October 27th - Zipping home late from work in heavy rain, I was suffering a migraine, so headed for the quiet back lanes of Little Aston and Stonnall, the better not to contend with too much traffic. Near Little Aston forge, I spotted this fellow sat bolt upright in the road, enjoying the precipitation. This common toad - I’m surprised he wasn’t already hibernating - must have had a hard, dry summer, and he really seemed to be enjoying the rain. He was alert, and nervous. I moved him carefully to the grass verge and cycled on. Hopefully, he’ll stay out of the way of passing vehicles.
I came across Hill Hook Corn mill pool in Little Aston (near Sutton Coldfield, England) this morning whilst off to work. This swan pair and their little cygnets were being shepherded out of the water on to the grass nearby for a hard mornings preening and feeding.
October 11th - I’ve been watching this tree change colour for a couple of weeks. It stands in the pasture near Little Aston Forge, on the bank of the Black Brook, and has gradually turned the most dramatic shade of yellow. I think it’s some species of ash, but haven’t got close enough to look. On this dark, dismal evening with dusk falling, it was a cheery sight as I cycled home against the wind.
Another 15 miles today. I took Bob’s advice and went down to Sutton Park via Hobs Hole Lane and then up onto the Roman Road. I should have used my brain and realised that Little Aston Church is in an elevated position and that riding up past there on the Roman Road and up the road itself would involve a climb! I hate climbs. I’m much better at them than a few months ago but I slow down to such a crawl that I could literally walk more quickly. I plodded on though.
I stopped to photograph St Peter’s Church just as a plethora of local ladies driving their 4x4s (tricky off road driving in Little Aston) parked up on the car park and went into the church rooms. I said a cheery hello to each and everyone of them and got not one reply. Perhaps it was my helmet hair?
I haven’t been along Roman Road for 30 years and it’s changed. Most of the side roads are now gated off as are most of the individual houses with enormous electronic gates in front of each property, each surrounded by tall, thick shrubs, fences and walls. I suppose something has to be done to keep out anyone in need of a fix of skunk as this is the road that became a little notorious a few years ago. There are a lot more houses now too. I suppose that over the years bits of garden have been sold off and new homes built. How the other half live.
I entered Sutton Park via Streetly Gate and to my delight an ice cream van was parked by the Jamboree Stone. I treated myself. I then rode down to Longmoor Pool and then double backed and made my way to Four Oaks Gate taking a little diversion along the way to take a peek at a house where my Grandmother worked for many years when I was a child. Back then it was my glimpse into a world where parents took foreign holidays in the winter for a little sun and left their children behind in the care of responsible people like my Grandparents. Their son was always away at boarding school, something else outside of my own experience and for goodness sake they had central heating!
The ride back up to Aldridge was a slow climb but I made it without walking!
I returned later to Hill Hook Pool , Little Aston. Here is the site of the Hill Hook Corn mill - demolished in 1970 , a mill stood on this site from 1650. A quiet place well away from the main roads, largely over looked except by locals.
April 29th - There’s a lovely old house on the corner of Forge Lane anfd the Walsall Road in Little Aston. Sheltering under a huge pine tree, imaginatively named “The Cotaage’ is a lovely, well-maintained landmark on the busy road from Aldridge to Sutton. But what I really like about it at this time of year is the gorgeous lilac creeper - I think it’s Wisteria.
Beautiful, even passing by on an overcast Tuesday evening in rush hour…
September 13th - One benefit of the shortening days is the comment colliding with sunrise and sunset. As I left for work early in the morning, the sky was so beautiful I decided to take the long way to work and travelled down through Stonewall and Mill Green just to catch it.
I wasn’t disappointed.
There are some benefits to the closing summer, after all.
February 19th - A beautiful, sunny, frosty winter morning. I love days like this. It was cold, but the warmth in the sun was tangible, and felt good on my shoulders. In Little Aston, mist quivered in the hollows, before being burnt up in the sun.
September 3rd - I’d been to Redditch for a meeting. I don’t go there much these days, and it made a nice change, to be honest. Nicer still was an early finish, and riding back from Sutton, I chose to ride up through Little Aston Forge, a route I also hadn’t ridden for ages.
I must have passed those lovely cottages on the hairpin loads of times over the years, yet I’ve never noticed the pear and plum trees in the hedgerow opposite. The plums - they seemed a bit large to be true damsons - were well over now, but it looked like there had been a decent crop.
The pears had suffered from pests, and some were frost damaged, but the ones that survived were large and beautiful.
I really don’t know why I’ve failed to notice these before…
October 25th - I’d been to Droitwich to see a customer and get some other bits and pieces done, and noted that the Autumn there too was very special, with the wide main roads lined with a variety of trees in excellent seasonal hues.
On my return from the station, I slipped through Little Aston Forge and Bosses, where I spotted the crimson ivy gable wall, and the driveway bed of beautiful flowers.
The last few days really have been beautiful out there.
October 3rd - This is summer’s last gasp for 2011. The air was warm, the sun was out. There was an evil wind, though, and the dying leaves had been stripped from the trees. I was a hard battle getting home, with a big old bastard of a westerly, but here at Little Aston Forge, it was still beautiful. Soon, this lane will be barren and dun-coloured again. The light will change and the nights will close in. Until then, I resolve to enjoy every minute, as long as it lasts, headwind or not.
January 22nd - A gorgeous morning. It was bitterly cold, but the sun was out, and small patches of mist hovered in the hollows. Today, it was a real joy to be cold, on such a fine winter’s day. The road through Mill Green was challenging, but better. I couldn’t think of anywhere finer than here and now.
May 23rd - You guys are going to get so fed up of my summer pictures, but frankly, I don’t care. It’s gorgeous out there, and despite my hay fever, I’m loving every minute. Returning from Tyseley yesterday evening, the back lanes of Stonnall and little Aston were warm and full of summer. Birds flitted in and out of the hedgerows, rabbits dwelled on verges and in the shade of hedges. Fair weather cyclists were out in force. This is the season I live for, and it’s finally here. Get out and enjoy it, it’s gorgeous out there.