clayhanger common

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March 11th - I wasn’t feeling well. An unpleasantly off-colour feeling had been descending over me for a few weeks. I ached. I felt dizzy. Something wasn’t right.

I grabbed a takeaway on the way home and shot from Clayhanger to Brownhills over the Spot Path and common - where, despite my fun, I found the migrating amphibians - out in huge numbers enjoying the drizzle - charming and fascinating. I love frogs and toads.

I took care where I was riding, and noted creatures of all sizes and hues. Very one of them obeying the same seasonal imperative.

Nature has a way of pulling you up short.

August 25th - in an attempt to lift the darkness, I headed over Clayhanger Common to check out the view of Shire Oak. It’s an interesting view, and demonstrates the wide range of ages and styles of house that make up this quiet, residential end of Brownhills. This view is only possible due to the mound sculpted during the reclamation of Clayhanger Tip, where I stand was one a cutting full of brackish, dirty water.

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July 27th - On Clayhanger Common, there is a thriving population of teasels. A spiky, spiny, purple, prehistoric-looking plant, our ancestors used the dried seed heads to tease wool and fabric. 

Some of these plants - once a very rare sight in these parts - are six feet tall now and in rude health. A fine symbol of the biodiversity and health of the common here - which only 35 years ago was a polluted, barren and filthy refuse tip.

May 14th - A hop out to get some essentials saw me caught in a downpour. Mooching around the canal, I noticed that the remainder of the old railway bridge at the canalside on Clayhanger Common was slowly being reclaimed by nature. Nothing more than the steady hydraulic pressure of organic growth is splitting apart the brickwork and reminding us that nature is really in charge, and it’s got all the time in the world.

July 9th - after an hour or two of exploring the Black Cock and canal with a good mate, I came back to Brownhills along the canal. I reflected on the changes - how the wildlife had come out of the barren, vile pollution I knew here as a child. I watched dragonflies, admired oak, beech and sycamore saplings, smelled the heavenly scent of a carpet of honeysuckle. Crab apples ripened gently in the sun, a common tern hunted for incautious fish, grey wagtails expertly pecked at insects. I scrambled up on to the bank at Catshill Junction, where in my youth had been a ditch the size of a railway cutting filled with brackish, foul water. I remembered a solitary, 45 degree telegraph pole titling forlornly with it’s wires draped in the soup that would now be 20 metres below my feet. 

As I looked from the top, a group of teenagers - who probably weren’t old enough to remember the last century - were lazing on the grass in the centre of Clayhanger Common, basking in a patch of sunlight, completely unaware that had I done this at their age I’d be in the middle of a festering refuse dump.

That’s why I love this place, for all it’s faults.

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November 16th - bit of a dim moment today. Went out without my camera, completely by accident, and spent the day nervously wondering if I’d lost it somewhere. Coming home along the canal from a day of meetings in Telford and the Black Country, I passed the ‘new’ pool at Clayhanger. It seems to be slightly fuller than of late, but it’s sadly sullied by a large quantity of litter, mostly discarded beer cans, at the benches near the canal. I assume it’s the same bunch who have been causing a nuisance on Clayhanger Common. I just can’t understand the mentality of people who do this. 

Apologies for the poor quality photos, they were taken on a phone rather than a decent ..camera.

August 8th - A long, long day. Out as dusk fell, I cycled around Brownhills, fighting low energy reserves and an aching back. Looking for a decent sunset, I cycled over the rite by Catshill Junction, to look over Clayhanger Common. Alone, apart from the odd dog walker, I reflected on this place; 35 years ago the spot I was stood in was a 20 feet deep ditch, and before me would have been piles of (often burning) festering refuse. This beautiful, treed-lined landscape - replete with rabbits, deer and all manner of birds - is testament to how landscape can be reclaimed, restored and rehabilitated if there exists the vision, will and determination.

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April 17th - Cowslips are my favourite wildflower, and thankfully, proliferating once more, despite their apparent appeal to rabbits, who devour them with gusto. They are actually a type of primrose, and I love their delicate flowers and hardy, resilient tenacity. These two patches on Clayhanger Common I guerrilla planted a few years ago, from a pack of wildflower seeds bought from a National Trust shop.