The Cuckoo Way

Map

The Chesterfield Canal passes from the River Trent across Nottinghamshire, South Yorkshire and into Derbyshire.  This was one of the first canals to be constructed in England and because it was not connected directly with any other canal and was relatively short, the operators of the boats didn’t live aboard, allowing for more cargo and prompting the development of a unique style of boat only to be found along what was then called the “cuckoo dyke” by locals.

The canal is no longer navigable for it’s entire length and several miles are missing entirely but the canal towpath is still in place making for an obvious long distance footpath, aptly called the Cuckoo Way.  I like to walk the entire route every few years, usually taking three days to cover the 46 miles.  This year I opted to take four days and because of adverse weather, had to split that into two two-day sessions; not ideal but the older I get, the more of a “fair-weather walker” I’m becoming.  I’m not going to add all my photos to this post; I’ll just show the first and the last.  But if you want a virtual tour of the whole 46 miles, you can click on the slideshow and sit back and see what I saw as I walked from west to east along the whole route.

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Crossing the River Rother in Chesterfield

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West Stockwith Basin with the lock to the River Trent just opening

Photo Challenge

Image-01-6John, a family friend who writes a blog about his travels around Europe, has just challenged me (amongst others) to come up with four photos that represent the ancient elements of earth, air, fire and water.  As is usual with such things, I am supposed to nominate five other people to continue the challenge but I won’t be doing that as I appreciate the power of geometric progressions (it takes surprisingly few iterations before the entire population of the earth has been included).  I have however, come up with some images and as a nod to the theme of John’s blog (http://continentalbreakfasttravel.com/), they are all photos I took traveling around Europe.  So here we go …

Air

Travelling to Holland on the overnight ferry from Hull to Rotterdam, I went up on deck at daybreak to watch as we passed into the mouth of the Rhine.  It was a very still morning and air pollution over the city beyond made for a spectacular sunrise.  Air pollution and a becalmed wind farm; it seemed ironic to me.

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Earth

I noticed this man walking slowly along the rows of gravestones in a small war cemetery in Ypres and wondered whether he was looking for the name of a relative.  We visited several military cemeteries on that trip and I found the experience very moving.

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Water

We spent a delightful couple of days in Bruges one winter.  I know that many people think of the place as false as there are so many buildings where the medieval facade only has been preserved with the remainder being modern, but I loved the place.  I struggled however, to take a photo that encapsulated the place for me.  Then I saw Julie waiting patiently on a bridge over a canal and took this shot which is the image that I always think of when Bruges crops up in conversation.

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Fire

I struggled with this element I’m happy to admit.  I know that the aurora is not fire of course and I also know that for many Brits the term “Europe” in this context is usually taken to mean “mainland Europe” but regardless, this is the image that I’ve chosen.  I had been house-sitting in Shetland for several weeks and my friends had returned so I was soon to leave for my journey back down south.  The weather was overcast as we sat down to dinner when I said “ all I need now is for the clouds to clear and an aurora to show”.  An hour later I was outside watching this amazing display of what Shetlanders call the merry dancers.  It may be taking place high in the upper atmosphere and it may have nothing to do with fire but it certainly warmed my heart.

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Castlerigg

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Castlerigg stone circle with the Helvellyn range in the background.  I’ve just come back from a couple of days in the Lake District when I only took this single photo and the thirty metre walk to get it was by far my longest walk.  How come?  Well I was hobbling around, wincing at every footstep and with a hot-water bottle permanently strapped to my lower back.  Yes, I’ve done something to my back and I’m feeling very sorry for myself.  I hope you enjoy the view.  Me, I’m going to spend the next day or two sulking big time.

Ghost rider

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We had several close encounters with these fearsome individuals while in Amsterdam.  I’m told that the rules of the road apply to cyclists just as much as any other road user in Holland, it’s just that in Amsterdam many of them choose to ignore the rules.  We saw countless examples of them cycling the wrong way along one-way streets and on the pavements (that’s sidewalks for any US readers).  Red lights were no obstacle to most of them and bike lights at night were for sissies only.

We were crossing the road once when a cyclist ploughed into the man in front of us.  After he picked himself up he pointed to the green walk sign but the bike rider just jumped back on his bike and rode off, weaving through the traffic crossing the junction in front of him.  The startled pedestrian turned to me with the most comical of expressions as if he couldn’t believe that the collision had really happened.  I just shrugged; what can you do?