BrownhillsBob's #365daysofbiking

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

Posts tagged ‘toxic’

#365daysofbiking What lies beneath

July 7th – It was indeed a better day. The sun was out, the wind had subsided as had the discomfort in my stomach.

I headed out on the canal to Wolverhampton, taking a slow but enjoyable potter down the mainline canal to Birmingham. From there to Aston, where I left the canal and got on a train back to Shenstone.

I noted the Dudley Tourist Board had been working hard to improve it’s customer service at Coseley Tunnel, where I doubt I’ll ever negotiate the southern portal steps with a bike again, although it was certainly an adventure.

Calling at the heavily secured, ghostly Rattlechain Pool, the lagoon concealing many thousands of tonnes of the worst toxic waste was a strange experience: It looks so serene and peaceful, yet the pool – itself just a cap to the material beneath, separated by a thick impermeable skin – is securely fenced and covered by many cameras.

It’s a ghostly and controversial place.

Under the M5 viaduct and Telford’s magnificent Engine Arm aqueduct, the canal is a peaceful, gentle and serene refuge from the mad urbanity above, and the street art is, as ever, fascinating.

Passing on the canal down the Snow Hill flight, I see the view is a matter of opinion. But why? What’s that all about?

A great restorative ride.

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#365daysofbiking Don’t break the chain

May 20th – Laburnum is a beautiful tree. Of the same family as wisteria, with similarly structured but different coloured blossom, golden chain as it is often called was for many years was a staple of parks, gardens and urban public spaces.

Sadly, the seeds are very, very poisonous, and after a number of well publicised poisoning cases in the 80s many hundreds of these trees were cut down.

A few though, remain and this one at Shelfield was looking particularly fine as I returned from work on a grey evening.

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March 25th – Lee Marston settling lakes continue to fascinate me. Created from old gravel pits in the early 80s, they are now more or less redundant as heavy industry is no longer polluting the Tame in Birmingham, and Minworth sewage works is a lot cleaner than it was; the dredging of the settled out toxic silt has now stopped and the site is becoming a haven for wildlife. 

It really is quite beautiful.

It’s still a live river, though, and where the weir carries the water downhill a notch, the plastic bottles and detritus still circle in the vortex here, a sign of our huge problem with plastic waste.

May 23rd – I’m glad to say the sun and warm weather over the last few days has rejuvenated a blossom I thought had died this year with barely a whimper; laburnum or golden chain began flowering weeks ago, but petered out, I assume due to the climate.

Today, it was bright, lush and clear, and one can see why it was planted so much in the postwar years – a truly beautiful blossom. Sadly, the seed pods are very, very toxic and after several child poisonings by ingestion, many of these beautiful trees were cut down for public safety.

Those that remain though – especially examples like this one planted to contrast with neighbouring species at Shelfied – are very, very beautiful.

July 3rd – Ragwort, or stinking willie, is currently abundant in scrubs, verges, towpaths and edge lands throughout the area. It’s a lovely yellow plant that really isn’t appreciated as much as it should be. Although quite poisonous to some creatures (including horses) it’s not a serious danger to humans, and is so beautiful sunny and yellow.

It may be a week, but like dandelions, it’s one of the most beautiful plants of the summer.

January 30th – Further up the canal on the Aldridge/Walsall Wood border, the canal was also looking good from Northwood Bridge, over the marina there, and in the other direction, up past the brickworks at Stubbers Green. 

The canal here looks so serene and peaceful, that only a vague chemical smell in the air and low background susurration would tell you that nearby there was a toxic waste handling facility, a large landfall, marl pits and two brickworks.

Impressions can be deceptive sometimes.

August 2nd – Victoria Park, Darlaston, and a sign of the advancing seasons awakens me to the idea that summer is ebbing away: earthball fungus, looking pristine and fresh growing well in the grass.

Relatives of the better known puffball (indeed, some call the pigskin poison puffball), earthballs have no aperture to let the spores escape, they merely collapse when ripe and allow the wind to do the rest.

They are mildly toxic and can cause bad reactions, including a very bad stomach and allergy-like symptoms, such as rhinitis.

Fascinating fungus though.

May 21st – Laburnum, or golden chain is one of the most beautiful blossoms of the British spring. Vivid yellow green, hanging in strings like some fluorescent downpour, it used to be a lot more prolific than it is today.

There used to be loads of this tree growing in parks, gardens and public spaces – but it hides a deadly secret. 

The seeds of this beautiful tree are deadly toxic, and after several accidental child poisoning incidents in the 80s, many of the trees were cut down for reasons of public safety.

Fortunately, some remain, like this example on the canal between the towpath and the cemetery at Bentley Bridge in Walsall.

October 17th – I came back from Shenstone just as darkness was falling, and spotted by chance another bountiful crop of autumn. Isolated in the hedgerow at Footherley, a large, impressive and perfect group of mature glistening ink caps. These are toxic, and shouldn’t be touched, but the temptation to is huge. I love their pure white stalks and brown-black, sing caps.

I don’t think the fungi have been so good this year, maybe due to the dry weather – these are rare gems.