BrownhillsBob's #365daysofbiking

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

Posts tagged ‘sunset’

#365daysofbiking Season of the sunset

Sunday 6th February 2022 – Returning from Lichfield on an errand, I caught a good sunset – not a brightly coloured one, although those always occur this time of year sooner or later – but the sort of dramatic, moody, muted skyline that bristles with what Simon Jeffes might have termed surface tension.

The skeletal trees of Home Farm looked stark and beautiful on the skyline of Sandhills, as did the trees meeting the sky in a garden at Lynn.

Winter does have its compensations, but they can be few and far between if I’m honest.

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#365daysofbiking What makes this mine

Thursday 27th January 2022 – On my way home from work in Darlaston, I stopped in Pleck, one of the most ethnically diverse areas of Walsall to get some shopping in from one of the best international supermarkets around.

Within, I took my pick of staples and treats from Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Chinese, Jamaican, African and Arabic cuisines and foodstuffs, and as usual, came out with loads more than intended. I love that store.

Standing on the car park, I noticed the remnants of daylight had turned the sky a gorgeous colour in that transition from light to dark, and the skyline was  as diverse and colourful as the contents of my bulging panniers.

People knock Walsall and the Black Country relentlessly; people with divisive intent spew hatred about the diverse communities and drive poisoned wedges into any available fissure. But it’s precisely the disparate, chaotic and multi-faceted nature of this place that makes me feel at home. It’s what I love: The food, the people, the history, the complete chaos of the built environment around me.

Here are my people and this is my place… Wherever they are from.

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#365daysofbiking On the skyline

Thursday 13th January 2022 – Crossing Chasewater on an errand I’d deliberately held back until sunset, my studied tardiness was rewarded handsomely.

Chasewater is the best place locally to catch a sunset, and the gull roost was massive with thousands of birds too, so the spectacle was twofold. The deer were out on the North Heath and obliged beautifully.

I’ve said this many times and I’ll continue to do so: This place is beautiful. But you have to want to see it, and actively go look. Had I not had one eye to the skies I’d never have seen this.

There’s nowhere I’d rather have been than here, this night.

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#365daysofbiking Back to earth

Sunday 2nd January 2022 – The warmth and fine weather departed as suddenly as it arrived, in the way that saviours generally do.

On an errand displaced from New Year’s Eve, I was in Lichfield during a sunset break in the rain. It was cold, and still windy. I went for the Lichfeldian photographer’s cliche: The Cathedral across Stowe Pool. It rewarded me suitably, with a moody, dark sunset.

I wonder what was happening in the single lit room before the Cathedral. Perhaps there was a lone cleric, forlornly asking the management for another blessed burst of better weather.

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#365daysofbiking Bending the darkness – a Pickle guide

Saturday 1st January 2022 – As we slid off the top of Honey Hill, down through No Man’s Heath, we flowed liquid down the lanes; but also liquid was the light. It was becoming magical, in that way some sunsets are tantalisingly transient: The low sun catches the haze, and lights the whole thing up. You feel like you are the only witness.

The trouble with such situations is they pass horribly quickly and you need to find somewhere to capture them before they escape into the aether of memory.

Fortunately Pickle was alert and spotted a great view to the west from a field gateway. There was a barn, some trees, an unknown spire, beyond and farther, mistier like Addlestrop, hills. And everything was in tones of gold.

The church turned out to be Newton Regis.

We took photos: All these here are from the young lady, not me. She distilled the atmosphere of the day so perfectly, no more needed to be posted. She caught the majesty, the fleeting instance. And then we hurriedly decided to head for Orton on the Hill, to catch the final light of the dying first day of the year. This rare, warm and gorgeous day.

When we reached Orton, not ten minutes later, the sky was dull again, and dark was descending. Such is the nature of these things.

We pressed on through Warton and Polesworth, former mining communities that have much in common with Brownhills, then through Dordon up that punishing hill to the A5. All the time night was tiptoeing in, seemingly leaving it as long as possible, almost apologising for stealing the day.

Pickle loves low light and night photography, and we share the concept of bending the dark. Before she really harnessed her talent, in the short period when I still had stuff to teach her about photography, I introduced the idea that night is more colourful than day in many ways, and that to share this and capture it, you have to look at the dark differently, to bend it mentally. Just as to see in the darkness one’s eyes must adjust, you also have to adjust how you perceive what is there. She’s been doing this for a few years now and the results are fascinating.

Birch Coppice used to be a huge coal mine, but like them all here, it closed exhausted, and with its communities similarly worn out there was depression and recovery. It took years to reclaim the pit site, and it’s now host to clean, silent warehouses and container depots served not just by the Roman Watling Street, but by the former pit railway. They nestle almost completely in a valley between Woodend and Dordon. You come upon it suddenly, and it’s a shock. It’s also a shock to emerge from it on a bike – again, up a punishing hill – and surface blinking back into the countryside you thought was lost.

She caught this in the half-night from the ridge on the rural-industrial frontier. It’s strangely captivating. Looking ahead towards Hurley from the same spot, skeletal trees before a teasingly pink sky give no clue of the mechanisation before them.

We rode at speed back through north Warwickshire in increasingly dark lanes. The night chill was setting in. We stopped at Kingsbury Water Park to wrap up warmer and graze sweet snacks.

It was not until we came through Footherley, barely a gnat’s cough from home, that Pickle signalled to stop. She pointed to the single streetlight at the junction of  Footherley Lane and Hollyhill Lane and indicated it was time for a breather while she got out the camera.

That streetlight has been a marker since I first rode these lanes over 40 years ago: Entering its halo of light has always been a sign of homecoming. She has encapsulated it perfectly, something I never managed, but not only that, she turned to look behind her. I’ll let Pickle explain.

Bob’s got ideas about things that we see and find. He’s got this thing about garden ruins, where you find a once neat garden or park and it’s actually more beautiful gone wild? Another of his ideas is what he calls bending the dark.

Bob showed me that night is often more colourful than day, but you have to look hard for it, and use what’s in your head to connect everything and see it. It sounds very silly but it isn’t.

Behind us at the single streetlight is Footherley Hall, a home for old people. The light from it was spilling into the lane, but also the transmitter, and sky. It’s a whole range of colour that wouldn’t be there in the day, and it would just be a muddle. But at night, the dark bends the way we see it and it becomes pretty, but a bit weird too. I really love that. 

Bob has some really strange ideas but if you think about them, sometimes they make a lot of sense. But only sometimes 🙂 

It was a fantastic ride. After a Christmas holiday with no decent riding at all, it had been so worth the wait. We were both renewed by it and the young lady recorded it beautifully.

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#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 Golden

Sunday March 21st 2021 – I felt better, and the day was bright, if not actually sunny. I got the daily jobs out of the way and headed out in the afternoon through Weeford and on the A5 to Atherstone. From there, I pushed up through Pinwall and through Ratcliffe Culey to Shenton; after that, over to Market Bosworth, Bilstone, Twycross and I managed to hit Orton on the Hill just in time to catch the sunset.

As night fell I returned via Austey, No Mans Heath, Clifton and Darlaston.

The sun came out eventually and rendered a magical golden hour.

A ride of well over 60 miles, it was thoroughly enjoyable and it was so glad to be seeing those little villages and quiet lanes again.

And of course, the beauty of a dusk skyline with a church spire elegantly punctuating it.

Great stuff.

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#365daysofbiking Light in the distance

Monday March 15th 2021 – I’m spending more working time actually at work now, and things seem to be getting more back to normal, albeit a different form of normal with social distancing and masks.

Things after the pandemic will never, of course, be the same again but as spring comes, and I find I’m starting to commute in light at both ends of the day it feels like the world is waking up again. Just a little. Infection rates are falling, less people are being lost and hospitals are less full with virus victims.

The vaccine seems to be having an effect and things look positive, for the first time in twelve months.

Crossing Catshill Junction on my way to the High Street in the dusk, I stopped to capture the dying light and reflected on what a difficult year it had been – but also, on how at last, there was light in the distance.

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#365daysofbiking Choppy waters

Saturday March 13th 2021 – The high winds continue, with the kind of blustery, cool weather one more expects in April than March, but without the warmth.

An evening run to Chasewater rewarded another decent sunset but the chill was biting. The noise of the water lapping against the dam was lovely, though and I stood mesmerised by it for a long while.

Through all the mess of the pandemic, Chasewater at this time of day has been a real anchor for me. However choppy the waters.

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#365daysofbiking Unfixed

Saturday March 6th 2021 – The bike was giving me problems I was finding it hard to fix, so I snatched a quick test ride to Chasewater as the sunset looked decent – I really wasn’t disappointed.

It was one of those brooding, dark evenings when you don’t expect much of the dusk but it surprises you – and so it did.

It was still cold though, as the smoke from the narrowboat moored in Anglesey Wharf attested. I know it’s only really just March, and not even too late for snow, but some warmth wouldn’t go amiss.

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