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Thursday, May 31, 2012

Books, a Boat, and Springtime Things

After Monday`s dental appointment my next one is tomorrow (Friday), so the decision was made to spend three days on the Middlewich arm and give Jaq her wish to spring clean the boat. We set up the drying line on a deserted bit of towpath and all the curtains, dinette covers, cushion covers--even our chair covers--were removed. Nine washing machine loads later the towpath resembled a laundry. At least the remote location meant we had didn't have to worry about blocking the path if people happened by, although there was plenty of room for folks to pass.
Before we left Nantwich again, we stopped at the services to take on water for the massive washathon. We had accumulated a few books, so while the tank was filling I started a book swap on the window ledge. There are many of these book swaps on the canal system and some even have DVD`s or in the old money, VHS tapes.


Over the past few weeks we have passed this obviously old, lovely clean and tidy boat several times. I checked the registered number on Jim Sheads site which indicated it listed it as "builder unknown." Now someone will know the builder, but isn`t the boat a Harborough or am getting mixed up? It`s those bars over the forward deck that are triggering something in my brain or has the dentist`s needle made my brain go la! la!.


Making our way along the Middlewich arm we spotted these three cygnets coming from the nest outside the new marina at Church Minshul. The size of the Cygnets, coupled with the extremely high man-made banks, made us wonder if this was their first venture into the water. We just pulled over and watched as mum and dad went in to the water, closely followed by two of the young. The third(last in the pic) kept stopping for a sit down and took a long time to drop in off the side to join the others. The significance of this was reflected by the absence of one cygnet on our return trip. We can only guess the last cygnet had not been 100% healthy when emerging from the egg.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Back to work/back to the future

After all the rain and wind lately we seem to be having a heatwave with the temperatures up in the middle to high 70F`s. Now hanging around for the next dental appointment and moving a few miles out of Nantwich in both directions is becoming boring. My preference over the last 6+ years has been to be what BW have tagged me, a Continuous Cruiser. I have been called worse and it`s better than Water Gypsy, traveller or Ditch crawler.  To me it`s like the `Back to the Future` films except we are not in a car. Instead we have a metal tube that takes us back 200 years travelling roads that in places have not changed with the passing of time. Roads well travelled but not by any wheel and never walked on, roads wet long after the rain stops falling. The future part is when we leave the quiet tranquil countryside and head back to the 21st Century and Tesco/Walmart. A few settings and key turns set us back on course  to the past, as Jaq says BLISS.

 
So that time of year again the sun is blazing down and the battle scars of the past years time travelling need to be healed. Find a quiet spot cut the rust away add a primer and as soon as the sun moves round and this side of the boat is in shade the top coat can be added.


While the sun slowly moves across time to watch others at work in the fields across the canal. They are harvesting the long grass to use as winter feed for livestock. For the American farmers Jaq and I know the tractors are John Deere and Case.



Hang on Jaq this blog is about people working. Oh! your on-line to your class. Sure does beat a campus classroom and they actually pay you. Lucky lucky girl. I can`t complain because the whole of this post has been typed out on the front deck just how Jaq is pictured including a drink. Bliss.



Now here come my witnesses blog readers Martyn and Sue out for a trip on Cherokee. They will vouch for how hard i was working. Last seen here in May 2009, 3years...Wow time flies.

Well at this moment we are back in Nantwich for the dentist Monday. I believe I have one more appointment so the plan is to head for Chester after Monday and get a bus back for the last appointment.








Saturday, May 26, 2012

Something high and beautiful, something just beautiful.

 Jaq is more confident steering now with her new step. The extra 10inches enables her to rise to the lofty height of 5ft 11" and she can now see down both sides of the boat. The stool started life as a shared matching footrest for our chairs but was far to big and always seemed to be in the way. I saw a pair of small circular tables in a shop and cut the legs down to a comfortable height. Jaq looked on the Internet found two circular thick pads on Amazon and the Post Restante service soon had them at a nearby post office.Jaq has sewn extra ties to secure them on to each leg.
 





I know it won`t float but surely some of you must agree it`s worth some blog space. E type Jaguar circa 1973 spotted in Nantwich. Look at those mega clean inner wheel arches, this baby is not used in bad weather. Sure was a beautiful  day for posing about town with the top down.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Bliss…

"Follow your bliss and the universe will open doors where there were only walls." ~Joseph Campbell

liminal baoter's sunset

   The word bliss is defined by the dictionary as complete happiness, or heaven. Bliss looks and feels like different things to different people. For me bliss is about simple things—the beauty of nature, a well prepared meal enjoyed in the company of loved ones and friends; laughter is bliss and good medicine combined, as is capturing a moment in the natural world that I alone was privileged to see. Come along with me and share my bliss…
   We’ve cruised into Nantwich, out and in, and out again, as we hang around the general area for the month of May, exploring the Middlewich Arm, Barbridge, Calvely, and spots either side of Nantwich. Les needed some dental surgery and now we are waiting for impressions to be taken and a new dental plate for him; I was waiting for an appointment to see the chiropractor.
   My left shoulder is weak from a chronic injury of childhood which has left me with masses of scarred tissue and a left clavicle and shoulder than pulls out of place. Years of physical therapy, massage to break up the scar tissue, and attempts at rebuilding the muscle have helped minimally. There are some things for which we pay all of our lives..this is one of them. So we’ve decided Les will do the locks and I will steer the boat in and out of them.
   Our second cruise into Nantwich on a late Monday evening brought us into a mooring near the stairs down into town. By the time we moored up, straightened a few things out inside and thought about eating, nine o’clock had come and gone.
   We threw on our coats and walked hand in hand through the falling dusk into a town emptied and quiet. Here in England Restaurants don’t serve dinner past nine p.m.week nights and some close even earlier mid week. We found a Pizza Parlour joint open and ordered two mini-pizzas to go.
   Walking into the nearly empty street, we spied a bench in the middle of the two traffic lanes, facing toward the street front and pizza shop. Dear Sir and I settled on the bench side by side, opened our hot cardboard containers, leaned back and propped out legs on the metal banister in front of us, and ate our pizzas as we watched a few late night teenagers wandering the streets for some fun.
   Our little patch of night was lit dimly by an old street light, and we joked about our romantic dinner out, with a curb side seat on the street and overhead mood lighting. Hot, steamy, garlicky smells wafted off each piece of pizza as we ate and laughed in the gathering dark.
   The next morning we were off again, looking for a quiet bit of countryside. The Middlewich Arm beckoned and we turned off the Shroppie at Barbridge. We cruised through Church Minshull lock, past a lock-side cottage…
Church Minshulll Lock
lovely garden
   …with a lovely hidden back garden. One must peek over the wall to see it!

looking back at teh lock cottage
   Looking back I saw the cottage from another perspective, with boats lined up waiting for the lock gate to open, and their turn to go up. The Middlewich arm is only about twelve miles long but it cuts across some truly lovely countryside, bordered by dairy farms, and lush greenery.

a charming cottage with a wavy roofline
   Along the way I spotted this charming place with a whimsical wavy roof line.
teh flashes at Middlewich
   Eventually we settled for a couple of days near the Flashes—small lakes formed by subsidence from salt mining. These water jewels are a haven for wild life. The cut (canal) is up on an embankment looking down over the wooded hillside to the flashes below.


a stork in wait
   There is such an abundance of life on the canals. I cannot convey the continual birdsong that fills the air from a half an hour before dawn to just after dusk. It is the sound track of our loves aboard the NB Valerie, and they are songs I do not recognize—European birds singing their mating songs. I spotted this grey Heron hanging out near a bridge hole, waiting for fish sign.
close up of looking through thebridge hole
   As we cruised along I looked ahead to the next bridge through the hole of the nearest one…
along the canal to the next bridge
   ...and looked back through the one we just passed. Bridge holes fascinate me. They are essentially doorways, and both are liminal spaces—like margins, and the periphery of our sight. Liminal spaces provide a place for unusual events to occur. Liminality leaves space for things outside the everyday realm of reality to survive. 

the grass is greener on the other side ofthte bridge hole
   yes, the grass is greener though the next bridge hole!

a shower of flower petals
   Coming into the town of Middlewich the canal cuts through the backs of housing estates (subdivisions). Bijou back yards filled with flowers tilt down to the banks and private moorings are filled with boats. This one is decked out in a confetti of flower petals.
   On another trip into Nantwich our friends Jennifer and Peter Huskisson caught up with us. We met them in March at a bus stop in Shrewsbury. We were all waiting for the bus back to Ellesmere. I just knew they were boaters when I spotted them! Sure enough and they were moored up two boats past us on the Ellesmere Arm. We invited them to dinner and thoroughly enjoyed their company, so it was great to see them again in Nantwich.
  British by birth, their parents immigrated to Australia in the ‘50’s as “ten pound POMES.” In the 1950’s the Australian government wanted settlers. Brits were invited to emigrate with only ten pounds in their pockets—Australia would provide everything they needed once they arrived. POME stands for Property of Mother England-–a nickname given to British settlers by Aussies. Now days the Huskissons call Tasmania home, with a house on the beach. Both are university educators, and very widely travelled. They purchased a good used narrow boat and are enjoying Great Britain via the canals.

Jennifer and Peter Husskisson 
   Jennifer and Peter. We’ve become fast friends with them both. We share a love of laughter, great travel tales, and experience in higher education. Below is their boat, Mactra’s Filia
Mactras' Filia
   If you see Peter and Jennifer along the cut please give them a warm hello. Friendship bliss!
  After our next trip into Nantwich we passed Hurleston Junction, and the Middlewich Arm,  and cruised up to the winding hole at Calvely, just before the locks. We found a lovely spot to settle down for a few days before we had to make the trip back in to Nantwich again. During one brief day of warm weather I ran three loads of laundry and we hung them outside to dry while les chopped some more wood to stack and dry on the roof for next winter.

Hawthorns at teh Calvely winding hole
   The winding hole at Bunbury; I winded the boat for the very first time! For non-boaters that is pronounced “wind” as in a windy day—not “wind” like wind up a toy. Winding holes are large V shaped cuts in the canals so the long, narrow boats can wind or turn around.


bliss 039
   Hawthorn shrubs across the face of England and Wales are bursting into bloom. Literally thousands of  miles of Hawthorn hedges fill the air with their sweet scent, bringing joy to the bees and me! Bee bliss!
   A spell of rain set in, bringing unseasonably cool weather and a need for a fire in the late afternoons. Les finished reading a book he had here in the boat. I borrowed his Kindle and downloaded a C.D. Sansom “Mathew Shardlake” historical mystery novel and we settled in to relax and wait out the rain. The canals and reservoirs desperately needed the refill. Rain bliss…


rainon hte windows
   Day after day we woke to this view out the window…
rivulets of rainon the window…by mid mornings the water poured down…
   rain bouncing off the cut…bouncing off the surface of the cut!
  lack sky and rain with trees in silhouette
   The sky was dark and stormy for nearly two weeks as we travelled down to the water point and moved off again to find another quiet place, still tethered to the area by our dentist and chiropractor appointments.

bangers and mash
   I decided to try my hand at bangers and Mash for dinner one night. Oooh baby! I had no idea how delicious this dish tastes. Americans you’ve got to try it: Brown the links, then whip up some onion gravy (Americans can do this quickly by using a packet of Lipton Beefy Onion Soup mix. Mix it with 3 Tablespoons of corn starch and 2 cups of cold water in a sauce pan. Bring to a boil and the gravy will thicken. Make it in the same pan you browned the sausages for flavor. Add the sausages back into the gravy, cover, and let simmer on low while the potatoes and peas cook. Simmering the sausages in gravy mellows the flavor and keeps them moist without being greasy. Bliss on a plate!
   Finally the sun returned as we made another foray into Nantwich. With yellow light pouring forth from a cloudless sky we passed foals in the fields grazing contentedly with mom and dad; a late hatched clutch of tiny, fuzz-ball ducklings peeping in panic as our boat momentarily separated them from mom; around a curve of green field enclosed by trees dressed in spring green we spotted a pair of mated-for-life Canadian geese with eight goslings hoovering the field for anything good to eat. The babies are comical—large, fuzzy blobs on stilt legs with flat, webbed feet. New born babe bliss…
   We slowed down past a cluster of moored boats and Les spotted a dead Perch floating on the surface of the water. Nearby on the towpath a large black crow called and cackled as it hiked up and down the edge of the canal, eyes locked on the fish, waiting for it to drift close enough to snag. A fish dish and crow bliss…
   As we continued on past Barbridge two buzzards swooped across the air behind us, close enough I cold see their individual feathers! A third juvenile buzzard joined them at treetop height and they swept off across the fields.  Just past the next bridge hole a fisherman placidly dangled a line in the water. Suddenly a tern swooped out of nowhere in front of us, cruising low. It passed us, dipping to the water’s surface and just missed pinching a perch from the cut!
   We moored up in Nantwich for my long awaited chiropractor's appointment. Emma with Nantwich Chiropractic was brilliant. She correctly diagnosed my left shoulder was slightly out of joint and my left clavicle was also displaced. I did it three weeks earlier while cranking up the lock gates at Middlewich which are a bitch to work—the worst I’ve ever come across.
   Emma was able to find all that under a mass of old scar tissue and realize those misalignments were putting pressure on my neck and upper spine. As soon as she finished the adjustment I felt my energy level rise like water in a lock.
   While I was getting adjusted and massaged, Les picked up a bit of shopping. We started back to the boat in the heat of the late afternoon. Dear Sir insisted we stop at a small shop and get ice cream cones—Rrrrum Raisin! Deelicious! Ice cold bliss!!
   We left immediately to moor up just before the winding hole near hack Green, back toward Audlem. I made a quart of fresh homemade lemonade and tuna salad sandwiches on cheesy baps for dinner. And of course there was a chocolate Kahlua cake under cover on the counter for Les. He picked it up and sniffed appreciatively. “Gor Jaq—smell it! That’s gorgeous!” Cake bliss!!

les smelling his cake
   As May passes we take every opportunity for walks: Les goes out and disappears for several hours on the hunt for old mills and unused canal arms. Dear Sir loves the English summer weather and revels in it. I don’t tolerate weather hotter than 65 degrees Fahrenheit very well (read this chapter of my blog So This is Love for the full story) so I walk early in the morning and later in the evening, laying low in the heat of the afternoon when I log in to my courses to check in with my students, or read a chapter of one of my favorite Kate Shugak mystery series by Alaskan Author Dana Stabenow. This of course, after a morning tidy up of the boat.
   I lie in our bedroom with the curtains pulled, the sun-dappled shade lighting up the interior of the cabin—a gentle breeze perfumed with Hawthorn wafting in past the curtains. I am catching up on naps! All those naps I fought when I was a little kid—I’m making up for them now as the heat makes me feel sluggish and sleepy. Dreamy bliss…
   On one of our walks along the cut we passed a lively little stream working its way from Bunbury locks to who knows where?

a lilvey stream
   While Les kept his eyes peeled for firewood I slipped into a dance of euphoria over fields of cleavers and nettles. I have a bottle of Nettle vinegar settling down, and a jar of comfrey and Pot Marigold soaking in olive oil. I will make a salve with some melted beeswax that will heal any skin condition from chapped skin to burns. Herbal bliss!

masses of nettles and cleavers

   Today as I wrote this post Les had me installed like a Queen, in a chair on the bow under the sun umbrella, laptop perched on a pillow in my lap, a glass of cool lemonade nearby as he sanded rust spots off the side of the boat and repainted them.
   Music filled the warm, sunny air: David Gray, Pink, Maroon 5, John Lennon, The Dixie Chicks…two swans swam slowly past me, gracefully gliding on the water, nibbling at the green threads of algae along the canal edge. Mallard ducks landed with a splash nearby and began to bathe as they discussed the merits of this neck of the woods and water.
   Sue and Martyn on NB Cherokee slowed down for a chinwag on their way to Audlem. Followers of both our blogs, they are another lovely couple I am pleased to meet.
   Mornings on the cut dawn like this….


sunrise glorious

   …and evening closes sublimely with me and Les chasing each other down the narrow hallway to see who will be first in the bathroom. Once the bed is pulled out across the hallway we settle into all six feet of it under the down comforter, snuggled close. We talk, laugh, tickle, giggle, tell stories and jokes, chortle, guffaw and belly laugh…sometimes until tears of joy and laughter roll down my cheeks.
   I remember the few and far between times as child when I spent the night at a friend’s home. After the lights went out we would whisper to one another, telling stories and jokes and laughing under the covers. I never wanted to fall asleep—I wanted our laughter and the incredible sense of joy so unfamiliar to me in the nightmare of my childhood to go on forever. Now it does, and I fall asleep nearly every night with a goofy grin on my face, molecules bubbling with that indefinable feeling laughter evokes within us. Bliss for me is falling asleep, safe and happy, in my husband’s arms, rocked gently in our narrow boat bed.

Sunset 1

Monday, May 21, 2012

A BW document from the past.

Following my rant I decided to find some info on the £150($225) extra charge for C/Cruisers. You can view what I found HERE  . In the document they refer to this charge as "additional facilities charge" (9.15b)
I kept reading thinking BW were about to introduce a cruise in boat wash or a lock keeper to see you through flights. Perhaps this £150 C/C  `additional facilities charge` is for a new service in which the wife is chauffeured to Tesco and a BW representative pushes the shopping trolley(cart). Cart is not canal and river trust it`s the U.S. name for trolley.

But sadly all this posh term means is they do what the do anyway, provide moorings, water and rubbish facilities 19.6(a). Maybe they were considering closing the network during winter and having everyone tucked up in a marina mooring where they get a 9% cut.

In section 10.2 they talk of pensioners discounts but dismiss the idea as it might encourage fraud. Well that`s fair, everyone knows what a bunch of villains C/Cruising pensioners like myself are. We take substantially high interest payments on our savings from the poor banks without a care on the effect it has on w  bankers bonuses.

Fees to register a change of boat owner.
Roving mooring permit 9.17.
In section 10.2(c) they talk of volunteers earning points towards a discount on their next license. I wonder would they accept my Tesco club card points.  Mmm must e mail BW before Jaq spends them.

Wide beams, section 8.4  come under attack with suggestions of a £50($75) flat fee increase or a % as the beam increases. 2.6m + 20%, 3.1m + 30% and so on. My view is a boat is a boat so why should they pay more to cruise. Of course marina fees will be more because of the space limits in a business environment. Marinas are built at great cost, the canals have been around some 200 years and paid back their investors a long time ago.

Anyway just a little bit of googling to satisfy my curiosity about the £150 thingy has given me a lot of entertainment. Have a look through it and see what you can find.
 Personally I liked the idea of the Roving mooring permit, at least i found it amusing. They can`t make the Continuous Moorers(their words) move so how do they (BW) think they will get them to buy a permit.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Something new and a bit of a rant and an anniversary

British Waterways makes way for Canal and River Trust as this new van displays it`s new master. Just next to this van at Calverley services stood one in the old livery and my thoughts were that they would bring in the new on a gradual basis. It is of course to much to ask that vast amounts of money will be wasted  spent on the thousands of signs, one just visible above the van, all over the system.

 Why they could not have left the name and just changed to trust status is beyond me. After all the canals and rivers are waterways of Britain, British Waterways. Would have saved a lot of cash that could have been spent on the canals. I expect the next thing will be the thousands of signs, one just above the van, all over the system will be changed to the new name and logo, money wasted.

One thing that i am concerned about is that the `Trust` might decide to get caught up in the crap floating around the system regarding putting a premium on the Cont. cruising licence. This has been mentioned a long way back and more recently in letters to boat magazines that resulted in recent heated interaction between bloggers.
WARNING; If you comment on this post make no mention of those involved or you will not be published.

For our friends in the U.S. Jaq and I are Continuous cruisers in as much as we do not moor in a Marina but move around the canals on a continuous journey. Now talk has been in the past and recently to charge a higher licence fee for boaters like Jaq and I.
All sorts of arguments both for and against are being bandied around. The main one being we use the system more, I agree we do, so what.

When I lived and worked ashore I used my business vehicle all day long Monday thru Friday. My car only got used on the weekend but I still paid the same tax for it as the guy next door who used his all week. If i had the opportunity I could have used the car all week but sadly I was working not retired so I moored parked it on the drive till I could use it.

Anyway this is my personal rant about something I can`t stop happening, are there any C/C on the trust to speak up for me?. I think the problems of licence evasion will escalate if these increases come into being.
EDIT:  This rant to make it clear to all is directed at the powers that be. I/We know many boaters who use their boat in different ways. We all sail under one name, BOATERS, not of  any particular group just boaters.

This is the new services area that is being provided by the Nantwich Canal Centre on the main line at Nantwich embankment. As some will recognise just ahead are the moorings of the old Empress hire fleet and beyond that the BW services at bridge 92. The present services will still be available in the basin to service the hire and share boats moored there. Out on the mainline additional pump out and diesel facilities and a new chandlery will be installed soon. The old Chandlery is now occupied by the Antiques business that shall we just say re-located from Venetian Marina on the Middlewich arm when new owners took over the marina. At present the chandlery is housed in a temporary building until a new home is constructed.


OK just to finish:1 year ago May 21st, 2011 was the last time I smoked.  Jaq arrived in the UK to spend 2 weeks on the boat and we then returned to America to marry and obtain a visa for her to live in the UK. Anyone who is not aware of the story can read Jaq`s blog `So this is love` and read all about it starting early November 2010.
One year, Wow! It seems longer, so comfortable are we with each other, sometimes I feel we have been together for years.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Well needled and still trembling

Not a happy bunny at the moment having faced my greatest fear the dreaded Hypodermic Syringe aka the Dentist`s numbing machine. Now minus 4 teeth and facing some further dental work when things settle down. The dentist, a young Romanian, was very pleasant and understanding and helped me get through the ordeal of needles entering my flesh. Through it I might be but the fear will remain for ever, the drill noise or the tools they use to extract the teeth hold no fear for me but needles freak me big time.I would have failed the Junkie entry exams for sure.
For our U.S. readers our NHS does not include free dental but the charges(see below) are a lot less than the private sector. Jaq is amazed at the prices so I have put some prices below.

This is from the NHS website on charges.
Dental charges depend on the treatment you need to keep your mouth, teeth and gums healthy. You will only ever be asked to pay one charge for each complete course of treatment, even if you need to visit your dentist more than once to finish it. If you are referred to another dentist for another, separate course of treatment, you can expect a second charge. Some minor treatments are free.

NHS dental charges from 1 April 2012

Band 1 course of treatment – £17.50 ($27)This covers an examination, diagnosis (eg X-rays), advice on how to prevent future problems, a scale and polish if needed, and application of fluoride varnish or fissure sealant. If you require urgent care, even if your urgent treatment needs more than one appointment to complete, you will only need to pay one Band 1 charge.

Band 2 course of treatment – £48.00 ($72)This covers everything listed in Band 1 above, plus any further treatment such as fillings, root canal work or if your dentist needs to take out one or more of your teeth.

Band 3 course of treatment – £209.00 ($313)This covers everything listed in Bands 1 and 2 above, plus crowns, dentures and bridges.



Anyway off away from Nantwich tomorrow to spend a few days somewhere rural and perhaps if the weather is kind to put some paint on the scrapes below the gunnel's.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Boater and the Ermine

   Decades ago when I was a young mother living in a log house in the sticks of Alaska with no Mod Cons (modern conveniences), including no refrigerator, we kept our meat and other goods that can be frozen, in a large box on the back porch. Bear in mind it is cold enough to keep things frozen outside in much of Alaska for nine months of the year.
   One dark, bitterly cold winter’s eve while we were all seated at the table eating dinner, I heard a noise on the back porch. Putting down my silverware, I cocked my head and listened closely. A very slight scratching, dragging sound came from the other side of the back door. What on earth could it be? Earlier experiences in the Alaskan bush taught me to tread carefully in a wilderness filled with wild animals—most bigger than me.
   I moved quietly, creeping to the back door, easing the handle around and carefully pulling the door open enough to peek out. Light from the kerosene lantern cracked the black night, a sliver of yellow brilliance illuminating the back porch and the mounded snow beyond.
   I peered out carefully, seeing nothing large looming in the dark beyond the door; to my astonishment the frozen food box moved slightly with scuffing, scratching mustela_erminea2sounds that echoed in the cold night air.
   Throwing open the door I caught an Ermine in its winter coat of white with a black tipped tail, attempting to steal our large box of frozen food! With its teeth firmly embedded in the bottom of the cardboard box, it stubbornly wrenched the corner back and forth in a valiant attempt to move the box off the porch, down the stairs and back to wherever its underground nest lie under the frozen snow.
   I laughed in delight and stepped out onto the porch, my slippers crunching on a hard crust of snow. I assumed the looming presence of a two legged animal eight times larger than itself would frighten off the Ermine but NO! It let go of the box, looked up at me and growled as if to say, “Clear off you. This is my find and if I can just get it back to my den I won’t have to hunt again all winter. Now beat it!” Growling again, it made a mock attack at my feet, sunk its teeth into the corner of the box and jimmied the entire thing another half an inch towards the stairs. Shooing off the Ermine with a broom, we moved the box to a more secure location. I still find myself amazed and delighted though by such a show of pure bravado and determination.
   Which brings me to the boater, i.e. my husband. Cruising up the Shroppie in the general direction of Calvely we kept our eyes peeled for wood to add to our store on the roof of the boat. Often one passes a lovely pile of recently cut tree limbs located on the offside of the canal where it is extremely shallow and there is no towpath, making it impossible to get. As we came around a bend Les spotted a group of trees on the offside which had been trimmed fairly recently. We knew though the cut was too shallow for us to maneuver NB Valerie in close enough to reach it. Disappointed, we continued on.
   Further down the canal I spotted a large tree trunk sticking out from the water on theDSCF9748 offside near some large tree limbs lying on the bank. I suggested we nose the boat in close enough to the trunk and Les could try it and see if it was stable enough to hold his weight. I thought we could tie the boat to the half submerged log and Les could gain the advantage of the bank, accessing the cut logs. We tried it and it worked!
   Les was determined to get as much wood as possible on the roof of the boat, grabbing heavy logs I could never begin to budge, balancing them on his shoulders as he clambered down the steep bank, balanced on the half submerged log, crossed the tottering boat plank and heaved the wood on the roof of our boat. Yep! Dear Sir reminded me of the determined Ermine all those years ago. Never let an opportunity pass without sussing it out for a chance of success.

the boat tied to to the log

Les with 2 logs on the crosslog

DSCF9725

Les looking at the plank 2 logs in hand


wood cut and stacked
  
mustela_erminea   Ermine/Mustela erminea, aka stoat, short tailed weasel. These small, lithe animals are adept at surviving on the frozen tundra of the Northern hemisphere by making dens in the roots of old trees, or rocky ledges. Weighing between 13-15 ounces, 7-13 inches long with a tail nearly 5 inches in length. The Ermine’s flexible backbone allows it to do “the Martin run,” where its hind legs are tucked up next to its front legs, the back bone arching in a hump, arching and extending as it runs.
   Miniature members of the same family of Mustelids as wolverines, badgers, weasels, Martins, sea and river otters, minks and ferrets,  Ermines are carnivores with 34 very sharp teeth allowing them to hunt and eat animals larger than themselves such as snow shoe hare. Curious by nature Ermines are able to squeeze themselves into tiny opening and can often be found overwintering in summer cabins while the humans are surviving winter elsewhere!
   During the Middle Ages the winter coat of Ermine tails were often used to trim the robes of royalty—as they still do today for the robes worn by members of the British House of Lords.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Ravensmoor Walk

"All my writing is about the recognition that there is no single reality. But the beauty of it is that you nevertheless go on, walking towards utopia, which may not exist, on a bridge which might end before you reach the other side."~Marguerite Young

On our way up to Llangollen we stopped for a couple of days near the village of Ravensmoor, a small village in the parish of Burland. I looked for information online about its history. Only a brief mention in Wikipedia came up with a note that most of the village dates from the second half of the 20th century.

On our way back out of Llangollen we’ve fetched up in the same place as the view is lovely, it is an easy place to moor, and we have full 3G, five bar Internet signal and an easy to locate satellite signal for the TV.

There are several good footpaths across the fields nearby and we decided to strike out one sunny day and enjoy a lovely walk.

leafa nd flower spangled woods
One of the amazing things to me is how plants are generally left to their own devices here in the U.K. Mixed hedgerows of sloe, Hawthorn, roses and blackberries bend and weave over and amongst one another; public footpaths are cloaked in unchecked vines, and laced with small plants growing on the verges. To me this looks like an arch inviting me to step under…


gogeous woodland path
…and follow the path wherever it goes. A lively little stream meanders through the woods on the left. I almost feel like Alice in Wonderland. Where is that rabbit?

Bellis Perrenis
Bright Bellis Perrenis—English Daisies sprout form the grass. This is one of my favorite flowers. Their twee, hardy beauty cheers my spirit wherever I see them. they make a lovely addition to tea mixtures., and the fresh young leaves may eaten raw or added to soups.

The flower heads are used medicinally. The main constituents are saponins, an essential oil, tannins, and mucilage, flavones and a bitter compound which give Daisy an expectorant and astringent properties. It has a beneficial effect on gastritis, enteritis, and diarrhoea,and infections of the upper respiratory tract. In herbal medicine Daisy is usually used as an infusion. (The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Herbs, Dorset Press, 1984, p.84.)

Externally Daisy is used in compresses and bath preparations to treat skin disorders, wounds, and bruises. A decoction of the leaves may be used for the same purposes.


gogeous woodland path
Ahead the path veers to the right through another natural arch of tree branches. Pied wagtails, wrens, and other small species of birds will the wood with their songs. the air is crisp and clean, with the bright green scent of spring.


tehe arch of trees
Looking back along the way we came. Daffodils line the verge with their springtime cheer, while up ahead the path narrows…


another bend in the path ahead
…around a bend and out into a large, grassy pathway bordered by large hedgerows. I love the surprise that awaits around each bend!


along the whitethorn hedge
I am entranced by the way nature leads me on to the next bit of footpath…


Auteh scoed arch to REavensmoor
...playing peek-a-boo with my senses.


choosing to follow hte winding path thorugh the woods
Ah now I see the path veers right past that large, round shrub. There’s no guessing what waits around the next bit…


and out toteh old manor hosue gates
Wow! Gates to an old estate no longer owned by wealthy gentry; a lovely home with horses saddled to ride and folks standing around the end of the long drive. Directly across the way is a metal gate opening on to a small field with a path into the village.


down the road to the village
We however opt for the tree and hedge lined road which invites us to continue on ahead.


you never know what's around the next bend
More natural arches and bending pathways…


teh house at hte endof the lane
which straighten out and lead to an intersection with a farmhouse.


cleavers
Cleavers (bedstraw, goose weed, or catch grass) fill the side of the road. In the States this sticky garden weed is viciously eradicated. Here it is allowed to mind its own business along the paths and hedges.

Gallium Aparine is well known to medicinal herbalists and homemakers of old who used it to clabber their gently boiling milk, turning it into curds and whey. Now days cheese is clabbered with rennet made form calves stomach. Many vegetarians still opt for Cleavers in home cheese making. It grows en mass all around Whitchurch—an old cheese making site and home of Cheshire cheese. Anywhere this plant is found in abundance is a clue that folks thereabouts made a lot of cheese way back when.

Cleavers is edible and medicinal. It has been used for centuries as an alternative medicine by indigenous peoples on many continents. It is mainly used as an addition to soups. Using the plant as a vegetable has a slimming effect on the body. Cleavers seed is one of the best coffee substitutes, it merely needs to be dried and lightly roasted and has much the same taste as coffee. As a member of the Madder family the is plant is related to coffee.

Cleavers has a long history of use as an alternative medicine and is still used widely by modern herbalists. It is used both internally and externally in the treatment of a wide range of ailments. The dried or fresh herb is alterative, anti-inflammatory, antiphlogistic, aperient, astringent, depurative, diaphoretic, diuretic, febrifuge, tonic and vulnerary.
A valuable diuretic, it is often taken to treat skin problems such as seborrhoea, eczema and psoriasis, and as a general detoxifying agent in serious illnesses such as cancer. The plant contains organic acids, flavonoids, tannins, fatty acids, glycoside asperuloside, gallotannic acid and citric acid. It has a mild laxative effect and stimulates the lymphatic system and has shown benefit in skin related problems.

The fresh plant or juice is used as a medicinal poultice for wounds, ulcers and many other skin problems. An infusion of the herb has shown of benefit in the treatment of glandular fever, tonsilitis, hepatitis and cystitis. The infusion is also used to treat liver, bladder and urinary problems. The plant contains the valuable constituent asperuloside, a substance that is converted into prostaglandins by the body. Prostaglandins are hormone-like compounds that stimulate the uterus and affect blood vessels. (Illustrated Encyclopedia of Herbs, Dorset Press, 1984; p. 153)

Used as a love medicine by one tribe, the infusion of plant was used as a bath by women to be successful in love. Several Native American Tribes used Cleavers as an infusion of for gonorrhea. A red dye is obtained from a decoction of the root. A thick matt of the stems, when used as a sieve for filtering milk, was said to give healing properties to the milk and is still used in Sweden for that purpose. (Magic and Medicine of Plants, 1986, Reader’s Digest Publishing, p. 143.)


Medicinal Tea: To 1 pint of boiling water add 3 heaping tbls. of dried or fresh herb, steep 10 min. Take in mouthful doses throughout the day. Cleavers can be juiced raw with your favorite greens for a healthful green juice.


the road into town, Les walking
Les strides down the lane into the village, where he spots…


Old Cardiff ales Lorry in a farmyard
…this old Cardiff Ales lorry, parked in a farm shed near a big, blue tractor.


red telly box in teh hedge
I spot the no-longer-so-common red phone booth planted in the hedge. In addition to sporting a crown emblem with ERII underneath, the sides indicate this is a 21st century phone in a red booth—email, text AND phone it indicates!


main village instersectin w give way sign
Just past the red phone booth the village lanes meet in a four way intersection…


village street sign
…with an old fashioned village signpost offering directions.


daffs and pub across the way
Across the way is the local pub The Farmer’s Arms. It made me think of my farming friends back in Pullman, Chrisi and Keith Kincaid.


The FArmers Arms
Imagine finishing a hard day on the farmstead and walking into the local for a pint and some natter with the other folks from round about the area. Here’s to you Chrisi and Keith!


fungi on a log
We turned away from the pub and headed back in the opposite direction towards the canal. I spotted this interesting old log with a lovely bit of funghi growing on it.


taking a new path home through Ravensmoor
Shortly we came to this wooden bridge over the local stream and we decided to follow it along…


Les leadiong the way back
Les was kind enough to stop in the middle and pose for me…


off the bridge and into the woods
…before striding off along the leaf mould strewn footpath into yet another arch leading into a shady, narrow stretch which border the backside of the farms and house out on the main lane.


down a long, leafy aisle
Birds rustled in the branches and rabbits ducked into holes along this natural corridor. I could just imagine how enchanting it would be for a child whose home borders this back alley to the natural world. Pirates might take over the bridge behind us; Robin Hood and his merry men could be waiting along here just anywhere along here, or Herne the Hunter (Cernunnos) could step out of the shadows, stop, offer a soul piercing gaze, and be gone with a flash of antlers.


Ravensmoor back garden path
Just past this small rivulet we came to a a footpath marked by a style so I asked Les to demonstrate for our American readers, how a style works.


over the style 1
Heave ho and over you go! Who ever builds these rustic public right of ways is obviously a 6 foot tall man. I have to approach a style carefully and the first step usually comes up to mid thigh on me. We won’t even discuss where the fence railing reaches!


Les climbs over the style
“Why,” I asked Les, “are styles installed instead of gates? It is a designated public right of way. A gate makes it much easier to access the foot path.”

“Yes, but not everyone who uses a gate will close it behind them. The farmer’s livestock could escape if a gate is left open. Styles allow the public access and keep the livestock in the field where they belong.” I cannot argue with his logic so…heave ho over I go!


Les walking toward the gate ravensmoor walk
I followed Dear sir across the field. It was filled with cows which we wove our way through. I’ve never been close to a cow before and now that I’ve seen how disgustingly filthy they get I don’t feel the need to do it again any time soon!


Persicaria
Lesser Celandine clustered in a boggy patch at the far end of the field. Also known as pilewort, its acrid, irritating juice was used in creams to treat hemmorhoids, warts, and scab. It should never be ingested internally as it is toxic.
Folklore has it that Queen Elizabeth I “whose teeth were euphemistically described as ‘black pearls,’ was said to have once avoided a painful tooth extraction by dropping the acrid juice of Celandine into the hollow of a decaying tooth” after which she could easily remove the tooth with her fingers. (Magic and Medicine of Plants, Reader’s Digest Publishing, 1986, p. 135.)


through the gate
A gate awaits us at the other end of the field! Thank you Goddess! Les strode and I stravaged back home to the boat for a cup of tea and our slippers.