The Louth Navigation Canal

This was my walk one lovely morning near the end of March. It was one of those clear days of early Spring, with the sun warm on your back, the air clear and crisp, and there were a few hours to spare.

The wooded path at the river head is leading to countryside, and the Lud, narrow, only a stream, keeps company alongside the canal. Fields open wide to the sky and the road, soon to be almost silenced, brings only a murmur.

Shadows fall across the pathway like long shades of darkness. The water is surprisingly clear and flowing, nudged by the many locks along the waterway. Watercress and weed hide living creatures, surely there, underneath the dark banks.

……On either side the river

lie long fields of barley and rye……

that clothe the wold

and meet the sky …..

Tennyson … The Lady of Shalott.

This is his country, his home county so when wandering on its paths, it’s easy to remember his words, flowing like the water, bringing feelings to the surface.

Stopping, I perch on the wall, high above the racing water, and wonder about the people who, with great precision laid the brickwork, fixed metalwork and maybe sat to eat the bread they had brought for the day. My lunch is minimal, a couple of biscuits and a few dates. I travel light!

Within the brickwork, over the years, seeds have stolen a place to be and to grow. Great ash plants overhang the water, reaching upwards and outwards, growing down into the deepest parts. Dampness feeds moss and ferns, hiding in shadow, glorying quietly in their years of peace and growth.

… Here are cool mosses deep,
and thro’ the moss the ivies creep,
and in the stream the long-leaved flowers weep,
and from the craggy ledge the poppy hangs in sleep….
Tennyson … The Lotus Eaters.

Who would have thought that there’s an incline between Louth and the Humber? I feel only flatness and levels and yet this water has a lively flowing pace. Sand and flint are the water bed, showing clear under the ripples.

Stiles and gateways interrupt the pathway along the canal bank. Gateways, crossing places and times of passing through … the present a hair’s breadth, whilst past passes away and the unknown future beckons.

It’s not a circular path. It could be, but not today. It’s good to turn and look back, and sometimes walk back seeing everything new, the flowing water, shallow pools, hiding creatures and the long path which seems the same but is changing in every moment.

And the world changed because of a virus. Next time, when all this strange period of life has passed by, there’ll be another lovely day and maybe a friend for company.

Good Friday … a reflection


soaked with blood

woven with hair once lustrous

now dreadlocked

with rejection

thrown to the weeds and thistles.


becoming earth again

a softening, falling, burying

sharpness in welcoming ground.


blessing the ground

taking blessing from the soil and the sun.

Then in time, always in time

precious leaf and blossom

carrying touch and sight and scent

and colour …… life itself.

Thorns becoming ….

In time …. becoming

St Patrick’s day.

Amidst the changes and chances of this fleeting world,
the shamrock is trusted to greet us on this day,
green and fresh, full of promise of spring
and with the assurance that all things pass by.
My morning is transformed.
All will be transformed, renewed and refreshed.

This is the knowledge of hope.
The shamrock grows in profusion here in this little garden in England,
a bit of Ireland brought from Claudy, Co Derry many years ago.
They’re from Granny’s garden and I love them
for the memories and for my identity.
They remind me of childhood, walking what seemed miles to the races at Carricklea,
Meeting fellas,
The whole world a teenager’s dream.

The three leaves, a link across the world,
and reaching out even further to the spiritual places we struggle to know fully.

But there’s presence here, on this day
and soon the sun will warm the earth
and the little white flower will bloom
and there will be green and white, light and shade,
and always hope.

The River Mourne at Sion Mills….

I dreamed that I stood in the shade and gazed on the swirling river.

I dreamed of life, and loves, and walking through memory

‘til scents and sounds and touch stole into the day with shyness,

and dreams felt like reality and joy.

Looking down from fir and beech and laurel.

The mill is silent but the river still sings it’s quietness or drums to a crescendo. When returning home, the walk to the river is always a pilgrimage and a time to remember.

The river and the mill are still closely knit. The great swell of water brought prosperity to a village whilst the constant hum of machinery transformed raw flax into linen thread to go all over the world.

The Mourne at Sion is a river of many voices. From quiet currents passing by, the waters can swell to thunder. When the floods come and the sluices open, the roaring can make my whole body vibrate.

I watch the water cascading on the carry, and the lone heron. There must be another somewhere? Still water and mirrored bushes transform quickly into a torrent where there is rarely any silence. Maybe just with a hard frost the waters may freeze to quiet.

Or in the quiet of moonlight, sound is murmuring music.

All lies still…….

The river keeps its own secrets in its dark depths.

Stillness is deceptive. The waters are eddying, swirling, drawing deeply, then reflecting light, blue or grey, cloud or sunshine, showing a semblance of peace to the passing world.

Below the great sluices are the sandy beds and the brown peaty pool for swimming and diving …. and always the swirling and foaming of the struggling current.

Quiet now, for there’s men fishing, their waders deep in the stream, rods taut and expectant. Trout, brown and white, salmon, silver and glistening will be brought home and fried to a crisp juiciness. Bread and butter or boiled spuds, maybe salad from the garden …. what greater delight …. !
And who caught the heaviest this season?

Through woodland paths the lade creeps towards silent turbines. The sad, deserted buildings wait their lives away. But the trees of past and future beauty carry on reflecting and the water holds so many stories still.

I came last September. And I’ve brought our children.

I came coortin here, and they were good times.

This is one of those places I’ll call ‘home’.

Iona … in September.

Some months ago I made the journey to Iona.

It was September and the coming equinox was already on the way.

Rain was pouring relentlessly and a wind was blowing through the Sound of Mull off Oban. There was no promise of sailing at all so we dumped our stuff and sat to wait at the terminal. Waited and wandered, off for a coffee to the little cafe downstairs or continually to the noticeboard with the reports. There were weather warnings on the phone and only the grey sea outside.

Mid morning it cleared a bit and then we knew, with relief, that we would sail.

There’s something about ferries, about island hopping that enhances feelings in the wanderer and makes travelling a voyage of discovery. Even on short crossings the new horizons come closer with every chug and rolling wave.

So, it was across to Mull, as the day cleared and spirits rose. Perhaps there would be an arrival on Iona in the evening.

The first glimpse of the island from the little ferry brought a quiet excitement, knowing that there would be several days and nights on Iona. Last time I’d come as a day tripper from Mull. This held so much more anticipation.

The abbey, framed by ferry bulwarks, looked solid, almost growing out of the green award and rock. And all washed by the ever changing sea.

The light would perform magic in moments, grey giving up its hidden colours to sunshine. Patterns on the hills of Mull were picked out in all hues of green and brown; and the vast backdrop of mountains, distant and inaccessible felt ancient and majestic.

The soft gardens soon fell to sea and sand and rocky shore. There was calmness and the reassurance of the constant ferry, ploughing back and forth from Fionnaport.

Bright orange montbretia blazed, the flower of the coast, all along the west of Ireland and the Scottish isles. All was flourishing green, footpaths and shortcuts slippery, running streams and bogs, with corncrake and lark nesting, rising and hovering.

Sunshine and red sky lit up the west. The sculpted, looming abbey seemed silhouetted, indigo and grey beside the setting sun.

Rain, great laden clouds from the north west, from all aspects! Icy, like needles on bare legs….Drenching in moments….And the wind, tearing, pulling and squally … I lie against it, it’s power supporting me, buffetting, holding my weight with its total supremacy. I was small and utterly controlled by it’s great force.

Rough seas roared round the north bay. White sands and ebbing tide formed pools and rivulets sculpting sand patterns with flowing determination … then relaxing in pools of seaweed, crabs and creatures. Waders were waiting….searching …

Then, within the hour maybe, all would be calm, the weather exhausting itself. Paddling and swimming on a deserted beach is surely the most wonderful, exhilarating thing to do. To wash the feet in crystal water or to be pushed and pulled by it’s strength is pure pleasure always!

Right away in the distance, to the north are The Cuillins, those dark sharp peaks of Skye, now softened, blue, and misted by distance.

Sunrise lit the sky and dawn brought light as clear as crystal. All was golden and pink, with hills and mountains laid like pure, flat tapestry.

And two gulls rose through the morning sky. It was like indescribable music, soft and flowing.

And the Paps of Jura rose on the southern horizon, clearly visible from so many other places on clear days.

Leaving though, always has a sadness about it. Iona, right on the edge, is like slipping through a veil. Somehow, the world can be seen from fresh perspectives.

Here’s the opportunity to ask for years or time to make the pilgrimage again.

Butterflies, just a few…at Gunby Hall, Lincolnshire … yesterday.

Lots of Red Admirals, on plums and flowers and even on shamrocks.

The Peacock butterfly, colours vibrant and settling for just a moment.

And a Painted Lady on the same flowers, wings a bit nibbled, but that endeared it more than ever. I like imperfection!

What’s this one? A wonderful wing formation and loving the buddleia.

I think they fly off to rest in places of coolness and shade, where the whole universe is reflected in pools of shimmering water.

The light changing at every fleeting moment.

It can almost be believed ….

‘Come away, O human child to the waters and the wild

with a faery hand in hand … to foot it all the night…. ‘

from The Stolen Child, W.B.YEATS.

Many things may be believed when the light changes and the water ripples and wonderful weeds look beautiful.

In the back garden, amongst the teazles, insects and bees buzzing, and a moth lighting, it’s easy to take moments just for thought, quiet and unfolding.

And a blue butterfly, tiny, with its rimmings of white and central deeper blue.

Wander, and love the world. Take time to look, knowing that at any time it’s only the tip of the iceberg which is revealed.

Edges and verges … havens of beauty

These are the beauties of growth on the very edges

on the margins of fields, roads, lanes and pathways.

They hold out, clinging on with persistence and desperation.

Please don’t cut them in their prime!

It’s hard to be on the edges, perceived as somehow ‘lesser’.

They fight for survival against blade and clipper

because these are the ones destined for eradication.

Look at them!

Their little faces, blue, pink, white and yellow, saying ..

I’m tiny, but I’m so beautiful.

Just look and see.

Or they grow tall, reaching for the sun and the rain

strong-stemmed and utterly persistent.

And yet, somehow, they are seen as ‘the undesirables’.

At least give them a chance to set seed

to survive and complete the circle of life.

All life which endures ‘on the edges’ deserves this ….

to survive against the odds, to grow and mature,

and to come at last to it’s time of gathering and resting.

These pictures of verges and edges which have been allowed to grow were photographed at Hubbard’s Hills, Louth, Lincolnshire.

Launde Abbey

silence which is not silent.

A garden of quietness silence wrapping like soft wool

blue wool, fine woven and draping

moulding to places where pain might surface

a comfort covering

blue of bluebells, carpeting and stretching

forget me not and wisteria.

Pale yellow wool

of celandine and dandelions,

pale texture and sheen

A wrapping to delight and soothe the spirit.

Green wool, woven with silk

woven sheen of green and textures of leaf and undergrowth

fallen things and new growth springing and stretching

saplings and nettles and ivy, docks and all things green

a covering of hope.

Peep out at hope.

Orange threads of bird song

An aeroplanes crescendo

fading to song and buzzing once again

threads of sound tangling

disturbing …

making silence soft.

And then the softness of pure silk

all colours, whites, pinks and orange

woven and modelled

To lightness and fragility

cherry blossom

chestnut blossom

little faces full of silent chatter.

Easter …. thoughts on darkness and daybreak

In the earth, in the rock

all is sealed, damp and dark and ended.

Now is the nothing time.

Now is heaviness.

Now is cold and dark, a time enveloped by darkness.

A body held, unyielding

in coarse linen, warm from the day and the sunshine,

a body tired,

consumed by cold and desolation.

But the dark is black velvet,

caressing with softness the cold slab of stone,

that cold, lifeless body.

The dark is patient ..

black velvet swaddles,

shifting like shot silk seeking light.

Even in death, love is luminous

in the softness of love’s holding.

Light, released,

bursts and vibrates.

Creation is lit again.

From the velvet darkness, a voice …

‘Unbind me and let me go.

I come to freedom.

I bring spark and inspiration …

I come with power and unfathomable love.

I am not held. I am here, with you.’

Promise round the corner

It was a couple of weeks ago now, and there was a wonderful bursting of sunshine and warmth. Those hedgerows which then were grey and twiggy now have a haze of white blackthorn and green hawthorn. But then, just those few weeks ago, the earliest snowdrops were fading and brighter colours beginning to show.

I found them in a country churchyard, those fading snowdrops lighting the dark earth and the daffodils, the turning of winter to spring.

Such colour and scent, earthy and sweet, full of delight and the joy of knowing that all that hidden, resting life is ready to thrust to life once more. All this life, packed away and constantly preparing to be!

And then, wandering and clambering over roots and rotting things, there they are, sticks and twigs and old branches, still full of beauty, sinking into the woodland floor. But growing, always growing, are the nettles and poking weeds and the constant workings of bugs and insects, worms and wood lice, invisible but regenerating life all around.

I love it all! There are no words sufficient to tell the story.

Those warm days have gone and it’s wet, windy early March; but the warmth will come again and the wandering and all the discoveries which never end. Over the bridge and the beck, across the ploughed fields … next time, maybe there’ll be true warmth on my back.