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Monday, April 15, 2019

The Les Biggs Memorial Daffodil Trail

Do not stand at my grave and weep 
I am not there. I do not sleep. 
I am a thousand winds that blow. 
I am the diamond glints on snow. 
I am the sunlight on ripened grain. 
I am the gentle autumn rain. 
When you awaken in the morning's hush 
I am the swift uplifting rush 
Of quiet birds in circled flight. 
I am the soft stars that shine at night. 
Do not stand at my grave and cry; 
I am not there. I did not die. ~ Mary Elizabeth  Frye, American poet and florist, 1905-2004

   Many who follow this blog know that in the year after Les' death I cruised slowly northward to the narrow canals Les loved best, stopping at his favorite places along the way to dig a hole, scatter some of Les' ashes inside, and plant Daffodils on top so that Les would bloom in all his favorite places along the cut and be adored by everyone who came upon his spring flowers every year. Here then are pictures and descriptions of each place, should you wish to stop and say hello. His spirit would love that and so would my heart.

   Finally I am calling out to any boaters who are willing to plant Daffodils and Forget-Me-Knots in remembrance of Les. There were several places I wanted to plant them but for various reasons--mainly bad weather and ill health, I wasn't able to do so.  The spots noted on the list below as VACANT are the ones I missed. If you come across one of Les' Daffodils and wish to send me a picture I would be deeply touched. xxx

Marsworth Reservoirs, Gran Union Canal. My deepest thanks to Dave Winter who follows our blog and has stopped to chat with us whenever he walked along and found us. Dave has been kind enough to send me pictures of Les' Daffodil blooming at Marsworth two springs running now. 
   Startops End Reservoir is a a magical place for me and Les. We moored there for eleven days in October 2011 while we waited for my worldly goods to be unloaded from the huge cargo ship that brought them from America. All 640 pounds arrived and were delivered to us at this spot by family members. We spent four days unpacking and putting books into the new book cases Les had built aboard NB Valerie for me. I hung art on the walls, and stained glass dragonflies and crystals in front of the windows. We put all of my kitchen goods in the new cupboards and cabinets Les built our of Billy bookcases. He sat back on his side of the dinette, his head resting against the wall one sunny morning with a look of utter satisfaction and happiness on his face. I asked Les what he was thinking. "Jaq you've made our boat a lovely home. Yes I lived on it before I met you, but it wasn't really a home like this. You make it a lovely place to be." And so did he. Les filled NB Valerie with his presence and his happiness. There was no place else on this earth either of us would rather have wished to be but right there together, cruising through our life.  

VACANT: By the bench at the top of Slapton Lock, Grand Union Canal.  Les died before the marinas were scheduled to be built nearby.  He loved mooring just below this lock especially in March and September when boat traffic died down and we had it to ourselves. We had the rare privilege (for us anyway) of watching a family of Mink diving and playing in the water there. 

VACANT: Linford Park, Grand Union Canal, by the stone wall near the two day moorings. Les also loved to moor here and walk through the grounds of the park, looking back at NBV waiting for us to return. Les gave his huge old leather chair away (to make room for two new chairs--one for each of us) at Linford Park in May of 2011, to a 12 year old who took it away in two pieces, balancing them on his bicycle!
My eternal thanks to our very dear friend Robert Rogers who borrowed this picture from our blog when we were last moored at Great Linford. Les is looking back towards NB Valerie through the trees. Robert added the words to offer me comfort in the months after Les' death. 
Stanton Low, Grand Union Canal: We first moored here near the ruins of the 12th century chapel and the wildlife refuge in 2012. We had the entire section to ourselves. The area was wild and overgrown.  I wrote a blog post after doing some in-depth research about the area going back to just before 1066. 
   It turns out Lord Charles Spencer, Lady Diana's brother owned this section of land adjacent to the cut with the chapel ruins. A group of locals who were working to save the chapel read my post, asked to use it for their fund raising purposes, and they worked with Milton Keynes County Council to contact Lord Spencer about the land. He agreed to donate it to the MKCC for a park to support the adjacent wildlife refuge and protect the chapel ruins if the land developers who had bought the farm on the off-side of this stretch of canal agreed not to build on all of the land but to keep a large swath along the canal as green space. The developers agreed and now one of the best planned housing estates in England sits at the top of the hill. A lovely green space filled with paths and walkways connect to the canal bridge and the park leads down from the houses to the cut. Les and I adored mooring here and watching the barn owls quarter the fields at dawn and dusk, hunting for food. This is one of those magical places for us like Marsworth. 
Les' daffodil plant (no flowers-just four leaves) in the foreground left. I planted it near the bridge on the towpath side. there are five large rocks to the right which block the bridge from automobile traffic.
Grafton Regis, past bridge 57 , around the bend from the weir. There are moorings there which overlook open fields filled with sheep stretching out to the distance. Les loved the view and every time he wanted to stop here, the moorings were full so I stopped there in May of 2017, dug a hole by the fence, scattered some of his ashes and planted a Daffodil for him. 

Gayton, Grand Union canal. Just across from a horse farm through Bridge 45 (Wrights Lane Bridge) there are lovely moorings in the countryside. Les and I loved it here. We walked up to the village of Gayton and went scrumping. We started working on sanding down NB Valerie here in 2014, getting her ready to paint. We had been through so much but Les' health appeared to be returning at the time and he felt wonderful. We felt as though we owned the world and were sitting on top of it once more. Les' Daffodil is planted in between the large Oak tree and the short post declaring the hazard of overhead power lines with Bridge 44 in the distance. 
Directly across from the horse farm. 
VACANT. Down the Atherstone Flight on the Coventry Canal in the long pound between the ninth lock and the final two locks in the flight. There is a white foot bridge half way through this pound and Les loved to stop there at a low gap in the hedge. It is quiet countryside with a lovely view of the surrounding rolling fields. I would be eternally grateful if someone would plant some Daffodils for Les, near the white footbridge. 
The White foot bridge in the distance on the Atherstone Flight was a favorite place of Les' to stop.  I wanted to plant Daffs there for him but too much traffic behind me kept me moving onward. 
Bridge 70, Wolseley Bridge, Trent & Mersey Canal.  There are lovely moorings just past this bridge and Les loved to fetch up here on our way to and from the northern canals. Wolsey Nature Reserve is a short way away, there is a pub just up from the moorings on the road, and bus service into Rugeley if needed. I planted Les' ashes and a Daffodil near the middle of the spaces which can accommodate as many as five boats on these fourteen day moorings.

VACANT. Great Haywood, the Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal. This too is a magical place for us as it is for so many boaters. I was up to my armpits in painting the boat when I moored there and I didn't get a chance to spread some of Les' ashes and plant Daffs for him. Could someone please plant some Daffodils along the cut just where it opens out to the wide bit??

Over Bridge 71, The Macclesfield Canal. The foot bridge takes one to a muddy path into a leafy bower where a giant Beech tree gave up its life in a fierce storm many years ago now. Les and I found it blocking the pathway and we spent a day in August of 2012 moored up on the offside just through this bridge, cutting most of the tree into rounds and hauling them out and up onto the roof of the boat. It was hard and satisfying work but we were doing it together and that makes all the difference.
The spot between two large logs of downed Beech where I spread some of Les' ashes and planted Daffodils, on the path from Footbridge 70 on the Macclesfield canal. 
Footbridge No. 65 on the Macclesfield Canal. Very dear friends Ken and Sue Deveson on NB Cleddau keep keep their boat on the Maccie and they know it well. Sue writes, "In March 2017 I bought a Daffodil in a pot at Atherstone as we were cruising towards the Ashby Canal. It kept in flower on the top of the boat for quite a few weeks. I couldn't bring myself to get rid of it--and then I planted it in the Autumn near Bridge 65 on the Macclesfield Canal. I had once shown a picture of the mooring there, on our blog. Les commented that it was just the sort of "out in the country mooring" he loved. There are open fields on the offside overlooked by the dominant shape of The Cloud. Whenever I pass that spot and see the view. Les will be with me. xxx "
Bridge No. 65 on the Macclesfield Canal where Sue Deveson planted Daffodils in honor of Les' memory.  Picture taken from Boatwif's blog. © S. Deveson, 2017

Just before Bridge 103 N. Oxford Canal
coming from Braunston and heading to Napton. There is a lovely spot just after a bend with room for two boats before the bridge. There is also a large tree back from the towpath just there and I scattered some of Les' ashes and planted a Daffodil for him. He brought me here for the first time in September 2011 to recover from our wedding, packing up my things and shipping them, applying for my spouse visa, saying goodbye to friends and family, etc. We were both exhausted and this spot is the perfect place to fetch up for a quiet relaxing bit of rest and recovery. It is also splendidly scenic especially on a full moon evening in summer. Now a part of Les will always be there enjoying that wonderful view.

VACANT. N. Coventry Canal just past Springwood Haven Marina.  There are 14 day moorings just around the curve, out of site of the marina with woods all around but a break in the trees to allow all day sunshine for the solar panels. Les and I met Paul and Jennie Howland on NB Panda Julienne here in 2012 when we all stopped to cut up wood from trees that had been taken down on the canal side of the cut. It is a lovely, peaceful, rural slice of countryside and Les loved to moor up here. If someone could stop and plant some Daffodils for Les just off the towpath, I would be eternally grateful. xxx

VACANT. The Flashes, The Middlewich Arm of the Shropshire Union. We loved mooring here. Of course when we were last there together in 2012 there were no mooring regulations moving folks on after 48 hours. We stayed a week, enjoying the view and the peace and quiet. Hardly any other boats came to moor up nearby. This another fabulous beauty spot on Britain's canals.

Hurleston Junction, The Shropshire Union Canal. The final time I moored there in December of 2018, I dug a hole through the bridge right next to the bench which looks out on the junction and across to the bottom lock. A young man was sitting on the bench watching me.
   We had met previously on the Arriva number 84 bus from Chester to Crewe. He was off work for a long term medical condition that was slowly improving. To keep from losing his mind and feeling stuck in the house, he walks slowly down the lock flight each day and sits on the bench for several hours watching the boats, the locks, and the local wildlife. This bearded young chap knows all the lock keepers on the flight. On my final cruise before handing NB Valerie over to her new owner, I turned around at the Junction and this young man was watching me from the bench. I explained that I had to sell the boat and it was my final cruise. I asked him to please look after my husband's Daffodil and he promised to do so.
Les' Daffodils are planted just to the right of the junction signpost, next to the bench at the bottom of Hurleston Locks. 
VACANT. The top of the LLangollen canal with a view of Dinas Bran from the cut. We moored in several places there in 2012. Les went up on the LLangollen canal every year in March and April before the insanity of summer cruising and school holidays brought the unbearable crush of boat traffic that makes cruising this very narrow canal a bit difficult sometimes. We kept trying to get back up there to winter over but cancer kept us tethered to the Grand Union. I would love it if someone could plants some Daffs for Les as he loved the LLangollen canal best of all and I never did make it up there.
Les as the Bluebird of Happiness as we walk from our moorings at Llangollen to Valle Crucis Abbey ruins in 2012. 
VACANT. Near Bridge 80 outside of Whittington on the North Coventry canal. Les and I first moored here in 2012 where we met up with Jo and Keith on NB Hadar.  I loved they way we cruised through our days and then Les would say, "Here's a good spot. we'll moor up here." He was sharing his favorite special mooring spots with me, knowing I would enjoy the beauty of the countryside, the peace of nature, and most of all sharing each moment with my Best Beloved. This is one of our favorite spots with Cannock Chase not far away.

VACANT. The Wendover Arm, Grand Union Canal. We adored mooring on the Wendover through Tring Bridge no. 3 which is the current terminus of the arm. A charity organization is in the process of rebuilding it. I so wanted to get down there and moor up one more time to scatter Les' ashes there and plant Daffs for him by the bench just through that last bridge. We had some lovely days and romantic nights moored there.
   When we had Les' initial cancer diagnosis and we were waiting for his surgery,  we fetched up here. It is an incredibly healing place for us. We had permission to overstay and we spent a month here as son Kevin delivered our Greenstar juice extractor and I set about keeping Les alive and as healthy as possible before his first cancer staging surgery.
   Cruising this arm on a sunny summer day with dragonflies flitting all around us and Kingfishers dipping and diving all along the way was nothing short of magical and incredibly soul healing.
Les walks towards Bridge No. 3 on the Wendover arm, the last time we moored there in 2014.
Our lovely home in the summer evening sunshine on the Wendover Arm,  2014.
 VACANT.  The Leicester Arm with a view of Crack hill by Yelvertoft Marina. There are lovely moorings just past the entrance to Yelvertoft Marina and Bridge 17. This was our truly final carefree mooring in the summer of 2014 when Les was feeling fighting fit and we had no idea cancer was traveling through his system and setting up shop in his liver all the while. The blackberries were everywhere that summer and we walked up Crack Hill, picking and freezing fourteen pounds in three days! They made healthy smoothies for Les in the months to come.
Les single handedly holds up the Jubilee Bacon n the top of Crack Hill!
The Forget-Me-Nots (Myosotis) and Tattoos
   At Les' memorial service in March of 2017 family member Adele Howard kindly made up small gift bags filled with plant bulbs or seeds and other little bits and bobs in memory of Les.  Our very dear friends Tina and Andy Elford's mom took one home and planted the Forget-Me-Knots in her garden. They bloom now each year and remind Sandra of past memories when Les, Tina and Andy cruised together. Sandra would travel down to visit laden with freshly baked cheese scones for her son-in-law Andy. Inevitably Les would winkle a few from Sandra, much to Andy's consternation!! Much laughter and good fun was had and those memories are very precious.
Image result for forget me nots
   Forget-Me-Nots are the Alaska State flower. The day before Les and I married my daughters and I got matching Forget-Me-Not tattoos; the same tattoo but in different places. I did it as a remembrance of my life before Les, in honor of my children, and I chose a place that only Les and I would likely see. As Les' life dwindled down he would peek at my tattoo, knowing that all too soon my Forget-Me-Nots would also remind me of him.
Les doing a little Tattoo peeking in the moments after we were declared husband and wife. 
Tina Elford's Forget-Me-Not tattoo design in honor of Les and other loved ones who have died.
I got this tattoo of entwined hearts and the infinity symbol in remembrance of our undying love and the nature of our relationship as soul mates. 
Our daughter Sparky designed this tattoo because Les said this to her once. The bluebirds are in honor of her Da' and his playful dances as the Bluebird of Happiness as he walked down the towpath of our life. 

Death, the last sleep? No, it's the final awakening." ~ Walter Scott


Anonymous said...

Lovely places, a beautiful idea, wonderful memories. Thank you for sharing.
Karen - where daffodils are blooming in Pullma

Susanne said...

Lovely Jacqueline. I will plant some daffs for you when I get back to UK. XX

Pip and Mick said...

We may be passing some of your vacant places this year. Not sure if we'll be able to get hold of any bulbs, but we'll try. Les for the time being can share the mini daffodils we planted for Houdini our old cat at Linford. Just tucked away amongst the trees. We've not been back at the right time of year yet to see them.
Much Love
Pip,Mick and Tilly x

Boatwif said...

The daffodil plantings are a heartfelt tribute to Les, I know. How fitting that they are so widespread across the canal network.
In March 2017 I bought a daffodil in a pot at Atherstone as we were cruising towards the Ashby Canal. It kept in flower on top of the boat for quite a few weeks. I couldn't bring myself to get rid of it - and then I planted it in the autumn near Bridge 65 on the Macclesfield Canal. I had once shown a picture on the blog of our mooring there and Les had commented that it was just the sort of out in the country mooring he loved. There are open sloping fields on the offside overlooked by the dominant shape of The Cloud.
Whenever I pass that spot and see that view the memories of Les will be with me.
With much love
Sue /Boatwif /nb Cleddau

Judith nb Serena said...

Lovely post to read, Jaq. I've been thinking of you a lot over the last few weeks as we have been cruising up and down what I think of as your bit of canal between Calverley and Audlem. It was a lovely surprise tonight when I dipped into your blog, as I often do, to find such a lovely read. Hope you are managing to settle now your back in the States.
Love and hugs Judith nb Serena

Mrs. Jaqueline Biggs said...

Thank you Karen. I want Les to bloom along the cut in people's thoughts and hearts as long as possible. Those who are remembered, live. xxx

Love Jaq xxx

Mrs. Jaqueline Biggs said...

Hi Susanne, If you could plant some at the Flashes I would be eternally grateful.
Love Jaq xxx

Mrs. Jaqueline Biggs said...

Hi Pip and Mick! Thank you so much. A friend and fellow boater is gong to plant at Slapton lock for me when he is next up there so that will be sorted.
Love Jaq xxx

Mrs. Jaqueline Biggs said...

Thank you Sue! I have edited this post and added in your lovely words and a picture of Bridge 65.
Love Jaq xxx

Mrs. Jaqueline Biggs said...

Hi Judith!
Oh I love that you think of that section of the cut as mine!! I sure do miss it and all of you.
Love Jaq xxx

Mrs Tiggy said...

Hello Jaq, I have followed your blog from the beginning but as we have never met, I hadn't felt it was appropriate to comment until now. My husband and I were travelling on the Oxford recently from Braunston to Napton and I was walking our dog along the towpath for some of the time. In the bottom of the hedge near Bridge 23 I spotted a little daffodil and it occurred to me that it might be 'one of Les's daffodils'. I do so wish I had thought to take a photograph. However, rest assured, it was there in all it's glory, it's sunshine smile brightening an otherwise dull day. May you continue to take strength from all the joyous memories of your time together. :-)

Kath said...

Thank you for this. I was waiting until we heard that you were settled before asking if you would send a list of Les’s daffodils. There are lots of people, I’m sure, who will want this.
I hope you are feeling better now with your family supporting you.
Kath (nb Herbie)

Kay Huffine said...

Hello Jaq: Are you still living on the Valerie? I found your blog after my son Timothy Gubbins asked about your life on a NB. "Mom, you oughta visit her!" Last year Tim and family were in the U.K.- mainly on the Isle of Man and in Ireland looking up his ancestry near Limerick; planning to go back to IOM in 2020 during the BIG motorcycle race.
Your blog has much lament and sorrow-with a touch of humor. I am so so sorry for your loss of the sweet love of your life. I was impressed with Les when he visited WA and came into Van Doren Hall (a stretch for him I recall) before you two married. You always struck me as resilient, a fighter, and am glad you have a network of family and friends. My prayer is for you to regain your love and curiosity and appreciation for life and to flourish in it.
My Life in a Nutshell: Chuck and I moved to Chico CA after I retired end of 2012. Chuck died last February so I, too, am learning a whole new way of living. My brother and a cousin live here in Chico; both of Tim's kids are attending Chico State University; I'm involved in a church and sing in its choir; the devastating Camp Fire last November was right up the hill from Chico.
With kind regards, Kay Huffine

Mrs. Jaqueline Biggs said...

Kay Huffine how lovely to hear from you!!

What a small world. I had to sell the boat and return to the States as I could not make ends meet without Les. It broke my heart even further.

I am so sorry for you loss Kay. It sounds as though you have a good support system in Chico. That is crucial for those who loose a spouse or partner. Thank you for your kind words. I am back in Pullman at the mo. I finally got a job and begin next week over in Moscow, Idaho.

Were I still on NB Valerie you would have been more than welcome to visit me.

Love Jaq xxx

NB Valerie & Steam Train by Les Biggs

NB Valerie & Steam Train by Les Biggs