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Wednesday, September 03, 2014

High Summer on Crack Hill

"Time is the coin of your life. It is the only coin you have, and only you can determine how it will be spent. Be careful lest you let other people spend it for you." ~Carl Sandburg

  We were cruising on new water for me. Les has been up the Leicester Arm twice but this was my first time. Rural in nature with some spectacular views between Crick and Yelvertoft, it is an extremely busy section of the cut, with a lot of hire boats on the move as well as a few share boats and private shiny boats--all racing by without slowing down. What is it with folks these days? The Canal Boat Club hire boats even have a sticker below the ignition requesting drivers slow right down when approaching and passing moored boats. Some days it is madness--the total antithesis of being on a cut. Go figure!! 
   It was a year ago on August 17th we received Les' cancer diagnosis, so we celebrated Les' return to good health quietly with a walk up Crack Hill overlooking the village of Crick to South and Yelvertoft to the West, reveling in the view far above the fray. We indulged in my Best Beloved's favorite summer past time: picking blackberries! 
   The hedgerows are loaded with an abundance of ripe fruit so come along with me--the best is yet to be! Walk with us to the top of Crack Hill and back home again...and glory in the great green and golden tapestry that is high summer in England...
NB Valerie is all buttoned up as we walk away up the towpath.
This is the entrance to Yelvertoft Marina--newly built in 2010 with 150 berths, offering 23.25 miles of lock free canal to toddle along. Originally part of Flint Hill Farm, we were told by locals that the farmer is the owner of this marina. 
We've crossed the canal at bridge 17. Farmland and low, rolling hills lay just beyond the low hedgerow of Fireweed and dried flowers on one side...
while the other side of the path wears a tall green fringe laden with late summer fruits and berries! Hawthorn (good for the heart muscle), and Sloes--aka Blackthorn.
 You are probably familiar with Sloes as an ingredient of the drink Sloe Gin Fizz. Sloe Gin is made from soaking the fruit in gin or vodka with sugar added and allowing it to mature. 
   I am familiar with Spinus Prunosa as a medicinal plant and it has been used extensively for many thousands of years. You may remember the discovery of an ancient body frozen in the Italian Alps in 1991. Otzi as he was named, dated from Neanderthal times (3350-3300 BCE). Amongst his precious few belongings were found some dried sloes--medicine for his journey.
  A tea from the flowers is a harmless and reliable purgative and has beneficial effects on the stomach and stimulates appetite. Recommended for mild bladder problems, skin problems, catarrh, stomach cramps, dropsy (edema), and stone formation. Juice of the berries used for inflammations in the mouth and throat. A jam made of the fruit is a palatable laxative safe especially for children. A decoction of the root bark reduces fever.

Blackberries reaching for the sun! They too are medicinal. A tea of the dried leaves alleviates diarrhea. Blackberries and Raspberries contain Ellagic acid--a potent cancer preventative.
“Ellagic acid prevents the binding of carcinogens to DNA and strengthens connective tissue, which may keep cancer cells from spreading.” Ellagic Acid has the ability to inhibit mutations within a cell’s DNA. Furthermore, it is considered to be a cancer inhibitor which has the ability to cause apoptosis or normal cell death in cancer cells." (Webster Kehr, Independent Cancer Research Foundation, Inc. | Last updated on March 14, 2013)
It is amazing to me how abundantly blessed the hedgerows are in this country. Ma Nature is generous in Her fecundity.
A break in the hedge allows us a view of Crack Hill surrounded by golden wheat.
The gate up ahead marks the farmer's land and this Bridle Path and footpath are a public right of way. 
 The air is warm and honeyed with the slightly floral scent of ripening berries and an undertone of licorice from drifts of Sweet Cicely growing nearby. Bees buzz, birds sing, the wind kisses our cheek, and the clouds change shape and color as we watch.
   Beyond the gate, a short walk across a small grassy field bounded on three sides by Blackberry brambles and littered with Sheep scat, and we climb quickly to the rounded summit of Crack Hill.
A lovely spot for a sunny picnic!
  Reaching the top we spy a Jubilee Beacon, a picnic table, and a plaque which explains that this is a glacial outcrop on the edge of the Northamptonshire heights from which the town of Crick takes its name (from the Celtic word cruc meaning hill). Worked flint has been found there indicating pre-historic activity. There is also evidence of a Roman Station and of open field ridge & furrow farming predating the Enclosure Act of 1778. Human activity has marked this hill for thousands of years.
Strong man holds up the Jubilee beacon! Les looking and feeling fit and healthy.
The top of Crack Hill is circled by giant oaks... it the feel of a pagan chapel. As a witch I would love to return to Crack Hill on the high holy days of Winter solstice, Spring Equinox, May Eve, Summer Solstice, Fall equinox, and close my year at Samhain (Oct. 31st) standing in the twilight on the summit with the wind blowing around me. For me Crack Hill is a sacred place. I can easily believe that while Christians worshiped in the Crick village church, witches met on Crack Hill to turn the wheel of the year and give thanks to the Goddess and the Green Man.
Looking outward to the fields beyond and moving in a circle around to the right. I loved the way the lone far tree in the hedgerow was framed by the break in the trees on the Hill.
A close up from the hilltop, of the canal below, which curls around three sides of the hill. Beyond is a green checkerboard of fields and hedgerows that seem to roll on forever. 
One after another, narrow boats cruise in meandering curves following the canal as it curves around the foot of the hill.
A narrow boat below cruises slowly toward the village of Crick in the distance.
A close up of the path from Crick village to Crack Hill and three walkers surrounded by verdant green pasture. The village church tower stands tall and proud, marking the spot where Christians have worshiped since the beginning of the Norman conquest. Off to the far right on the village pitch...
...a football game is in progress.
Between Crack Hill and the public footpath across the green pasture, another narrow boat glides slowly into view!
Boaters are making the most of the sunshine as another one slips by with wind Gennie's in the background.
Looking down on the wheat farm at the foot of the hill, it is time to start back.
The path down leads between two large oaks, moving through the farmer's gate. The pasture below is ringed on all sides...
...with blackberries! We stop and fill two containers to overflowing. It is not for nothing that one of Les' nicknames is Blackberry Biggs!
Off the hill, blackberries picked, we cross a low field and make for the gate...
beyond which is a field of sweet corn (the word corn is a generic term used by Brits for any field grain), and the path back home to NB Valerie.
 Even though this isn't a typical kissing gate, Dear Sir is waiting to kiss me through...
On our way back to the cut we pass the wheat farm we saw from the hill top.
Yelvertoft Marina from canal bridge 17.
Across the bridge, down the stairs...

...and onto the towpath where I spotted this fuzzy caterpillar making its way toward the canal. I wonder what kind of butterfly it will become?
Further on past the marina this bridge bears the marks of the horse's tether in its brick facing, from the days of horse drawn boats.
In the galley we weigh our plump, purple booty. Five pounds!! I can see into the future and I spy Blackberry and Apple pie, Blackberry cobbler, and Blackberry and Apple Crumble.
A blackberry sunset bids us goodnight.


Dragontatoo said...

Love, love, love the photos! Need more of you Ma--so glad you're cruising again! Love you both 1000 Swedish Fish

Boatwif said...

What a beautiful piece - the descriptions and the photos are so evocative. Your readers will be with you every footstep of the way up Crack Hill and back down again!
See you both before not too long I hope...

Dave Winter said...

Lovely landscape photos,except the one with the wind turbines :-)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for a wonderfully evocative post.

What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.
No time to stand beneath the boughs
And stare as long as sheep or cows.
No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.
No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night.
No time to turn at Beauty's glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance.
No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began.
A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.
William Wordsworth

Mike Muir said...

Les, congrats on getting this year out of the way. May you have many more.
Jaq, keep watching those hilltops, much pre-Christian, pre-Roman use of them and the signs can be found.
Try and visit Wayland's Smithy on the Great Ridgeway in Berkshire sometime, you will need wheels of some sort to get there. We drove there in 1986 on a grass public road, but the status of that may have changed.
Mike & Phill, nb GARNET, back at Fazeley Junction.

Mrs. Jaqueline Biggs said...

Hi Jesse!
Oh it's lovely to get a comment from you. Les is far more photogenic than me. But he says he will see what he can do to get more snaps of me.
Wish you all were here to enjoy this with us.
I love you to the end of the universe--and back again!

Mrs. Jaqueline Biggs said...

Thank you Sue! We look forward to seeing your and Ken soon and having a great long catch up. I watch the purple Martins dip and dive and they make me think of Ken in his air force plane, swooping and diving.
Love and hugs,

Mrs. Jaqueline Biggs said...

Hi Dave,
Yep those turbines can appear as a blight on the land--although the ones in the U.S. are quite a bit smaller and shorter than the typical American turbines, which are massive.

I included them because they illustrate the marching of the centuries--from the ancient hill, to Crick village church, to 21st century turbines. It is all written on the landscape.

Mrs. Jaqueline Biggs said...

Hi Mike,
Yep Les says he can see the faint pinprick of light at the end of this tunnel and its not a train!

We will make note of your recommendation for one of our travels by tire instead of rudder!
Love and hugs to you and Phyll,
Jaq and LesXX

Chas and Ann said...

Wonderful views from that hill. When I went up there the sheep had escaped and had got across the bridge! Keep fit by going up once a day!

Please try my book ‘Life With a Narrowboat’ now published in 3 parts down loadable from LULU in ebook format. Click on the LULU button in my blog. Chas

Anonymous said...

I think you need to lock up those blackberries, they will be gone in a flash if you turn your back :D
I've forgotten how beautiful it is up there.

hugs and kisses to you both
mwah xx <3


MikeW said...

Hi Jaq and Les
Lovely blog-great pictures. I'm up on the Ashby at the moment and loving it. Off blackberrying myself later-crumble tonight. Got to get off the boat now anyway as the bloke next door is baking bread and the smell is driving me mad with hunger!
Be lucky


Wozie nb Oakfield said...

Hello, This is one of our favourite stretches of canal too and we have enjoyed many wonderful walkabouts hereabouts.
Btw, the above peom was by W. H. Davies, who lived in my hometown for awhile!
Glad Les is going from strength, to strength, lifting up that heavy beacon just proves it!

Mrs. Jaqueline Biggs said...

Hi Mike,
The Ashby is one of our favorite canals. Good blackberrying to be had there indeed.

We are headed slowly back to Cow Roast now as the possibility of Les' final surgery looms ahead. When we meet up again I will have a loaf of homemade bread with your name on it.
Jaq and LesXX

Mrs. Jaqueline Biggs said...

Hi Chas,
We will indeed check out your book. Obviously you've been busy while back on land.
Hugs to Anne,
Jaq and LesX

Mrs. Jaqueline Biggs said...

HI Jojo! Yep Half the berries are gone already! Miss you darlin' and wish you were here.
Love Jaq and PappyXXX

Mrs. Jaqueline Biggs said...

Hi Steve and Ang (NB Tumbleweed),
Thanks for the lovely poem! the sentiments are too, too true.

Hopefully one day soon our paths will cross and we can sit with a cuppa and apiece of cake and share stories.
Jaq and Les

Mrs. Jaqueline Biggs said...

Hi Ann,
Thanks for letting me know about W.H. Davies. I always have room in my cap and my heart for another good poet.

I am looking forward to the time we can cruise back up the Leicester arm and keep going.

Les is doing grand and we are slowly heading back down to Cow roast to prepare for his final surgery. Then we will light off to winter on the LLangollen. Hope we catch up with you and Keith soon. Tea and cake on NBV.
Hugs to you both,

ann nb oakfield said...

Looking forward to seeing you two again too.

Anonymous said...

Hey Jaq and Les, Wayland's Smithy and White Horse Hill are a half-hour drive from Abingdon... The offer is there when you get here!


Mrs. Jaqueline Biggs said...

Hi Alistair,
You're on! We look forward to visiting Abingdon, seeing you, meeting your lovely family and seeing the sites!
Take care,
Jaq and LesXX

NB Valerie & Steam Train by Les Biggs

NB Valerie & Steam Train by Les Biggs