BrownhillsBob's #365daysofbiking

On a bike, riding somewhere. Every day, rain or shine.

Posts tagged ‘restoration’

#365daysofbiking The thinness of the air, and turning for home

31st December 2021 – It’s been a weird old Christmas. The weather has been the worst over the holiday period I’ve known in many years: Pretty much constant rain and drizzle for over a week.

The festive period is normally an opportunity for us to get out on some seriously nice rides – often in the lead up to Christmas, the traditional Christmas and Boxing Day rides, and there’s usually good fun to be had in the period up to and including new year.

But not this time. The ceaseless downpour has meant that although I’ve been cycling every day, it’s been for utility only; delivering presents or cards, seeing friends and relatives, going to the pub, getting shopping in or getting fresh air.

Every journey has been in waterproofs, and I’ve come back sodden. It’s not been nice.

But on New Year’s Eve, a day I usually hate, the rain stopped. The sun came out. But odder than that, it was warm. And I mean, really warm: 14 degrees. It was like spring out there.

I set off later than I’d planned with my young pal for a loop around the local area, as we had an errand to do in Lichfield, and another in Burntwood.

The riding was fast and easy: There was a strong wind, but frankly, it didn’t matter. Up over Stonnall, Thornes, and the backlanes into Shenstone – but as we neared the village on the hill, we realised something was different. The old, ruined thirteenth century church tower – a remnant of an older, nicer church before the gothic horror that stands today was born of Victorian hubris – was sheathed in plastic sheeting and scaffold. It seems to be undergoing renovation. This is interesting, as it’s been derelict for all of the 40 or more years I’ve been riding around here.

It seems that a group have got together, raised money and are renovating the tower to save it out of charity and community spirit. Yet again, communities pay for Church of England neglect, it seems. But the plan is good and seemingly very competent. Searching when we got home we found the tower has a website here which is pretty useful on history, but not on the future. For that, we found Lichfield Live had reported plans to add a viewing platform to the tower last March. To my surprise, these have been approved.

I do hope this will be open to the public periodically. I bet the view is incredible. I salute those undertaking this project – it’s remarkable. This has largely passed me by over the summer and is an indication of my failure to ride much that ways on last year. I must rectify the neglect.

Further on, we caught a fair sunset up at Chesterfield, between Shenstone and Wall – any sunset is a bonus right now. Pickle caught it well, as she did a somnambulant, subdued Lichfield. The bars seemed busy but the streets less so. As ever, the festive lights and night sky combined with the muted, orange street lighting to make a magic that Pickle was all too keen to capture.

Returning down the wonderful Chasetown High Street, Pickle noted that the Christmas lights were switched off, but it didn’t matter, as it’s always festive at night on the beautifully lit, inclined High Street. I don’t really know what it is about Chasetown, but it shares the phenomena with Walsall Wood. At night, it always seems much busier than it actually is, and has a lovely homely, soft glow to it.

As New Year’s Eve rides go, this has been the best for a few years. We both enjoyed the absence of rain, and the thin, clear air. Such a change from the last couple of weeks… But as we stood at Chasewater, with nothing but the sound of water lapping against the dam, we reflected on the year gone. It’s been hard. There have been times when I wondered if I’d ever do another long ride again. But there has also been great joy: Recovery, the longed for autumn long rides, the return to the outdoors, the sharing of moments like this.

So we turned for home feeling positive, and light with the optimism of a new riding year ahead. There will be winter yet, yes – but spring and the daffodils and cowslips. Long rides on the Moorlands and Peaks. Green on the trees and hedgerows. Summer days and cafe stops and ice cream, and even the odd pub garden. It’s all to come. It was impossible not to face the prospect with an open, happy heart.

Happy new year to you all.

Thank you too for all of your messages of support and encouragement over the last week. Dry Valleys summed it up when he said you cannot serve from an empty vessel. For a while, I was empty. But now… I am feeling somewhat replenished.

Thank you to the wonderful community that support me here.

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#365daysofbiking Toeing the line

May 30th – For the first time in quite a while, despite the rampant hay fever I decided to ride home along the canal through Birchills in Walsall to Goscote.

Climbing the lock flight here is always a pain – not so much the climb but negotiating the many sets of anti-vehicle barriers, so it’s not one I do often; but today, I had a pleasant surprise.

The towpaths on the stretch I rode are all being resurfaced. This is good news: The runs through Leamore and Harden particularly have been deteriorating in recent years and this will make them much more viable in winter on dark evenings, which is when they’d be most useful to avoid the traffic in central Walsall.

At the moment, the route as far as about Leamore is surfaced properly with asphalt down, the rest is in various stages of excavation or restoration, and on anything less than a mountain bike will be very hard going, so if planning to ride this stretch, I’d wait a week or two.

Now, if only the authorities could be persuaded to re-lay Ryders Hayes to Blakenall and Aldridge to Rushall Junction we’d have a totally ridable local network, possibly for the first time ever…

This journal is moving home. Find out more by clicking here.

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#365daysofbiking For those about to rock:

September 30th – The water level at Chasewater has been dropping since late summer, due to the valves being left open allowing the reservoir to drain into the canal. The drop in water level I was told was necessary to facilitate one of the periodic dam inspections that are required here, but also to undertake some maintenance on the causeway the bisects the lake from Jeffrey’s Swag, by carrying the railway and main footway to the North Heath.

Where the embankment has been collapsing, large rocks are being laid to make up for the loss, and presumably to form a barrier for further damage.

It looks like a proper job, too – not like the piles of concrete posts that were used for this purpose in the early 70s.

April 29th – I made another call on my way home to check out the latest work on the heathland restoration on Brownhills Common between the Chester Road and The Parade, south of the Watling Street. Much local comment had taken of mass tree felling and carnage, so I was wary.

I needn’t have worried: The careful project continues to strip out most of the coniferous trees and saplings here, and standing upon a mound that was once a conifer plantation most of my view was now the varying greens of deciduous growth. Native saplings have been left, and the whole area opened up to the light.

Yes, there are tractor tracks on the main footpath, but other than that easily remedied damage, the work seems to be sensitive and in line with original plans.

You can already see the improvements in biodiversity and birdlife here, and that can only be great for the future of this wonderful heath.

April 7th – Ogley Junction Footbridge is mystifying me a little. The bridge itself and deck were restored beautifully, to much local praise. The remainder of the work – the spit and polish, if you like, hats been patchy. 

The pathway off the bridge was originally remade badly, and now has been dug out and corrected, which is good to see. But the bit baffling me is the masonry.

The brickwork on the wing walls has been vary sparingly pointed, here and there. To me, it looks like it all could have done with doing, and bits still seem to be in a parlous state. I’m prepared to accept the work might be ongoing and not finished yet, but if it is a work in progress, there’s no logical pattern to completion whatsoever.

A bit of a conundrum.

February 24th – An abortive ride out to Lichfield from which I planned to arc back around to Chasewater and catch the sunset, which looked like it would be a cracker. I got as far as Ogley Junction Footbridge and discovered the camera battery was flat. 

I was very annoyed, but investigated the bridge restoration, and was pleased to note that they’ve replaced the bolt whose absence was irritating me. And the replacement looks authentic, too.

Nice work. Terrible phone photo.

February 4th – The restoration of Ogley Junction footbridge continues apace, and now encased in a plastic tent, a noses through the screen shows the rails have been shot basted of old paint and a coat of primer has been dusted over.

The stripping has revealed the old, construction-time repair to the north side in all it’s glory with handmade nuts and washers, and this seems like a thorough job.

The bridge isn’t passable with a bike, but is on foot if you’re prepared to hop on the work pontoon. It’s a bit bouncy, and you need to watch for ropes and trip hazards, but it is possible to cross if you’re bold.

I was hoping they’d sort out a diversion, but it doesn’t seem that they have. Mind, the rate they’re cracking on, it won’t be long until they work is complete.

January 28th – The work on Ogley Junction Footbridge in Brownhills looks to be more than just a quick coat of paint. On the pontoon built a week ago, scaffold has now been built and looks set to encase the whole structure – possibly to screen it off fo shotblasting.

Crossing the bridge was still possible but tricky with a bike due to the bracing poles across the footpath, and I think this week the bridge will become impassible. 

I do hope they create a decent diversion, but at the moment, I’m not optimistic about that, as none was in force when I passed through.

The work carried out on this ageing bridge – one of only three listed structures in Brownhills – will be fascinating to watch.

August 8th – I passed the Jockey Meadows coos in poor light and soft rain as I cycled home. They were near mostly near the gate having a project meeting and I felt sad for them in the wet, although that was utterly daft, as they don’t appear to care about, or even notice the weather.

They are doing a good job and the meadow is visible freer of scrub and tall grass now, and I guess soon the lads will move on.

Although one must always treat cattle with respect, I do love these gentle, inquisitive and sociable animals. 

September 14th – My pals the coos are back at Jockey Meadows. It seems to be the same beef herd of young males that was there in early summer, and they seem to have settled back in well. They’re clearly enjoying the job – managing the meadow by grazing, browsing the scrub, churning the soil and spreading the cow-pat love.

Generally laid back and relaxed about life, they do tend to investigate anyone who comes to the field gate. Such gently nosey, lovely animals.