I managed to get a free trip, paid for (I hope) by an old funder of one of the projects I work on. As it was the end of March, the weekend before payday, I was stretching my resources a bit but it was really interesting. I persuaded my friend Tammy (pictured) to come along with me, so we met on the early train going through Bardon Mill, and so started the day chatting to a couple of good folk on their way to Carlisle (Roger from the Hexham Civic Trust, and another guy from the Citizens Advice Bureau).
Coffee in Carlisle station, then the slow train round the coast of Cumbria - something I wouldn't want to do every day, but which was quite a treat for a day off, as you see a lot of interesting country that makes you really want to explore. Wanting to explore is a good emotion to hold in your heart. I hope to make it good by going back that same route in a week's time, and getting off at the more interesting stops.
Our destination was Barrow, for the final celebration event of a project there called Barrow's Wildside. It was my first time in the (windswept, otherwise pretty run-of-the-mill) town, but the event took place centrally, in the Forum which is right up next to the indoor market where we got some lunch. And it was a packed day, with speakers and workshops and information stands that got us all fired up for the wildlife and natural sites around the area.
This chap is an ex forester who trained in medical science, called Edward Wilson. I drew him as he talked about the beneficial effects of woodland on mental and physical health. A particular report he recommends as a benchmark is here.
This chap is a stuffed Eider duck that shared the room with us - we saw living Eiders too, on the bit of water that separates Barrow from Walney ( which is a place I really want to visit properly now).
Sue Thurley who organised the event gave a workshop on propagating wildflower seeds (above) and the ranger from the South Walney Reserve updated the local wildlife enthusiasts about changes to the dune systems of the area (below), after heavy swells and storms had moved shingle and scraped off vegetation, leading to new potential nesting sites and informing what access and conservation work they will be doing there.
After this event, Tammy headed back up the trainline and I went on to Grange over Sands, just a little way back east along the railway. It's a weird place that I've never been to before. Golf course and massive hotels, with beautiful coastline and tons and tons of wildlife. And also, of the thousands of faces I saw, every single one was white - one of those bits of the outdoors where some communities just don't get to.
In the morning, I went out birdlistening, and while I didn't see the hawfinches I was looking for, I did manage to identify two bird species by song, which is something I would have had no hope of doing a year or two back. Efforts made in paying attention are not that exciting to report, but I feel I have a richer experience of the natural world these days, and am icreasingly nerdy about just how I pay attention.
I then carried on to Keighley, where I got the steam train up to Haworth for the BMC Equity Symposium.
My artist friend Jean works in this hostel, but was actually away in New York this one time I have visited. I arrived too late for workshops, so went for an (unsatisfying) wander till tea. Even Haworth is turning into suburbia it seems, with new housing streets taking up all the old fringes.
I don't know quite how Haworth - so steep and high-feeling - has managed to attract the great community and buzz of visitors that it has. I really liked the atmosphere, of both the symposium and also of the town. It also lacked the mono-ethnic weirdness of Grange, so I felt much less claustrophobic. Plus, it's always good to be back in Bradford. It's chauvinistic I know but I think people from around Bradford are the best!
Finally, here's a sketch I made of a talk on Spirituality and the Outdoors. The chap speaking is from a very different background to me, so I felt something of a gulf in experience in the references he drew from, but he was great, and the audience was too: the discussion that followed had a few backtingly moments as experiences and perspectives were shared. I cannot record them accurately here, and this post is mainly just to share the pictures, but I left the event rather inspired and also kinda reassured that there are good people out there doing the right thing. Maybe that's the best impact you can get from events like these.