I'm curious, perhaps over-interested, but passionate about communities and where I live - I sort of describe it as liking people and having a strong sense of place.  Because of that I find myself as the Vice- Chair of Friends of Spital Cemetery here in Chesterfield.  

Friends of Spital Cemetery is a small group, but thriving, and the range of topics and issues we work through is vast.  The Cemetery, established in the mid 19th Century to Service an expanding Chesterfield, is the principle resting place for soldiers who died in the UK and were from Chesterfield and district.

I'm not sure I thought it would be a life memory at the time but I can vividly remember when my Dad and I came to London, as we often did for coin fairs and museum visits, and I insisted that I wanted to visit the London Mithraeum.  We walked for what seemed an age, past a host of significant monuments of Regency and Victorian London, and working off a pocket guide book to Roman Britain and an A-Z we finally arrived.

There on a windswept platform were the stone foundations, footings and indicative shape of the surviving elements of this Temple of Mithras. I was just 15/16 years old.  The fascination of that visit has stayed with me ever since.

Well, if there were doubts on timing, luck, coincidence and general good nature of nice people, today was a day to appreciate. 

We cleared the car of frozen snow, packed things up and headed down to Alrewas, Staffordshire, where are were moored with the ambitious aim of fixing our twisted rudder.  Let’s be clear we knew what we were supposed to do but this was out of our comfort zone of knowledge and frankly could have been a comedy show of a bad effort by us.

Today was the last day of our first journey and exploration on our new boat and we were both reminded of the obvious things that are oft talked of but rarely immediately understood unless you have found yourself within it.  

The integral connection between canals and pubs.  This is not some latent alcoholic crisis - far from it. This is where the water folk meet the village folk.  As you steam along the waterways slowly you pass though various villages and towns and cities.  The thing that is usually most stark is how you are below land level for much of the time - but in rural England you are largely at eye level. 

It's bridge 53 - its brick built and this bridge, the lock, the cottage - everything about it says rural England as we understand it - yet the technology and nuance around it summarises the change that was enveloping Britain and the World which we know as The Industrial Revolution.

The bridge has a curved rubbed and rounded circular charm to it that is designed for practicality and for rope and chains and horses.  The lock is built in a confined space but utilises all of it and feels fairly deep but fils quickly and effectively.  There is a charmingly effective and discreet and gently babbling run-off that takes water at the top and supplies the excess to the bottom.  I might check the construction date (my instinct says late 1780's) and the history but just walking around this tiny spot - a spec on the map, a feature on our waterways plan - I realise that I may not ever come back - but I will visit so many others like it in the coming days and weeks and months and years now we have joined waterways.

Not what I thought I would be writing on Sunday 3rd December 2017 - but it's 10pm and I'm sitting in a canal boat in Staffordshire with my husband and our Husky.  Let me just say that again. I'm sitting in a canal boat in Staffordshire with my husband and our Husky. Wow. Just wow.

It's now 8.12am and I am putting on the bacon in the pan, have cut the bread rolls and am using cheese for added flavour instead of red sauce.  Russell has gone to walk Sparky the dog and well... it's all a bit idyllic, good life and frankly a tad unbelievable.

One gazebo was up, the second had arrived, as Friends of Spital Cemetery gathered and slowly and steadily more and more people arrived  and kept arriving.

This was our Remembrance Service - Spital-style to remember those who fought, died, survived and went through the trauma of war and conflict at home and abroad.

Okay okay I confess, I keep things, I hoard, I treasure and value things.  The extent of this is that since I was hooked to the game of Ice Hockey I have kept all of my programmes.

And yet right now I am sitting here in my front room with a signed Streatham Ice Hockey stick that has been taped with the Rainbow Tape that is supportive of the LGBTI community in sport.  I can't deny I'm slightly stunned by this - sport is not my forte, but advocacy is.  But due to one of my best mates, Edmund Heywood, I find myself passionate about a sport and indeed a sports team.  Since we went to the first match together, I have found myself rescheduling travel, indeed cancelling other activities, to be in Streatham, at the Ice Rink, cheering, screaming and shouting my Hockey team on.

This was all enough for me until it was suggested that the team, like others have in North America, take up the cause of Pride Tape.  Now Pride Tape is a simple device, built on the tradition of taping your stick before the match with a grip you prefer, but in this instance the Tape is in rainbow colours.

And so when the team skate out onto the ice - they do so to cheers and a throaty roar of support, but this week was different for me. First my bestie and I had done some work generating friends and family to attend and so we had some mates around, second was we had encouraged representatives from local public sector groups and LGBTI groups and third as the team swept out I was stunned.

My voice went dry, my eyes welled up and I my heart soared - there was my team.  Only this time it was my team through and through - Captain Adam Wood had lead the way and his stick was awash with tape and all others had followed suit.  

This week the team were mine to my core - this was a symbolic gesture that reached out beyond the team skills and into the teams attitude, their approach and their own value of their fans.  I was a fan who saw their messaging of rainbow tape and I felt valued beyond that I have ever felt in a sport. 

So Streatham, Adam Wood, Jeremy Cornish, the team, Carrsy I want to say thank you - it was symbolic and it was powerful and all those we had bought to see the match they loved it too.  But sly credit above all goes to team rock and drummer extraordinaire Dawn - it was only in the third period we saw her drumstick fully taped up - and I nudged my best mate Eddie and turning back to the game we cheered louder.

And for the rest of season and ongoing I will be encouraging, teasing, temping and dragging other LGBTI friends to come and see the team that has captured my imagination in the hope and aim that it will capture theirs.

It's a treat - a good old fashioned genuine medieval castle without the ruinous charm of Cromwellian destruction - this is a high rock outcrop with a superb surviving keep and a great defensive bailey. It sits above the Derbyshire village of Castleton (which boasts several worthwhile pubs and a new visitor centre), but more than anything else it sits atop Cavedale.

Now this week just gone in a determined sense of purpose we went a walked Cavedale itself.  A small narrow path through a deep sharp ravine it was one of the most interesting, invigorating and memorable walks I have done.  The rain was attempted to loose itself upon us as we started, the stones splashed bright with the waters of the night before. As we strode nervously forwards on the wetted and rounded stones, umbrellas in hand to act as walking sticks and supports, the waters of previous days rolled down under our feet.  In gentle terms we felt and commented that it was like climbing a waterfall ourselves.


It was not the most obvious weather - a gentle mizzle - but we resolved to walk regardless.  Indeed we have resolved to consciously get out of the house and walk and explore and discover and appreciate.  We don't know rural Derbyshire well and this summer has been a great revelation - heathers, rocks, scapes, walks, climbs, trees and waters that have been unappreciated by us.  The last few weeks and months have started our new education.


One of our interests are canals - in varying forms. Living on a canal is a treat and experience all of its own, a canal boat holiday is a relaxation rarely matched for speed and solitude, canal tow paths provide escape and retreat on foot and by bicycle and the associated fauna fills most crumble bowls for a weekend feast.

 But in all these forms - we find ourselves drawn to the inland waterways.  Their flat directive quality roots back to the period when Britain moved from a rural agrarian economy to a revolution to fuel an Empire - but they reflect a link with that past - pre-rail and roads and before noise and smoke dominated the sky-line.


So having parked, we walked a few yards, crossed the busy road and climbing over a short stile dived down into the wooded yonder. At first we had a steep stoned stepped descent towards a fast flowing stream - a small newly repaired bridge allowed access and then a steady upwards rise from the small valley.

The rock path hinted at the rock escarpment we were enjoying but the low close trees prevented us from seeing the view at first. Our legs were gently stroked with every pace by the fronds of the palm like leaves - but besides us as we walked also the strong purple thistles we have come to know well.


It was vague and gently unplanned, but we found ourselves as hoped at Monsal Head overlooking the deep valley. The depth of the beauty matching the rise and fall of the valley sides - broad and welcoming at the basin, high sharp and deceptive at the top.

This was a place of views, of appreciation and of exploration. Tracing the slender path down from the head down to the feet where the water ran, past the tunnel, across the aqueduct, down the escarpment where the hawthorn grew wild freely and aplenty. Who knew, who knew indeed that fresh grown wooded green came in so many colours. As the clouds passed over and the shadows briefly bathed the trees so the health of this haven was evident and glorious.

So yesterday, 1st July 2017, on the 1900th anniversary of the commencement of Hadrian's Wall I travelled to Carlisle to see a special Turma: a modern reenactment of a Roman cavalry troop practising for war and conflict.

The event was magnificently supported by the Ermine Street Guard - the UK's premier Roman reenactment society and sticklers for historical accuracy.  Anything of which Prof Simon James of Leicester University is the President, and before him the late Peter Connolly, could not be anything else: accurate and tested.