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.

Published in the August 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.

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.

canal barge

Published in the June edition of the Whitchurch Gossip


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.


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.


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

@northshropshirefolk @northshropfolk

@thejeremiahsmusic @thejeremiahsie


Published in the April edition of the Whitchurch Gossip


Today’s Treasures – Meditation

Today’s Treasures – Meditation


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.


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

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.


Published in the March edition of the Whitchurch Gossip

a painted pebble

Today’s Treasures – Serendipity – A lucky find, an unplanned fortunate discovery

Today’s Treasures – Serendipity – A lucky find, an unplanned fortunate discovery

a painted pebble

This beautifully painted pebble was found recently in Prees.  It’s such a lovely idea, and it really cheered me up.  So I looked up ‘Love on the rocks uk’ on Facebook and found the page which says:

“Paint a rock, write ‘Facebook love on the rocks uk’ on the back, take a photo and let us know where you are hiding it, then make a stranger smile when they find it.  It’s so easy, spread the love.”

We’ve kept this pebble for a little while – it’s on the windowsill in the kitchen – but it will be hidden again somewhere new soon – to hopefully make someone else smile.

a pebble with words 'love on the rocks'Arigatou gozalmasu
(Thank you in Japanese )
Fb:  Love on the Rocks uk
Share your find,
then keep me,
or rehide me,

Anyone can join in, you just need a pebble and some acrylic paints and you can share on ‘Love on the rocks uk (hiding rocks – making smiles)’

I wish I had found this pebble during the first lockdown as I would have painted lots of pebbles and hidden them all over North Shropshire once I could go out again – we all needed a lot of cheering up by then as many of us had only seen smiles on screens!

Serendipity can mean a lot of things – have you ever been in a bookshop and found yourself drawn to a particular book which you then had to buy – and somehow the story held a message that was relevant to your life at that time

Or woken up with a song in your head, turned the radio on and that same song was playing?

Or wished for something and seen a shooting star?

Today’s Treasures are things that have extraordinary meanings in people’s lives – serendipity.



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”.


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.



“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


Today’s Treasures – Wild Flowers

Today’s Treasures – Wild Flowers

Wild flowers feature in folklore as well as herbalism and the origins of some of their common and Latin names are fascinating.  Bird’s Foot Trefoil (Lotus corniculatus) is so called because the seedpods look like a bird’s foot.  The latin name ‘lotus’ is Greek for clover and corniculatus means ‘in the form of a horn’ because of the shape of the seed-pods.

birds foot trefoil

Herb Robert (Geranium robertianum) Geranium is Greek meaning ‘a crane’ because of the shape of the fruit – like the bill of a crane – and robertianum is thought to be after Robert, Duke of Normandy, who was famous for his medical work in the Middle Ages.   The plant was once used for staunching blood.

herb robert

Wild Thyme (Thymus serpyllum).  Thymus from the Greek thumosthuein ‘to sacrifice’ because in ancient times the plant was used as incense in Greek temples.  Serpyllum again from the Greek herpullonherpein – to creep because of its snakelike habit of creeping along the ground.  The oil was used by the Egyptians for embalming and the Romans used it to purify their rooms.  Thyme has antiseptic properties, it is still used as a mouthwash; made into a tea it helps soothe sore throats and cure infected gums.  It is also purported to be good for hangovers!  And of course it’s a very useful culinary herb for soups, stews, stocks and stuffing.


Germander Speedwell (Veronica chamaedrys) is named after St. Veronica.  The original common English name for speedwells was Fluellen – derived from the old Welsh llysiau Llywelyn – the herb of St. Llywelyn.

germander speedwell

Chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla) from the Latin matrix ‘womb’ because the plant was thought to be good for uterine diseases and chamomilla from the Greek chamaimelon meaning ‘apple on the ground’ since the plant is apple-scented.  Chamomile has many uses for herbalists – fresh or dried chamomile flowers can be made into tea that relieves anxiety, aids digestion and helps you sleep.

Published in the July edition of the Whitchurch Gossip.

Today’s Treasures – Bluebells

Today’s Treasures – Bluebells

Our English Bluebell has many names: wood bell, cuckoo’s boots, wood hyacinth, lady’s nightcap, bell bottle, fairy bells, witches’ thimbles – and in Scotland – it’s called the wild hyacinth as the harebell is the Scottish bluebell. Its Latin name is Hyacinthoides non-scripta but it used to be called Endymion non-scripta (after the beautiful youth Endymion of Greek mythology)

Bluebells love the dappled shade of beech trees but thrive in any woodland with grassy glades. Bluebell woods have a magic all of their own, following winding paths through velvet carpets of vivid blue, pause a moment, listen to the birdsong, feel the spring sunshine, and savour the exquisite fragrance enveloping you; let your mind wander into the mythical kingdom of the elves and as the tiny flowers tremble in the breeze you can hear the fairy bells tinkling in fairyland.

This is Combermere Abbey’s bluebell walk through mixed woodland, the bluebells love the damp shade of mossy dells and dappled glades and grow in profusion alongside the paths.



My hundred thousand bells of blue,
The splendour of the Spring,
They carpet all the woods anew
With royalty of sapphire hue;
The Primrose is the Queen, ’tis true.
But surely I am King!
Ah yes,
The peerless Woodland King!


Bluebells are relatively rare in the rest of the world and half of the world’s population of bluebells grow in the UK.


Published in the June edition of the Whitchurch Gossip


Today’s Treasures – Happy St. George’s Day

Today’s Treasures – Happy St. George’s Day

The Story of the Patron Saint of England

It is believed that George was born in Cappadocia – an area which is now in Turkey – in the 3rd century; that his parents were Christians; and that when his father died, George’s mother returned to her native Palestine, taking George with her. George became a soldier in the Roman army and rose to the rank of Tribune.

The Emperor of the day, Diocletian (245-313 AD), began a campaign against Christians at the very beginning of the 4th century. George is said to have objected to this persecution and tore up the Emperor’s order against Christians which infuriated Diocletian.  George was imprisoned but refused to deny his faith. Eventually he was dragged through the streets of Palestine and beheaded. Stories of his courage spread throughout Europe.

King Edward III made him the Patron Saint of England when he formed the Order of the Garter  in St. George’s name in 1350, and the cult of the Saint was further advanced by King Henry V, at the battle of Agincourt in northern France.

In Shakespeare’s play, King Henry V completes his famous pre-battle speech with the phrase: “Cry God for Harry, England and St. George!”

There is however more myth than fact in the story of St. George and The Dragon. Folklore tells  that St. George killed a dragon on the flat topped Dragon Hill in Uffington, Berkshire, and that no grass grows where the dragon’s blood fell.  This tale was similar to The Golden Legend printed by Caxton in 1483.  Saint George was quickly incorporated into miracle plays adapted from pagan sources and is a prime figure in the famous epic poem The Fairie Queen portrayed as the Redcrosse Knight.

The Golden Legend tells the story of a town in Cappadocia, terrorised by a dragon; to placate it, the townspeople fed it sheep, then people were selected by a straw poll to be sacrificed to the dragon.  Unbeknown to the King, the princess had included her name and eventually she drew the short straw.  The king was mortified, but the princess insisted on taking her place – happily just then St. George came along.  When the princess explained her predicament, Saint George confronted the dragon, made the sign of the cross and then stabbed the dragon with his sword, wounding it.  Led by the girl’s girdle, the dragon followed them into the town.

The townspeople were terrified when they saw the dragon, but George told them if the King and all the people were baptised then he would slay the dragon – they agreed, the dragon was slain and a church of Our Lady and Saint George was built on the site – where there sprang up a fountain of healing water which flows to this day.  The story continues, telling how Saint George continued to preach Christianity and so earned the wrath of Diocletian, he survived many attempts on his life until he was finally beheaded.

The photograph of this dragon was taken at The British Ironwork Centre near Oswestry with Clive Knowles at a charity event;  the centre reopened to visitors on 12th April.  Visit @britishironworks for more details.



Published in the April edition of the Whitchurch Gossip

stroking a sheep

Dorking chickens – and amazing coincidences

Dorking Chickens – Amazing Coincidences

The story started last year during lockdown when I hatched some Silver Grey Dorking hen eggs in an incubator.  All five hatchlings turned out to be cockerels – so we couldn’t keep them all.  Sadly a fox got Dillon our resident rooster – se we needed to keep one – three of the others went to a neighbour, the fourth one escaped this fate – so we were left with two cockerels who just about tolerated each other.  I advertised for ages on, then, last week, I had an enquiry from and yesterday we delivered a cockerel to them in Pendeford, Wolverhampton .  We had trouble finding it and turned round in a car park – which I noticed was a Midcounties Co-op – at Coven (coincidence number 1)

We met Mark and Tina who run the sanctuary – which is a sensory park – set up to give anyone with disabilities a wildlife experience in a safe space and offering autism therapy and land-based learning.  They explained that they particularly wanted Dorking chickens because they are one of the oldest breeds.  The children wanted a bird dinosaur and this was the nearest they could find!  Dorkings have five ‘toes’ – an extra claw on the hind leg which possibly demonstrates this.  They were absolutely thrilled with their new cockerel.

Needless to say, we were shown around and met extremely tame sheep and pigs – I had never stroked a pig before!  (They are bristly!).  I asked where they got their funding from and Mark said that Midcounties Co-op (not The Co-op like people usually say) had helped a lot, initially funding a ramp for disabled access.  Then, last Christmas, during lockdown, they were at their wits end, having run out of food for the animals and birds – and they rang Midcounties and asked if they could have any out of date food – Midcounties have been supplying them with food ever since.  I explained that I was a director of Amazing coincidence.

The final coincidence is that I put some more Dorking eggs in the incubator – and yesterday the first ones hatched.  Hopefully there will be some ladies who will have a lovely home with a beautiful cockerel – making autistic children happy.

Bonnie the pig featured in several Midcounties stories as a piglet.  We were talking about animal welfare and Tina said she loves the fact the co-op source food sustainably and buy from suppliers who properly care for animals.  I would love to see this story on a co-op advert –  after all – “It’s what we do!

stroking Bonnie the pig stroking a sheep