May 9th – A ride up to Chasewater, and back to Brownhills along the canal. It was a dull, overcast day that seemed to permanently threaten rain. However, the sheer beauty of the newly green landscape was a joy to the heart. 

At Newtown, a rabbit in the pasture near the mobile home park; the warren by Newtown Bridge seems to have been wiped out by myxie, and only this burrow remains. The bunny looked healthy enough, though.

The sallow is coming into bloom, and the weeping willows over the canal look majestic, as do some of the canalside gardens. 

Even when the sun is elusive, this time of year is beautiful.

October 7th – Autumn is still merrily and beautifully doing it’s thing, although at somewhat different rates. 

In Wednesbury, the gorgeously shimmering red-brown willows I spotted last week have been joined by beautiful ochre-orage beech trees (At least, I think they’re beeches). The contrast and effect are stunning, even on a grey, damp morning.

On my return, Jockey Meadows is still quite green; fitting really, as this was the last place I noticed to green up in spring. The cows have long ago moved on from this water meadow, but they cut back the scrub considerably, and the effect is still lush and verdant, all under a wonderfully dramatic sky.

Beauty, even on dull, miserable days.

October 2nd – I sotted these remarkable willows turning for the leaf-fall on an ordinary, unremarkable industrial estate. They’re almost luminous. They’re stunning. 

Never seen anything like this before. Beautiful.

September 12th – I needed to pop into Lichfield, so I rushed there from work, then took a leisurely spin back. Festival Gardens are really nice at this time of year, and I wasn’t disappointed. The trees are now perceptibly turning, but still green. I love the willows here, and the purple flowers and bulrushes on the Trunkfield Brook were nice. 

The odd subway here has always fascinated me. From the way its lined with corrugated steel, I think it’s very old. Don’t think I’e ever seen one like this before.

July 17th – I slipped out of work early to get some time back, and with a wonderfully hot, languid afternoon in progress I rode straight up onto the Chase, and barely stopped except for a well-deserved ice cream at Birches Valley. Dropping down into Rugeley, I enjoyed the long, cool downhill, then hopped onto the canal – a peace green sanctuary where the weeping willows looked stunning.

A perfect afternoon.

July 2nd – The onward march of summer means more purples – the urban wasteland warriors that are willowherb and buddleia come into bloom around now. This willowherb – or old man’s beard – is growing well at Telford Station near the overpass, and is a welcome splash of colour in an otherwise dull patch of scrub.

After flowering, this tall, distinctive and very common wasteland plant forms wind-borne seeds that will drift on the breeze and fill the station with white fluff.

Good for birds and butterflies, both plants grow well in urban areas and spots either beyond the reach of man, or out of his sight. They are a testament to the tenacity of nature.

May 18th – I like it when things here resolve themselves and intertwine. Way back on April 28th, I spotted an unusual, willow-like tree growing by the canal I’d not noticed before. What snagged my attention were the curious, spiky, flower-like growths, and I asked at the time what the tree might be, and were the ‘blooms’ flower or seed?

The wonderful fellow cyclist Wilymouse kindly pointed out on the original post that the tree was Grey Sallow (or Grey Willow). I learned from a link supplied that what I had seen was the female flower of this tree; the male being the familiar pussy willows.

Check out Grey Sallow here, and the images down the right hand side of the page.

Moving on, Rose Maria Burnell sent me some photos this weekend of seed fluff blowing around Chasewater. Rose assumed it was from dandelions, and I think a lot of it is… but also, it’s coming in huge amounts from grey sallow trees – the spiny flowers I photographed have seeded and are shedding wind-born material into the air, and coating everything with fluff. 

The trees seem particularly dense around Fly Creek and the dam, although they’re all over Chasewater, and the atmosphere is thick with little seeds. At the creek by the boardwalk crossing, the water is white with seed fluff. It’s really quite eerie.

So, mystery solved – thanks to Wilymouse and Rose for the input!

March 29th – I left Lichfield and the madness of the crowds as soon as I could, and took a leisurely line through Beacon Park, past the brook and the willows, currently in bud. From there, I took Cross in Hand Lane to Farewaell, then hopped over to Burntwood and back home via Chasewater. A great afternoon in sandals and shirtsleeves, and some great spring sights in the hedgerows and fields, crowned by a stark but beautiful sunset.

Spring really is here now, and this was the last night of darkness until the end of October, a spring, summer and autumn away. 

Opening out – I love it.

July 30th – One of the colours of a summer at it’s peak is the deep purple of rosebay willowherb, or old man’s beard. Familiar to many due to it’s floating, fluffy airborne seeds, it occupies hedgerows, thickets and waste ground where it grows in profusion in the poorest soils. Here, at Lynn Lane in Stonnall, it’s well in bloom now, and will soon be seeding. For now though, this delightful flower is alive with bees, wasps, butterflies and all  manner of winged insects.

April 5th – Spring is in full throw now. The trees are coming into leaf, early rapeseed is flowering and despite the cold wind, the sun was warm on my neck. Trundling back from the Chasewater Transport Show, I noted one of my favourite sights was coming into being – a weeping willow over water. Such a beautiful thing, and a real sign that better days are on the way. Home or Lanes Farm at Sandhills looked gorgeous with its patchwork of rolling fields. People who say Brownhills is ugly really need to get out more.