Canal kittens

I’ve been lucky with the weather this week – although this morning appears to be doing all it can to buck that trend. I’m layered up this morning (it’s about 8am) because the wind is cold and the pavements are wet. Thankfully despite some overnight showers it’s currently not raining.

Other days have been kinder and when the sun’s been shining I’ve been exploring around the Yarningdale aqueduct on the Stratford upon Avon canal.

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This section of near Claverdon is one of the nicer places that I’ve ‘found’ recently – although admittedly this stretch was never ‘lost’ – I’d just never been there.

Just a few miles outside Warwick is an easy entry point onto it next to the Crabmill pub on the Henley road. From here I made my way several miles down its towpath with a friend on Wednesday. Pleasingly neither of us had come across this location before – despite us both having driven past it more times than I care to count over the years.

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As in touch as I am with nature these days though I’m not sure that the same can be said for cats. I seem to have completely lost my knack with them – because despite my obvious rugged charm it appears that the kittens clustered around this particular barge wanted absolutely nothing to do with me.

I passed by them twice, first trying to tempt a little black and white kitten to come and get some fuss and then an absolutely gorgeous little grey one on my return journey.

They were totally disinterested.

A man could take the hump if his surroundings weren’t so nice.

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In all we strolled just under six miles along this really rather lovely and rural section of canal – and it made a lovely change from walking along the Grand Union – which I’ve pretty much done to death over the last few years.

Sure – it’s just another canal – but there’s something about the tranquility of their still waters that becomes quite addictive.

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My companion and I enjoyed our walk so much that we plan to go back again and do some more exploring ASAP.

The architecture of this stretch of the canal seems quite different to others. The locks seem thinner, and the bridges are nearly all designed to lift like a drawbridges.

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The ones that aren’t have lovely little sluices at the sides, which seem to do a great job of pushing colourful piles of leaves into the water in swirling patterns.

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It’s a really nice part of the world to explore.

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I’ve also managed to get out and about to what’s becoming something of a familiar stamping ground of late – and on Tuesday did a rather epic (maybe a little too epic on reflection) 12 mile walk from my house in a giant circle to Offchurch and back again.

The tone of the Grang Union canal here is more urban – but I think rather nice in it’s own way, as some of the usual urban decay associated with proximity to such waterways is slowly turning into urban regeneration. With that comes art, and an entirely different kind of kittens that are far more likely to let me stroke them!.

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I find it fascinating that what would once have been considered vandalism (thanks to Banksy and others like him) is now art to be admired and even commoditised in such places.

Furthermore – rather then being an indicator of trouble it’s often seen as an indication that an area is ‘bohemian’ and that there’s new life and potential to be found locally.

I couldn’t have hoped for better weather to see it in either. It was (mostly) glorious that day – and further along the walk my companion and I rounded a corner to find a sea of colour.

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All of the fields nearby were full of little purple thistle like flowers – but I’m really not sure what they’re for or what they are.

I’ve looked online and the closest thing I can find to it is a ‘creeping thistle’ – but I’m not entirely sure that it’s a complete match – so if anyone reading knows what it is or why it’s planted in such large quantities (there were three huge fields full of it!) then let me know because I’m quite curious!

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I’d have happily knocked on the farmer’s door to ask – but for the fact that a passing elderly couple (also enquiring what the blooms were – we were all stumped) said that the rather temperamental land owner had recently been shooting at dogs, and that he wasn’t to be trifled with.

I’m not sure how true it is – but I’m keeping to the footpaths and not wandering over to the farmhouse to jab his doorbell nevertheless. Besides – I have my own land to tend to without worrying about being shot on his.

Over the last couple of days I’ve been bringing some order to my garden before the winter hits.

Parts of it have been a little neglected – but not because I’ve felt lazy. I’ve been cutting back one (rather huge) bush in particular which I purposefully left to grow pretty much out of control for the whole summer.

The rest of the undergrowth was looked after – but this one chunk of my border remained sacrosanct.

Long term readers will remember how distraught I was in June last year when (whilst hacking this particular bit right back practically to stumps) I uncovered a blackbird nest complete with eggs (link).

I was absolutely mortified and immediately tried to cover it back up the best that I could. Initially this seemed to work and for a while the mommy blackbird returned to sit on them.

She did so come rain or shine with the newly exposed nest often rocking violently back and forth in the wind.

The damage was done by then however – and the branches I laid back over the top of it in the hope of giving it cover eventually fell further forward in the wind, making the nest inaccessible. The blackbird was forced out and within hours the eggs were broken open and the contents eaten.

Nature is cruel and at the time this really got to me. I felt totally responsible for the loss of these potential little lives.

This year therefore the bush was left to grow because I could regularly see all kinds of birds going in and out. Even though we’ve experienced a dry summer the hedge still got bigger and bigger and looked more and more unkempt as the months went on.

Despite what the neighbours might have thought though I consciously resolved to leave it alone and I’m glad I did.

When I finally finished cutting it all back on Wednesday afternoon I found this – which made my (rather messy) choice something that I was rather proud of.

A new, used – and now empty nest. Evidence that new life entered the world because I chose not to prune. This really made me happy. Who needs a tidy bush when it means dead birds?

Not me.

However there’s another issue associated with leaving it to grow – because then you have to dispose of it all.

Since I’m not a fan of using the car to take rubbish (or me) anywhere unless absolutely necessary I resolved that all of the branches would fit in the bin regardless of how much they didn’t want to.

All they needed was a bit of energetic chopping and some stamping.

It’s nice to be able to do such things – because even a year ago when I was cutting this back I was six stone heavier and wasn’t quite nimble enough to climb into a bin!

Oddly I felt great at the time (I climbed Snowden at this weight!) but even though I’d lost 14+ stone by then I’m still taken aback by how my features have changed.

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A long time friend remarked to me yesterday that he realised he didn’t remember ‘old Dave’ any more – and that when he looked at recent side by side comparisons on Instagram it suddenly struck him that his past memories of times we shared still have me in them – but I look like I do now – rather than the big guy he knew.

What a thing to say!

How cool is that?!

The idea that I’m continually re-wiring people’s memories of me by presenting a newer version of myself thats fitter and looks radically different is fascinating.

Long may it continue internet!

Davey

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