Thursday January 7th 2021 – I slipped out of work as Paul Simon might have said, onto a freshly fallen silent shroud of snow. It was fun to ride home in, but very cold. We’ve not had a cold snap in several years now and this is being quite a shock to my ageing system I can tell you.
Heading up the Spot Path across Clayhanger Common the snow was pristine, and nothing except owls and the sound of snorting deer in the wood nearby dared disturb the peace.
Wednesday December 2nd 2020 – Nipping to Clayhanger on an evening errand, I took the ‘new’ Spot path – the footpath that goes between Bridge Street, over the Common (’Spot’) by the settling pools and comes out by Pier Street pedestrian bridge.
It’s the ‘new’ path as it was created in the early 1980s while Clayhanger Common was being reclaimed from an old refuse tip, and served as a diversion for a shorter, more direct path called ‘Spot Lane’.
Spot Lane was reinstated as a footway when the common was complete, but the new path remained, and I’ve always preferred it. It’s especially atmospheric at night.
Tuesday, October 27th 2020 – Another cycleway, beautiful in the autumn night, but very treacherous as I found out, very nearly taking a spill on a corner.
This is the shortcut between the A51 near Beacon Park and Leomansley, a great way of cutting off the Friary island that pops you out further up the Walsall Road, giving a great route through the park when coming back from Lichfield.
The leaf mulch here was very wet and slippery, and despite taking care, my summer tyres still failed to grip as I skirted the anti-vehicle barrier.
Thankfully I held it and no harm done, but a timely reminder that there’s danger in the darkness.
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.
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…
January 21st – Returning home from Bloxwich through Clayhanger, I took the Spot Path back to Brownhills rather than the usually manic and stressful Pelsall Road, the main reason I don’t usually go that way. As I left the village and headed up over the common, I found myself totally alone in the dark.
It was murky and drizzly and there wasn’t a soul about. I could hear distant traffic, dogs, the sounds of people on the new estate over the back – but compared to the ride I’d just had, this was blessed solitude.
This is never a particularly beautiful spot by day. It’s OK, it’s nice enough. But it’s at night that it’s specialness comes to the fore.
Sometimes the lonely dark can actually be reassuringly companiable.
September 4th – A very wet commuteto work along the Goscote Cylceway on NCN 5 was actually far better than I would have expected, as the rain on on the hedgerows and berries lit them up and made them precious.
I don’t think I’ve ever seen a hawthorn harvest this heavy – from a distance the hedgerows and trees appear red.