.
I don’t know why this tiny house, like several in the area is being allowed to decay, as I’m sure that before the rot set in it would have been a nice home for someone.
It has been empty as long as I’ve been cycling these lanes – nearly 40 years now.
A sad little tragedy.
January 15th – I went to work. Really battled in. They sent me back home again, or rather, put my bike in a van and gave me the keys.
I’m not a malingerer. I don’t do time off sick. I feel unnatural, separated, spare and deceitful.
I went out for fresh air as dusk fell. The loop: Up past Silver Street on the canal, Catshill, Anchor Bridge, back through the centre. I nearly didn’t make it.
I noted that the waterside looked great in the half-light. Even the rotting, derelict husk of MacWarreners still had an air of dignity about it; like a ruined actor decaying in a faded, out of season end of the pier pub.
I think I know how it feels.
October 6th – For reasons too complicated to go into here, my moaning about the daily routine and the greyness of life and the weather were heeded by fate and I found myself visiting Matlock and Matlock Bath in the afternoon on a work related trip. Having to leave a vehicle behind, I’d taken my bike and had a ride down the A6.
Matlock is a nice enough town, with some great architecture, but could do with a little more variety in the shops. But I have to say on the whole it’s a classic Derbyshire river-valley town; beautiful, unpretentious and charming.
Further south, at Matlock Bath, things were a shade more grim. Matlock Bath seems to have been in steady decline since I first visited the place in the 1980s. A tourist stop off and motorcyclist haunt, this odd little town clings to the Derwent gorge with an air of faded, seedy seaside glamour. There must be eight or more chip shops; several sweet shops selling exactly the same stuff, and more than a handful of jaded amusement arcades and pubs.
The architecture and riverside are beautiful; but there are many closed shops and it’s hard to escape the feeling of something passed from life, if not exactly to death, then to some sort of ghost existence.
But then again, it’s possible that Matlock Bath has been like this ever since it’s heyday in the Victorian years. The place reminded me of one of those lost seaside resorts that were once locally popular but now are only half remembered, like Rhyl or Withernsea.
Perhaps it was the season and the weather, but the sadness of this place was almost enjoyable.
Perhaps on a sunny, summer day it acquaints itself better.