One of the greatest attractions of inland boating on the English canals is it’s anachronistic pace, it’s deceleration of life. A friend has a theory that our souls can only travel at walking pace and that canal boating is a perfect mode of transport to try to re-connect body and soul because, in travelling at less than a gentle walking pace, a long boat journey offers the possibility of your soul finally catching up with your carcass!

Boating is an extended tracking shot through life, the everyday mayhem is momentarily slowed.

Standing on the back deck of a boat with the tiller dictating that you spend hours outdoors, it’s a good feeling to calmly accept what the elements throw at you, and take up a precious opportunity to make a little more sense of the world. There’s time enough to put two & two together even two & three together if the mood takes you. It’s both active (steering the boat) and passive (thinking time). There’s time to take a thought for a walk round the block – several times – up hill and down dale too, as the natural landscape slowly unfolds in front of your eyes.

There’s all the time in the world…

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Cropredy Lock, five miles north of Banbury, caught in watery half-light. The intensity of the Autumn colours are fading rapidly, Winter’s around the corner. Woodsmoke, coal fires, the mustiness of leaf mulch. It’s twilight by mid-afternoon, and not a breath of a breeze, it’s perfect for ‘slowboat’ walking.

And, once the evening mooring’s found, there’s a chance to make use of that slo-mo leisurely pace, to savour a cuppa, read the paper on the back deck, or head off for a stroll in search of connections and enjoy the complex weave of ideas and images are they’re prompted by the walk, because -at last – there’s space enough and time enough to enjoy the psychological colours and textures they bring.

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‘Eileen’ moored beneath sweeping arcs of willow. It’s a favourite mooring, in the village cutting with the church in the background sounding out the quarter hour. The tower has eight bells, six of which were installed in the 17th century. The last two, ‘Fairport’ and ‘Villager’ were added as recently as 2007 to celebrate the ties between the Cropredy festival and the village. Time’s less frantic here. I’m contentedly adrift one inch from the land.

“It can clear your eyes, peeling away layers of deception, spectacle and that strange ‘hidden in plain sight’ that coats the everyday. But you will need to disrupt yourself, set yourself going and apart. You will need to shake up things for yourself, so that rather than wandering ankle deep through the sediment of discarded images and illusions, you kick them up and explore the whole whirling snow globe.”

Phil Smith ‘On Walking’ pg53

Boating is the most effective, creative temporary disruption to my daily life, and in its disruption it always feels a mildly rebellious activity with a very English anarchic edge. It’s healthy to make a break with routine.

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The Church of England parish church of Saint Mary the Virgin is built of the local ironstone, which is a ferrous Jurassic limestone. Parts of the south aisle date from the 13th century. However, most of the present building is Decorated Gothic and was built in the 14th century. The church had a clock by 1512, when the vicar, Roger Lupton, left £6 13s 4d in his will in trust for the churchwardens to pay someone to keep the clock running and chiming every quarter hour and the village curfew. Lupton’s will prescribed that the wardens be fined 6s 8d per month or £10 per year if they were to fail.

By the 13th century Cropredy was associated with the legend of Saint Fremund, a Mercian who was said to have been martyred in the 9th century.

According to John of Tynemouth: Fremund is the son of a pagan king who reigns in England, named Offa, and his queen Botilda, his birth was foretold by a child, who died when three days old. He is baptised by Bishop Heswi, performs many miracles, and converts his parents. Offa resigns his kingdom to his son, who, after governing a year and a half, forsakes the throne to serve God in a desert place, accompanied by Burchard (who afterwards wrote his life) and another attendant. He then embarks in a vessel, sailing from Caerleon-on-Usk, but is driven to a small island called Ylefage (Lundy?) which is infested by demons. Here he lives seven years on fruits and roots. Viking Hinguar and his brother, Hubba ravage England and put King Edmund to death. Offa sends twenty nobles to seek his son throughout England, and, when they find him, implore his aid, he assents in consequence of a vision in which it is revealed that each of his companions shall appear a thousand to his enemies. He attacks and defeats 40,000 of the enemy with the twenty who have come to seek him, in addition to his two companions; in a great battle at Radford Semele and, while he is prostrate in thanksgiving for the victory, Oswi, formerly one of Offa’s commanders, but who had apostatized and joined the pagans, cuts off his head. Blood spurts over Oswi, who implores absolution and forgiveness, which the head pronounces. Fremund rises and carries his head some distance, when, a spring bursting forth, he washes his wound, falls prostrate and expires. After his death Fremund’s body was taken to Offchurch in Warwickshire where his tomb became a place of pilgrimage for those seeking healing.

In about AD 931 his remains were taken to Cropredy. Later, around 1207-1210, some of his relics were removed from Cropredy to a new shrine at Dunstable Priory in Bedfordshire, but his shrine at Cropredy continued to be venerated until early in the 16th century. His shrines at both Cropredy and Dunstable were destroyed in the 1540s during the English Reformation. St. Fremund’s feast day in May continued to be celebrated as a Fair in Dunstable until early in the 20th century.A parish church of St. Fremund the Martyr was built in 1967-68 to serve a new housing estate in Dunstable.

“Let our memories be links in a golden chain that bind us until we meet again.”

― Jacqueline Winspear, Maisie Dobbs

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