January 11th – The spring flowers know. They’ve started. Jack in the Green has tapped the ground with his cane, and they’ve started to grow.

Soon, folks: soon. The flowers know.

January 30th – A bright, clear but chilly day. Still not well, I went out in the afternoon, and had errands to run in Aldridge and Lichfield. Although the day was lovely, the wind was really not to be trifled with.

Passing through Catshill Junction, I noted something I’ve been meaning to record here for a while: the sculpture erected some years ago on the opposite side to the towpath has had the undergrowth and scrub cut from around it, I’m not sure who by, but my thanks to them.

With the leaves off the trees, the new building here looks really good, and I hope the growth here can be cut back for the summer – otherwise those brand new apartments will be awfully dark and have hardly any view of the canal at all.

January 15th – one would tend to think that fungi don’t really grow over the winter, but a few species like the cold, wet weather. Here at Hammerwich the turkey tail fungus is growing well on a rolling, windfallen log.

Initially quite dull, when studied closely you can see how this delicate fungus got its name. 

October 28th – One thing that does fascinate me on the cycle path in Telford is the way the trees and scrub have grown awkwardly through the fences. There are lots of instances like this – where the sapling crossed through the mesh, and the tree is so large now it’s consuming the fece by growing around and through it. 

I’d have thought the constriction would have killed the tree, but it seem,s to have done OK considering, proving just how adaptable nature really is.

February 24th – I’ve featured this remarkable tree in Victoria Park a couple of times, and it’s still growing, still consuming the railing that stands in its way. Having now totally encased the lower rail, one can almost hear it grunting as the upper rail is distorted by gentle, insistent and constant hydraulic pressure.

Despite the things clearly impeding it, the tree seems well enough. The way it has formed around its barriers reminds me very much of pyroclastic flow. It’s like slow, cold organic lava.

August 12th – This is strange. I spotted it growing in the thicket by the cycleway in Telford. The plant itself looks like maybe a rose or some kind of bramble, the the growth ar the top is totally alien to me. 

It’s about the size of a golf ball, maybe a bit bigger. Is it some kind of parasite, like an oak gall? Genetic mutation? Or even some kind of uncommon species?

Help invited… it is kind of beautiful.

June 25th – One the way to work today in Telford, I passed, as I usually do, a tall beech hedge. My attention was snagged by the bright, crisp red-green new growth, and the intensely geometric nature of these gorgeous leaves.

Each leaf different, but similar. Macro, and fascinating. Never really studied them before, but these were remarkable.

Funny the things you sometimes see afresh by chance.

June 11th – The swan family are definitely down to seven from the original eight, but that’s still a large family, and they all look healthy. now four or five times the size they were just a few weeks ago, the cygnets are now around the size of an adult coot or moorhen.

They’d been loafing on the opposite bank of the canal from the towpath, near Clayhanger Bridge, where they seem to have a hidey hole. Obligingly, they all came out when I showed an interest. If they’ve been roosting there overnight, I’m surprised they’ve only lost one cygnet; that area is a busy thoroughfare for Brer Fox, who at this time of year, wouldwelcome of the easy pickings for the cubs’ lunch.

As they get older, they get harder to take and more worldly wise, so hopefully the remaining offspring will survive. They were certainly very relaxed today, preening, grazing and just scudding around with mum and dad.

I was glad to see them, I’m starting to feel an attachment to these grey balls of fluff…

June 24th – Technically, although summer has only just started, it feels midway right now. The late spring flowers and blossom have receded, and the chicks have hatched. Now it’s the time of the water lilies on the canal, the hardier summer blooms, the goslings and young visibly growing up. This brood of eight Canada geese chicks have survived remarkably well agains predators – including the local foxes – and are beginning to develop adult plumage. They’re still button-cute, though, and mother and father still stand eagle eyed in defence of their family.

May 8th – Sweet rain.

As someone who spends an inordinate amount of time outdoors, I’m fairly honed to the seasons and their timetable. That was, until this year. Spring is so late, it feels like a chunk of the year has just gone missing, lost, been edited from the tape.

The natural order being disturbed, I’ve missed little things without realising them. One being the smell of the countryside in spring after rain. When I travelled to work, the drizzle was very, very fine and almost not there at all, but heavier on my return. At Shenstone, the air was damp, musty and smelled beautifully of pollen, oilseed rape, moist earth and growth.

I didn’t know how much I’d missed that smell until today. I got off my bike, and stood there, just opening my senses to it. Not just the scent, but the colour, the light, the birdsong. 

It was glorious. Even dull days can be a joy.