Thursday 14 June 2018
This is not the view from my loo today. Rather it is something I stumbled upon during this morning's walk in the woods near Deptmore Lock.
And what a wonderful site it was. Using only the natural earth a group of people had sculpted an adventure trail for cycles. It looked like an ancient burial mound created by some long dead race.
In my youth I was regularly sent off to play in the woods, where my only tools were my imagination and whatever I found to hand. I constructed some pretty serviceable dens, but nothing on this scale! What fun must be had here. What thrills and spills and what a sense of comradship and adventure.
But already I hear those two headmasters Health and Safety barking their displeasure. There are no safety barriers, no soft mats to land on and probably no adult overseeing the sport. There are no opening and closing hours, no St John's Ambulance on standby. The potential for serious injury or even death boggle their minds.
And that's the thing. Do we value safety over adventure? Do we allow our children to grow by experimenting and taking risks, knowing there is a good chance they may come to harm? Or do we wrap them in cotton wool, sit them on the sofa and place some technological device in their hands so they can experience second hand adventure?
And what about ourselves? Do we view the world outside our window with fear and distrust or do we stride out there, heads held high, boldly greeting whatever comes across our path?
A woman recently questioned my wisdom of operating locks on my own. She pointed out what could go wrong. She advised me to wait for another boat, Oh and don't moor in the middle of nowhere as you never know what might lurk in the hedgerow.
I have my own store of fears and anxieties and I have to battle daily to keep them in perspective. But I will not let my fear stand in the way of my dreams. I will not let the 'what ifs' stop me from sucking the marrow out of life. I will not value my health and my safety over my freedom to experiment and experience.
There is a cartoon doing the rounds on social media. It depicts a worried Piglet talking to Winnie the Pooh. Piglet says "One day we will die Pooh". And the wise old bear replies "Yes Piglet, but on every other day we will live." Quite!
Meanwhile I have this lock in front of me. But it is blowing a gale today, so I shall do it tomorrow!
Friday 8 June 2018
Yes, my guilty secret is out, I feel trees.
I feel them literally. When I come across an old or huge or beautiful tree, like these in Chillington Woods, I lay my hand on the bark and just feel. I feel the texture of the wood. I try to guess how long this tree has been here to grow as tall as it is. I wonder at all the changes it has witnessed. I look at the leaves and realise that every single year this tree experiences death and resurrection. I stand with my feet firmly on the ground and imagine what it would be like to be so deeply rooted in one place. I look at the trees around this one and am aware of this tree being both separate and in a community. There is research that shows trees really do communicate with each other through their root system.
I also feel trees in that I sense the spirit of them. To me they feel utterly at peace. They are where they are. They may have seen hundreds of seasons come and go. They experience growth and death. They are sometimes naked and sometimes rich in foliage. Birds and animals and humans play in their branches. Some damage or even kill the tree. Meanwhile they stand.
I sense an almost maternal, or perhaps paternal feeling from certain trees. I have sat between the roots at the base of a tree and felt protected and held by it. They seem to possess an ancient wisdom that I long to hear, if only I could stay still long enough to listen.
Trees seem hugely patient to me. It takes so long for these massive trees to reach maturity. Every spring their sap rises and all their huge strength is poured into producing leaves. Gales blow, the sun burns and then with the first frosts, all that effort seems wasted as the leaves curl up and die. They stand, seemingly bereft of life through long winter nights, until the coming of the next spring when the light returns.
I feel trees and they feel so good.
Monday 4 June 2018
For once this is not my view from my loo, at least not yet!
After having a lovely time on the Llangollen, Bonny and I have pottered back down the Shroppie and yesterday moored very close to what will be our new home base.
The first photo is taken from the road bridge, looking down the mooring. I will be moored towards the far end which suits as it means very few cars will pass our boat. As you can see, the driveway is well kept and I can park right next to my boat - an entirely new experience in nearly 10 years of boating.
The little pink boat will be leaving and on 1st August that space will be officially mine! I won't actually be moored on it till around the end of August or perhaps into September. There are so many things I need to do at Fradley first, but there is no hurry.
There are plusses and minuses when I compare this new mooring at Shebdon with my current mooring at Fradley:
The biggest advantage is the location of the Shebdon mooring. It is on my favourite canal, the Shropshire Union. It is an area known for its peace and solitude. I love the look of the 'main' road..
Fradley has been wonderfully peaceful for me, despite being one of the busiest canal junctions on the network. All things change though and there are so many plans for development in our immediate area, including a gravel pit, a marina, houses and of course that gross vanity project, HS2. I have noticed too an increase in the number of visitors to the junction which can make it difficult to park sometimes. I am at a stage of life now where I increasingly value peace and solitude and an absence of bustle!
The two practical advantages at Shebdon are being able to bring my boat to my car and having water taps on the mooring. My foot condition has been almost entirely healed by a steroid injection, but if I carry any weight, for any length of time, it can cause a flare up. So not having to barrow everything from a car park, down the road and across a lock and then down a path to my boat will be brilliant! The water tap is a bit of a distance but I met one of my new neighbours and he said I could attach to his long hose in order to get water to my boat. Thank you Jason!
There are things I will miss about Fradley though. I have been blessed with a mooring full of friends (both human and dog) and I shall miss them all terribly. Bonny and I had a multitude of different walks right on our doorstep at Fradley. Our new mooring, being set in a sheep farm, means our choices are more limited. Mind you, once we explore, who knows what we might discover, and I was pleased to notice a Bonny proof fence between the mooring and the sheep field!
There is nowhere to dispose of rubbish at Shebdon, which means a car run to either Norbury or Tyrley. At least it will be very easy to diesel and pump out as Norbury Junction is less than an hour's lock free cruising away and boasts of providing the cheapest fuel on the canal system. There is also somewhere to turn my boat at either end of the mooring, which will be very different from Fradley. If I needed to reverse direction there, it meant cruising through locks to Alrewas and turning there, before cruising back, a journey of at least 90 minutes.
Change though is unsettling and I have suffered a fair few sleep disturbed nights since I said yes to Shebdon. To lessen my anxieties, I decided to keep my Fradley mooring till the end of August. This means I can complete things like my car service, blacking the boat and sorting out Bonny's jabs in the familiar places I have always used. Then I will have plenty of time to find new places for all these things before I need them.
Fradley gave me one essential thing that I'm not yet sure I can get from my new area and that is a postal address. My little post office at Fradley has been so wonderful. Ralph and Gaynor have received all my post for the past nine years and have never charged me a penny for the service! They even forward my mail for me whenever I am away cruising. I shall really miss them! I will be visiting the local post offices in the Shebdon area once I have access to my car again to see if I can find another angel!
Meanwhile it is time to cruise on as I am meeting my friends Roger and Shirleyann at Great Haywood on 17th June in order to cruise the Caldon. Once I have reunited them with their car it will be full steam back home to Fradley, for the last time.