Sunday, 6 September 2020

Some thoughts on “adventuring” and the benefits of the great outdoors in these troubled times.

Well, our teenage grandson went back to school on Thursday. His older sister goes back to sixth form college probably at the end of next week - the college is staggering its return and are gradually letting them know their exact date of return. The little kids have had a few days in nursery over the last couple of weeks to get them used to the idea of being there when their mother returns to the primary school where she works tomorrow. Consequently our family adventuring will be somewhat curtailed. Our daughter does not work the full week but even so her availability for family outings will be much more restricted.

And so yesterday we decided to go adventuring while we could. The weather was not brilliant but rain was not specifically forecast and so off we went: along the Donkey Line, hanging a left at the Brownhill Visitor Centre and up the sweetly named Sugar Lane, through Dobcross and then down the hill to home.

At the Brownhill Visitor turn we had to take shelter under the viaduct as the (not forecast) rain came down with a vengeance. We were entertained during our wait by a narrowboat making its way through the lock-gate - a learning opportunity for the four-year-old! The canal barge, previously called Blue Jake, was named Tartan Witch, much to the four-year-old’s amusement. 
The rest of our adventure had a mix of rain and sun but no rainbows. 

The four-year-old grew weary and hitched a lift in the extra seat on her small brother’s buggy. Her older siblings could only complain that this adventure was rather longer than they had bargained for and that their feet were getting tired. So it goes!

On our adventurings we see a prodigious amount of Himalayan Balsam, also known as Policemen’s Helmets in our family. Apparently introduced to this country by Queen Victoria, this rather elegantly beautiful nuisance takes over wherever it gets a foothold and lets little else grow with it. Such a shame! So pretty and so pernicious! A friend of ours, a member of the organisation Civic Pride Rossendale, organises groups to uproot it and try to make Rawtenstall Balsam-free.

Now, having read my way through Olivia Manning’s Balkan Trilogy and her Levant Trilogy, I have sought further reading matter on our bookshelves. Inspired by a bio-pic of his life, I took a look to see which of the works of Albert Camus I might re-read. In the introduction to “Noces” I came across mention of “greffes-de-sorcières”, clearly a flower of some kind. As a rule, when I read a foreign language book if I come across what is obviously a plant or tree of some kind I just skip over it, unless it is absolutely crucial to moving the storyline along. 

But this time the name, which translates as “witches’ talons” intrigued me and I googled it. It doesn’t seem to have an English name, probably because we are too northerly and chilly for it to grow here, but its Latin name is “carpobrotus edulis”. Once I saw pictures I realised I had seen it, probably in Sicily, and its French name was explained by the pointy, talon-like leaves of the plant.

I have gone on at length about this because it seems there are associations in the South of France which organise sessions to uproot it . Introduced from North Africa carpobrotus edulis disrupts the environmental balance, “malgré la beauté de leurs fleurs jaunes et roses” (= in spite of the beauty of their pink and yellow flowers). There we are then, a little bit of horticultural coincidence.

I was reminded of our adventurings and the efforts we go to to persuade our reluctant older granddaughter to leave her house and accompany us when I read about something called “forest bathing”. It does not mean finding a pool in a forest and going for a swim, which I suppose was a possibility with the increased popularity of wild swimming. No, it’s more “bathing” yourself and your senses in the goodness of trees.

Here’s a bit of technical information:

“Trees give off chemicals called phytonicides, which they use to ward off disease and insect attack. Two hours’ walking in the forest is thought to be more beneficial than antidepressants, with the effect lasting up to 30 days. It is like Radox for the mind, and perhaps the perfect antidote to these troubled times.”

Much of “forest bathing” seems to involve walking barefoot on forest paths and scrambling through the undergrowth, not quite what we do on our “adventures”. I had visions of us walking barefoot on some of the currently rather muddy bridle paths around here. Not an appealing idea. And I suspect our wooded areas are not sufficiently “foresty” but, judging by what I read, persuading our reluctant to go out and rather depressive granddaughter out into the countryside is the right thing to do.

Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone!

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