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Whispers on water - a photo journal of our life on the 'cut' dedicated to keeping family and friends informed of our whereabouts.
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Wootton Wawen, Stratford-on-Avon Canal. Thursday 16May2013.
1. That'll keep us going for a while longer until the evenings warm up.
We were going to move on this morning but decided to stay a further four days until after the weekend. There is some good walking and a handy village shop in Wootton. Ginny and Gunner walked to Henley-in-Arden (a two-mile, twenty-five minute walk away) to visit the shops there and returned with her rucksack full to bursting. I get a bit concerned for her when she starts unloading 10kgs of potatoes, 4ltrs of milk, a 1.5kg joint of beef plus carrots, courgettes, bread, tinned stuff and other sundry items. We usually end up sharing a jam doughnut or two, which she buys as a sop to soften my concern for her carrying so much. There are few who can keep up with her. Except me of course.
It makes me wonder when people insist on using a car to do a similar trip to a shop, yet buy even less, and then complain about the cost of living. Lazy so-and-sos!
As Oscar Wilde once said, 'Nowadays people know the price of everything and the value of nothing'
Get valuing people or pay the price!
17th May 2013, 19:49
Wootton Wawen, Stratford-on-Avon Canal. Monday 13May2013
1. Getting re-acquainted with 'narrow'.
3. Bridging the gap.
4. A right-of-way made plain.
5. A blue-bell glade discovered.
6. breathe it in.
7. All but abandoned.
8. Standing alone.
While rivers romantically meander and, at times, rush headlong downstream spilling ill-tempered waters ever seawards over the contours of an evolving landscape. Canals, on the other hand, were splendidly engineered to harness this most ebullient of life's natural resources and tame it. They impart a feeling of calm intimacy, of belonging, and embrace the landscape they were cut through, whereas rivers swollen with rain carry all manner of debris and sometimes change course without warning.
Throughout the centuries kings and poets both, have waxed lyrical about the merits of rivers, but, never really grasped the fact that rivers have a life of their own and are a rule unto themselves with little regard for what or who they upset.
A canal gives us an intimacy with nature that rivers are unable to. Where a river cuts imperiously through rock, water-meadow and flood plain, sometimes leaving a ruinous aftermath, a canal follows a sympathetically engineered course from wharf to wharf by the most direct route. It uses the ingenuity of locks, tunnels, bridges and aqueducts to join overland contours, overcoming all manner of obstacles and terrain; without hindrance or threat. As transport systems have come to look upon canals with disdain so those same canals now bring many the solace they seek in the peace and beauty of the countryside.
Rivers have a rawness about them that I love, but I've been drawn to the still-water quality of canals all my life. Once business was done at whatever A-Z trade terminus a barge was destined for, its between journey invariably passed through a landscape of busy farms and market gardens as well as the industrial heartlands that once were. Today, the hardness of those industrial landscapes has all but gone, reclaimed and softened by the subtleties of the natural world and an army of volunteers who have kept demolition, decay and vandalism at bay; something I am truly grateful for and to be part of.
It's good to be back on a narrow canal criss-crossed by ancient footpaths, seldom trod, yet giving travellers comfort in knowing that, regardless of how far it draws or takes them through unfamiliar territory, they will eventually be transported to the sanctuary of a hamlet or village ahead.
Few people venture off the beaten track and many footpaths have become hidden and overgrown, which is why many rural river banks are so difficult to walk from source to sea without getting your feet wet.
Not so canals. This world I live in gives me access to spectacular vistas, ancient woodland, deep river valleys, rolling hills, open fields, isolated hamlets, half-timbered thatch villages, and all accessed by foot from a passing canal towpath. A towpath that passes through or crosses boundaries and obstacles that a river cannot. There are also few if any people exploring these landscapes as it means 'walking', which many find, to say the least, 'irksome'. Therefore much remains unspoilt. A real blessing in disguise!
13th May 2013, 15:16
1. Gunners favourite, wild-water.
2. Above the weir (he's swum nearly a quarter of a mile to this point.
3. Swimming against the flow of the weir.
4. Biding his time.
5. Enjoying the warmth of the sun.
11th May 2013, 14:47
1. Holy Trinity Church. William Shakespeare is buried in the chancel where his tomb bears a curse against anyone who dares to disturb it.
2. A queue for the 'Chain' ferry.
3. That's the way to do it.
4. Jam packed!
5. Vintage 'jalopies' line the thoroughfare.
6. William Shakespeare's birthplace.
7. Royal Shakespeare Theatre
11th May 2013, 14:23
1. Pam pipes Bob back aboard after his 'little' accident ably assisted by the ambulance crew.
2. Barton Lock.
3. Park moorings, Stratford-on-Avon.
We left Offenham on Wednesday morning of last week, following Bob's return from hospital the evening before, knowing that both he and Pam would soon be in capable hands when their friends arrived to help crew 'Jam Pudd' to Tewkesbury Marina.
After stopping Wednesday night at Barton Lock, we continued winding our way upstream to Stratford with the weather improving such that the sun was becoming overly generous with its attention.
We finally arrived below Stratford and moored between Holy Trinity Church and the Royal Shakespeare Theatre. Here we spent a glorious four days enjoying the unexpected company of Brian and Catherine aboard their narrowboat 'October', who arrived not long after we had and became firm friends over the few days we were together. It was certainly entertaining watching everyone messing about on the river.
Come Tuesday it was time for us to leave the River Avon after what had been a month of leisurely cruising and near solitude, enjoying the splendour of the Warwickshire countryside as Spring takes hold.
10th May 2013, 17:00
9th May 2013, 14:04
I can't make life any happier or simpler than it is for us, even if I wanted to, other than maybe add a) a cabin in the woods, b) a tree-house in a 'great oak', or c) a tepee. And all accessible by water of course.
Living aboard has taught us much more than I thought it would when I first set out to become a near master of my own destiny after retiring early. Living life akin to the path I set for myself as early as when I left school, is one I knew I couldn't financially or psychologically afford to follow if I stayed anchored to a fixed abode in a place I had grown weary of. For me the expense and boredom of living conventionally would also have tethered me to working longer and for what, to pay more tax to robber barons?
Living 'off-grid', no car, no utilities, no home base, no one health provider, no fixed abode, no guarantees and free to virtually do as I please is, for me, living a life full of change and challenge that really does bring home how precious my own resourcefulness is.
If I could actually use a horse as motive power rather than a diesel engine I would. However, canal banks, towpaths, landscape, grazing access and pace of life has changed irreversibly, such that there's no going back to a time when horse-drawn barges were easily accommodated and accepted. I love 'steam' and as much as my hero Fred Dibnah did, he too was happy to dip in and out of other projects covered in coal dust to the horror of those he shook hands with. I think Ginny would have something to say about that side of it too. But boy, would I love a small stationery steam engine to run a genny from. There's time yet.
Many ask, 'what if?' I don't have or want a crystal ball and care even less about what the future may bring. I just know we'll get by and on our terms.
The 'olde' has much we should and could learn from. I just love making, mending and adapting useful bits and pieces; simple, practical and entertaining things using what nature provides. Bird-tables, bird-feeders, kites, fishing tackle, small engineering projects etc pass through my hands on a near daily basis. Even my axe blade is honed to a bright edge Dad would have been proud of. Things that as a kid imparted a real sense of achievement. The only difference now is that I have a jack-of-all-trades knowledge that allows me to do and make things that are useful and more inclined to work.
As for boat maintenance and diesel spannering, nothing could be simpler or cheaper. A little knowledge isn't dangerous, it's a start 'There's no such thing as can't' my dear Mum used to say.
When you look at what we used to be proud of, yet have allowed mass production to take away, the fun, inventiveness, craftsmanship and ability to turn a hand to most things in life, 'Olde' for me is good and I'm as curious as ever I was. Make-do-and-mend should be taught in schools.
Time now to indulge myself in that olde english tradition of drinking tea.
29th Apr 2013, 19:22
1. Walking the slopes of Cleeve Hill.
2. The vale of Evesham.
3. The Offenham Maypole (64' tall).
4. The Malt House, Offenham.
5. Market garden country.
6. Saint Mary and Saint Milburgh, Offenham.
7. Us and Narrowboat 'Jam Pudd'.
We arrived here at Offenham on Thursday and moored above the weir where we were welcomed ashore by Fiona and John who also live aboard their narrowboat 'Epiphany' (#boatsthattweet). They had moored for the night on their way downstream to Tewkesbury. The next day after bidding Fiona farewell, narrowboat 'Jam Pudd' arrived and tied up off our bow. After introducing ourselves, Bob and Pam went about settling in for a couple of nights, much as we had.
Three hours later a worried Pam knocked to say that Bob had fallen through an open hatch onto the engine and could I help to get him out as she thought he'd broken his leg. As it turned out, after getting him out and calling an ambulance for what looked to be a broken ankle, he was taken to Redditch Hospital, twenty miles away, where yesterday he had to have surgery and a metal plate inserted to put his ankle back together.
We've decided to stay and give Pam moral support until Bob gets back, hopefully in a couple of days, then their friends arrive to help Pam crew the boat to Tewksbury where they'll lay-up in the marina for Bob to convalesce awhile. Good job he's a fit seventy-year old as it could so easily have been a lot worse.
In the meantime, while out with Gunner, we've walked the length of Cleeve hill and visited Offenham village, where King Offa (757-796) of Offa's Dyke fame once lived, and admired the terraced thatched cottages along 'main street', which leads to one of only six permanent Maypoles left in England.
28th Apr 2013, 17:25