Thursday, 30 May 2019

Exploring Shardlow - 18th century inland port

Shardlow's one of those small villages just outside Derby that I've traveled through plenty of times but never actually stopped to explore.

 I knew there was a marina there with moored-up narrow boats, so obviously there'd be a canal to walk alongside of, but it turned out to be far more interesting than I'd expected. Shardlow marks one end of the Trent and Mersey Canal, which runs 92 miles to Preston Brook where boats used to join the river Mersey, and in the late 18th and early 19th centuries it would have been a busy bustling sort of place.

Reminders of the past are all around - the wharves and warehouses still obvious though either given over to pleasure craft or converted to flats, a crane once used for moving goods to the adjacent warehouse.

Passing under the main road, we walked south out of the village along the towpath, passing a set of locks and about a kilometer further before turning round.

Returning almost to our starting point, we followed the trail which highlights old buildings from the time of Shardlow's heyday - warehouses, large houses built by merchants, pubs and chapels. It's a fascinating place, and there's a heritage centre to check out so I'll be back another time.

One word of warning though - the photos look lovely and peaceful but it was a Bank Holiday evening, and two of the pubs had events on with loud music. I'd pick a quieter time, maybe mid-week to re-visit. Also, the A50 Derby Southern By-pass runs quite close by, and once out of the village the traffic noise from it is quite noticeable. I suppose back in the day Shardlow itself would have been as noisy though.

Tuesday, 28 May 2019

Timber Festival 2019 - 5th-7th July

So, another bank holiday has come and gone, which the usual mixed weather, and now it's time to really look forward to summer - to getting outside, walking in the countryside, picnics and barbecues ... and festivals! I'm not talking loud music festivals here but smaller, more intimate, quirkier gatherings, with a mix of entertainment, activities, and something to stretch the mind a little.
Timber Festival - photo credit; Andrew Allcock

You might remember that last year I was delighted to be asked along to a new local festival, Timber, a collaboration between the National Forest and arts organisation Wild Rumpus, three wonderful days of celebrating nature and the 'outdoors', held at Fearnedock on the Derbyshire/Leicestershire border. Family problems limited the time I could spend there last year, but I visited for some time on each day, and enjoyed myself immensely.

I've already mentioned Timber briefly in my round-up of local festivals  but I hope your interest is whetted so here are more details.

It runs this year from 5-7th July, again at the Fearnedock site where, fittingly, trees are beginning to hide and heal the scars left on the landscape by open cast mining. I say 'fittingly' because at the heart of Timber's ethos is the belief in the restorative power, both physical and mental, of getting outdoors and immersing ourselves in nature; a belief I personally share.

With this in mind, Timber offers many opportunities to get 'hands on' in the forest environment. Head for the Shivelight zone, where there'll be classes in yoga, tai chi, forest meditation, reiki, and mindfulness, or you can just soak your cares away in a wood-fired hot tub. Author and naturalist Emma Mitchell shows how depression and anxiety can be alleviated by getting outdoors, and Sarah Spenser will teach you how to Think Like A Tree.

Elsewhere around the 70 acre site, you can get more physical with dance sessions for both children and adults - Bhangra Tots for the younger festival-goers, Maypole dancing, Bollywood dance workshops and Flat Footing, which sounds like something I might do but is an improvised percussive dance from the Appalachian area of the US. If you don't feel like dancing, then maybe a circus skills workshop appeals?

In more practical hands-on workshops, you could try traditional wood-working techniques with pole lathes and shaving horses, test your forest survival skills, learn how to measure trees (with lasers and hugs), get busy with Hammer and Chisel to create a unique playground or find your way through the willow maze. And my husband will be pleased to know the heavy horses are back. I think being able to actually have a go at long-reining was the highlight of last year's festival for him.

The Eyrie
This all sounds rather busy and tiring, so sit back for a while and let others entertain you. There are two main performance areas. The Eyrie Stage is dedicated to music and spoken word, with poets, a brass band, two choirs, folk-influenced music and a rock band. At 'Field Notes'  you can listen to a wide range of musicians and performers from folk to synth-pop, hear Phill Jupitus, Laura Barton and Peter Owen-Jones share their favourite nature related music tracks, listen to a discussion on the controversial topic of re-wilding, or Stuart Maconie talking about his travel book, The Long Road from Jarrow. Over at 'Elemental', Vybarr Cregan-Reid looks at how our sedentary lifestyles can cause irreparable harm, in two separate events Luke Turner and Jessica J Lee talk about their memoirs and of fighting personal demons through immersing themselves in nature, and Mahsuda Snaith figures out how you can stay in touch with nature while living in an urban environment.

photo credit; Samuel Mills

Timber's location with woodland and glades lends itself to the creation of small intimate spaces for art and light installations, telling stories round a campfire, or, in The Baron in the Trees, based on Italo Calvino's novel, a circus show devised specially for Timber combining slapstick and juggling with acrobatics and aerial stunts among the trees.

There's so much going on over the weekend that I feel I've rambled on for too long yet merely scratched the surface; I'd best mention food though. If last year is anything to go by there'll be a varied offering to keep your energy levels up, plus demonstrations from The Perfectly Edible Binner Party who will show how to avoid waste by creating a two course meal out of food that otherwise would have gone to landfill, and Creative Countryside will help you discover how to forage for wild food, and how to cook it.

Last year was a wonderful relaxing, enlightening weekend, with something for everyone from the very young to oldies like me, and Timber's award of Best New Festival at the UK Festival Awards seems well deserved. It's a place where something new is to be found around every corner or tree

Note - this is, as you may guess, a promotional post, but my ramblings are all my own, and Timber was definitely a wonderful experience last year. I'd recommend it to anyone with an interest in nature and the environment - but as I've said before, it's not for petrol heads or people only interested in chart-topping music stars

Monday, 27 May 2019

Goodbye Dylan

We've known for several months that Dylan was seriously ill with untreatable cancer, and felt that he was living on borrowed time since the diagnosis. Late last week things took an awful turn for the worse and the vet could do nothing to save him.

He came to us nine years ago from the council dog wardens after a period of living rough on the streets; so thin that his ribs almost showed through his fur despite a week of feeding up by the dog shelter.

Obviously we had no idea how he'd found himself living wild. He was never the sort of dog to run away when let off the lead, and had been trained to sit, roll over, and shake paws, so presumably cared for properly.  After a chaotic week or so, he settled in here, got over his fear of my husband (probably linked to his previous experiences with men), put on weight and grew a long shaggy collie-style coat, but we never solved the riddle of what breeds may have formed part of his DNA.

He was an excellent boy, fond of walks, exploring new places and re-visiting old ones (he certainly seemed to recognise a place on second or third visits) He loved cuddles on the sofa and comfy naps, but not going out in the rain, or getting wet.

Here he is up to some of his favourite things, out on adventures, and chilling out at home.

A photo taken not long after we 'adopted' him, when his fur was shorter and thinner. He 'd already been trained to sit, roll over and shake paws by his previous owner.

Merry Christmas

a day at the seaside

Off in the car to Curious Arts Festival - we went twice, and the second year he definitely remembered his first visit, recognising the walk outside the camping area, down to the sea.

He always seemed strangely at home in the tent, perhaps accepting it as a temporary home because we were there, and was happy to sit and watch the world pass by while he sat on his rug (or the bed)

In Manchester to watch the half-marathon, with a park to run in right outside the AirBnB, croissant for breakfast, and some lazy dinner on the way home

Among the bluebells at Bow Wood

At Chatsworth - another place he recognised on return visits; approaching in the car, he'd always bark when he first saw the house.

The world seems so empty right now, and life won't be the same without him.