White Horses

For as long as I can remember, when we were out and about, even when driving along in the car, if we passed a field with a white horse in it my mother would say “Bow to the white horse” and we all did. (Strictly speaking there is no such thing as a white horse as technically they are all greys.) This is a tradition I have always continued and today even when out cycling if we see a ‘white’ horse my husband is also primed to say it – “Bow to the white horse.” I never knew why my mother said this, I don’t think I ever asked, it was just something she said and we did. I don’t even know if she knew why or whether it was just something her mother said, and her mother before that and so on.

Lady Godiva Statue, Coventy

Lady Godiva Statue, Coventry. (Wiki)

When I was at secondary school we studied ‘Classical Mythology’ i.e. the myths and legends of the Greeks and Romans. It was only as I got older that I realised that here in the lands of the north we had our own mythologies – Norse, Anglo-Saxon and Celtic and I often wondered why we never learnt about those at school; myths that were surely more relevant to our own heritage. I know my father was interested, he had copies of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles and the Heimskringla (Norse Sagas) but never passed on his knowledge to me, although I do now own his books and have taken an interest in these stories of our own tradition as I have grown older.

It was quite some years later that the ‘penny finally dropped’ as they say. References to white horses are everywhere in our lives and in our stories. Witness the number of pubs called ‘The White Horse’, our heroes are ‘knights in shining armour’ riding a white horse such as St. George, King Arthur and even the wizard ‘Gandalf in Lord of the Rings’. Lady Godiva rode a white horse through the streets of Coventry as recorded in the nursery rhyme “Ride-a-cock horse to Banbury Cross to see a fine lady ride on a white horse…”.

White Horse of Uffingham

White Horse of Uffingham (Wiki)

There is also Rhiannon of Welsh legend and we cannot forget the ‘White Horse of Uffingham’ an ancient chalk carving in the Vale of the White Horse, Oxfordshire. I could go on, the list is endless.

The White Horse is of course a reference to Epona, the Celtic goddess of horses and maybe also a fertility goddess, who often appeared as a white horse or is depicted as riding a white horse. Interestingly she is probably the only Celtic goddess who was retained by the Romans when they ruled the British Isles. Usually they either discarded the local gods and goddesses, absorbed them into their own equivalents or adopted them by giving them a Roman name. Bowing to the white horse is obviously a nod to the worship of this ancient goddess. My mother may well have known this or maybe not, but long may the tradition continue in my family.

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York Cycle Rally

York Rally Badge 2018

I arrived home yesterday from my second consecutive weekend away at a cycling event. This time the York Rally, based at the racecourse in York. We just took the tandem to this event and we were surprised at just how many tandems were there. In fact there were bicycles off all sorts: tricycles, tandem tricycles, recumbent bikes – you name it and it was there.

What a wonderful weekend! More low-key than the Eroica Britannia last weekend, this was very much a leisurely family affair. There was so much going on it was difficult decide what to do.

There were various rides to go on from Friday evening pub rides to rides out of differing duration to visit interesting locations on both Saturday and Sunday. These often overlapped so some serious prioritising was necessary. Not being ones to frequent pubs very often we passed on the Friday evening offerings preferring to get ourselves organised on site and decide on our choices for the next day.

On top of that there was also lots of activities on site so there was no need to go off for a bike ride at all if you didn’t wish. These included trade stands, children’s activities, talks a bike jumble sale (known as the Saddlebag Sale), Grasstrack racing and Cyclo Cross.

Stopping for Lunch

Stopping for lunch at Benningborough

On Saturday we opted for what was described as “a gentle ride along the ‘Way of the Roses’ to the National Trust’s Benningborough  Hall” where we stopped for lunch. This was listed as being 9 miles each way but in fact was slightly more and as we detoured on the way back to shop for a few food items we had forgotten we ended up doing around 27 miles in total, mostly off-road through wonderful scenery.

The ride allowed us to return in time to attend the ‘Bicycle Poetry Workshop’ at 5.00pm led by Bernadette Cullen, a keen cyclist who was also poet in residence at Yorkshire Arboretum. She read some of her own poems and then gave us a few exercises to trigger our imaginations to come up with our own poems. Whilst I managed to write something for each of her prompts I failed miserably in the short time available (the whole workshop was only an hour) to produce anything resembling a logical poem, though there are one or two things in my jottings that I might be able to utilise in the days to come. In the evening we looked in on an excellent live folk music session with a group called The Foresters but it was crowded and hot so we only spent a short while peering in through the doorway.

On Sunday we joined a ride through the Solar System from the Sun to Pluto and back! This was another off-road ride along York’s Solar Cycle Path. Along this route there are models of the planets in the solar system set at the correct (to scale) distances apart as well as more wonderful scenery. When you arrive at Pluto there is even a sign that points to Alpha Centauri stating the appropriate number of light years! If you wished you could then cycle on a few more miles to visit a couple of villages. My husband decided he wanted to get back in case he missed the Saddlebag Sale so we made our own way back – a round trip of about 17.5 miles. Back at the sale he managed to pick up one or two ‘spare parts’ that he was looking for so it was worth the return, but he did miss the Q & A session on ‘Flying Gates and Framebuilding’ (Flying Gates being a rather unusual frame design) he had planned on attending, but as he had spoken to the people on their trade stand on Saturday this didn’t worry him too much. We had also intended to join in the Grand Arena Parade but somehow, through heat induced fatigue we missed that too.

An addition to the scheduled events was the landing of a hot air balloon in the early morning and then two also took off from the site in the evening, creating much interest.

This was a truly enjoyable family event and one we shall ear-mark in the diary for next year. Maybe we will get our eldest son and his family to join us – our grandson would love it.

Haul Out

I have previously mentioned here that we are selling our boat. Having owned various boats over the years we are now hanging up our oilskins to go roaming in our motorhome instead. In March I wrote about our final trip when we sailed round from our long-term home port to the marina where our yacht broker is situated. (You can refresh yourselves about it here.) At the time they were not able to haul the boat out of the water and onto the hard-standing so we knew we would have to go down again before too long to finish up cleaning and clearing out the boat.

‘Red Dawn IV’ has at last been taken out of the water and we are going down tomorrow for several days to sort it all out, although we may still need to go down from time to time  to check it over and keep it spotless.

While we are away I may or may not have a great deal of access to the Internet. There is WiFi at the marina but it can be unreliable so if I do not post anything over the next week don’t be surprised. If I can I will, but no promises. Normal service should resume next week!

In the meantime, if you are interested to find out all about our boat we have set up a little website to assist with the selling where there are plenty of photos. Check out https://reddawniv.wordpress.com.

Charity Bike Ride

Cycle Challenge Poster

Last year my husband and I entered a cycle challenge event in aid of our local Katherine House Hospice on our tandem. Imagine our surprise when we saw our picture on the posters and other advertising material for this year’s challenge. Well we just had to enter again didn’t we?

As you can see from the poster it took place yesterday. Last year was a rather chilly day, at least to start with and as you can see we had to wrap up warm. This year it was a different story, it was a hot day and we were able to wear shorts and short-sleeved tops from the off.

As usual for this event there was a choice of routes, from a 8 mile family fun route, a 20 mile mini route, a 45 mile midi route up to a 65 mile maxi route. Last year we did the midi route and this is the one we opted for again. We have a different tandem this year. Those who follow my blog regularly may remember that we took our old one, a Gitane, seen in the poster, out to our daughter in Spain last autumn having bought ourselves a better one, a locally built George Longstaffe – a Rolls Royce of tandems.

One of the advantages for us on this ride is that after the first 10 miles or so it passes within a few hundred yards of our home and so we took a slight detour for our first refreshment stop. Last year this is where we divested ourselves of some of our extra clothing as it had warmed up by then. We then returned to our point of departure from the route and continued on.

Tandem SignThe event is not a race so we took our time, enjoying the countryside, especially in view of my husband’s recent angina diagnosis, we didn’t want to push it too hard. A few miles further on from our home stop we had to make a detour from the event’s original planned route due to a road closure for resurfacing. This meant going down some rather narrow lanes one of which was dreadfully riddled with potholes and liberally sprinkled with gravel – neither much fun on a tandem and we felt that the sign my husband had decided to hang on the back of the bike was somewhat justified!

At one point we missed one of the route signs and went straight on instead of turning right, despite thinking that we should have made the turn. A bit further on we caught up to a group who had also missed the sign and after a brief discussion we agreed we needed to go back to the turning. This time we did notice the route sign on the corner but it was barely visible. We found out after the event that some of the signs had gone missing altogether and some had to be replaced by the organisers.

Our next stop was at a canal-side café where we had stopped for lunch last year. This time we were rather early for lunch and it was very crowded as there was a canal-side festival going on, the fine and sunny weather making it an attractive local event, so we had a quick stop for some of the drink and snacks we had with us and used their facilities for a comfort break before continuing on. About 10 miles from the finish we stopped again at a local farm park where they make their own ice-cream; we felt we deserved a treat (and another comfort break). This stop was longer than intended as there was a very long queue for the excellent ice-cream. Thus refreshed we set off for the final leg back to the Hospice.

It was a very enjoyable ride, despite being hot and sweaty and we both caught the sun, now having red lines showing where our shorts and sleeves came to! There were a number of hills to struggle up – some were short and punchy, others more of a long drag and the last two or three I could have really done without as the heat got to us a bit, but nothing we couldn’t manage without too much difficulty. Our two or three detours, due to home visits, road-works and missing signs meant that we went the extra mile completing 46 miles rather than the 45 stated as the route length. Again we received a rather nice badge for our achievement so now all that we need to do is collect in some of the still outstanding sponsor money we have been promised and hand it in to the Hospice. Then perhaps we will do it all again next year.

Fire

Our back garden is a sort of fat, reversed  ‘L’ shape. Imagine it as a square with one neighbour’s property sitting in one quarter of the square and the other quarter of that half shares a boundary with us and  their neighbour on the other side, who is therefore our neighbour for the bottom part of his plot. Got it?

Anyway,  many years ago this second property used to be an old telephone exchange but has for some considerable time been out of commission and the grounds have become considerably overgrown. Recently this property has been sold and the new owner intends to build an eco-house on the plot. We have been clearing our side of the boundary and erecting a new fence. This has been something of a long job over the winter due to illness, weather and other causes.

Preparatory to building his house the new owner, who is temporarily living in the house on the other side of his plot, which will subsequently be sold, has been clearing much of the overgrown vegetation and removing some dead and otherwise obstructive self-set trees and shrubs. There are also on his plot two very wide and tall evergreen trees which actually take a lot of the morning sun from our property and we had privately been hoping he would remove these but leave some of the other smaller trees. However, he wishes to keep them! It’s his plot, his decision. I suspect he is keen to keep the privacy they will give to his house from the main road that runs along the bottom of his plot (and alongside our garden). He had been burning much of this cut vegetation on a bonfire on a cleared area near the fir trees.

One evening about ten days ago I was at the our kitchen window whilst preparing dinner and happened to glance out. I noticed a pall of dark grey smoke rising from where his bonfire had been and assumed he had re-lit it. Suddenly a great gout of flame shot up the two fir trees. I called to my husband and son that our neighbour would need help and we ran out to assist. Fortunately we had not yet fitted the last new fence panel in the top corner so had access to the neighbour’s plot. I immediately started filling buckets with water. The neighbour was there but his hose wouldn’t reach from the next door property so he was also filling buckets. We have two hoses, so my husband and son connected these together, which fortunately reached across our garden, through the fence gap to the trees and with this and buckets of water we proceeded to attack the fire, which had begun to spread to other small trees and hedging.

Another neighbour. we were told, had phoned the fire brigade. Now, we have a local fire station a few minutes round the corner but no, they decided to send one from the main town, some nine miles away, through rush-hour traffic and road-works – presumably because our local station is a voluntary one and they would have to call the men out. Even so, I’m sure it would still have been quicker. By the time the fire brigade arrived we had pretty well extinguished the fire and all they needed to do was spend a few minutes making sure we had damped it down properly.

It turns out that our neighbour had not burned anything on the bonfire site for about three days and he had earlier that evening spread out the ashes. Obviously the fire had not completely died out or cooled down sufficiently during that time and by spreading the ashes he had allowed the breeze to rekindle the flames. The two fir trees have survived although they have lost a fair bit of greenery and smaller branches, but we can now at least see daylight through the previously dense growth!

The moral of this story is, as any Girl Guide or Boy Scout could have told him, that you should always keep a bucket of water close at hand and make sure your fire is well and truly out before you leave it. Thankfully there was no serious harm done but it could have been a lot worse – it doesn’t bear thinking about!

Double Celebration Day

Flag of St GeorgeToday is St George’s Day. St. George is the patron saint of England – we share him with many other regions, towns and countries around the world as well, including Catalonia (Spain) Georgia, Greece, Lithuania and Russia to name but a few!

Despite being our saint’s day today is not a Bank Holiday, oh no, that would be too patriotic and here in England we are not allowed to be patriotic in case it upsets those amongst us who are not ethnically English; it’s not ‘PC’ to be patriotic about England.

St. Patrick’s Day (for Ireland) is a Bank Holiday, so is St. Andrew’s Day (for Scotland) and we are allowed to celebrate special days with those whose ethnic roots are not here in the UK, such as Diwali or West Indian Carnival amongst others and we have St. Patrick’s Day parades in English cities, but nothing for St George.

Actually that is not strictly true, we do have St. Georges Day Parades. Many towns up and down the country have Church Parades for the uniformed organisations such as Guides, Scouts and armed forces Cadets, led by a band and members of the British Legion. This is usually a simple march up a short length of road, carrying their banners, into Church for a service on the nearest Sunday to the day (this year that was yesterday) and does not inspire a great deal of celebration amongst the population at large, no major public show of unity, purpose and celebration – I repeat, that would be too patriotic. I can’t help feeling that there are large numbers of our population who not aware that today is St. George’s Day, or possibly even that he is our patron saint.

The second cause for celebration today is that it is also the birthday of the bard – William Shakespeare. Unfortunately I also fear that there are many who are equally unaware of this and probably don’t care anyway – despite the fact that they quite unknowingly quote (or misquote) from his works in their ordinary everyday speech. If I start listing all the words, phrases and expressions he introduced into our language I will be here all day and beyond!

So in honour of our Double Celebration Day today I wish you all a Happy St. George’s Day and leave you with a quote from the bard:

“The game’s afoot:
Follow your spirit; and, upon this charge
Cry ‘God for Harry! England and Saint George.'”

Henry V Act III Scene I

The Last Sail

Red Dawn IV

Red Dawn IV

I have mentioned before that we are selling our yacht ‘Red Dawn IV’, a Barbican 33. We have both been sailing for more years than we care to remember – my husband first sailed when he was in short trousers and I learned to sail dinghies in my teens. We have owned boats off and on all our married life, but all things must come to an end and my husband has decided to ‘swallow the anchor’ before we are too old and decrepit to maintain the boat properly, especially as it is a four-hour drive from home to the marina.

We have owned this particular boat for about 12 years and kept her all that time at Bradwell Waterside in Essex on the River Blackwater – not convenient for home but very convenient for sailing across the Channel to Europe as we have done many times. Having placed her on brokerage at Burnham on the River Crouch in Essex we decided to give up our marina berth in Bradwell and move her to the brokers yard. Our contract with the marina ends it the end of March so we needed to move her before then or risk having to pay a daily rate for our berth – expensive!

Frozen snow in the cockpit

Frozen snow in the cockpit

Last weekend we needed to go down to Essex for an important meeting so we decided it was a good opportunity to go on down to the boat and sail her round to Burnham. However, the weather was awful as the second instalment of ‘the beast from the east’ struck the UK. When we arrived at the boat late on Saturday afternoon it was bitterly cold, windy, and the boat was covered in frozen snow, as you can see from the picture of the cockpit. We hibernated in our cosy cabin – electric fire and our Taylors Paraffin Stove on full blast for Sunday, Monday and Tuesday while the weather slowly improved, but we were concerned that we would not get the job done before we needed to go home on Thursday and that we would have to return another time.

Wednesday, however, turned out to be milder with sunny spells and the wind had dropped so we decided to go. We left Bradwell at 10.45am, motoring with the mainsail up. It was still chilly but dressed in two of everything we were just about warm enough! After about an hour we were at the mouth of the Blackwater, drinking coffee and eating energy bars, sailing past the lovely little chapel of St Peter on the Wall (one of my Special Places) and on out to sea, noticeably cooler and several white horses in evidence.

There are two routes round the coast to the River Crouch, a long route which takes you out beyond the shallows and then back in again, or the shorter route across the shallows through the Ray Sand Channel. We opted for the short route so that we weren’t out in the cold too long and the later start fitted in better with the tide for getting out of the marina. This route, however, is something of a challenge. You have to get the tides right, arriving at the start in time to have enough water and yet to go through on a rising tide as it does get VERY shallow.

I remember the first time we went through, in our very first cruising yacht, an old clinker-built Dauntless called ‘Noom Zor Noom’. We had two of our three children with us then, a toddler and a small baby. We kept the boat on the River Roach, a tributary of the Crouch, and had been up the coast for a holiday. It was one of those situations where we had to get back for work but the weather wasn’t good. We chose the Ray Sand Channel route (probably a mistake in retrospect) for speed. We probably got the tide slightly wrong and in those days we had no modern gizmos – no Radio to call up with, no GPS, no mobile phones, no Chart Plotter, only a speed log and echo sounder. The wind and tide were pushing us off course and out of the channel – it was getting very shallow and you don’t really know which way to go to find the deeper water! It was also a bit rough, tossing us about. I was not a happy bunny, in fact I was scared (hubby now admits he was too!) and rather worried about how I was to get a small child and a baby safely off the boat if we came a cropper! It was with some relief that we made it safely through and into the river.

Red Dawn IV at Burnham

Red Dawn IV at Burnham

This time we arrived at the start of the channel at just the right time (12.45) for the tide, plus it was spring tides so we would have plenty of water, with also the benefit of the Chart Plotter to help keep us on course. It was a bit sloppy in the mouth of the Crouch due to wind against the tide, the wind also got up a bit and keeled us over badly a couple of times but I was able to make lunch as we went along. We took down the mainsail as we reached the entrance to the River Roach and motored on to Burnham Yacht Harbour in good time, arriving around 3.00pm. We then were able to tidy up, remove the sails ready for her to be hauled out onto the broker’s yard and drive home on Thursday – a horrendous trip, but that’s another story! The yard was not able to haul out this week so we will need another trip down when that happens. Then we have three months free storage at the yard while they try to sell her for us.

It was with mixed feelings that we left the boat; an enjoyable 4-hour trip round, despite motor-sailing all the way in order to keep up the speed, but tinged with sadness that this would be our last sail, unless she doesn’t get sold, in which case we will have to think again!

 

Writer’s Groups

I have for many years been a member of two writer’s groups, as I have mentioned on this blog before, and have even shared some of my writing inspired by those groups.

I stopped going to one of the groups a few years ago for a variety of reasons; mainly because I felt I had to some extent outgrown it. Also the group met every week and set three or four ‘homework’ exercises every time as well as expecting us to bring and share our own writing. For me, although I enjoyed the social aspect of the meetings, with this much expectation of work a weekly meeting was too much. I found it rather too demanding as it left little time to indulge in other interests, of which I have many.

On top of that there was always a group writing project on the go, with members expected to contribute by writing scenes involving people from a pool of pre-set characters, to be eventually slotted together into a novel (basic plot outline having been agreed before-hand). Admittedly none of this was compulsory and there was no backlash if you didn’t write anything, but even so I did feel obliged to have a go and used to try to do at least one piece each week, although I never contributed to the group novel – not my scene at all, nor were the resulting ‘novels’ anything that I wished to read! These group novels were invariably a farce, which is again not my scene but seemed to appeal to those in charge. Several times I tried to veer the enterprise in another direction (fantasy, sci-fi, children’s novel – anything!) but without success. To my mind a weekly meeting with so much expectation of work was too demanding and latterly I had only been going as I used to give another lady a lift and she couldn’t go if I didn’t. I eventually found out she was no longer interested in the group either and was only continuing to keep me company! So we left.

The second group was much more rewarding. We only met once a month and only set one piece of work for the meetings. We would select a topic which could be interpreted however you wished and wrote our piece accordingly – this could be a short story, a poem, a factual article or whatever you liked. Mostly people wrote a short story or a chapter from a potential novel. The work was then shared and discussed at the next meeting, with appropriate helpful comments. People could also offer their own writing projects for comments if they wished. The writing was on the whole more substantial and considered than the offerings for the first group. This group had a much more professional approach.

Sadly, however we only had a core membership of five people. Some others came and went from time to time but never seemed to stay long – perhaps we were too professionally minded for them! Towards the end of last year that core of five was whittled down to three due to age and illness of two of our members. On top of that I was away for most of the autumn, so that left only two to attend the meetings. Inevitably the group got put on hold until ‘after Christmas’. So far it has not been reinstated.

Currently then I do not attend any writer’s groups and I miss it, I miss the discipline and commitment. Having a deadline to actually produce a piece of work is a great motivator. I have written very little since the demise of the second group. I do have work in progress and projects I need to finish. One of the projects I have in mind is to go through all the short stories I have written for the second group, see if I can assemble them into some sort of order and edit them to produce an e-book – if only I could find the motivation.

 

A Tale of Two Pheasants

A while back I reported that we had a pheasant visit our garden (you can read about it here). Since then he has regularly visited and I have been feeding him. Now he comes and taps on the French Window when he wants food. He doesn’t appear everyday and I know several other people have reported seeing him in the neighbourhood so he is obviously exploring food potential in other gardens. The picture below shows him feeding in the snow a few days ago. He is gradually getting more tame and now walks towards me when putting food out rather than retiring to a safe distance.

First Pheasant in the snow

A few weeks after his first visit a second pheasant turned up. This one is smaller and seems older. They had a bit of a barney for an hour or so then I noticed them fly off, the original pheasant chasing the other. Eventually the first pheasant returned, presumably victorious at having sent his rival packing. We hadn’t seen this second pheasant since – until yesterday.

Our recent snowfall had turned to rain and was slowly washing the snow away. We noticed the second pheasant in the garden looking very soggy and sorry for himself. He seemed very dozy and we were a bit worried about him. He greedily gobbled up the food I put out and a short while later was asking for more, which was also greedily gobbled up.

The two pheasantsThen the first pheasant also showed up and the pair of them dodged around each other, marking each other’s movements for quite some considerable time, the smaller pheasant not giving ground. This built up to another fluttering challenge, until finally I noticed that Pheasant No. 1 – the bigger one and furthest from the camera in the photo – had gone again but the smaller one was still here, still looking dozy and unhappy.

No. 2 hung about all day looking miserable but greedily gobbling up food as soon as we put it out. We fed him many times during the day until eventually, by mid-afternoon he was looking a whole lot better. Soon after that he also disappeared.

Number 2 on the fenceThis morning, however, he was back again, shouting to be fed. My husband went out in dressing gown and slippers to feed him first thing. He finished that off and was asking for more when I appeared a short while later fully dressed. Again he gobbled that up, running towards me when I filled the dish – though he came no closer than about 3ft away, just to be sure he was safe! A little later I saw him sitting on the fence and was able to get quite close to take this photo. He still seemed a bit dozy and had one foot tucked up underneath him for warmth. Shortly after I took this photo he disappeared again. The first pheasant hasn’t been around today at all.

If you are wondering how I can tell the difference, well, as I said number 2 is smaller and seems older. He also has a larger silvery grey patches on his wings – perhaps a sign of age? The first pheasant is bigger and more impressive, obviously in his prime. Today he seems content to leave our garden to his rival but will he back tomorrow? Will they both appear again? I don’t know, but at least they both know that if they do turn up they will get fed.

 

Special Places

I have mentioned here before that we are selling our yacht, my husband has decided it is time he ‘swallowed the anchor’! These days we get more use from our Motorhome, which we bought to replace the yacht so that we can tour more easily on the continent and visit our daughter in Spain. When the yacht finally goes I know I shall miss visiting the special places that we have found on our voyages. These include two rather special marinas, one at Tichmarsh on the Walton Backwaters (behind Walton on the Naze) and the other at Woodbridge on the river Deben, where you will find the last working tide mill in the UK. Both these marinas are very hard to leave once you have arrived there; they seem to take hold of your soul and won’t let you go!

Interior, St Peter on the WallBut there are some even more special places. One being the wonderful little chapel of St Peter on the Wall at Bradwell on Sea (see photo). This is said to be the oldest church in England and is not far from Bradwell marina where we keep the boat. It was built on a lonely spit of land where St Cedd landed in 654 on a mission from Lindisfarne to bring Christianity  to Essex and was built using stone from the ruined Roman fort of Othona nearby. After about 600 years of continual use it was eventually abandoned and was used as a barn. This may well have saved it. In 1920 it was rediscovered and brought back into use as a chapel. Services and other activities are regularly held there now and, although on one occasion that I visited and sat on one of the benches I did feel an almost overwhelming sadness, it has a wonderful atmosphere of peace and calm.

Another very special place that we have visited many times when sailing is an old oak grove alongside the river Orwell between Pin Mill and Wolverstone. Sadly I do not have any photos but this is an amazing place to walk through. The power, wisdom and aura of peace that these old trees generate is palpable, making my palms itch and my whole body feel alive, I just have to walk among the trees, touching each one that I pass. I shall so miss this place.

Knowing that in future I will have so much less opportunity to visit these places I need to find alternative special places nearer to home. There are many that I hope to visit in the future and I have been meaning to visit for some time but somehow have failed to do so due to life getting in the way. Cannock Chase is not such a long drive from where I live and I have visited in the past, but not as often as I would like. If you are lucky you will see deer here, maybe even a stag in full antlers. There are also several places nearer home. Some I pass regularly by car or on my bike but have never stopped – either in too much of a hurry to get to where I am going or not happy about leaving my bike in the car park while I go walk-about.

This year I intend to re-visit some of these places that I have neglected or make a point of stopping at those that I have so far not visited at all. One such place is actually within walking distance (all-be-it a fairly long walk) and it is my intention to make it my first point of call once I have finally got rid of my recent flu and lung infection and the weather has improved. I shall be writing about these places here as and when I visit each one. I’ll try to remember to take my camera too.

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