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Down Under

by wilvir

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"Take only memories, leave nothing but footprints"

Chief Seattle (1786–1866) leader of the Suquamish and Duwamish Native American tribes

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Out of Reach

One of my most favorite places, the River Churnet above Consall Forge

Days spent disconnected from either mobile phone or data services is unusual despite having two mobile and broadband service providers. Yet, for the past fortnight that has been my reality, immersed in a place discovered eight years ago while meandering along the Caldon Canal.

I'm amazed at the impact the vagaries of mobile phone and broadband connection have on everyday lives. Few people will loiter in areas where they are unable to connect to their mobile network for even a few hours, let alone days, and go to extraordinary lengths to make that connection. Away from the madding crowd, my lone window on the world is often sought by friends who go to the trouble of seeking us out, always welcomed to share a glass or two, an impromptu barbecue or a Sunday roast together.

The countryside in bloom is full of natural abundance, I immerse myself in it, my nostalgia all the more heightened by it, memories recalled by senses remembering a scent, a hue, a sound, a love of someone or something missing, but never lost; nothing that matters is ever lost.

Ascending the valley the other day, I emerged into a sky criss-crossed by every invisible radio frequency imaginable and was automatically reconnected to the might of the world wide web, a tour de force if ever there was one and my one modern world indulgence.
26th Jun 2015, 11:42   comments (0)

Days Just Past.....

1. Gaining confidence.
2. Keeping close.
3. A million Buttercups.
4. Manicured gold.
5. A favourite place.
6. Sight and Sound.

Continuing my never ending journey cruising diagonally northwest across the country, I detoured away from the Trent and Mersey Canal to drop down into the River Churnet Valley by way of the Caldon Canal. Here, east of Cheddleton, is a haven of sight and sound that evoke, in those of us who love the outdoors, both a feeling of nostalgia and a sense that all is right with the world.

The haunting tone of a steam whistle, like the hoot of a mechanical owl, passes close-by as a Churnet valley railway locomotive meets its schedule; the aroma of the coal fired engine carried aloft on puffed white smoke drawn across the landscape by a breeze as the train 'chuffs' by, in places only yards from the cut.

An infrequent boat sedately passes, hurrying back a few hours later as if pulled by an invisible rubber band stretched to the limit of its range by a crew with time against them. No time to loiter or explore, just a few bored words to say they'd done it, or 'there's nothing here', blind to the beauty of this place, another box ticked.

Summer starlings whirl overhead in the late afternoon sun, swallows dip to drink, showing off their mastery of flight. A couple of fledgling crows, just yards from the boat, watch enviously from the towpath, stranded after dropping from their canal-side tree. Concerned for their welfare I spent four days moving them out of harms way, returning them time after time to the lower branches of the tree as I sought to give them some height to flex their wings and flight muscles; my fear being they would end up in the canal and drown. The morning I left, they were gone, I hope they made it.

Mornings see goslings, herded into large field creches overnight, shepherded into the reed dense water by insistent parents, keen to prevent them being trampled by thirsty horses. Ducklings, coots and moorhens compete for floating debris, perfecting their interception skills, food a priority.

The stretch of canal formed by the River Churnett, between the river stop-lock and the weir at Consall Forge, is a favourite of mine; you can hear a pin drop. At Consall Forge, Gunner wet from a swim, I cross over a weir bridge, then an adjacent canal bridge and walk across the railway line to avail myself of a welcome pint or two in the garden of the isolated 'Black Lion' Pub.

Walking the two miles back to the boat, lengthening shadows further enhance the incredible beauty and natural harmony of this place.

Oft-referred to as Staffordshire's 'Little Switzerland', the views, the walks, the river, the 'cut', clear-sounding birdsong, sun-blazed redbrick bridge holes, the flash of a kingfisher, the lowing of cattle, the call of a soaring buzzard, fish rising, attracted momentarily by the floating, wind blown, hawthorn blossom, the ratchet click of my centrepin; all painting a landscape full of distraction, of interest.

I tarry awhile, watching, listening, fanciful, at peace.
22nd Jun 2015, 13:22   comments (0)

All Aboard.........

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17th May 2015, 10:37   comments (0)

Spare a Thought..........

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Living life on the cut is a joy, idly spent appreciating calmer weather as the strong winds of the past few days abate to a whisper. All about vibrant colours burst forth as Spring deepens and we are advantaged by its seasonal gift of growing abundance.

Sadly though, my reverie is often marred by some boat owners with scant regard for others like us, lying up for a few days out in the sticks, mooring pins driven deep and ropes sprung to counter the effect of those passing inconsiderately enough to draw water out from under wilvir fast enough to scrape her hull gratingly against the bank and canal bed as they pass. Another boat has just gone by, only reducing engine rpm as the bow came level with ours and no thought of the undertow he is creating as his boat ploughs on with no time to lose speed before he throttles up again as his stern passes wilvir's. Both bonkers and ignorantly inconsiderate! Especially to those who are less than securely pinned. Boats tied to piling suffer too, yet the piling-only mooring brigade still ignore the plaintiff cries and frantic hand signals of live-aboards fearing their treasured homeware being thrown to the floor.

Sometimes I object with a polite request of growing intensity at each indignant word uttered in reply. Mostly I nod knowingly and smile. It's evident that some skippers reasoning is a lot slower than most, giving them all manner of daft excuses shouted from lips their brain can't keep up with; oft-too, reinforced by a buxom crew maiden of self-loading-ballast proportions, cackling like a fish-wife in defense of her 'Poldark'.

Approaching moored boats and anglers at my usual genteel walking pace, I always slow wilvir by throttling back to the idle stop at least three boat lengths before coming abreast of either boat or angler. However, there seems to be a propensity amongst the mostly grey-haired fraternity to charge round the cut in their manicured skips without a thought for others, props cavitating as throttles are advanced to warp speed immediately they are in open water again. You don't need to see them coming, you can hear them!

Humour aside, as the new seasons growth of reed and iris offer fish, vole and nesting birds shelter and protection alike, I despair at the rafts of flowering vegetation, and often unattended boats, pulled from the banks by the undertow of moving craft oblivious to the damage and disruption they can cause, especially on narrow and shallow waterways. I often stop and tie up another skippers pride and joy, a hire boat or trust workboat pulled adrift by other passing boats and left to block the navigation to others coming behind them.

I can't t have it all, but I will have my say without fear or favour and help out where and when I can. Life is too short to bear grudges, even when wilvir is straining at her ropes, so spare a thought.....
15th May 2015, 14:53   comments (0)

Nature's Clock Work

1. Nature's timepiece.
2. An admirers seat .
3. A watermans signpost.
4. A confusion of weather.
5. A field of sunshine.

Another memorable year passes as my home planet spins and circles on its solar trajectory, my fifty-ninth orbit of the sun complete.

May is a good time of year, full of promise, of new life; the sun dawdles above the horizon, warming the landscape; sweet birdsong hails the arrival of both dawn and dusk; the countryside, ablaze with flowering rapeseed; the scent of bluebells heady in the stillness of twilight; a trickle of water heard as the land gives up its excess, distant thunder rumbles in a confusion of weather.

The rod tip quivers as a fish seeks to make off with the hookbait, then snatches round as the offering is taken. A flash of silver kites through the water, I ease  the pressure of my thumb on the centrepin and give line to keep the barbless hook-hold gently fast, the rod, cushioning each lunge as the fish, wary of the waiting landing net, tries to best me and escape. No harm done, she is soon unhooked and released, scale perfect, to look for a less troublesome morsel.

Just catching a fish is a connection, an interaction with so many simple things. The spin of a centrepin, silent, balanced, engineered to near perfection. The weight curving action of a rod, almost alive as it signals and softens the give and take between captor and quarry. The mist thrown rainbow as water is fired into sunlight, the line plucked string like, as if a violin, played by my watery adversary. The practiced ease of experience, of simple skills learnt over a lifetime, mastered even, bring special satisfaction, but never ever smugness. The glint of sunlight on water, temporarily blinding; a moorhen spooked, flees the arena, ripples spreading soundlike, ringing across the surface; the feel and empathy of a fair contest; the joy of a moment, longing to share it, yet knowing few understand the whole.

My day's are accompanied by deed thought and dream. In solitude I am never on my own, I live at ease knowing there is another. We are never alone.
8th May 2015, 19:20   comments (0)

A Spring Contemplation

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Photo:1. Late afternoon shadows fall.
2. A forgotten scent plucks a memory shared.
3. England's green and pleasant land.

A chunk of the 'new' year is fast being consumed as Spring takes hold now and nature's palette begins to add colour to a countryside awakening from its various slumbers.

Here, between Harts Hill and Atherstone on the Coventry Canal, woodland walks of recent days, carpeted in a mulch of the previous Autumn's  leaf-litter, are fast showing swathes of bluebells standing to attention in the dappled sunlight, their scent tickling a memory of childhood expectancy and wonder for the approaching summer.

My memories are particularly keen at this time of year. Looking back, forays into the countryside were very much influenced by my excitement at yet another dip into the world of angling. However the traditional close-season between March and June changed my reasons for being out and about, such that other interests came to the fore. Even today, when I can fish year round, I am less inclined to do so. My belief being that any and every quarry deserves a respite from the hunter. It's simply a respect for protecting and maintaining an abundance in nature that today is seldom at the forefront of people's minds.

A woodpecker hammers at a hollow trunk; larks sing high above a meadow, capturing the ear as surely as the call of a loved one; a cloud of gnats rises in warm shafts of sunlight; a pair of water voles scamper down to the waters edge and break the surface arrow-like as they pass through the stands of burgeoning bull rush and flag iris; Dandelions, one of my favourite wild flowers, burst open sun-like, exuding a wealth of good cheer as they swell with pride to please appreciative eyes; lambs worry their mothers for milk, hugging their sides at the mear hint of the unfamiliar. The countryside is my haven, my home, as I drift the cut and settle for a few days to once more contemplate the fullness of living a life immersed in my surroundings.
28th Apr 2015, 15:01   comments (4)


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17th Apr 2015, 13:13   comments (0)

A 'Snotty'

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9th Apr 2015, 15:14   comments (1)