A Good Read – Wild – Cheryl Strayed

imagesFUVZI6H4Wild – A journey from lost to found – Cheryl Strayed

Cheryl Strayed sets out to walk the Pacific Coast Trail after falling of the rails, following the death of her mother. The long walk out as a metaphor for the long walk in is a well covered theme and one I know well, but these books can be so hit and miss. They can be melodramatic or shoe gazing in the extreme or, alternately, the author can go all coy on us and use lots of lovely metaphors about the countryside without telling us one single true and honest thing about themselves.

Wild manages to admirably avoid either of these extremes. It is that thing we all love, a great bit of armchair travel. Not many of us really wish to put out body through the physical hardships that Cheryl endured, watch our toenails blacken and become detached, drink dubious water sauces and live on dehydrated food. Not many women are brave enough to take off alone into the wilderness with scarcely a penny to their name but we don’t have to, Chery did and we can, from the cosiness of our homes, walk with her.

This book is a good story, well told. It isn’t poetic nature writing or profound insight but I found it a refreshing change because of this. Unlike so many British writers who laden their books with endless clever words that only a small percentage of the population understand, or quote and re-quote  the same collection of ‘acceptable’ writers, or sit in their ‘aren’t we all so marvellous club,’ slapping each other on the back and thanking each other profusely in the ‘acknowledgement’ section, then Cheryl just gets on with the business of telling her story without fanfare. She is a normal, flawed, working class women who has had some major hiccups in her life and found a way to deal with them.

If only British publishers would publish more people like this and stop churning out the same old stories from writers who sometimes appear to have nothing to offer other than the fact they are the ‘right sort.’

Estuary Life – The Journey begins

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Estuary by MLP

After months of planning and research I am finally taking off tomorrow on the first leg of my walk across the North Kent Marshes for my book Estuary Life. First stop is going to be the church of St Mary’s where Charles Dickens daughter got married. This little church on the edge of the marshes is a very important and peaceful spot for me and it feels fitting to set off from here and ask for a safe journey as generations of pilgrims have done before.Higham church

From there I am heading to the former plotlanders settlement of Cliffe Woods to meet the daughter of writer Lena Kennedy at the last remaining plotland shack in the woods. After this I hope to spend some time with two women who have possibly done more to protect and save the marshes than anyone else. Joan and Gill run the campaigning group, Friends of the North Kent Marshes and having successfully defended their homes against the airport threat which plagued the area 10 years ago they are now heading the fight to prevent the destruction of the marshes by Boris Johnson’s island airport.

caravanHaving accosted a farmer on the marshes a few weeks back I then hope to visit my old caravan bought by Keith a local sheep farmer for his daughter. I haven’t stepped foot in my former home since I was evicted from the marshes back in 2007 so going home will be an odd experience. I hope to finish the day camping with my oldest and dearest friend at a secret location on the marshes.

Today in preparation I visited this spot and hid my sleeping bag, camping mat and some porridge oats, well wrapped up in several layers of plastic. I felt like I looked deeply and worryingly suspicious as I headed across country with a heavy bin bag slung over one shoulder, but thankfully I encountered no one.

Hopefully, despite a day of heavy rain, they will still be ok when I get to them tomorrow night. I sent my friend a message with instructions on where to find this bounty. “Go to the old witch tree and then up, where old meets new, there you will find my stash.” I’m keeping my fingers crossed that no nosy hound or badger finds it first and snaffles my porridge oats.

After my nights camping, I am  heading to the Medway and visiting Alex an eighty something houseboat owner and former DJ for Radio Caroline before taking a mammoth walk along the river, passing the location where Sir Francis Drake spent his childhood. By nightfall I hope to make Rochester where my friend Martin has promised me a sailors supper aboard his boat.

Alex and Martin

Alex and Martin

I am so excited to finally be setting out on this adventure and to begin the bigger adventure of writing my book.


Wildlife Canoe Tours

Kingfisher by Peter Trimmings

Kingfisher by Peter Trimmings

I have just teamed up with Kent based canoe company Canoe Wild ( www.canoewild.co.uk ) to run two wildlife canoe tours as part of the Canterbury Festival taking place all this month in Canterbury, Kent. The tours will involve a gentle 2.5 hour paddle downstream from the historic town of Fordwich (officially Britain’s smallest town) along the beautiful river Stour and across Stodmarsh nature reserve. On the way we hope to see kingfishers and marsh harriers and enjoy the sight of schools of fish beneath the water. The tours are £30 each which includes all equipment and a lift from our final stop at Grove Ferry back to Fordwich. Having been out with the company today I can definitely say that this must be one of the most peaceful ways to enjoy the autumn countryside.

Tours are taking place on

Sunday 20th and Sunday 27th October at 9.30am

meeting at the George and Dragon Pub in Fordwich

to book a place visit the Canterbury Festival website


A Nature Girl Joins the 21st Century

on the bus in IndiaFor a nature girl I have done myself proud recently. I am way behind the times when it comes to technology. Until recently I still had a black and white tv and a whistling kettle and was happy with my retro, hippy life. But, as any conservationist knows, the species that survive, adapt. So, here I am adapting. I have bought a new computer and am ready to blog.

I am hoping my blog can bring a little bit of the countryside into the lives of all those people who are stuck in offices, or on the tube and only glimpse wildlife and nature through glass windows. I would like to tell you a little bit about how the seasons are turning (or not – in the case of this endless winter) and what I get up to as someone who is out there working in the countryside.

I am lucky to have a job which sees me spending summer days wandering in the countryside doing wildlife surveys or ringing barn owls or searching for water voles, but I also spend many cold wet days wrapped in 11 layers and huddling round smoky bonfires enjoying the banter of my volunteer group.

If you love the country and wildlife or secretly dream of giving up the office and getting an outdoor job then I hope you will enjoy my blog.