Blog for April 2021 with Photographs and Information
Saturday April 3rd 2021
Well, the late afternoon/early evening sun was a bonus. Just time to tend to the climbing roses. We planted nine last year for a pergola. This photograph shows the new buds coming on a horse chestnut tree. I have grown this tree from a conker I picked up when cycling past Whittington Farm near Iverley Heath. I think I will be long gone before it produces conkers!
Sunday April 4th 2021
What a great day. After the excitement of the Ronde Van Vlaanderen, I went out for a few hours of hilly climbing myself. I stopped quickly to take this photograph at Broom Hill with Chaddesley Woods in the distance. The view the other way is really good and one can see Abberley and the Malverns. However, I would have been pointing my camera into the sun. Oh, and I got a PB - the age old cliché is that anybody can break a world record but only you can get a PB. Perhaps there is life in the old dog yet!
Monday April 5th 2021
Although quite cold, there was a lovely blue sky on this Bank Holiday Monday. Consequently, we wrapped up and put on a big coat and hat and ventured into the countryside. Although living in the Black Country, it is not too far until we are rambling through fields. After wandering through Careless Green, we climbed up the footpath from Ashfield Crescent and up onto Hodge Hill. The above view is looking towards Cradley from Hodge Hill. The cluster of buildings on the right is Foxcote House Farm, with Foxcote Farm to the left. Above the latter the spire of the Church of Saint Thomas at Dudley can be seen on the horizon. The old Foxcote pub, a large estate public-house would have just been out of shot on the left - long gone of course. In this location we were 167 metres from a large housing estate.
This scene will change rapidly as the crop grows. This is the path from Hodge Hill towards Clentvilla Farm near Wassell Grove. The Clent Hills form a fantastic backdrop. Here we are exactly 200 metres from a large housing estate. There is no need to travel miles to enjoy a good walk, it is often on the doorstep. Indeed, in the below photograph we had just waved goodbye to an Alpaca when encountering this group of horses. However, we could not attract their attention. For all they knew, we could have been armed with carrots! We were really in the wilds here almost a kilometre from two housing estates.
Here we are just 178 metres from the large housing estate at Fatherless Barn and the fields are full of sheep and cattle. Life on the edge!
Tuesday April 6th 2021
Yesterday's "Life On The Edge" ramble may have started a theme for a series of walks on the edge of the conurbation.
Today, still wrapped up in winter woollies, we started a walk from the churchyard at Covert Lane, on the edge of Stourbridge. If we were not in Covid-19 lockdown we may have kicked off from The Greyhound so that it formed a pub walk. But if you fancy a walk in this area you can adapt it to fit in either this pub or the Crown at Iverley. We followed the footpath that runs along the back gardens of those living in Sandy Road, some of whom have back gates leading on to this path. So, we our "Life On The Edge" meant that we were just 57.6 metres away from housing. Norton Covert is a former sand and gravel pit with which many construction projects were undertaken in the Stourbridge area. Nature has reclaimed the site and it is now a wildlife haven with trees of varying ages. Oak is the dominant species but there are Birch, Sycamore, Ash, Wych-Elm, Holly, Beech and Scots Pine. Strange that we did not hear a woodpecker?
At the end of Norton Covert we joined the old Roman Road and headed north. This sandy track is like a motorway, such is its width. It was quiet today but is a popular walking, cycling and horse route at weekends. We turned left at Westwood Avenue and continued along a wide pebbled track to the woods at Iverley Heath. This above photograph shows a well-trodden footpath through the woods, though it does not have a green dotted line on the OS map. Here we were a whopping 789 metres from extensive housing development. Still no woodpeckers to be heard though! It is a lovely walk through what becomes Bunker's Hill Wood. Here a path heads south-west along the edge of the wood and down along the side of Stourbridge Tennis Club. From here we walked down Sugarloaf Lane and retraced our steps to Norton Covert, following a path through the former quarry base, then up the bank back to Covert Lane. This is a short walk of 4.8km but is mostly a delightful wooded trail.
Thursday April 15th 2021
As we generally roll around on two wheels, we are not great walkers. And being inquisitive our pace is dreadfully slow. Stopping to look at something curious or watching some wildlife we must travel at around 3 or 4 kilometres per hour. We would drive serious walkers nuts. However, for us, the whole point of a venture into the countryside is to explore and admire what is entering the eyeball lens.
This afternoon it took us nearly two hours to complete the loop marked on the map above. The same distance would take me 20 minutes on a bike. Still, it was a lovely ramble in glorious sunshine and we did stop to enjoy the views and wildlife. Following on from our last walk, we shifted slightly south and east to form a circuitous route around Iverley. So, this time we walked back up the route alongside Stourbridge Tennis Club and followed the path through Bunker's Hill Wood to Whittington Hall Lane, a road we have cycled zillions of times. It felt odd to be on two feet here rather than two wheels. At Whittington Hall Cottages we turned south-east towards Turbine Cottage. There is a path from here heading to the curiously-named Handkerchief Barn. We forged on towards Iverley House farm. The above view was captured just after Turbine Cottage where the path heads up the hill.
The walk is in Staffordshire but after Iverley House Farm the path follows the boundary of Worcestershire, leaving it down the track from Iverley Lane. Here we turned left and the path slowly joins the line of the old Roman Road. This goes up a relatively steep bank to join County Lane, the dividing line between Staffordshire and that new-fangled county of West Midlands. We followed this back to our start position completing a superb circuit.
Saturday April 17th 2021
It was a lovely day for a picnic during our cycle ride. Many pubs were re-opening, though only for sales outside in beer gardens and patios. We were not intending to visit a pub today as we are playing it safe and waiting for our second vaccination before mixing with others. We enjoyed a leisurely ride of 52.3km, crossing the River Severn twice.
We stopped at Cookley to watch a few overs between the village Second XI playing Cleobury Mortimer. The beer tent looked pretty busy and the action off the field was probably more exciting than the overs we witnessed. We headed off down Lea Lane whilst the visitors coasted to a comfortable win by 9 wickets.
I always enjoy cycling along Lea Lane. Like the Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal, it follows the contours for an easy route to Wolverley. The bonus for the last year or so is that Lea Lane is closed to vehicles so cyclists can ride in comfort. We are hoping that the repairs to the landslip will take ages so that we can enjoy a tranquil lane for some time to come.
With Lockdown restrictions being lifted, Bewdley looked rammed. We stayed on the Wribbenhall side of the river to take this photograph. It never ceases to amaze me why people always congregate in such popular locations. During the Covid-19 situation it would be better if people found a quieter spot to enjoy the river, not all pile onto the riverside to gorge on chips and ice cream. Bewdley looked like a super-spreader event today.
The traffic seemed ridiculously busy today. The road through the Wyre Forest towards Button Oak was horrible due to the volume of vehicles. It is uphill for cyclists so lots of abuse is hurled out of the cars as they get so impatient. It was such a relief to turn onto the lane to Pound Green, part of Cycle Route 45. What would be a dream is a cycle lane along the Trimpley side of the river connecting Bewdley with Upper Arley.
The scene outside the New Inn at Pound Green looked a whole lot more civilised - and safer - than those witnessed in Bewdley. By the look of it another cyclist had stopped for a beer! Although we did not call in today, this is a decent pub that we have patronised when rolling through Pound Green. After the pub there is a steep drop to Arley. I have never been that comfortable going down this hill as the road surface is a bit sketchy in places and it is quite narrow in places should a car be coming up the hill in the opposite direction. No doubt there are nutters trying to take the best Strava time but I play it safe down here.
I rarely do the descent in one go as I generally like to stop at the bridge to look at the railway station. Today was a rare event because just as we rolled to a halt we could hear the sound of a whistle further up the line. We had timed it just right for a photograph. I like the image which would, of course, be better if the locomotive was facing the other way!
Crossing the footbridge we found a nice elevated position to enjoy our picnic. A grandstand seat for watching the trains, the river, the ducks, and those rowing down from Bridgnorth in a hired kayak. This looks good fun - we have undertaken a similar trip down the River Wye. It would be nice if there was still a ferry in operation. The footbridge replaced this service in the early 1970s. The history of the ferry reportedly goes back to the early 14th century.
A really pleasant route out of Upper Arley is the road passing through the grounds of Arley Castle and Arboretum. From the river one simply cycles up the lane past the old Valentia Hotel and former Post Office and through the wooden gate. It is a bit of a slog cycling up to Shatterford, it is not steep but just seems to drag.
From Shatterford the road to Kinver is lovely and is mostly downhill. But try to ride steadily to enjoy the views. Beacon Lane has little traffic so I always enjoy riding along this route into Kinver.
Whizzing through a busy-looking Kinver where there was a queue outside the butcher's shop, we headed down Dark Lane to cross the River Stour, a waterway that was once navigable in the early 20th century. Passing the former Anchor Inn, we stopped on the bridge to watch a duck paddling downstream with no less than fourteen ducklings. What fun it is to watch them trying to keep up with mum.
From the Stour it is a short distance to go up and over the arched Whittington Horse Bridge spanning the Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal. Manicured gardens are the order of the day in this tranquil spot, though the bridge does make this a pinch-point on the waterway. No doubt the tempers of bargees would have frayed here during the industrial age. We returned to our industrial age by pedalling up Whittington Hall Lane and the slog up through the woods at Gibbet Lane. It would have been nice to have rounded off this wonderful trip with a beer in a pub but we will have to be patient - the better times of the new norm are hopefully on the horizon.
Friday April 23rd 2021
This superb April weather is too good to miss. We took a picnic for a late evening 7km stroll continuing our theme of "On The Edge." This time we shifted across a little to wander around the west of West Hagley. There was some terrific wildlife spotting on this easy route.
We started the walk from Ounty John Lane, the road being developed on an old track thought to be named after Jackie Nock, a mole-catcher who once lived in a cottage here. It is said that an Ount is a countryman's term for a mole, though I have checked the etymology for mole and this did not crop up. The track led to an old quarry where there is a slight kink in the road. Pedmore Quarry was located at the junction with Racecourse Lane. We headed south before quickly turning west towards the reservoir. This is on Burys Hill and the above photograph was taken from here looking north across the landscape of the Black Country.
We continued to the junction of the old Roman Road and turned left to follow this ancient road. The track follows the boundary line for Staffordshire. After a few metres we crossed the Elan Aqueduct, not that you would notice the pipes laid underground by the Birmingham Corporation Water Works. In the 19th century there were targets for shooting here as the sandbank acted as a bullet-catcher. A new path has been forged by many feet to make a more pleasant route down the slope. The above photograph shows this descent through the woodland.
After a short distance the footpath veers off the straight line of the Roman Road. Continuing southward after the next track junction the path is wholly in Worcestershire. Indeed, this is part of the North Worcestershire Path. After skirting around the boundary fence of a large house the path rejoins the line of the old Roman Road and along the edge of Brakemill Plantation. This has a pleasant bonus of hearing the sounds of the birds in the trees whilst enjoying the views across the fields.
At Brake Mill Farm we veered right and followed the route alongside Wannerton Brook and Stakenbridge Pool, said to date from the 16th century. The above view is looking back towards Brakemill Plantation from the path. We walked along the edge of the pool until we joined Stakenbridge Lane. There was once a forge operating here producing spades and shovels. The walk along the road is marred by busy traffic but we soon looped back and under the railway line to the tranquility of the pools.
The OS Map only marks the name of Sweet Pool but I believe that this is Brake Mill pool, the railway line separating it from Sweet Pool. We had hoped for a bench here on which we could enjoy our picnic. The ducks would have benefited from a few treats. A swan was perched upon a massive nest. The cottage at the path junction looks like a railway cottage and, indeed, it was built by the railway company after the old cottage had to be demolished when the line was built. From here we followed the path NNE which is part of Monarch's Way. We stopped for our picnic at some tree stumps on Brake Lane and enjoyed the view southwards as we chomped on our sandwiches. The evening sunshine helped to make this a most agreeable evening in the fields.
Saturday April 24th 2021
I did do some pub research in the morning but the sunshine beckoned so we packed a picnic and headed for Bridgnorth. We enjoyed a fabulous afternoon completing a picturesque 70km circuit. We left the Black Country and headed out into the countryside via Swindon and the Smestow valley. We cycled through Claverley and headed to Worfield.
We stopped at the cricket field, a picturesque setting that could only be improved if a church tower overlooked the pitch. The village cricket team can trace its history back to the early 1880s. We watched a few overs in which the First Eleven were hosting Newport C.C. We were rather surprised to see an electronic scoreboard, very efficient but lacking the charm of the scoreboard volunteers changing the numbers. The club invested in a new pavilion in 2013. We rolled on towards Rindleford whilst Worfield headed towards a victory by six wickets.
One cricket fan who was frustrated with his view of the game was in a field in front of the Old Vicarage, a building that has been operated as a hotel for some years. The goat bellows out to most passers-by, perhaps in hope of a treat instead of chewing grass all day. I was quite enamoured by his chilled demeanour. This part of Worfield is more accurately located in Hallon.
Heading in a westerly direction from Hallon we rolled down the dip with the lovely view of The Mere. There is a very steep drop into Rindleford, a picturesque hamlet in the Worfe valley. We normally zig-zag through the buildings and follow the delightful lane along the valley. However, as we had never been to Bromley we thought we would walk our bikes over the footbridge next to the old mill. Sadly, the bridge is closed, perhaps no longer safe to pass. Although there is a record of a fulling mill here in the medieval period, the present building dates from the 18th century when it was principally used to produce flour. In November 1857 the miller, Edward William Ridley, was convicted of adulterating the flour by the addition of alum.
We were not going to be put off visiting Bromley by the closure of the bridge. The bonus of our detour being the lane along to the main road with the River Worfe to our left, always a delight to ride. On crossing the Worfe Bridge a small cottage stands on the corner of the junction with the lane up to Bromley. Now known as Worfe Bridge Cottage, this is marked as Worfgate on old maps. The right to collect tolls on this section of the Bridgnorth to Shifnal turnpike was generally bid at auction each year. For example, in January 1864 the tolls from the gates here were auctioned with that of Kemberton. The tolls collected at Worfgate in the previous year amounted to £122 6s. 3d.
For some reason, though I cannot think why, we have not cycled through Bromley. Consequently, we pedalled up the hill from Worfe Bridge to find a picturesque pocket of Shropshire with a number of interesting buildings. Baker's Cottage, or Baker's House, was sold during the previous year and the new owners have done quite a bit of work to the place. There was once a thatched roof on the building of vertical timber-framing. It is thought to date back to the late 16th century. Bromley Farm House on the opposite side of the lane is of a similar date. It was hard to obtain a view of Bromley House but it looks to be a very fine residence.
Another key reason for cycling through Bromley was to take a quiet route to Bridgnorth as the main road beneath Fort Pendlestone and Jacob's Ladder can often have nutcases driving lorries with close passes. Plus, we got to roll down Hermitage Hill. This does afford a view of the town from an elevated position, though the cyclist always has one eye on the tarmac looking for potholes!
With Covid-19 lockdown restrictions being gradually eased the population has gone slightly barmy. Bridgnorth was absolutely packed. However, we found a quiet spot on River Side as most people seem to walk the path of the eastern side of the river, or pile together at the bottom of the cliff. We enjoyed a peaceful lunch, only being visited by the odd robin or blackbird. A lone swan also came prospecting for some scraps of food. The traffic warden was busy slapping tickets on cars parked on double yellow lines as we climbed aboard for the return journey.
Heading south from Bridgnorth, we have generally ridden through Quatford to Quatt before turning left, crossing the ford into Wooton and up the lane past the Cider House. However, to avoid the busy traffic on this main road, we climbed up Chapel Lane, through Quatford Wood and Mose, as a quiet alternative.
We cycled past Burf Castle and along Duken Lane to approach the Cider House. This is generally known as the Quatt Cider House but technically it is part of Wooton, itself a part of the old parish of Quatt. On the website for the pub it states that the Cider House, "situated in the middle of the countryside, is only accessible by car." They seem to be forgetting about pre-motorised transport and Shanks's pony! It is a unique drinking house in that it only sells cider and the couple running the place do not flog food. Brian and Kath Jervis became the managers for Bulmer's in October 1983. The couple bought the premises in August 1986 and are still running the place in the 21st century. We are not cider fans so have only stopped a few times. The lockdown had only just been lifted for outdoor drinking and the Cider House was moderately busy.
Continuing on towards Tuckhill, we hit a snag at the lane to Cox's Green and had to divert due to that horrible tar and gravel road surfacing. I could not resist a short stop at Enville Church as the sun was blazing on the pink sandstone and it looked a picture. We often stop here as it is one of those spots of rural loveliness. The church is pretty good too - I will leave that for another journey. And so we took the rollercoaster road to Kinver and back to the Black Country in time for the footy results. A great ride.
Straight off the bike, via the shower, and time to cook my Turkish-influenced version of Baked Potatoes, inspired by our trip to Berlin in September 2016. I decided on a stout to accompany this dish. It is still chilly in the evenings so the winter beer supply is still in operation. I particularly like Panty Stout by the Oedipus Brewery, those crazy brewers in the Netherlands. I have enjoyed every beer to emanate from their laboratory. They cheekily describe Panty as "dark, smooth and a little elastic with a soft mouthfeel." The beer has a roasted chocolate flavours and the kick comes via the American Cascade hops, complemented with rye malts for some licorice overtones. Another killer move by Oedipus is the fermentation with an American Ale yeast strain, providing a clean, dry finish.
Thursday April 29th 2021
This afternoon we decided to risk the predicted light showers and undertake a 9.2km walk circling around West Hagley, part of a programme of walks exploring the edge of the urban conurbation.
Not long into the walk it tipped it down but the sky on the horizon looked brighter so we thought little of it. However, midway through the walk it bucketed down and did not stop! We were soaked. Consequently, I only took a few photographs en-route. As you can see, the walk crosses into the old parish of Clent .....
Back in the garden, I generally let my hop growth develop a little before making my selection of the stronger shoots. Wires are now up and it can do its thing. Today, after just 24hrs one of the shoots grew an incredible 12cm.