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August 26th - In the backlanes between Stonnall and Shenstone (I’m not going to say where) there are a secluded row of apple trees. I’ve known of them for years, and they always seem to grow decent fruit. This year, they’ve excelled themselves.

The apples aren’t huge, but there are lots of them. There are several varieties, Cox’s, Russets, and I think Granny Smiths. The Russet I nabbed was sweet, juicy and ripe, the Cox too.

I always love to see these apples.

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my day out with elle.

early start, waking up at 1pm (mmm sleep), then heading off to explore stonnall. ive heard so much about hangmans hill so it was sorta odd to finally see it up close. especially since someone hung themselves up it a couple of months back. i thought of all the ghosts that must be wandering around that hill. grim stuff. and even grimer in real life, the barren land. the eerie branches like the enchanted forest at the beginning of snow white, with arms and knobbly fingers that look like theyll choke you.

but every now and again a dog would bound about with its owner, chasing some ball or its own tail or occasionally turning back to look at us and beg us to come play. just to lighten the mood, thank the lord.

and then to finish off the tour a turn about the graveyard. where the ground seemed either hollow underneath, or like it was slowly sucking our feet down. i couldnt even look at the grave with leaves hanging out of it. it looked like something had broken out in the night, the type of place frankenstein skulked around trying to find bits for his monster. 

i love days out with elle. things always take unexpected turns, an evening spent looking at the mickey mouse club on youtube, watching videos about britney spears and ryan gosling, getting excited about a shared love of crochet, treading carefully on unsolid ground in a graveyard and singing songs from phantom of the opera and les mis with a bright red face and mock operatic voices. i dont want it to end. but uni calls, one day left to mill around in brum/west midlands/graveyards.

October 3rd - a few months ago, this was a field of fluorescent yellow oilseed rape bloom - then a field of drying seedpods and vegetation. It was left for a week as stubble, then ploughed, tilled and planted. This field at Stonnall, just off Mill Lane, is now bursting with regimented lines of clean, green shoots. I have no idea what the crop is, probably winter barley or wheat, but the clean, bright green reminds me that even in autumn, the factory floor of the countryside is still in production. No time to waste. I look forward to watching this crop grow.

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May 10th - Fishpond Wood just off the Chester Road at Stonnall is often locally referred to as Bluebell Wood, for obvious reasons. Last year the display of very delicate, native bluebells was quite poor due to the late spring, but this year they are excellent. This is a lovely quiet spot just off a main road, but when in bloom, the bluebells render it magical, even on a poor day like this.

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August 8th - In contrast to recent days, it was dark and overcast with a very threatening atmosphere for most of the day. Racing home, I could smell rain on the wind, and it felt ominous. 

A bit of rain is welcome; it’s needed. But we haven’t had weather like this for any length of time for a long period, and this felt dramatic and alien.

As I rode down Mill Lane in Stonnall, I noticed a flock of starlings had settled on the field, hedgerow and overhead lines. Perhaps it’s just the Hitchcock thing, but even those little birds in silhouette felt menacing…

September 28th - I noticed near Lower Stonnall this huge stack of hay bales being covered for storage. This time of year is all about putting stuff behind for the famers; silage is gently maturing in yards, potatoes lie ready in the earth, their foliage having been removed. Sugarbeet, manglewurzels and turnips are maturing. Huge stacks of bales like this dot the countryside. Last year, there was a shortage of winter food for livestock. I’m sure farmers this year are keen to avoid any repeat. 

July 18th - By the time I was riding home through the backlanes between Shenstone and Stonnall, my energy had gone, I was hot, tired and in pain. It was hard going, but the evening views and atmosphere made it difficult to be upset.

A truly gorgeous evening, of the kind we don’t get in the UK much. Such heat, but so glorious; and a storm is coming in.

Don’t moan about the heat too much, it’ll be cold and wet again soon enough…

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