I wake to the sound of the house martins who live above my window feeding their young. They have become a part of my life here, that, and the spectacular view of the castle. I shall miss being in the auld grey town.
I leave accompanied by Val Ferriman, my lovely host here in Kendal, and later joined at the start of the canal path by Jane and Ann.
We follow the now filled in canal; it is a strange feeling walking beneath bridges in the midst of pasture land! Jane tells me of plans to dig out the canal again (to the tune of 50 million pounds!); the water way is open further south as it nears Carnforth and Lancaster. We lament the short sighted vision and waste of human power as work that was done was simply destroyed with “the coming of progress”. This is such a symptom of the turn in the wrong direction we made when we believed oil was the end of our relationship with nature. Whenever human kind has been this shortsighted in history and destroyed that which was lovingly and laboriously created by our predecessors it has left a trail of unconnectedness, of lack of awareness, of respect for our roots, and loss of the knowledge that comes from experience simply discarded.
I have a sense that when we regard that which went before with reverence we can move forwards from it in a right way, harmoniously, and with no unnecessary harm done. I wonder how we can get back on track after the things that we have done that have harmed, and are deeply harming, our environment? How do we blend what good came out of the industrial revolution with what came before it, and how do we heal the harm it left in its wake?
We come off the canal path at Sedgwick to join the river path and my lovely companions leave me at the beautiful swinging bridge that leads to Sizergh and their way home again.
I head into the village to rejoin the canal path and discover gorgeous back roads. I realise I am on the original road network that would have led south before the A6 was built and decide to stay put on this route. I do not regret it. There are no cars to speak of, they are on the parallel A6 and motorway a mile so to the east. The roads form part of the Sustrans (http://www.sustrans.org.uk/) cycle routes and I silently thank my friend and Transition Network colleague Peter Lipman (http://www.transitionnetwork.org/about/people/trustees) in his role as director of Sustrans for this gift of mapping and signposting gorgeous quiet roads by which to walk.
I arrive in the small town of Milnthorpe at lunchtime, the rain that has accompanied me all morning has stopped and I eat lunch sitting out in the central square which would be idyllic if it hadn’t been paved over years ago as the main car park!
I look at the map and see where I can rejoin the canal tow path at Holme some 3 miles east, and take quite a weaving circuitous route down to Carnforth, following water now, or I can head slightly west to Beetham and walk through woods on tiny back lanes. I choose the woods and am hugely rewarded with gorgeous old woodland and such a feeling of wellbeing I am moved to tears. I have never been to this part of Cumbria before, nor come into Lancashire this way, though I lived in the area for the first 28 years of my life, first in Lancashire, then to Cumbria at 18 to go to college. It is just magnificent. Every step feels like a treat, the roads are empty, the villages stunning, left untouched by the industrial ravages I know I will find further south in my home county, still splendid in their rural being. Buildings built with patience over time with care for aesthetics and respect for the environment, nestling into it as though they had grown out of the very earth.
I walk into my home county in bliss. The nature around me is alive and vibrant; it is not choked by the smoke, the dust, the uncaring rape that has devastated so much of the North East and North West of our land. I want to sing, to pray, to call out my thanks that there remains a part of this ravaged land intact, unhurt. It is almost as if I am finding grandparents alive in the rubble of a bomb hit settlement.
Into Lancashire then; with enough sustenance to hold me as I walk south to face the demons of my childhood, the factories with their faceless walls and prisonlike appearance. There is indeed an industrial site as I near the outskirts of my first town, and it has the barbed wire topped high windowless grey walls I have remembered. I conjour up images of my ancient woodland and my cherished villages, and walk on by.
I walk into Carnforth and remember my first love and a wonderful week we once spent here together. That is not a tale to tell here but I did not notice the industry that week! This walk is proving to be quite a time tunnel for me in many ways.
I arrive in Lancaster and finally get to meet Samagita with whom I have exchanged many an e mail over the short and exciting time that Transition has been going, and we discover many mutual friends in the Friends of the Western Buddhist Order, and shared experiences of the Work that Reconnects with Chris Johnstone, who I am delighted to learn will be here in Lancaster during my stay, and we go off to sing in her local community choir; Hum, Holler and Sing.
Singing and choirs are everywhere, I have found as I walk; there is a revolution of empowerment taking place all over our country; everyone wants to express their deeper, spiritual side, their joie de vivre, and for many, as they feel more empowered this manifests though wanting to sing.
I hear of a Slovenian choir that came to sing with Hum, Holler and Sing at the Cathedral Cave in the Lakes recently and I hear of the events Hum Hiller and Sing do to raise money for others in need.
We sing in 4 part harmony and I am delighted to be asked what I sing and to be able to sing soprano where my voice naturally sits and where my heart sings, which doesn’t always happen in the choir where I sing at home at Bowden (http://www.bowdenhouse.co.uk/) as people are expected to sing other parts sometimes. I relax and feel quite joyful. It is lovely to have the music in front of us so I can see the pattern the harmonies are supposed to create together instead of having to rely on our conductor to let us know and bring us in which I can find quite disempowering.
What I do miss about my singing at Bowden however is the spiritual songs we sing from all traditions, which lift the heart and allow it to soar. Hum Holler and Sing seem to specialise in multi cultural songs in all languages, Italian, French, Georgian, Norwegian and more, of the popular sort so the lyrics are very everyday and sometimes quite stark and shocking so we sing of the girl who goes dancing while her baby is sick, and a Georgian riding song about a man who wants to kill his rival in love.
We also sing a transition anthem however, with the following refrain “Make it, Mend it, Wear it Out, Make it Do, or Do Without” which is very catchy and fun to sing… ask me and I might teach it you as I walk on through.
Hum, Holler and Sing is a vibrant community choir (http://humholler.com/) who come together every week for the fun of it and I hear that in a couple of weeks they will have their summer BBQ and friends and family will come along too. Some of the choir are transitioners and in the gaps between songs I get to know Pamela, and in the Merchant pub, a rather cosy vault like 17th century edifice, afterwards, I meet two more of their number; Paul and Hugh.
Hugo tells me about the Lancaster Eco Housing Coop he is in which aims to be the biggest passive power housing coop in the UK. They gave just found land; old industrial land on the riverside in the nearby village of Horton, it is further out of the city than they had originally wanted but what they have discovered is that it is more easily accessible than many of the parts in the city they had explored because it has a cycle path running along the river all the way in to the centre. There are about 30 families who have raised the money to buy the land from the council, some of them young and used to communal living from their student days. To find out more about this exciting regeneration scheme and its sister transition spawned project the Horton weir hydro electric power company see www.lancastercohousing.org.uk.
Paul and Samagita tell me about their oil drum; a favoured faithful resource which they take out and about and use as a prop and attention grabber when they are out awareness raising. It sits neatly onto a small trailer which means they can appear at the market without needing to book the one and only charity stall plot.
Samagita and I return to her home on the northern outskirts of Lancaster, where I learn Shaun Chamberlain stayed too when he came to talk about his book the “Transition Timeline” recently and said the lovely guest room with its resident Buddha reminded him of staying at the Schumacher College (http://www.schumachercollege.org.uk/). I shall have to go and investigate on my return when I am taking part in an education forum there in September.