#365daysofbiking Not just pointless, but wrong:
November 18th – This one may be of interest to the Back the Track guys.
When the NCN – National Cycle Network – was created by charity Sustrans in the late 90s in the UK as a Millennium Project, the Royal Bank of Scotland invested heavily in creating thousands of cast iron mileposts for the new routes, to be erected, well, every mile. Apart from being an utter waste of metal and time, the money spaffed on this pointless vanity crap could have gone into trail upkeep or whatever.
I notice of late some kind soul with a surfeit of time has been touring the network painting and renovating these monuments to banking largesse, but this one, on the old rail line just south of the Old Cement Works – or Slough – Bridge in Brownhills remains neglected and forgotten.
There’s a reason for that.
It’s not actually on the National Cycle network at all.
Trail 5 comes through Brownhills on its amble from Walsall to Lichfield, and at this point arrives at the bridge from Ryders Hayes by canal towpath; it then continues up onto the bridge and along the former line north to Coppice Lane. This post is about 15 metres off the route on a cuthrough to Apex Road, that’s not actually part of the route at all, and due to barriers and a steep bank, is dammed hard to get a bike up.
So not just pointless, but wrong.
Sustrans. Never knowingly the cyclist’s friend.
May 12th – And talking of spring and summer colour, nestling in green nowhere, as Vivian Stanshall put it. Just tens of feet form factory yards, a cycle train on a short bit of old railway in Brownhills between Engine Lane and the old Cement Works, or Slough Bridge.
One of those moments where you stop, look and catch your breath it’s so gorgeous.
Even though I felt like shit, I was happy and honoured to see this.
March 1st – Allegedly the first day of spring, but a better one insomuch as I was better prepared for the cold. I wrapped up better, and rode a more sensible bike. It was just as cold, with more persistent, more powdery snow – but on leaving work early, I did a loop of Brownhills before nightfall to enjoy the spectacle.
Enjoy it I did, although again, the wind and cold were punitive and pugilistic. The powder drifted in clouds like dust devils over canal ice and bone-dry roads. Snow depths went from nothing at all to 150mm. At 4:30pm it was already minus 5 degrees C. When my hair started to develop lumps of ice, I decided to go home.
I noted the gritting operation at the council depot was in full swing, and the grit barn looks very depleted. The coos up at Highfields Farm, Chasewater looked peaceful and unconcerned, and the fox I scared into woodland across the common near Watling Street was as usual for foxes in snow, apparently apologetic for his higher than usual visibility.
These have been remarkable days to be on a bike. They have been very hard, but I wouldn’t have missed them for the world.
It’ll be interesting to see what the weekend brings.
September 18th – It was grey and just after heavy rain when I returned to Brownhills. There traffic had been bad I I hit the canal through Central Brownhills.
On the old cement works bridge, teases grow well every year, and this year there are a fine crop, looking as prehistoric and alien as ever.
These wonderful weeds go largely unnoticed, but they are fascinating. Taking their name from their utility for teasing out cloth and yarn, they now provide winter food for songbirds, particularly goldfinches.
April 28th – On my return, I needed fresh air so shot out around the canal and common at dusk.
It was one of those evenings when the sky was a sort of luminous blue, and it was really quite still.
I love how eerie the canal and particularly the old cement works bridge at the Slough is at this time of day. Just the tonic after a very hectic day.