February 14th - This is the stray horse problem Walsall Council claims it hasn’t got. To be fair, horses are cheap to acquire right now; market prices have never been lower, and any bit of common land around the Goscote Valley has a variety of nags tethered or just wandering free. These three forlorn animals - not one with access to water - were tethered within a short section of the cycle route running through the area. In total, there must have been about 15 of these unfortunate beasts, yet the council bafflingly announced recently that we don’t have a problem with this sort of thing. The council can’t actually do much. People won’t claim the horses if taken away, and the sanctuaries are, by and large, full. It’s a thorny, and worsening, issue.

July 23rd - in the Goscote Valley on my way to work, as the day started to warm up, I was drawn to a continual crackling sound. This always fascinates me; it’s the sound of gorse pods popping open with a snap, and scattering their seeds.

The action is induced by the warmth of the sun, and makes for an interesting diversion on the way to work. I love how the pods rattle musically when you shake the bushes, too.

It’s the little things that make summer, really.

27th June - Of all the flowers taking part in the riot of summer colour right now, my heart is stolen mostly by the vetch that grows on verges and field margins, forming a thick, yellow, orange and red carpet of vivid, joyous colour. When I was a kid, we used to call this delicate but hardy plant ‘Egg & Bacon’. I think it’s gorgeous.

This fine example is proliferating on the embankments to the cycle tack through the Goscote Valley. A fine sight indeed.


August 6th - I’d been in Darlaston, and returned home via the cycleway down the Goscote Valley. Despite small areas of tipping and litter, it’s lovely at the moment; the pastures and wastelands are bright with willow herb, wort, convulvulus and budleia, and the Ford Brook has tall swathes of Himalayan balsam growing tall. It’s an unwelcome species, but it is gorgeous to look at.

All the way through Goscote I watched two buzzards wheel and soar on the warm breeze. You wouldn’t think this area could be so peaceful and beautiful.

Walsall still has the capacity to surprise.