An 11 mile Lancastrian Smile
(Written as an active Member of APEx!).
Runs, Trundles and Walks with Historical Theme – Ely and some old bones moved from Essex - Art, Evidence Bases, Dark Age Poetic stuffs – APEx , and an ” Over the Hill” challenge -A north Wirral Coastal Swim.
Here’s a - rattled-off – real mish-mash and a “word-salad” of observations and recent experiences!!
By the heck! – it tickles me how we project National high-level Madness’s down and parasite it upon individuals living through the societies top-level Anxiety and madness – the Disorders and Delusions of UK as a Society-System is fantastically far more Dr Seuss rather than Dr Robert Spitzer in inspiration!
I think that the Wirral is currently doing rather well at trying to make sense of the big stuff hitting it at the moment and better supporting folk caught up in change processes! It can only be hoped that current direction isn’t gazumped by forces more inspired by short term profit rather than wanting to better support a local population dealing with major long term transitions!
The football last night put many piece of the all too recently familiar puzzle together: unfit-for purpose – outplayed – outdated modes -maudlin –out manoeuvred – dispassionate – depressed -unlikely to have realistic Challenge within the current set-up… Are we really that surprised? Isn’t that the uncompetitive, overpaid, disinterested model that became endemic throughout much of our economy recently? We were an interesting social mix-up, and now in need of some objective understanding and objective new models of support!
National Bi-Polar - wildly self-interested, disinhibited in spending and credit raising and the grandiosity of a Society-sanctioned conditions and with a resulting population of – over marketed to – wannabe’s, and delusionally remunerating ourselves accordingly – on unsustainable and now exhausted credit - and then the inevitable crash. The exhaustion. And, straight into deepest depression.
After the massive swing you would like to think that some equilibrium would be sought to clear the decks for a sustainable Recovery – based upon a new Socio/economic WRAP plan – but oh no! – Enter another wonderful “of the moment” Disorder doled out to further dis-quieten folk – National ADHD – just to chivvy things along.
National ADHD – is the short term Political cycling that meant that our National Engineers had a lack of spatial capacity to concentrate, with necessary longevity, upon any sensible sustainable future – making us flit from one solution focussed short term “ back of a fag-packet” reaction to reaction to another – and you can see this also in Health and Treatment – short term reacting stuffs and the pedalling of capsules of short term support – pills, treatment and time limited Therapy – and little thought to longer term outcomes for individuals caught up in this Macro mess and how it translates down in Micro land!
Rather than keep diagnosing individuals through a growing taxonomy of conditions – we need to diagnose the Society wide conditions causing distress using the same diagnostic zeal to apply to societal stuff!
Radical change in longer term Outcomes-focussed thinking is necessary to stop us making the same mistakes again and again and again and change the negative way we expect folk to view themselves based on some sometimes fairly subjective and sometimes rather ropey and “subject to change” diagnostic definitions and tools!
APEx Doings –
The next APEx evening walk is next Thursday (28th June)– can’t make it Friday – off celebrating Michelle Watson’s (AiW’s Beating the Blues Managers ) celebration for Merseyside Woman of the Year!!! The walk will be a Wirral 5 miler – details to follow today
· Louis McLaughlin – is starting work for APEx next Wednesday (a day a week over the summer) to bolster the co-ordination of its endeavours.
· We have just started our open swimming training in earnest - to do a long coastal swim in August and doing it as this years – “over the hill challenge.” We were looking to do something fairly adventurous but keeping a distinctly local Wirral feel again – so a longish swim from New Brighton to Hoylake (or West Kirkby), down the Rock Channel and around the sandbanks (with a safety boat) seemed bob-on. A swim East to West along the north Wirral coast has been a bit of ambition for a few of years now -and we have decided to give it a go this year!. I am using our 60k challenge to build up the swimming miles.. Last year we did a 7 mile open water swim and we have done the cross Mersey swim each year for the last 3 years so it’s not as daft as it sounds… We also swim in the sea off New Brighton most week so are fairly used to the tides?
· In preparation on Saturday afternoon -I swam 203 uninterrupted lengths at Europa pool – its virtually empty and a great time to go swimming at Europa
· Summer, Autumn and Winter Stuffs.. We also need to plan some off Wirral trips of interest for visits this coming Autumn and sight-seeing/learning as well walks (After we finish the Summer’s Olympic Festivities 6ok challenge). Here’s hoping that the APEx Steering Group can come up with a whole Autumn to Springs worth of a program and maybe some walks in loveliest Lancashire? And, after an undulating Lancashire run last Sunday – have some ideas for some great walks that we can do around the wooded water-ways and upland pastures of the lower Western Pennines? Anyhow – summers not even begun yet, so less talk of the suns trek south again, (started last week after the Solstice!!).
· Also, this coming Summer – Sarah has said that her husband Graham is looking at getting the minibus again for our annual trip out west – and a rugged coastal hike in the beautiful wild west of the Lleyn Peninsula
· After (very recent) fascinating trips to Ely, Kings Lynn and York – where we saw some really interesting thought provoking stuff – How’s about late Autumn early winter walking trips – travelling by train – to the great historic and cultural centres that are Chester and York, or Caernarfon?
· And finally – I thought that last Friday’s Week into Weekend walk was a great on Friday!! And we have had some great feedback – so should will keep them up over the summer, every fortnight? More feedback please?
Running History - treading down deep into the soil (and mud).
Last Sunday I took Harriet (my youngest daughter) to a trampolining contest in Copull, near Chorley. Her competition gave me the chance to plan a mornings trundle along the wooded valley of the River Yarrow (heaven knows what it would be like there now after last weeks rains!!) and then up and out of the valley and over softly roundly-convexities of flowered-grass meadows and on and up-onto the lower slopes of the Pennines. Stopping there,( before returning) to look out across open waters to Rivington Village, Lord Leverhulmes old hill-slope woodland gardens and up at the Pike (where we went with APEx a couple of winters back) and Winter-Hill.
Oddly, seeing as though a trudge along this Marl-mudded river valley bottom (through the big Beech and Pine woods, and over rough pastures and buttercup meadows) was a childhood “wellies-on” (every) Sunday walk after hefty Lunch – I had not been back there since March 1970, when we left and moved to the Wirral and had not stepped-out along this meander of river and woodland for a full 41 years – yet the first 7 years of my life were lived within earshot of its own sloping quietly chattering trundle down from the Pennines to “pal-up” with the river Douglas and then out through the Ribble Estuary into Liverpool Bay .
This relaxed run last Sunday, even after recent monsoon rains, was an 11 mile smile of very pleasant, memory triggering, reflections, reminiscences and attempted look-out for remembered features. The bulk of the run is through a big and age old natural beech woodland; and verdancy of saturating and dripping Rhododendron undergrowth and the big – rhubarb looking(??) river bank plants, living along the currently rain swollen little river. The rain had stopped and it was sunny with that sparkling rain-washed clarity that was exquisite on this morning – alive with birdsong, and some old faded memories.
The Yarrow Valley is a stunning ribbon of woodland with a very different feel to either the birch and stunted oak dominated sandstone Brecklands of Wirral at Bidston or Roydon or the feel of the Oak wooded Clywedog valley at Bersham (A wooded hill country valley that we have visited a couple of times with APEx). The Yarrows entire course flows within the boundaries of Chorley and its hinterland of diddy villages.
The Yarrow is also a complete contrast to the maligned red-bricked-ness of urban Lancashire towns, and the old coal mining villages, hereabouts. It winds through a miscellany of old and oddly sounding names of fields, topographical features and woodland with faded attributions to long forgotten folk – Saunders Bank- Drybones Wood- Sharrocks Field and Redbank. This land, like all of Britain’s – I suppose – abounds with fading tales of historic stuff; such as:
- Miles Standish’s (of Pilgrim Fathers fame) and his association with Duxbury Hall (on the little ridge overlooking the Yarrow) before leaving for the New World as the “fighting” expert of the New World venture. He was born in Duxbury Lancashire and died in New Duxbury, Massachusetts – and is of much greater fame over there than over here!
- The river also harbours the tale of a civil war skirmish at “Redbank” where a band of knackered and dissolute Royalists, fleeing the rout after the battle of Preston, were cornered at a forlorn bend on a soaking bit of the Yarrows mini flood-plain - Hemmed-in and hard-pressed against the river (and the un-scalable steep wooded hill eroded to a near sheer wall by a looping bend in the little river) and thence delivered into whatever fate that befell them on that grim retreat on a long-ago day?
(It is often said that the word “Red” prefixing landscape features alludes to some forgotten tale of conflict – On Wirral we have our own “Red” landscape tale Redhill – near Storeton. Some would have us believe that it is a, land-remembered, allusion to the Dark Age battle between Athelstan and a confederacy of dispossessed Celtic folk bulked-up with big support from Irish-Norse folk from Dublin.. Who knows? There are conflicting Evidence Bases (merely tales really) to support both Wirral’s Stake and the claims of folk supporting the Humber as a more likely candidate for the site of the cathartic Battle of Brunanburgh (Bromborough??) But it makes for some interesting debate and views from Polarised History Vested Interest Groups scrapping over some of history’s long-lost bones for some modern-day academic note).
Our UK countryside is chocked-full of – “once upon a time” – big and little human stuff that having occurred, slowly sank back into the land, dissolving into hazy local Mythology and folk tales and landscape feature names – I often think about the history of the environs of our Woodside offices, a site that has had its fair share of stuff going on there over centuries – even including its own civil war tales (of a siege, no less!).
Out of the Yarrow Woods and leaving the river behind, the views opened up to Pennine moorland, wooded slopes, dry-stone walls and stone cottages. Scenes, in startlingly clear sunlight, reminiscent of south West Scotland -very green and breeze blown, cloud worried but intense warm-ups of fleeting sunshine! It’s a beautiful route. we will have to do it with APEx, probably just as the leaves fall to the soil at the back end of the year?
There’s just such a lot to see there-arounds. It will startle folk who associate West Lancs – that whole Bolton, Wigan, Blackburn, Preston and Chorley thing – with being a tad bleak and grimy -as I certainly once did and why I didn’t choose to go back there to the Yarrow for over 40 years!
APEx Friday Evening walk.
On Friday -we did a great little end of week 4.5 miler APEx walk – maybe because of the weather and maybe because England were playing Sweden – there were only 5 of us – we set off from Mosslands fields – nipped under the M53 and then walked around the new knoll of Woodland that has been planted over the top of all those Sunblest, Vesta, Summer county, Texan bars, Toffo’s and Brylcream pots, packages and wrappers – Lord Anthony and Wrangler denims and crimplene slacks and the, god knows what-else, stuffs that were bulldozed into a 1970′/80s urban waste landfill site? All our consuming yester-years now turf-topped and thatched by young trees, shrubs and grasses.
It’s incredible to see what has been done hereabouts by some clever far-sighted land-reforming folk? We now share that, once a dump of plastic toxic tip-land waste, with Chiff-Chaffs, Swifts, Wood Warblers and Merlins and even the family of Grey Partridges I saw there last year, much more pleasant to observe than the Brown Rats and Gulls of former Landfill years.
I wouldn’t want to eat any fruit from thereabouts, but as a real air freshener of a walk or run it’s great and a place of recent Miraculous transformation and a real credit to the folk who created it! Inspirational!
After circuiting the high-top of this now impressive artificial hill and accompanying great views – we dropped to the fenland like, stagnancy, and once-upon-a-time brackish lakes by Bidston station – Here the rising water table is slowly but steadily seeking to slurp Wallasey back to its island past.
Wallasey, in old Anglo Saxon, means island of the strangers or Welshmen. In fact “Welsh” as a name is the Anglo Saxon word for stranger – so Wallasey may have been some last stronghold of old Celtic or other hard-pressed folk holding out upon the rising-up wooded sandstone outcrop of Wallasey. The bog proving a near perfect island refuge, until drainage and land reclamation techniques finally breeched the defensive impenetrability of the local fenland and marshes.
Looking now at the mix of bog and marshy shrub-land, it is easy to see how, before the old tidal creek was dammed to make Wallasey docks, that this tide flooded soup of silt – with a garnish of Willows, Sedges-Bull-rushes – all seemingly floating on top – creating an area almost like some Temperate mangrove swamp? Lively with plants and animals, but formally dense, dank and drowningly dangerous to unwary folk!
The mini-meres here are now great spots to see ducks in the winter – Goldeneye, Tufted, the odd Teal and Great Crested Grebe….. We saw Coots and Mallards (with chicks) a plenty as we viewed them through a cloudburst of rain that soaked through.
The walk up though Bidston Village got us up quickly into the very different habitat of a scrubby semi-woodland sandstone escarpment. This is the typical , predominantly birch and Gorse-land environment – thin soiled and wind exposed – of Wirral’s red sandstone ridges.
We found the old, carved-into-the-stone, Horses Head (not quite as old as I once thought?) that we had gone up to see but then had to turn back to make sure that we could get home for the England game. We will have to wait for a future walk to see the striking “Earth Goddess” stone carving – a much older carving on the eastern side of the observatory hill. There is a fair old debate as to whether she’s Norse-Irish or maybe even much older – It is even mooted that she may indeed be a 2nd century Romano/Celtic creation. Similar to faded and land-lost Lancastrian civil war skirmishes , nature is slowly smudging out remnants of our old human stuff on Wirral, and these sandstone carvings are being sanded-away by our rough-shod eroding feet, as we enjoy these places in our 21st century need to reclaim a little bit of old style simplicity to our activities away from the anxious pace of the current life! Walking is such a gentle, restorative and natural therapy and Friday evening walks are a great way to buffer off the weekend from the week?
East Anglian Interests…..
History is fabulous and thought provoking, once you understand that it can never be conclusive and will always be pretty much a science of subjectivity and therefore is open to constant revision. History is the perfect example for why we should never blindly believe research without first questioning its evidence base, it’s origins and the inspiration and motivation behind its formulations!
On a subject of history and tales and myths – We went to East Anglia last week for our annual visit to family in Grantham. – we thought, this time, that we would do a big loop south and East to call in on a couple of places that we had wanted to visit for years and years – Ely, Thetford and Kings Lyn.
Like Wallasey, Ely stands proud from the surrounding flatlands, that are in both cases are drained boggy wetlands – East Anglian lowlands are the old and impenetrable fenlands once very similar to Bidston Moss but on a vaster scale. Like Wallasey – Ely was referred to as an island! But there similarities end!
Ely and its Norman Cathedral, is an incredible place with its incredible old building(s)! Ely Cathedral is Britain’s sole successful candidate for listing as one of “The Seven Wonders of the Medieval World” (no-less!!!). As well as a statement of early Norman intent to impress upon those lawless and boggy low-lying flatlands that there was a new boss in town! And, that he was Norman! And, powerful enough to build huge stuff, buildings Tall enough to almost reach into the heavens! so local folk (and supporters of former Militant Separatists such as Hereward the Wake) “Beware!” Ruthlessly formidable folk were in town and now calling all the shots!
Brithnoth, Proto-Patriot? (Blackwater) Pudding? Or Patriotic Pudding?
The Cathedral also contains the headless remains of a heroically doomed Anglo Saxon Earl and English Cultural Symbol – Brithnoth – ( who I first read about in the late 70′s) who has gone down in the mish-mash of myth, muddle and disordered cultural politicking that is the great Subjectivity that we know as “History.”
He is the very opposite of Shakespeare’s line about Harry Hotspur-
When that this body did contain a spirit,
A kingdom for it was too small a bound;
But now two paces of the vilest earth
Is room enough:
14 inches of Cathedral wall is “room enough” for Brithnoth’s Ossuary – but, I feel that the Maldon Poem has massively elevated the perception of someone whose passing, without the Poem – would have hardly have raised an eyebrow of the readers of the Anglo Saxon Chronicle - and his poetic tale rubbishes Audens line about “poetry changing nothing.” Here it is possible to see that art has overlaid and imbued a historic event and launched into history the raising to national significance of a very locally significant event!
History is the using, by any given era, of grains of written down historic stuffs, including poems and sagas, that can be used, and subsequently reused by later Revisionists, to say something profound for the present by precedenting it with views/perspectives/lessons from and of the past! In (late 10thCentury) Brithnoth’ s case, his tragic –and somewhat daftly vainglorious – bit of history was written, roughly at the time, into an Epic maudlin, muddy and lamenting Heroic Poem – grabbed by someone who saw its significance as a symbol of patriotism and elevated accordingly.
Now in 21st century times, Brithnoth is in danger of being dis-interred – de-ossified and dusted-off and to be used to re-ignite old patriotic stuffs by folk prepared to dispense with objectivity and who will need to look for old heroes to symbolise – Englishness at its former very best – to help prejudice and indict our current situation and find folk to blame for our currently downgrading trend in world status, resulting economic hardship and all the associated gubbins therein! Looking back to help formulate the future isn’t always that helpful though – surely?
However, it’s fascinating that most cultures still rely upon symbolic events and art like the above – made-up from a few very old bones “walled into” Ely Cathedral and a highly stylised piece of Early English Poetic tradition written about the person whose bones were retrieved from a squalid and brutal historic event and an English defeat played out on the Blackwater estuary, at Maldon in Essex –finding a new and contemporarily useful usage by currently worried folk very nearly a thousand years later on. Indeed Brithnoth now has his own highly melodramatic – “Leonidas like” – Statue standing Guard and overlooking the Blackwater Estuary battle site at Maldon?
(Here is where Brithnoth, reputedly(?) allowed the Danes to cross the causeway unopposed. Outnumbered, allegedly(?) Brithnoths army of local farmers bolstered by a few professional fighters from his personal retinue was destroyed hereabouts – was it to stop the Danes leaving and wreaking havoc elsewhere, whilst he had them in his sights – or was it some daft, ill-judged military decision – who knows? but only a Poem is left to build us a vivid picture – History will never give us an explicit account of Maldon! So, Poetry/art has licence to confer loads of ”greater Truths,” pretty much unchallenged!).
The real(?) Story behind the – headless Earl Brithnoth – interred, bunged between bones of forgotten saints, within Ely Cathedral walls, (so later medieval historic scholastic Reports tell us) decided that harrying Danes, who were being paid-off by king Aethelraed (good old Ethelred the Unready) in a system of Protection-money payments called the “Dane-geld” that was causing a right old national Financial-crisis in the 10th century English state(!). Legend has it, that tired of giving in to the raiding, barbarism and bullying and “paying-off” a much hated and feared enemy, Brithnoth would not yield to yet another – on the make – Danish Army’s demands for paid tribute and booty! And so with his band of East Anglian and East Saxon levies, and local peasantry, decided to do battle with the Danes on the muddy flats of a tidal Essex Estuary.
Brithnoth’s war-band was annihilated. But, like Thermopylae in Classical Greek Tradition, it has served a symbolic and much longer term purpose – that, sometimes a Point of Principle must be served – even if the short term immediate outcome for the folks – there on the ground – is dire! The Poem Battle of Maldon is worth a quick scout through if you are interested in archaic historic-poetry.
Back at Ely, history’s subjectivity and interpretation of life-story struck home time and again! Another instance – Oliver Cromwell’s home is within a well thrown stones proximity to the Cathedral. When I was young, we were taught via School history (and Ladybird Books) that Cromwell – albeit a Republican – was a good and solid English Protestant bloke, of “Olde” Yeoman Farmer stock and feet firmly planted on the ground. Fair and pragmatic and forced into Regicide by an unfair and unequal “Divine Right of Kings” kind of deal that was thwarting early attempts at “Extending the Franchise” to Commoners, and that King Charles was merrily picking off his upper middle class Parliamentarian opponents – forcing their remaining hands and feet towards Rebellion and civil war!
Now however a recent “of-the-times” revisionary political-take, depicts the cruelty and the horrors perpetrated in Ireland by English Commonwealth types digging out Royalists from wherever they may have been sheltering! Cromwell, now changes from a Puritanical, Protestant and Reforming – fair but dull – character into being portrayed by many different lobbies as a vivid but cold and bloody and dispassionate tyrannical President! This perception softened only by the POV of some that he was a necessary scourge to Change-Manage the returning new monarchy into something much more accountable as a Family Business and the National-Institution it still is today. With so much constant revision of all manner of stuffs –it’s increasingly hard to have a POV that’s lasting – no wonder we are so multiply-messed up – when we are, every decade or so, told to revise old views that we were taught and conditioned into accepting as sureties based upon evidences from accurate scholarship and research!
Anyhow, Cromwell’s commonwealth and its ephemeral Worldviews only lasted 11 years (Rump Parliament and all) until the Restoration – then enter Charles 2nd and the colourful Enlightening-up of all manner of subsequent interests and Paradigm-Shifts.
Isn’t it also funny that even into this day-and-age, that the Commonwealth is never referred to as the Republic that it undoubtedly was (Shhh! Not very British! Still only spoken about in hushed tones and behind semi-closed doors) – just in case the increasingly-washed Commoners might get a bit challenging again after 400 years of not rocking the old boat! A Fascinating insight into the slow evolution of democratisation, and how far it can go in each incremental advance, without some older and Statused vested interest lobby wading-in and grabbing the wheel and re-steering a steady course to make sure that enfranchised enthusiasm doesn’t go too far and completely upset the apple-cart!
It was amazing how just walking past that old house evoked thoughts on cultural and moral sensibilities and how perceptions around single but influential historic characters or political thinkings can change so much in just a few short years to service different points in the political and economic cycles of a country – and particularly one now – here- going through real economic, cultural and ethnic change and trying to get a sense of its self, its identities and its newly allotted positions in a Re-allocating Globally shifting world!
It has only been while on meandering and wandering runs and on sightseeing jogs in some new, (to me) old places, that it has struck me that living through this time (global) rebalancing and economic change in Britain is like, having a second adolescence – having to leave the tried and trusted sureties of parental home security .. and then suddenly having to face lots of new and potentially scary as well as exciting stuff – moving out – thinking for yourself – standing on your own two feet – then understanding how unintentionally flawed and gently dysfunctional some former institutional sureties actually were and are, and the then quick awakening of the wider thinking necessary to make sense of new environments and new relationships and other crucial understandings for living in new times.
The development of changing ways to better facilitate our life journeys, and the potentially life-damaging distresses that will unavoidably happen along will have to reform accordingly around less resource – We need help in developing new cope-abilities strategies for folk to ensure that when inevitable distressing situations arise, then they do not unnecessarily always default us back into the pathology-camp and the institutions of illness, of treatment and of the potential for clinical service dependence.
Rather than re-enforcing folks anxieties around potential bad events – and all the Avoidant stuff therein – We should be helping folk to see that serious life events are, part of the journey, and can’t be successfully placated, or avoided, or successfully hidden away from by using avoidant or “mind-numbing” techniques and treatments. We need support to “make -sense-of” and put into context distressing events so that they don’t get free reign to run a riot and damage our mental Wellbeing in the longer term.
APEx must make sure that -social – physical exercise at APEx – like a fixed-term talking therapy, or a fixed-term course of anti-depressive pills, or a psychiatric hospital stay- isn’t licensed as just a stand-alone intervention, kind of thing. Single intervention “contracts” can at best only bring short-lasting individual benefit, unless they are part of a much wider spread of stuff available to help us tackle barriers to better Individual health and life contentment. And what we currently term – multi-disciplinary approaches – are far too narrow, too medical, too Professionally operated and too exclusive in scope and skills-range and too lacking in Peer and practical support to do any lasting benefit other than often keep folk needing treatment for subsequent distress and sometimes seeing themselves as Life-long illnesses!.
Similarly, if physical exercise – if it is a stand-alone activity – is of limited value. It is easy to see how onerous, soulless and wearysome “quick-fix” exercise classes can become after a month or so of samey, indoors production-line stuff - done merely for the sake of doing, or to lose a bit of weight…
How much better to give some wider interests to exercise and make it more about sociability and mind stimulation than mere cardio-vascular and calorie burning stuffs. And that is why I hope that APEx will now get the chance to look at a wider range of opportunities to make exercise stimulating and thought provoking: so that we can interpret our little part of, History in the making, where there is now the real beginnings of an attempt to better understand how to support better health and life enjoyment and to prevent ill-health by learning from the lessons of a particularly Mad recent past that had some very odd and controlling ways of viewing human life distress and many of which were of direct descent from Historic old Asylums and Old Medical Approaches and all kinds of odd off-shoot subsequent therapies and remedies that have accompanied the recent history of human distress and mental vulnerability.
It is to be hoped that mental health service – going forwards – taps as much into new Peer Support and natural activity interventions – such as exercise - and non-mental health specific approaches, as it does into the re-reinforcing of historic services based sometimes upon not a lot more than historic subjectivities and re-enforcing fears around risk?
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