#365daysofbiking The dark side:
November 2nd – Returning that evening, drained after a heavy, stressful week, I hit the canal.
Riding the canal towpaths after dark requires a couple of things – nerves of steel and a good front light.
The nerves are necessary to spot the familiar hazards of the towpath in unfamiliar lighting conditions – ducks, geese, foxes, cats etc, as well as deep potholes, bumps, wooden trail edge boards and paver edges. It’s also challenging to predict sudden curves in the path you navigate automatically in daylight.
I can also be a bit… lonely.
But I love the mental challenge and peace of it.
365daysofbiking Buttered up:
October 5th – I said a good few weeks ago now that butter and eggs, or toadflax is one of the harbingers of summer’s end: When it comes into flower, you know the season is at an end.
Still going strong in early October, it’s one of the few things still in flower, resolutely brightening the canal towpaths, edgelands and hedgerows.
A beautiful, but sad flower.
September 6th – Spotted late on a grey afternoon, just on the canal near Clayhanger.
A fox trots purposefully, but unconcerned down the canal towpath, nearly on a mission but not in the slightest bit bothered he might be seen.
#365daysofbiking Springing up for autumn
August 31st – A welcome return with the damper weather has been the fungi, which has been mostly absent all through the dry summer.
I love to see toadstools and fungus in all it’s variety and this example on the towpath – some sort of Suillus I suspect – was glistening in the morning rain and was alive with bugs feasting on it.
August 1st – I’ve been enjoying watching the progress of the berries and fruits this year, perhaps more than usual. Mainly I think because with the hot, dry weather I expected the harvest to be very poor, yet it’s far from meagre. Most things seem abundant, and it looks like being a good winter for birds with a bumper crop of haws reddening gradually in the hawthorn thickets and hedges.
These tough, hard berries are a good winter food for many birds, loaded with energy but bitter so they aren’t depleted quickly.
Grandad used to say and abundance of berries meant nature was preparing for a harsh winter.
It’ll be interesting to see if he was right.
June 20th – To my dismay, the agressive and pointlessly regular towpath mowing schedule continues on local canals, to the detriment of wildflowers growing there, like the poor orchids.
In recent years, the canal management have insisted on having the canalside grass mown every month – not only is this unnecessary, it inhibits the growth of some wonderful species and destroys others in their prime.
The mower had been through today, and although the operator was mindful of some orchids, many more were destroyed.
If the grass had been left another month, it would have been to no detriment and huge benefit.
Frustrating and pointless.
June 10th – On the previous Friday, I got the taste for Birmingham and it’s canals again, so I headed up to Wolverhampton on the cut and back down the old line through Tipton into the city centre.
As ever, the sheer vibrancy of this environment – that many would condemn as ugly – was stunning. From the wildlife to the flowers, the discarded dreams in the scrapyard, the geese and herons and all in-between were a joy. I love the seamless continuity of the upper side of the Engine Arm Aqueduct, although you’d be hard pressed to realise the glamorous structure below.
Much of the main line I rode had been resurfaced – and although it needs sweeping badly due to loose gravel – the riding is very good indeed.
Had to smile at the gull that looked like it was concealing a weapon.
A fantastic urban ride. The weather really is spoiling me at the moment.
May 8th – A first for the year: pottering back from an errand in Aldridge the first marble oak wasp galls are appearing on the oaks along the canal towpaths.
That’s a sign the season is already moving on…