I work as a translator and interpreter which involves a lot of technology and frequent travel to busy cities. My local canals, in the south and south east of England, include the Grand Union and the Kennet & Avon. They’re a form of easy escapism, and a reminder that, for all the work I do, nothing beats pounding along the towpath, hearing birds singing in the trees around me.
I stand, sometimes freezing, watching a heron or trying to spot a kingfisher. Or I’ll stand contrasting the peace of the waterway with the trains thundering past or the aircraft overhead - there’s always one somewhere nearby – or even the sound of gunfire from local army ranges.
The constant change through the seasons, along with the reminder that canals have had to fight a constant battle with planners, nature, and neglect – one of my closest canals nearly disappeared completely a couple of decades ago - are a reminder to keep going, whether literally along the towpath, or figuratively, to overcome the little difficulties life can sometimes throw at me.
My wife wonders why I take our Mazda to get it serviced at a certain garage in a certain place, and why I always say I'll wait for it. The answer is in the photos I've taken along the canal near the garage.
I visit a canal at least once every week and, every time I do, I’m grateful to our ancestors for creating them, and to those who, more recently, have worked to preserve them. Life would be poorer without them.
Paul, Grand Union and Kennet & Avon Canals