November 4th – As is traditional on a weekend where bonfire night falls on a Sunday, the annual firework binge took place on Saturday. But as I crossed the motorway bridge on Mill Lane in Great Wyrley, I decided to experiment with long exposure photography, having totally forgotten the firework display about to take place.
This is an otherwise unremarkable spot in a semi-urban, inhuman scale landscape, which at night, comes alive. This evening, my companion and I found it very special indeed.
April 27th – Also near Stonnall, a classic spring view: cottages at Mill Lane, Lynn surrounded by an ocean of bright yellow oilseed rape, the cheesy scent of which is filling the air in the backlanes at the moment.
It’s still way too cold, but the countryside is showing itself beautifully.
December 10th – I hopped onto the cycleway at Pelsall Lane, and passing by Mill Lane Local Nature Reserve, the familiar Walsall skyline was pleasingly in a shaft of light.
I’m not really keen on this cycleway. It should be fast and direct – but it’s potholed and slow, and surprisingly hilly here; but this view is always worthwhile.
Allegedly, bad weather was rolling in. The weather sensationalists who seem to get so much attention these days were calling it a ‘weather bomb’ but all I felt was a cold, relentless wind from the south west – the direction in which I was headed.
Like moons, we don’t seem to get normal weather anymore. It has to be ‘most… since records began’ the whole time, just as we once got a full moon, it now has to be a ‘supermoon’.
Spare me the hyperbole. It was nippy. And windy. But it did blow me home.
March 31st – First light work night of the year, and I found myself working late – and returning home just as it was getting dark. In Walsall it had not long rained, but it was warm and felt still. It wasn’t a great sunset, but it found a crack in the clouds; Alumwell wore it well, as did Birchills.
It is so nice to have the light back. I feel like a weight is lifted from me already.
March 11th – And at the other end, a trip from Blake Street through the backlanes for a change. A fine evening, a fine golden hour. The same sun that shines on inner city Aston shines on the country byways of rural Lower Stonnall, and just as beautifully.
August 14th – Once a crop is harvested – in this case, wheat – there’s no time to hang around. The straw has been baled, and the ground is prepared for the next cycle of planting.
As I passed this field at Stonnall, I noted that it’s been subject to some process – many harrowing or scarifying – that has broken the stubble, but without ploughing. I’ve not seen this before, and am intrigued. Sadly, I was running short of time and couldn’t hang around to see the machinery performing the operation come back over the hill.
Anyone any ideas?
April 15th – the gorgeous sandy soil of the north east side of Shire Oak’s bunter sandstone ridge gives Stonnall its charm and character. This light, thin and variably fertile soil shows off it’s characteristics best when ploughed and harrowed, as this field has been south of Mill Lane. The colour – somewhere between chocolate and ochre, varies across the contours. Last week, there was snow lying in the lee of that spinal hedgerow. Now it’s spring.
What this does demonstrate well is that the old boys who planted these hedgerows – miles of which were grubbed up hereabouts in the post war decades – really knew their stuff. Note the step from one field to the next; that’s caused by centuries of wind erosion. The hedges – by virtue of clutching roots and obstructive foliage – break the wind, and act like groynes. This effect can also be seen on Grove Hill and many local ridge boundaries.
The landscape reads like a great book, sometimes.
April 5th – While I was battling through the week, so was nature, but in a grander, more impressive way. Come Friday evening, the snow remaining from the heavy falls of two weeks previously was lying only where the heaviest drifts had been. On the hill to the south of Mill Lane, the ridge-step hedgerow had clearly been a snow trap, and was dissipating itself in a beautiful way.
Coming through underneath, the keen, bright emerald green promise of a new crop. Winter melts as spring appears.
September 17th – I met this splendid chap whilst pulled over to let a tractor pass on my way home through Lower Stonnall. Maintaining a respectful distance, he didn’t take his eyes off me. He clearly takes his security duties very seriously.
What a beautiful cat. Wonder if he’s a pedigree?