BrownhillsBob's #365daysofbiking

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

Posts tagged ‘tower’

#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 Sensations in the dark

Boxing Day Saturday December 26th 2020 – Unusually, we’d had a family walk in the morning, in the Needwood Valley and around Hoar Cross, which was lovely but grey and very muddy. So instead of the usual Boxing Day afternoon blowout, I grabbed my pal and we headed back to The Slough and Old Cement Works bridge to try the new camera on the canal scenes there.

From the eeriness of the former railway trail in nothing but bike headlight, to the pool of spilled illumination on the canal footpath near the Jolly Collier Bridge, it was great fun.

A storm was coming in and the cellphone masts rattled and whistled in the wind. The whole ride filled the senses and felt edgy and intense.

The results speak for themselves. This camera loves low light. That’s the first digital camera in 22 years experience I can truly say that about.

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#365daysofbiking Feeling exposed

January 29th – Up on the old Cement Works Bridge, time to have a think and play with long exposure photography. With the lightening morning sky the results were remarkable.

I love how the trees seem out of focus as their extremities moved with the wind.

It was going to be a tough day. But at least I’d captured something interesting to kick it all off.

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#365daysofbiking Signal to noise

October 22nd – On my return that evening, I crested Kings Hill during a pink and blue sunset of the most striking kind, and grabbed a chance to catch another of my muses: The Kings Hill cellphone tower with the sky and lights of the Black Country behind.

Antenna, aerials, masts and suchlike have always fascinated me. I know how they work, yet they are still mysterious: Still yet powerful structures exchanging electromagnetic radiation with the atmosphere: Ever present, unchanging yet sinister and secretive.

And particularly beautiful against a sunset or dawn sky…

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#365daysofbiking Tenant of the latticework

February 27th – This time of year one view that always snags my attention is that of the cellphone transmission mast at Kings Hill with a sunset behind it.

Tonight it looked particularly fine.

I always admire radio masts and installations – like pylons, always the minimum necessary to support their load, but rarely inelegant. They stand solid, conversing in energies undetectable to human senses, buzzing with commerce and electrical energy, but otherwise silently exchanging data with the atmosphere.

Hardly anyone notices them, but they a a huge necessity of the modern age, and they fascinate me.

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January 29th – Kings Hill, my workaday home. 

Light is just edging into my evening commute again. I am nearing the season of the early spring sunset. Tonight, I caught the dying light on the twin sisters, and saw the Kings Hill communication tower trading it’s secrets with a glowing, clear ether.

It’s been a cold, grey, horrible month: With the shoulder injury and that awful bug, coupled with atrocious weather riding a bike has been a battle since before Christmas. But tonight, I was fluid again. Speed, like the light, is returning.

I hope this darkness has reached it’s end.

October 3rd – I’d forgotten my camera, I was heading home late and flustered, what an unfortunate time to witness an astonishing sunset. 

Looking from Kings Hill west to Wolverhampton, across the ether the cellphone mast silently talks endlessly to, the sky was bright crimson, rippled and utterly stunning.

And the phone didn’t capture it at all. Bugger.

Ah well, there will be other sunsets that hopefully, catch me better equipped.

August 12th – An run out after a busy day saw me investigating a few things I’d been meaning to locally. It was a bright but slightly hazy evening, and I took the opportunity to try some familiar zoom shots from near Fishpond Wood above Stonnall, and the perennial favourite Lichfield from the quarry gateway.

It was a bit too muzzy for Lichfield, but Wall came out beautifully, unlike the familiar towers of Shenstone. I suppose the mist and haze must have been sitting in a depression or hollow between us, unlike Wall.

Wonder what the science is here?

February 17th – I noticed something today I’ve passed many times but never stopped to look at – Wood Green Church. Stranded by the road system of Junction 8 of the M6, it remains gracefully marooned in the old village of Wood Green between Pleck, Wednesbury and Bescot. 

I have never noticed the elegance of the sharp roof, the beautifully red stone from which it’s built and remarkably detailed spire – and those clock faces are just wonderful.

I need to go and have a closer look – I can’t believe how long it’s taken me to notice this gorgeous building – I’ve been passing it for decades now.

The Black Country gives up it’s surprises slowly, and that’s why I love it so.

May 21st – Up on Cannock Chase, I went looking for a fire tower I’d heard had been rebuilt. These watchtowers are scattered throughout the forest, and I thought they’d slipped out of use; when I last visited this one up near Sow Street high on Wolseley Park in 2011, it had collapsed in the bad weather and was nothing more than a pile of rotten wood. Tipped off by fellow local historian Dave Fellows, I discovered in the week that it had been rebuilt – so I went to check it out.

Sadly, it’s gated at the top so you can’t get in, but it’s a curious thing with an otherworldly feel. As the rain began to fall, the clearing the tower sits in – on the junction of five or six firebreaks for best visibility – came alive. Solitary, quiet apart from the rain on leaves, I realised how much wildlife was around on a dull day; I could hear deer in the wood, and the fungus and flowers were wonderful.

Then the heavens opened – but dry in waterproofs, even that was a sensory wonder.