I sometimes think we are living on the ark. In the past few days we have had to evict a beetle, several huge wasps, a spider that really didn’t want to go and two dogs, one of which having come down the stairs onto the boat was too fat to get back up them unassisted. We don’t mind sharing our home with a little wildlife but it already feels like high summer with the soaring temperatures and the sheer volume of wee beasties that have emerged. At this rate there won’t be room for us on the boat by August.
Hitch hikers aside we are determined that this year’s trip will be totally chilled and relaxed, even more so than the previous one. With this in mind we took things to extremes earlier in the week by setting off in entirely the opposite direction to our overall plan but it gave Gill a chance to practice turning the boat around and enabled us to fit in a quick train trip to Southport for much needed replacement summer sandals. We rediscovered a few favourite places from last year and found a couple of nice new mooring spots along the way. We are now heading the right way but we have ground to a halt in Parbold, five miles from our winter base. I think we are getting the hang of this slow travel business. It’s lovely to chill out and explore the local area a bit more thoroughly and being so close to home we are constantly bumping into other boating friends which also involves pub based research which I’m particularly fond of. At this rate we will be lucky to make it any further than Manchester before it’s time to turn round and start heading home again.
One of the things I have noticed already this year is that we are both more relaxed about the whole business of handling the boat and travelling. We couldn’t understand some of the people we met last year who seemed to spend so much time moored in the same spot but I think I’m starting to get it. A place changes when you spend time in it, more often than not for the better. It’s a chance to discover surrounding walks, to explore nooks and crannies that often reveal hidden architectural gems or to get to know the local wildlife and their habitats. Lots of birds such as kingfishers for example are territorial and once you have discovered their ‘patch’ it’s not uncommon to see them every day and to have the opportunity to observe them in greater detail. At this time of year every day brings new delights as more and more migratory birds return and the familiar sounds of summer like the chiff chaff, black cap and warblers fill the canal side woodlands with their songs. Butterflies are also about in dramatic fashion already with the brilliant orange tips, peacocks and speckled woods decorating the verges with dancing colour as they seek out early opportunities to feed and reproduce. Hawthorn, blue bells and wild garlic are all coming into flower as are the brilliant yellow celandines. It just such a wonderful time to start a journey and to watch the Spring unfold.
If this first week is anything to go by it’s going to be a wonderful summer learning to treat time with all the respect and precious value it deserves as we potter gently south. That’s if we are going south. I think we are.