Thames Blog 24: When and Where

Falling Down the Thames Blog 24, 27th August 2014

When and Where

Krista and I have been making plans for our great British paddling adventure, Falling Down the Thames, for the past year. As each component of the trip has consolidated, the trip has achieved greater clarity. The day on which we begin the journey is now less than nine months away.

Both Krista and I have been on lengthy wilderness paddling adventures in the past, but this journey is something quite different.  Four hundred and sixteen kilometres from Kemble in Gloucestershire, we will cruise through Oxford, Reading, Henley and Windsor, through the heart of London, all along the length of the River Thames and then the Thames Estuary, and finally along the north and east shores of Kent. We will visit eight counties, pass under 130 bridges, and navigate almost four dozen locks.

Krista Handdrawn Map of the Thames

This past week, our planning reached a milestone. We are pleased to report that we have settled on an itinerary. We can now say with a degree of confidence when we will arrive at each new station in our journey. Perhaps reading our schedule will give you a small thrill.

Day 1: Tuesday April 21 – Kemble to Cricklade

Walking /Paddling distance 17.12 km / 10.64 mi

Day 2: Wednesday April 22 – Cricklade to Tadpole Bridge

Paddling distance 34.47 km / 21.42 mi

Day 3: Thursday April 23 – Tadpole Bridge to Oxford – Folly Bridge

Paddling distance 33.43 km / 20.77 mi

Folly Bridge Oxford www danlj org

Folly Bridge, Oxford

Day 4: Friday April 24 – Oxford – Folly Bridge to Pangbourne / Whitchurch Lock

Paddling distance 50.26 km / 31.23 mi

Day 5: Saturday April 25 – Pangbourne / Whitchurch Lock to Henley Bridge

Paddling distance 25.36 km / 15.76 mi

Day 6: Sunday April 26 – Henley Bridge to Boulters Lock

Paddling distance 23.53 km / 14.62 mi

Day 7: Monday April 27 – Boulters Lock to Penton Hook Lock

Paddling distance 26.38 km / 16.39 mi

Day 8: Tuesday April 28 – Penton Hook Lock to Teddington Lock

Paddling distance 24.12 km / 14.99 mi

Day 9: Wednesday April 29 – Teddington Lock to Westminster Bridge

Paddling distance 24.27 km / 15.08 mi

Westminster Bridge nexttriptourism com

Westminster Bridge, London

Day 10: Thursday 30 April – Westminster Bridge to North Woolwich

Paddling distance 16.33 km/ 10.15 mi

Day 11: Friday May 1 – North Woolwich to Gravesend

Paddling distance 29.8 km / 18.5 mi

Day 12: Saturday May 2 – Gravesend to Sheerness

Paddling distance 33.7 km / 20.9 mi

Day 13: Sunday May 3 – Sheerness to Whitstable

Paddling distance 22.4 km / 13.9 miles

Day 14: Monday May 4 – Whitstable

A day of rest at the Whitstable May Day Festival

Day 15: Tuesday May 5 – Paddle to Maunsell Sea Forts from Whitstable

Paddling distance uncertain

Maunsell Sea Forts hdwallpapersfactory com

Maunsell Sea Forts

Day 16: Wednesday May 6 – Whitstable to Margate

Paddling distance 27.9 km / 17.3 mi

Day 17: Thursday May 7 – Margate to Richborough

Paddling distance 30.8 km / 19.1 mi

- Glen

Photo credits: hand-drawn map of the Falling Down the Thames route – Dr Krista Halling; Folly Bridge, Oxford - Daniel L. Johnson  (www.danlj.org); Westminister Bridge - nexttriptourism.com; Maunsell Sea Fort – hdwallpapersfactory.com

Thames Blog 23: The Old and The New

Falling Down the Thames Blog 23, 20th August 2014

The Old and The New

In last week’s entry, I indicated that Krista and I would be passing under something like 130 bridges as we paddled the length of the River Thames in 2015. I realize that this isn’t any sort of world record. According to a study by Professor Bob Regan, there are almost 450 bridges in the American city of Pittsburgh alone.

Even so, there are a lot of opportunities to cross the Thames. These include Gosditch Bridge, Hailstone House Footbridge, Old Man’s Footbridge, Black Potts Rail Bridge, and Summerleaze Footbridge.

I am particularly looking forward to passing beneath two bridges along the River Thames; the very first and the very last. These two must count among the oldest and the youngest structures to cross the river.

Glen standing on one of the earlier bridges over the River Thames

Glen standing on one of the earlier bridges over the River Thames

When Romans invaded Britain nearly two millennia ago, they quickly established a series of paved, all-weather roads. The longest of these roads at more than 350 kilometres was Fosse Way, stretching from Lincoln near England’s east coast to Exeter in the southwest. Fosse Way passed through several major communities including Bath, Leicester and Cirencester. The Romans were great surveyors, and some of their chosen routes are still used today by motorways as major as the A2 and A5. The A433 is a twenty-seven kilometre long stretch of road which follows Fosse Way for about three kilometres just north of the community of Kemble.

Krista and I travelled to Kemble earlier this year to visit the spot traditionally recognized as the head of the River Thames. We walked across the A433/Fosse Road bridge, the very first of 130 bridges that cross the Thames. It is a near certainty that when we go back to the spot next year, we will be dragging our canoe under the bridge, not paddling it. Except at time of very high rainfall, that part of the Thames is dry.

Queen-Elizabeth-II-Bridge www mrsmithworldphotography com

After something like 270 kilometres of paddling, and 128 other bridges, Krista and I will come to the very last bridge over the River Thames. First opened to traffic in 1991, the Queen Elizabeth II Bridge is the only road crossing of the tidal portion of the Thames outside of greater London. It connects Dartford in Kent to Thurrock in Essex. It is a toll bridge, and in excess of 130,000 vehicles cross each day. Nearly 1.5 billion crossings have been made since it first opened. Including its approach viaducts, the Queen Elizabeth II Bridge is over 2800 metres and length, and when we paddle under it, the bridge will soar about sixty metres over our heads.

Queen-Elizabeth-II-Bridge www kindersleystudio co uk

A teeny old bridge, and a huge new bridge – we will pass under both.

- Glen

Photo credits: Glen on the one of the earlier bridges over the River Thames – Dr Krista Halling; Queen Elizabeth II Bridge – Martin Smith, www.mrsmithworldphotography.com; Queen Elizabeth II Bridge Marker – Richard Kindersley, www.kindersleystudio.co.uk

Thames Blog 22: Take a Wet Hen

Falling Down the Thames Blog 22, 13th August 2014

Take a Wet Hen

thefinaltrawl tumblr com

Consider the mighty Yukon River in north-western North America. It begins its journey in British Columbia, proceeds north through the Yukon Territories, and then flows through Alaska before emptying into the Bering Sea. The Yukon River is 3,200 kilometres in length, and has a catchment area of 832,000 square kilometres. It is longer than the Indus, the Rio Grande, and the Saint Lawrence, and discharges more water than the Nile, the Zambezi, and the Paraguay.

By way of contrast, the River Thames is a tiddler. It is 346 kilometres long, and gathers water from an area fifty-two times smaller than that of the Yukon River. On the whole, I am pleased that Krista and I are planning on paddling the River Thames in April and May of 2015, and not the Yukon. We have other things to do with our lives.

And surely length isn’t the only measure of greatness. For instance, there are only four road bridges over the Yukon River, and just two footbridges.

The River Thames is crossed by so many bridges that, despite my best efforts over the past week, I have not been able to tally them with certainty. I can say, without fear of contradiction, that Krista and I will be paddling under a lot of bridges. Using government documents, Ordnance Survey maps and aerial photographs, here is what I have found so far…

 

River Thames at Cricklade

River Thames at Cricklade

1) The uppermost reaches of the River Thames are considered to be non-navigable by powerboats. But even if we have to drag our canoe the whole way, Krista and I will be traversing every bit of the seventeen kilometres between Kemble and Cricklade. In doing so we will pass under at least seventeen road bridges and two footbridges.

2) The remainder of the Thames can be used by powerboat enthusiasts and paddlers alike. Krista and I will guide our canoe along the 217 kilometres stretch whose flow is regulated by locks. This will involve us gliding under 81 road, rail and footbridges. They include structures with such whimsical names as Ha’penny Bridge, Bloomer’s Footbridge, and Tadpole Bridge.

Tadpole Bridge

Tadpole Bridge

3) When we reach the lock at Teddington, the Thames becomes tidal, and Krista and I will need to swap our canoe for a kayak. After doing so we will paddle through the great city of London, and under an additional 30 bridges that span just 36 kilometres of river. These include such iconic monuments as Westminster Bridge, Tower Bridge, and London Bridge.

Of bridges, Russian Premier Nikita Khrushchev is reported to have said that: “Politicians are the same all over. They promise to build bridges even when there are no rivers.” I am not certain what that means, but Khrushchev apparently also said: “If you cannot catch a bird-of-paradise, better catch a wet hen.”

Next week I will write about the very first Thames bridge under which Krista and I will pass, and the very last.

- Glen

Photo credits: a wet hen – thefinaltrawl.tumblr.com; River Thames at Cricklade – www.flickr.com; Tadpole Bridge – www.thamespathway.com

Thames Blog 21: Canoes Don’t Like Highways

Falling Down the Thames Blog 21, 06th August 2014

Canoes Don’t Like Highways

Once Glen and I had shaken hands on Falling Down the Thames as our next adventure, I decided that I would be smart to purchase a solo canoe to practice paddling. This decision was less due to me actually needing a boat (I already have a perfectly functional sea kayak and a tandem canoe), but more due to the fact that I love outdoor gear and this seemed like a great excuse to add to my existing fleet of seaworthy vessels.

Krista solo canoe

I chose a canoe that would be lightweight enough for me to lift on and off the roof of my car by myself. Its other criteria was that it would also be roomy enough to allow my dog, Fixie, to join me, in case I lost my mind one day and saw that as a good idea.

My friend, Rob, and I drove 2.5 hours north of Toronto to Swift Canoes and Kayak. Their boats are handcrafted in Canada, so I could further justify my purchase by helping the domestic economy. I picked a perfect day to buy a canoe in Canada – an exceptionally windy, rainy, cold day in mid-November.

The folks at Swift Canoes were terrific at helping me with my selection. They suggested the Keewaydin 15, weighing a mere 30 lbs. That sounded great. And it was on clearance.

It had been a while since I had transported a canoe on my car’s roof. It had been even longer since I had transported a canoe on my car’s roof in inclement weather. The art of securing a canoe to a vehicle involves a few essentials:

canoe1

1)    Being able to safely load it onto the roof of your car. A canoe is much more difficult to carry when you need to lift it to a height above your head.

2)    Having a padded yet non-slip surface between your roof or your roof rack and the gunnels of your canoe. I did not have a roof rack so we opted for specifically-designed foam blocks.

3)    Strapping the body of the canoe to your car’s roof or the roof rack. Again, in my case – without a roof rack – we ran the straps over the canoe transversely and under the roof of the car. As the straps are tightened, it is important to put enough tension on the strap without deforming the canoe (or your roof). We started with two body straps, which is standard.

4)    Securing the bow and stern to the front and rear of your vehicle, respectively. These straps are intended only to control the boat in case it slides around under the body straps (which it should not do if you have enough tension on the body straps and have the boat on a nonslip surface). The bow and stern straps are not intended to be primary means of securing the boat. We used straps with hooks and secured them to hooks under my car’s body.

And off we drove. The wind had significantly picked up since we arrived, and we were now enduring 80 km/hr cross winds on the highway. My lightweight boat now posed a huge problem. A 30lb canoe with a height of 18 inches and length of 15 feet offers a tremendous surface area for the wind to push against, with little resistance to being tossed around.

I knew we were in trouble when people in passing cars started frantically waving and pointing to the top of my car. Time to pull over. Sure enough, the boat was being tossed around with no hope of the two body straps of holding it in place. We carefully crawled along the highway, stopping at each exit in the hopes of finding something to better secure the boat. I was about ready to settle for duct tape, when we came across a hardware store which carried tie down straps. We added two more body straps and another one on the bow for good measure. And off we went.

canoe2

The return trip took 4 hours. I probably could have paddled it home faster. But I learned my lesson…there is a reason people don’t drive around with boats on their cars in the winter.

- Krista

Thames Blog 20: Judging Importance

Falling Down the Thames Blog 20, 30th July 2014

Judging Importance

The great search engine provides a service that is generally underappreciated. It can be used to crudely estimate how much attention the world is paying to a particular topic. In an era of short attention spans and sound bites, more returns presumably means “more important.”

My search for “Thames River” provided 486,000 returns, but many of those were related to the Thames River in Ontario. When I corrected this and searched for “River Thames” I found 1,500,000 returns. This seemed impressive to me until I discovered that a search for “Game of Thrones” received thirty-four times as many returns.

I found a number of other potentially revealing pair-wise comparisons. What do the following have to say about the state of the world?

Thames River Barrier www esri com“River Thames Barrier” – 1,250,700

“Michael Jackson” – 44,900,000

~

“Thames Estuary” – 622,000

“How I Met Your Mother” – 451,000,000

~

“University Education” – 1,180,000

“Sasquatch” – 2,247,000 sasquatch crossing DustDevil75 i239 photobucket com

~

“Global Warming” – 17,200,000

“Viagra” – 28,300,000

~

“Biological Conservation” – 821,000

“Cheech and Chong” – 1,110,000

~

“Global Conflict” – 888,000

“Angry Birds” – 31,300,000 www conbio org

~

“Queen Elizabeth” – 8,110,000

” Justin Bieber” – 73,800,000

~

29-year old “Katy Perry” whose birthday is 25 October – 51,700,000

55-year old “Glen Chilton” whose birthday is also 25 October – 32,800

~

“Loch Ness Monster” – 775,000

Falling Down the Thames” – 27

Oh well.

- Glen

Glen www abc net au

 

Photo credits: River Thames Barrier – www.esri.com; Sasquatch crossing – DustDevil75, i239.photobucket.com; Society for Conservation Biology – www.conbio.org; Glen – www.abc.net.au

Thames Blog 19: The London Marathon – To Run or Not To Run

Falling Down the Thames Blog 19, 23rd July 2014

The London Marathon – To Run or Not To Run

Crossing the finish line after running 42.2 km and immediately hopping back in our canoe to resume our 350km paddle down the Thames, is what Glen and I had envisioned. If we are out to experience everything the River Thames has to offer, then it seems only natural that we would set out to run the 2015 London Marathon as part of our Falling Down the Thames adventure. Off I went to secure our entries…

The London Marathon is one of the world’s three largest marathons, with 46,000 finishers annually. It is a flat and scenic course that follows the north and south banks of the River Thames through central London. The year 2015 will be its 35th running and will occur in early to mid April. This all seemed perfectly suited to our FDtT goals.

prafulla net London Marathon route

Then came the reality of registration. There are a few ways to enter the London Marathon, and registering online is not one of them. The legitimate options include by lottery, through an official tour operator, or through an official charity. As the London Marathon Committee strictly limits the number of spots available to runners from overseas, our chances appeared very slim. One third of all the entry spots are occupied by charities; however the amount of money needed to be raised by each runner is often (and understandably) in the multitude of thousands.

Hoping to stumble across some tips, I started reading running group forums with threads about entering the London Marathon. Many respondents indicated that they have applied year after year and have not been selected through the ballot. Others have reported that they were unable to find an available charity spot as those too fill up very quickly.  Tour operators too sell out quickly and many give priority to a select subset of members.

huffpost com

Feeling discouraged, Glen and I regrouped. “Why again are we trying to run London?” “Oh yeah, because we are both runners and the race courses along the Thames and how fun would that be!”  We suddenly and simultaneously concluded that London couldn’t possibly be our only option. There must be other foot races in April that follow a course along the River Thames.

A quick Google search revealed two: the Fuller’s Thames Towpath 10-miler and the Ranelagh Harriers Richmond Half-marathon. The former is organized by the West 4 Harriers and involves a scenic, flat and fast 16km run along the Thames Towpath, past Kew Garden, Syon House, Old Deer Park, and back to Chiswick. The latter is a flat fast figure-of-eight 21.1km race in early May on the roads and towpaths of Richmond, Twickenham and Kingston.

Fabulous! Both of these races would be a terrific interlude to our multiday paddling trip, and would allow us to see some of the Thames by foot while profiling a small local foot race. We are naturally gravitating toward the Thames Towpath 10 because of the word “Thames” in its title. But we will approach both organizers and see what comes of it. We will now need to add “long distance running” to our preparation for Falling Down the Thames.

- Krista

ibtimes co uk 2013 London Marathon start

Photo credits: The route of the 2013 London Marathon – prafulla.net; “Save the Rhinos” charity runners, huffpost.com; runners waiting for the starting gun at the 2013 London Marathon – ibtimes.co.uk

Thames Post 18: There Are Always Alternatives

Falling Down the Thames Blog 18, 16th July 2014

There Are Always Alternatives

To me there is something funny about the thought of running a marathon, and then stuffing my rapidly-aging carcass into the cockpit of a kayak the following morning. So if I was going to paddle hundreds of kilometres down the River Thames from Kemble to Richborough, why not punctuate the adventure with a forty-two kilometre Sunday morning gambol?

But perhaps I have been getting a bit cocky about foot races. After more than four decades of racing, I had grown accustomed to registering for an event, paying the entry fee, and then running. Sometimes I would do well, and sometimes I would do poorly. The routine was almost childishly simple.

London Marathon www ctm uk com

So when I said that I wanted to run the 2015 London Marathon as part of the source-to-sea River Thames paddling adventure known as Falling Down the Thames, I suppose I was being a bit naive. It seems that the London Marathon has become a victim of its own success. It has grown so popular that registration has become a challenge.

Hopeful runners have several options when it comes to trying to enter the race. First, I might qualify as a Good-for-Age entry. This option is only available to residents of the United Kingdom, and in my age group I would have to show that I had run a marathon in the previous two years in less than three hours and twenty minutes. There was a time when I could dash that off as a training run, but not anymore.

Virgin_Marathon_2015

Secondly, I could apply to register with one of a limited number of British charities, and commit myself to talking my friends out of a huge pile of cash. That is all very well, but I like to have some choice about the charities I support.

Third, I could pay a tour operator a lot of money to arrange flights and accommodation that I wouldn’t need in order to use one of the marathon slots that they have secured. That comes after a costly membership application.

Finally, I could send off an application to run the marathon and take my chances along with an endless parade of other hopefuls. The internet is awash with stories of runners who have tried unsuccessfully to get into the London Marathon as many as seven times before giving up in despair.

London Marathon fudgeyrun blogspot com au

Guess what? I’m not going to be running the London Marathon in 2015.

But as I tell my students, there are always alternatives, and there are certainly racing alternatives in southern England in late April and early May. There is, for instance, the Peckham 10k, the Maidenhead Easter 10 mile, and the Richmond Park 10k. They all sound like fun.

But how can you beat this… The West 4 Harriers 25th Annual Fuller’s Thames Towpath 10 Miler? According to the West 4 Harriers website, they are the friendliest running club in West London, and promise encouragement by their many enthusiastic club marshals. And could the route be any better? It includes the “picturesque Thames Towpath between Chiswick Bridge and Twickenham Bridge,” passing Kew Gardens, Syon House and Old Deer Park. The entry fee is just sixteen pounds, and each finisher receives an engraved pint beer glass.

www sportsystems  co uk

I think that the West 4 Harriers are about to hear from me.

- Glen

 

Photo credits: runners at the start of the London Marathon – www.ctm.uk.com; London Marathon 2015 logo - www.newlifecharity.co.uk; Marathon News - fudgeyrun.blogspot.com.au; West 4 Harriers Towpath 10 logo - www.sportsystems.co.uk

Thames Blog 17: Born to Run

Falling Down the Thames Blog 17, 9th July 2014

Born to Run

I suppose that I should blame the late Pierre Trudeau. In the early 1970s, the Canadian prime minister nationalized a private non-profit company called Participaction in an attempt to convince Canadians to adopt a healthier lifestyle. At the time it was said that the average thirty-year-old Canadian was in the same state of fitness as a sixty-year-old hedgehog. Or it may have been a sixty-year-old Swede. I have forgotten; it was a long time ago.

www.canadiandesignresource.ca

If it wasn’t for Trudeau, I probably would have grown up slobby, fat and happy. And I probably would have been dead by now. Happy and dead. But I was a gullible youth in the early 1970s, and with the federal government screaming at me to stop watching television and “Do it, do it, do it!” I became fit instead. It turned out that I had a modest talent for running.

As part of our grand UK paddling adventure, known affectionately as Falling Down the Thames, Krista and I have decided to run the London Marathon in 2015. What follows is a greatly abbreviated version of my London Marathon training log.

Friday 15 September 1967: Was told by my elementary school physical education teacher that I should skip my YMCA swimming lessons to run a cross-country race. Went to the swimming lessons anyway.

Friday June 2 1972: First had my name in the newspaper for doing well in a track race. Found that I kind of liked the notoriety.

Sunday 5 August 1973: Ran 30:09 to win the “Midget” category in the Íslendingadagurin five-mile race in Gimli, Manitoba.

Sunday 17 June 1979. Ran my first marathon, finishing in 433d place in a time of 3:51 in Winnipeg.

Glen winning the Saskatchewan marathon

Glen winning the Saskatchewan marathon

Sunday 4 October 1981: Won the Saskatchewan Marathon in a time of 2:42 in Saskatoon.

Sunday 1 May 1983: Set a personal record of 2:35 in the Vancouver Marathon.

Sunday 12 April 1987. Won the Sunshine Coast half-marathon for the third consecutive year. Organizers let me keep the trophy.

Friday 29 June 1990. Won the All Out Ostrich Uproar 5 kilometre race in Los Angeles. Was given  an ostrich egg as a trophy.

Late September – early October 2000: Ran 300 km from Edmonton to Calgary in six days to raise money for the fight against breast cancer.

 

Sunday 6 October 2002: Ran 105 kilometres in 24 hours to raise money for the same cause.

Sunday 19 July 2009: Ran the Óshlíð Half Marathon in Ísafjörður, Iceland. Got mobbed by nesting seabirds.

Sunday 21 July 2013: Krista and I ran the Pattaya (Thailand) Half-marathon. Agreed that it was the worst race since Phidippides in 490 BCE. Phidippides died.

Sunday 8 September 2013: While on a short training run, developed a stabbing pain in my right knee. This was later revealed by an MRI to be a torn meniscus.

Monday 9 September 2013: Started getting fat.

Thursday 30 January 2014: Had arthroscopic knee surgery for torn MRI.

1986 award www foolsrun com

Thursday 6 February 2014: Surgeon gave the green light to resume cycling. Started getting thinner.

Thursday 27 February 2014. Was told that I could begin “walking for exercise.” Didn’t admit that I had started walking for exercise ten days earlier.

Thursday 27 March 2014. Resumed running.

Friday 28 March 2014. Kept running.

Etc.

Bring on the 2015 London Marathon!

- Glen

Alaskan Dude www.flickr.com/people/72213316@N00

 

Photo Credits: Participaction Logo - www.canadiandesignresource.ca; Glen winning the Saskatchewan Marathon – www.saskmarathon.ca; Glen receiving the trophy for winning the Gibson-Sechelt April Fools Run for the second time in a row – www.foolsrun.ca; “Do it! Do it! Do it!” courtesy of Alaskan Dude (www.flickr.com/people/72213316@N00)

Thames Blog 16: Old School

Falling Down the Thames Blog 16, 2nd July 2014

Old School

Krista and I recently returned from England, where we were consolidating plans for Falling Down the Thames. We visited the headwaters of the River Thames at Kemble, saw our planned stopping point at Richborough, and glimpsed the mighty river at many points in between. It was our opportunity to meet with outfitters that could supply our canoe and our kayak, and with a videographer who might record our adventure for posterity.

We had earlier decided to share our River Thames adventure on a more personal level with some of England’s younger residents. Krista and I contacted a small number of elementary schools situated along our route, offering to make presentations about our 2015 adventure as we passed by their communities. Curiously, we never heard back from a couple of these. The head teachers at both Thameside Primary School in Reading and Rose Hill Primary School in Oxford, both a stone’s throw from the river, remained mute to our offer.

But the staff at one school in particular was overflowing in their response to our offer.

Forgive yourself if you have never heard of Reculver; you may never hear of it ever again. Found on the north shore of Kent, the village is home to just over one hundred residents, a quarter of whom live in caravans. During the Roman occupation of England, Reculver was at a site critical for coastal defences, and was home to an important fort. It is currently home to the King Ethelbert pub, which, when I last visited, served a magnificent ploughman’s lunch. Krista and I will have a chance to see whether the lunch is still magnificent when we paddle by Reculver near the end of our adventure.

White horse Ethelbert Reculver aclerkofoxford blogspot com

Reculver C of E Primary School is situated at the east end of the community of Herne Bay, several kilometres west of Reculver. I suppose the school got its name by being situated at the junction of Reculver Road and Reculver Lane, and not from its proximity to Reculver itself. To me, the most important thing about Reculver C of E Primary School is that it was the school of my mother, Kathleen, and her brothers, Desmond and Gerry, seventy-five years ago.

My mother’s report card from the Summer term of 1942, handwritten by Head Mistress Mrs. Pettman, survives to show what sort of student she was. Earning twenty out of twenty in Scripture (“Remembers well”), Reading (“Expression correct + voice good”), Poetry (Elocution very good!”) and Physical Education (“A good pose + jumps well!”), my mother fell a bit short in History, earning an unsatisfactory grade, and the comment “Not so well remembered.” Overall her attendance for the semester was 128/140. That seems pretty good considering that bombs were dropping on England at the time.

www kent-teach com

Jon Fox is the current Head Teacher at Reculver C of E Primary School, and when I contacted Jon about a presentation to his students, his support was immediate and incandescent. If Jon had been my principal when I was an elementary school child, I probably would have enjoyed school much more. As he showed Krista and me around the school and grounds, including the rooms in which my mother and uncles had been students, pupils launched themselves at him. “Mr. Fox! My family was in London over the weekend.” “Mr. Fox! I haven’t said hello in a while!”

The students at Reculver Primary are going to receive a particularly enthusiastic presentation from us in 2015.

- Glen

 

Photo credits: White Horse stained glass image – aclerkinoxford.blogspot.com; Reculver C of E Primary School crest – www.kent-teach.com

Thames Blog 15: Keeping the Home Fires Burning

Falling Down the Thames Blog 15, 24th June 2014

Keeping the Home Fires Burning

Guest blog by Dr Lisa Chilton

This April, Glen and I celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary. Twenty-five magnificent years of adventure and love; that’s an accomplishment we’re both proud of. It got me thinking… how does one keep a marriage alive and well for a quarter of a century? In particular, when married to a field biologist and professional traveler?

I’ve been keeping the home fires burning while Glen chased adventure ever since we first fell in love. We were graduate students. Glen was spending each summer in the wilds of the Rocky Mountains in Canada studying White-crowned Sparrow song dialects for his PhD, and I was diligently working back at the University of Calgary on my Masters degree. Each summer saw us apart, and indeed, the year we were married, Glen headed out into the field very shortly after we returned from our honeymoon.

White-crowned Sparrow

White-crowed Sparrow

 

Glen is like Indiana Jones; rugged, adventurous and more than capable of heading out into the wilds and taking what mother nature has to throw at him. I, on the other hand, am a lab biologist. I prefer to conduct my research in the safe haven of the lab, where grizzly bears and freak summer snow storms won’t affect me. Don’t get me wrong – I grew up in the country and love being outside. I just prefer being able to come indoors when the going gets rough.

 

Grizzly bear sow and cub

Grizzly bear sow and cub

I have been lucky enough to accompany Glen, in the past when he was studying birds in the mountains and more recently, on many of the travels for his books. I love our ‘goal directed’ travel! Where-ever we go, I know we will spend hours out walking, feeling the beating heart of the city around us. I also love the way Glen can spirit me away from the tourist haunts and behind the scenes in the museums and universities we visit. As he has pointed out, put “Dr” in front of your name, and doors will open.

But I also love that Glen can travel with other companions. I feel it would be boring for him (and for the readers of his books) if he always took me along. Other companions bring other perspectives and strengths I don’t have, and I’m ok with that. Krista, for example, is very athletic and an accomplished outdoor enthusiast. She loves camping, biking and canoeing, and can be relied on to throw herself into adverse conditions without complaint. She is up to the challenge of paddling with Glen from the head-water of the Thames all the way out into the ocean next year, where the suggestion merely makes me think of sore muscles and blisters.

When Glen paddles the length of the Thames next year, I will send him off with many hugs and kisses, and best wishes for he and Krista to have a marvelous adventure. Glen knows that I will keep the home fires burning bright to welcome him home.

- Lisa

Keeping the Home Fires Burning by Natasha Cinnamon

Keeping the Home Fires Burning by Natasha Cinnamon

 

Photo credits: White-crowned Sparrow – ibc.lyneds.com; grizzly bears – media.salon.com; “Keeping the Home Fires Burning” original art by Natasha Cinnamon – natasha.cinnamon.deviantart.com