John Golder

Today’s Treasures – John Golder’s 90th Birthday Skydive

Today’s Treasures – John Golder’s 90th Birthday Skydive – a lovely story

John Golder

John had been caring for his partner, Iris, who was suffering from dementia, and one afternoon she fell whilst trying to get out of bed. He phoned for help but, after waiting two hours for an ambulance that didn’t arrive, he picked her up himself and put her back in bed.  About two hours later, he developed chest pains so he phoned for a carer to look after Iris and then another ambulance, which turned up in about ten minutes.

Whilst John was in hospital, Iris couldn’t understand where he had gone and spent the next three days searching the house for him night and day, and the poor lady who had been given the job of caring for her had no sleep at all. So, it was decided to take Iris into care and, after several days recovering in hospital, John arrived home to an empty house.

John realised he could no longer care for iris but was very upset, so when Julie, his PA, arrived she was very concerned about him and thought that going out for lunch might cheer him up – she suggested the Sky Dive Café on Prees Airfield.

John had been thinking about raising some money for the RAFA who had taken great care of his son who is an ex RAF Halton apprentice and it occurred to him that a ninety-year-old doing a tandem sky dive should raise a bit of cash.

John and Julie duly arrived at the Sky Dive Café. Julie ordered the food – and John signed up for a sky dive! He then discovered that, because of his age, he had to have a doctor’s certificate. So, he took the certificate to his doctor – who would not sign it. As it turned out, he was quite right as within another couple of days John had another heart attack. This one was serious and involved a dash to the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital through red lights with a lot of siren wailing and blue flashing lights.  John was then taken to the Cardiac Hospital in Stoke, where, after several x-rays and various scans, the Surgeon said: “You have a serious heart problem, we can treat you with medication or we can operate.  If we operate, there’s a 50:50 chance you will not survive.”

John’s reply was: “Operate – I will survive because you will see I do.” The surgeon’s response was: “I wish I was as confident as you.”  As the surgeon left, one of the nurses came up to John and asked if he was OK and John said:  “I’m just a bit fed up because I had planned to do a tandem sky dive and that will not now be possible.”  When John explained what it was for and why, the nurse said: “That’s OK, I will do it for you”.  Her name is Julie Symms.  As they chatted, two more nurses joined them and, on learning what Julie had said, they both volunteered to jump as well. They are nurses Victoria Williams and Katie Newbon.

John says:  “Obviously someone thought I was not going to survive the operation as they sent a Padre to talk to me. This gentleman was The Rev Nimilote Rokotoro (Roko). He had served ten years in the Royal Engineers, having served in both Iraq and Afghanistan. He did nothing to save my soul, but we did have a good laugh – and, when I told him about the nurses and what they had proposed, his immediate reaction was: ‘I will jump for you as well’. So now, I have three nurses and a reverend, all prepared to jump out of a perfectly good aircraft for the RAFA and RAF Benevolent Fund.”

John’s target is to raise £100,000, to be split between the two charities.  Anything over that will go to dementia research.  https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/john-golders-skydive

Published in the August edition of the Whitchurch Gossip

bee on comfrey

Today’s Treasures – Bees

Today’s Treasures – Bees

bee on comfrey

Some interesting facts about bees:

  • There are over 25,000 species of bees.
  • Honeybees live in a colony, but many bees are solitary and nest alone – but often near to other bees.
  • Most bees live for about 6 weeks, but some bees live for years.
  • In one day, a foraging honeybee can visit up to 2000 flowers.
  • It takes around 12,000 bee hours to make a 1.5 kg jar of honey.

beehive

Male bees do not sting, and their job is to mate with the queen.  The worker honeybees are female and do sting – but only when it’s really necessary as they are damaged in the process and die afterwards.

Turning nectar into honey is a two-stage process involving chemically changing the sugars in the nectar from complex to simple sugars and reducing the water content. When complete, the honeybees seal the honeycomb with a white wax cap. This keeps the honey fresh in a natural airtight container for the winter.

If natural, raw, unfiltered honey is stored properly in sealed containers it can last virtually forever – the bees’ honey-making process combined with the high sugar content and low pH prevent organisms from damaging it.

beekeeper

Bees love my herb garden, sage and thyme, lavender and chives – and, later in the year, hyssop, rosemary and marjoram – and they love the wild flowers – especially comfrey and foxgloves.  I’ve spent many relaxing hours watching them popping into foxglove bells and cleaning the pollen off the fairy shoes – as Enid Blyton so elegantly described the stamens.

Wild flowers are generally much better for bees – cultivated forms are often hybrids propagated by cuttings and they have evolved without need for pollinators so most produce little nectar or pollen.  So, plant old-fashioned varieties of hellebore, salvia, rudbeckia, cosmos, sedum and verbena – and snowdrop and crocus for early spring when there are very few flowers – they provide a much-needed source of pollen for our bees.

Some businesses have planted wild flowers around their car parks and installed beehives – like Midcounties Co-operative – who now have a head beekeeper, Lee Franklin, at their head office in Warwick.

www.midcounties.coop

Published in the July edition of the Whitchurch Gossip

2 canal boats

Today’s Treasures – Canals – accessible green spaces for everyone

Today’s Treasures – Canals – accessible green spaces for everyone2 canal boats

In North Shropshire we are very fortunate to have the Llangollen branch of the Shropshire Union canal providing a wildlife corridor connecting our quaint market towns and our beautiful meres and mosses.

From Whitchurch, the canal vaguely follows the Welsh border, travels through Whixall Moss, borders the lake at Colemere, then meanders along past Whitemere and Blake Mere to Ellesmere.  At Lower Frankton, the Llangollen branch goes west to the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct and the Montgomery canal heads south to Freestone Lock near Newtown.  Initially named the Montgomeryshire Canal – and now fondly known as ‘the Monty’ it does not – and never did – go to the town of Montgomery.

The Montgomery Canal was built in the early 19th century, primarily to transport lime for agricultural purposes and it was the landowners that were granted permission by Parliament in 1794:  “An act for making a navigable Canal from or near Porthywain Lime Rocks in the parish of Llanyblodwell, in the county of Salop, to or near Newtown, in the county of Montgomery”.

Over the last 40 years more than half of the 34 mile long canal has been restored to navigation.  The Canal and River Trust are currently working with Friends of the Montgomery Canal to restore ‘The Monty’ and all its locks and bridges, connecting, along its route, market towns, heritage railways, ancient footpaths, earthworks and castles. www.restorethemontgomerycanal.org.uk

The Canal and River Trust looks after 2,000 miles of waterways making a significant contribution to improving the wellbeing of millions of people, providing accessible green and blue spaces everywhere – even in cities.  It works with communities and volunteers across England and Wales to transform canals and rivers into spaces that support wildlife and make people feel better. www.canalrivertrust.org.uk

canal barge

Published in the June edition of the Whitchurch Gossip

Today’s Treasures – Poetry

Today’s Treasures – Poetry

Poetry can be sad, beautiful, meaningful, moving, romantic, inspirational, thought-provoking or funny – and sometimes all of these.  Springtime has inspired many beautiful poems:

Wordsworth wrote about the daffodils:

I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

daffodils

Cicely Mary Barker painted the Apple Blossom Fairy in words and pictures:

Up in the tree we see you, blossom-babies,
All pink and white;
We think there must be fairies to protect you
From frost and blight,
Until, some windy day, in drifts of petals,
You take your flight.

apple blossom

And Robert Browning, living in Italy in 1845 and homesick for England wrote ‘Home thoughts from Abroad’:

Oh, to be in England,
Now that April’s there,
And whoever wakes in England
Sees, some morning, unaware,
That the lowest boughs and the brushwood sheaf
Round the elm-tree bole are in tiny leaf,
While the chaffinch sings on the orchard bough In England – now!
And after April, when May follows,
And the whitethroat builds, and all the swallows –
Hark! where my blossomed pear-tree in the hedge
Leans to the field and scatters on the clover
Blossoms and dewdrops – at the bent spray’s edge –
That’s the wise thrush; he sings each song twice over,
Lest you should think he never could recapture
The first fine careless rapture!
And though the fields look rough with hoary dew,
All will be gay when noontide wakes anew
The buttercups, the little children’s dower,
– Far brighter than this gaudy melon-flower!

buttercups

Which reminds us what a lovely part of the world we live in – especially during Springtime. Children pick buttercups and daisies; celandines carpet woodlands, followed by a purple haze of bluebells that fill the air with their delicate fragrance; pink campion and stitchwort decorate shady pathways; early purple orchids, stand tall, like soldiers surveying their realm; springtime heralds a rainbow of colours that paint woodland glades in a myriad of hues.

Apple blossom shakes confetti petals on newly mown lawns, catkins tremble on hazel branches, and primroses and cowslips sheltering in the hedgerows, open their petals to the warm spring sunshine.

Published in the May edition of the Whitchurch Gossip

musicians

Today’s Treasures – Live Music

Today’s Treasures – Live Folk Music

North Shropshire Folk are back – with live music at Whitchurch Leisure Centre.  It was so lovely to meet people again, enjoy listening to the music – and watching the musicians play.

musicians

Live music is always magical to me – I love music but I don’t play any instruments myself and it constantly amazes me how musicians can weave intricate patterns with their fingers and create tunes that harmonise, watching and listening sends me into another world, totally enraptured with the music.

The Jeremiahs opened a new season of folk nights – an Irish folk band of four musicians who clearly really enjoy performing the folk tunes they have composed.

‘The Wild Barrow Road’ was written in the back seat of a car on a summer journey through Cumbria – and completed for a gig they were playing that night:  “Ireland is the only nation in the world where procrastination takes on a sense of urgency”.

Singer Joe Gibney is from County Dublin.  On fiddle, viola and vocals is County Cork’s Niamh Varian-Barry; French born Julien Bruneteau plays the flute and on Guitar is Dublin born James Ryan.

musicians

Ireland has inspired many artists – poets and writers as well as musicians – the Emerald Isle with its castles and rugged coastlines, folklore and fairy tales, has inspired many haunting melodies, passionate love songs, and poignant lyrics about leprechauns and love and loss.

Irish folk music is so diverse, from rousing sea shanties to traditional songs about villains and villages, poets and prisons, castles, courtship, sea life and sailors.  The Jeremiahs brought back memories of watching an Irish folk band playing in a bar in Ireland, a traditional Irish pub with a few pints of beer, clapping along to an Irish jig …

The next North Shropshire Folk night is on Saturday, 14th May at  8.00 pm featuring ‘The Outside Track’ – a band of 5 musicians hailing from Scotland, Ireland, and Cape Breton, who blend fiddle, accordion, harp, guitar, flute, whistle, step-dance and vocals with amazing dexterity.

For more information, future events and to book tickets visit www.northshropshirefolk.com

@northshropshirefolk @northshropfolk

@thejeremiahsmusic @thejeremiahsie

@outsidetrack

Published in the April edition of the Whitchurch Gossip

waves

Today’s Treasures – Meditation

Today’s Treasures – Meditation

waves

It’s two years since a new virus reared its ugly head and the world, as we knew it, changed.  We had to adapt and learn to survive in a different way, in a very different world.

We couldn’t do some of the things we took for granted but we learned to appreciate the ones that were still available – like enjoying making and eating meals – and many of us learned new skills to help us adapt – like meditation.

Many more people found that meditation helps with lots of stress related conditions like headaches, insomnia, IBS, indigestion and phobias.  Sleeping and eating are a vital part of every day and our bodies need a regular balance of both or they start to complain.  A regular routine for sleeping and eating helps balance the rhythms of our body and meditation can help establish this routine and will enhance the beneficial effects.

You don’t need anything special in order to meditate and you can start with just a few minutes a day – as you reap the benefits you will most likely want to meditate more but just a few moments enjoying watching a butterfly on a flower will be beneficial.

butterfly

You can sit on the floor or in a chair – or lie down – it really doesn’t matter.  The best meditation I have ever experienced was sitting on a deserted beach feeling the sand touching my feet and hands – being a part of the ground beneath me, watching the waves cascading onto the beach – nothing else existed, just me and the sand and the waves.  A magical experience but you can recreate a taste of that by just standing still and really listening to the birds singing, closing your eyes and enjoying the fragile scent of a primrose, or concentrating on the brilliantly coloured patterns on the wings of a butterfly.  With meditation you just focus on something totally and shut everything else out.

Meditation music can really help, try some of the tracks on

https://www.youtube.com/c/MeditationalState/featured

This whispering music enhances the senses, creating metaphysical sensations of silvery sparkes which release negative energy and the vibrations emanate a tranquil feeling of wellbeing.

meditation

Published in the March edition of the Whitchurch Gossip

sunlight on field

Today’s Treasures – Happy New Year

Today’s Treasures – Happy New Year

A new year – a new start – January is about looking forward – to Spring – to new beginnings – the trees reawakening with the lengthening days, new lambs in the fields, snowdrops in the woods and the birds in their bright spring colours getting ready for courtship.

sunlight on field

North Shropshire has some beautiful places to go for a walk – Prees Heath Common, Whixall Moss, Ellesmere and Colemere, Whittington castle and Brown Moss – take some corn or bird food and feed the ducks.

Ellesmere

We are so lucky to have the meres and mosses close by – with their easy walking and beautiful views. There are also several interesting canal walks along the Llangollen canal – including the staircase locks at Grindley Brook. The Whitchurch arm of the canal – is now abandoned but continues in a beautiful walk through Whitchurch Country Park – as does the disused canal at Dobson’s bridge – which the swans have now colonised making their nests there each year.

Brown Moss

Several paths cross North Shropshire – The Sandstone Trail, the Shropshire Way – and Offa’s Dyke is on the Welsh border.  Whitchurch Walkers organise regular walks locally: www.whitchurchwalkers.co.uk as do Prees Walking Group – which you can find on Facebook.  www.shropshiresgeatoutdoors.co.uk has lots of great walks – which include some historical information as well as access details.

ducks

Get 2022 off to a happy, healthy start by enjoying our beautiful countryside and treading in the footsteps of historical figures that have walked before us – right back to King Offa at Whittington Castle; the commoners who dug peat for a living on Whixall Moss – and the famous names – Charles Darwin – the naturalist born in Shrewsbury who studied the geology of Llanymynech Rocks; Randolph Caldecott, born in Chester but who created his illustrations for ‘The House that Jack Built’ whilst working in Whitchurch. They all found inspiration from our Shropshire hills, rivers, woods, meres and mosses.

Published in the January edition of the Whitchurch Gossip

inclinometer

Today’s Treasures – Whixall Moss

Today’s Treasures – Whixall Moss

lift bridge

The Marl Allotment (or Marlot as it is known locally) is an area of common land between Whixall Moss and the Llangollen canal which has now been designated a Local Nature Reserve.  It gets its name from ‘marl’ a crumbly limestone clay which was used as a fertiliser and the clay may also have been dug out and used to line the canal – which could explain how the ponds were formed.

The Marlot has been incorporated into the circular Whixall Mosses Trails that can be accessed from Roundthorn Bridge and Morris Lift Bridge (pictured).

Whixall Moss is the most amazing place – a wilderness of bogmosses, ferns and cotton-sedges – described by Gladys Mary Coles as “a kingdom of sphagnum where space and time interweave”; it reminds me of a long-forgotten English lesson learning about D H Lawrence: “He breathes the fern seed and drifts back, becomes darkly half vegetable, devoid of preoccupations,” – which probably ignited in me the first stirrings of inspiration to be a writer.

Throughout the summer and autumn, a series of sculptures depicting wood and metal work measuring tools formed an art trail across the moss.  This inclinometer, created by Elizabeth Turner & Keith Ashford is one of the waymarking sculptures.  An inclinometer is “a tool for measuring angles to the horizontal.  Its curve reminds us of the turn of our head as we scan the horizon”.

inclinometer

As well as being a SSSI, at nearly 1,000 hectares, Fenn’s, Whixall and Bettisfield Mosses together form one of the largest lowland raised bogs in Britain.  The acidic and waterlogged ground provides the perfect environment for rare bog plants and insects to thrive, including 18 species of sphagnum bog moss, cranberries, bog rosemary, bog asphodels, and sundews; nearly 2,000 species of invertebrates; bird calls from teal, curlews, skylarks and hobbys fill the air – and adders can be seen basking in the sunshine.   Formed at the end of the last ice age, sphagnum bog moss absorbed and acidified the rain, water-logging the peat surface and dying vegetation became preserved as layers of peat which, in turn, preserved history – a bronze age axe and 3 peat bodies have been discovered on the reserve.

bogoration

 

“It took millennia to lay us down, the ferns & moss decay.
Down in the ancient darkness, the ancient dead were laid.
The sedges and the mosses, the grazing lands of beasts.
And all the time the Earth rolled on and nature was at peace.”

(From ‘Bogoration’ by Dave Lock)

 

 

 

 

Meres and Mosses

 

 

 

 

 

Published in the December edition of the Whitchurch Gossip

Crisis What Crisis?

Today’s Treasures – Blackberry Fair Art Trail

Today’s Treasures – Blackberry Fair Art Trail – Hope From the Wild

creative sculpture

Blackberry Fair had a different format this year with the Hope from the Wild art trail but it retained the traditional theme of sustainability which was visible in all the artworks like ‘It Could all Come out in the Wash’ outside the Civic Centre created by John Rainford – the world of the positive future – with wood and metal pegs (on the right) replacing the plastic pegs holding up the negative words on the left.

Leap of Faith by Fee Jackson highlights the plight of our oceans drowning in plastic.

leap of faith

‘Bogoration’ tells the story of The Peatbog in a poem by Dave Lock and is situated in the Country Park along with ‘Dragonfly’ by Russell Kirk.

bogoration

You can enjoy a beautiful walk along the Whitchurch arm of the Llangollen canal, follow Staggs Brook – home to some of Britain’s few remaining water voles – and stroll along the now abandoned remains of the canal that used to go all the way into Whitchurch.

dragonfly

Thank you to all the shops that took part to make this ‘Hope from the Wild’ art trail so interesting, all the artists and volunteers that made it possible – and to all the people – young and old – who made pledges to save the planet for future generations.

Love where you live

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Published in the November edition of the Whitchurch Gossip

Offa's Dyke path

Today’s Treasures – Offa’s Dyke Path

Today’s Treasures – Offa’s Dyke

Offa's Dyke path

BBC Countryfile recently visited Offa’s Dyke – the programme started in Knighton on the Powys/Shropshire border and finished at Treflach Farm and Sweeney Fen on the Montgomeryshire/Shropshire border.

Offa’s Dyke path goes from Sedbury in the south to Prestatyn in the north and broadly follows the English/Welsh border so you can therefore often have one foot in Wales and one foot in England as you follow the path – as Matt Baker demonstrated on Countryfile.

The path goes through the Llanymynech Rocks nature reserve, managed by both Shropshire and Montgomeryshire Wildlife Trusts, it’s adjacent to the Lynclys Common Nature Reserve and borders an Industrial Heritage Site managed by the Llanymynech Heritage partnership which maintains the amazing Hoffman Lime Kiln with its tall chimney.

limekiln chimney

LLanymynech Hill was once an impressive iron age or possibly late bronze age hillfort – one of the largest in Britain.  Archaeological excavations have revealed part of an iron age roundhouse and coins dating between 30 BC and 161 AD were found in the cave known as the Ogaf on top of Llanymynech Hill. There is evidence of copper and lead mining dating back to at least Roman times.  Lime putty mortars were used by the Romans and the use of lime as a fertiliser may date back to the medieval period.

bee orchisrock climbing

All in all, it’s a fascinating area and takes days to explore properly with something for everyone, fossils in the limestone, a stunning array of wildflowers (including several species of orchids) which are loved by many different butterflies; abseiling, rock climbing, the archeological history and industrial heritage of mining and limeworks and not least the magnificent views across wales.

view from Llanymynech hill

Pubished in the September edition of the Whitchurch Gossip