Thank you for the space…

“Thank you for the space,” an approaching walker said one day on one of the footpaths through a Marston Vale community woodland site.  Though referring to the distance created between him and other foot traffic the simple sentence has a broader meaning for the Cleddau crew.


“It’s plus I week now,” remarked the Cleddau Captain one day last week.

Plus one? Plus one week?

It transpires that his method of coping with Lockdown was to count down from 12 weeks to zero, and then, the 12 week point reached, to start counting up

Counting has been a feature of the coping with lockdown strategy. There are the magpies, for instance. How often when tramping around the village footpaths was the simple rhyme recalled:

“One for sorrow, two for joy,

Three for a girl and four for a boy…”

When one day five magpies were spotted the rest of the rhyme needed to be discovered:

“… One for sorrow,
Two for joy,
Three for a girl,
Four for a boy,
Five for silver,
Six for gold,
Seven for a secret,
Never to be told.
Eight for a wish,
Nine for a kiss,
Ten for a bird,
You must not miss.”

As for the horses hereabouts (see previous blog) the count was lost after 69. One day there was an encounter with a mobile farrier, hard at work on a pony’s hooves.    Its owner, a local with horses in his blood, considered 100 or more the true number of horses in livery around the village.

A rhyme for tadpoles would have to be exceedingly long. The ponds over in Ridgeway Wood teemed with hundreds, maybe thousands of them… In their brilliant attire dragonflies and demoiselles flash and skim over the water while butterflies and moths dart low over the footpaths.

Ten years ago a new A road (the A421) involved massive drainage works and the construction of balancing ponds. Wow – by early June swathes of ox-eye daisies were smothering the banks in a white sea of floral delight!  

Further exploration of this area of community woodland has revealed a Q sign,    an area planted up and named as Quaker Wood.   Not far away there’s a good harvest of apples to be had.        And recently, another pretty painted pebble was spotted…

During this extended grounded-at-home period (this “human pause” as some commentators refer to it) late winter moved into a glorious spring, to be followed by warm balmy summer days (and some showery periods too).

Farm life has been observed at close quarters – the bare earth of March is hidden now under four foot high spring barley in one field, and a taller crop of winter wheat in another. There is a pea crop up on the ridge line beyond Wootton Wood.

Grass that had been cut and left to dry in the hot June sun in recent days has been gathered in.

Not only the crops have grown – so have the livestock too. The young lambs at Easter time stayed in close company with the  ewes which were encased in heavy woolly coats. By June 8th the grass of the sheep field   was speckled with fleecy fluff    and some of the flock had a distinctly ‘been to the barbers’ look about them.  By then cows and calves    had joined the sheep.   The juvenile lambs are noisy now as they watch you pass, while the cows are only vaguely curious…

During the winter and early spring the beef cattle at one of the local farms were cosy inside in a cowshed. Then, one day, they’d gone, gone to summer pastures.     But when the cows return it will be to sparklingly clean quarters,


achieved after days and days of digging and shovelling, loading and trundling. For some this hillock of cowshed product might represent pure ‘gardener’s gold’… 

In several places the local footpaths intersect with the John Bunyan Trail.

At one junction two ‘spacemen’ had been keeping guard.

(Mysteriously, in recent weeks, one has been removed – by whom? Where to?)   On reading of this walk route in the previous blog a friend had written: John Bunyan was once imprisoned overnight in a lock-up in front of the church – the lock-up is no longer there….   So, did you know about John Bunyan’s imprisonment in Wootton? Is there any reference to it in the village?

The History of Wootton book was consulted again. There’s a photo of the building and some detail: the old Lock Up used to stand just outside the churchyard on land belonging to Wootton House.  It was demolished in the 1970s but the door was rescued and taken to a village cottage. (See Lock Up photo here) A scrabble around in and outside of the churchyard looking for the exact location was a rewarding focus one afternoon for a walk to the west of the village.      Disappointingly no specific references relating to John Bunyan in Wootton have been found.  (John Bunyan, author of A Pilgrim’s Progress, Puritan, preacher, member of the Parliamentary Army in the first English Civil War,  tinker, prisoner and inspiration for Terry Waite during his incarceration in Lebanon is widely recognised in the locality.)

As lockdown wore on the Captain urged paint to dry (various tasks) and Boatwif urged lawn seeds to grow.  Brown earth scabs on the back and front lawns proved stubborn reseeding areas.  (“Use Epsom Salts,” said a friend, a piece of advice passed on from her 90+ year old father…)

Not by boat, but travel by foot has been the case these last few months.  Was this hole on the tree trunk a woodpecker hole?   

What is this strange plant growing at the field edge near Bourne End Farm?   Why is Van Diemen’s Land so called?     What does this tree trunk look like to you…?     Is this tiny bundle of fluff emerging from a path side nest a very new pheasant or a partridge?     Questions, questions.

  OOPS! How did this happen? How was the milk float towed out of the ditch?  Who lives here then?!

All the while though the big questions of course were: When can we see the family? When can we sleep on the boat?

Mid-June Techno Son-in-Law decided to “float an idea” (his choice of words). How about a day trip from Cheshire to Bedfordshire for a walk and a back garden picnic? What a stunning idea. Not seen in full 3D since March 2nd there was a wonderful though appropriately distanced reunion…

Thank goodness for garden space…   

Thank goodness for rural walking spaces… 

Late May there was the bizarre proximity of eight time zones and outer space. Cal Guy Jnr was inspired by the SpaceX project which sent NASA astronauts on a private rocket to the International Space Station.  The first attempt to launch the rocket on May 27th was postponed due to bad weather at Cape Canaveral. The second attempt on May 30th went to plan, lift off local time was at 3.22pm. In California it was 12.22pm, in the UK it was 8.22pm.

Pairs of eyes five thousand miles apart were watching the same exciting images on Launch America 8 time zones apart. “I love it,” Cal Guy Jnr typed, messaging as he watched.

Two hours later the International Space Station was clearly visible in the sky    as it transited in a south westerly arc over Beds and Bucks. For a while Space Talk made a welcome change from quarantine restrictions and the pandemic, both here – and there…

So when will Cleddau’s ropes be released for a much delayed Summer 2020 cruise? Later in July, probably, permission to sleep aboard applying from July 4th.

Meanwhile as the sign in the local bus stop says:

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2 Responses

  1. Jaqueline Biggs says:

    Excellent post Sue! My gosh you do have a keen eye for details and such a lovely way with words to share them with us as well as with photos. Your declaration about the Captain urging paint to dry and you encouraging grass seeds growing did make me laugh out loud!! I see one my sisters in the craft lives nearby??? I suspect the tall plants you asked what are they, may be horsetail/equisetum. it is filled with silica and makes a good tea for making your hair and nails grow. It also makes a great pot scrub if one is out camping and hard up for a dish cloth.

    Love Jaq xxx

  2. Sue Deveson says:

    Well thank you for the tip about the uses of the “horsetail” plant, Jaq. We had been told it was a very ancient species but that left us none the wiser!
    The brown patches on the grass areas are gradually shrinking, I am glad to say, aided by judicious evening waterings… It’s an odd thing, both wanting rain (for plant growth) and dry conditions to enjoy an outside life!
    Hopefully we’ll be concerning ourselves with water levels on the canals before not too long…

    Sue /Boatwif

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