#365daysofbiking Red is the colour:
October 11th – On the industrial estate where I work, a grim, overcast morning was brightened considerable for yet another wonderful display of cotoneaster berries.
This shrub – for some reason like pyrocanthus – is beloved of industrial estate landscapers, presumably for the late colour. But cotoneaster is much more – the tiny flowers in high summer are beloved by bugs and bees, and come the cold winter days, blackbirds and other passerines will feast on these nutritious berries.
Such a welcome splash of autumn colour.
June 22nd – With the excellent weather we’ve been having, Friday night, post work rides into Brum have become a thing, it seems, and this evening I really needed it. Into the city by the main line from Darlaston to Great Bridge, then coffee, cake and out again vial Spaghetti Junction, Castle Bromwich and the Plats Brook/Newhall Valley cycleway – one of the finest, anywhere.
A lovely, gentle, restorative ride.
September 24th – I can’t make up my mind at the moment if fly agaric – the red and white spotted toadstools of folklore – are having a bad year or if I’m just a bit early.
I’ve found a few examples – notably a good specimen on August bank holiday on the Chase – but all the favourite spots like the bank before Anglesey Wharf on the canal at Brownhills are empty save for a few dog-eared or faded specimens.
This one at the top of the above bank seems quite elderly, as the spots drop off and the colour fades as they mature – but where are it’s usual companions?
They had an extraordinarily good year last year so perhaps it’s natural balance.
August 31st – The willow herb is going to seed now, I noticed the fluff as I rode the cycleway through the Goscote Valley. Filling the air at the slightest provocation from the breeze, the seeds this dweller of the margins produces float and dance on the wind.
When I was a kid, we called the little floating seeds ‘fairies’ and it was considered good luck to catch one. These days, I just tend to catch them in my mouth while riding.
My grandad called this ‘old man’s beard’ and you can see why.
This is a real end-of-summer occurrence and so a little bittersweet, but no summer would be complete without it, even if it does make me spit!
July 29th – I’m not entirely sure what this plant is spotted growing near Wednesbury. It’s like cow parsley, with a flat flowerhead made of many tiny little flowers, but it’s way too short, and with a curious seed head.
There’s absolutely loads of it along the fences and verges here. Can anyone identify it?
July 20th – People seem to think I’m negative about buddleia, but I’m not really. It’s a beautiful purple shrub that lights up late summer wonderfully, and it’s not known as the butterfly bush for nothing – the Lepidoptera love the huge flowerhead composed of tiny, individual blooms.
My problem with this plant – if it’s a problem at all – is that for me, it’s a harbinger of urban decay. It’s so successful in urban environments that it’ll grow well in a patch of soot in vertical brickwork. At this time of year, throughout the urban expanses of the UK you can see buddleia sprouting and flowering from derelict buildings, bridges and rail lines. Seemingly one of the first signs that nobody cares for a place anymore is that it starts flowering in purple at high summer.
You can’t blame the plant for that…