Day 15 – Gunthorpe to Newark

Miles: about 14

Weather: Glorious sunshine, again. The river goddess is still smiling on us.

We set off from Gunthorpe early (for us) about 8.45am. It’s a part of the river I’ve walked along many times, so it was nice, but kind of strange – so much of the time we’ve been walking in places we’ve never been before. It felt odd, in a way, to be walking along river bank I’ve walked along hundreds of times over the past ten years Mum and Dad have lived in Gunthorpe.

I was even more teachery than normal, pointing out sites of interest to Ross. I’m sure that was very interesting and educational for him… We tromped along pretty effectively, but still made surprisingly poor time to Fiskerton, getting there at about 11.30am. We’d pinned our tea hopes on the Bromley Arms, but they were cruelly dashed as we arrived to find the pub shut. By immense god fortune though, a stag party were outside, wanting to buy 30 pints of rubbish lager. They’d sent a scout to track down the landlord and get him to open early. It’s not often one’s happy to see a stag party…

They were all dressed as Robin Hood and his merry men (as you do), which looked a bit uncomfortable in the heat. They asked about the ukelele, and we explained our strange mission. We offered to tell them a story, but they seemed more interested in the rubbish lager…

The Bromleys Arms tea was excellent. He even gave us three teabags in one pot of tea, so the tea was actually strong enough.

For the last part of the walk, Ross had been rehearsing, playing his ukelele, as we walked along. The event was in Newark Castle Gardens. We felt properly troubadoury today. We made it just in time, after Mum and Dad picked us up in Averham and arrived at a sunny castle just before 2.

We got an audience of about ten people – all sitting on chairs on the grass, cos Mum and Dad decided we needed chairs. It went well I think. My lovely friend Bev Gibbs came along, which gave me an excuse to say, ‘Is there anyone here from Burton on Trent?’ when introducing the Burton beer story. We like a bit of audience participation.

It was interesting talking to Bev about it afterwards. She’s doing a PhD at Nottingham Uni on ‘Scientific Citizenship’. A lot of her research is about informal science engagement and things like science festivals. She said she was surprised at the way the show kind of connected people in a place to other places along the river, giving them a different sense of the river.

That had been part of my thinking with it, but something I’d almost forgotten about as we go along, focussed so much on the day-to-day and minute-to-minute practicalities as we are. But the way the river connects people and places, and the way we are physically travelling along that connection, was part of what makes it seem real and powerful to me, as an idea.

You’ll have to forgive the rushed nature of this post, but I’m horribly aware I’m days behind on the blog and want to catch up at least. Thinking properly and writing well will have to wait til after we’ve finished… I guess what’s really going around my head from the last couple of days is the way Bev, and her questions, has made me step back again and think about the big picture and what we’re trying to do with Tales from the River.

She asked why we’re walking it, rather than driving or cycling or whatever. I’ve got a sense of the answer, but I couldn’t quite formulate it. It’s to do with actually physically moving on your own two feet through the place and the landscape. We’re travelling in a way humans have used for thousands of years – our ancient ancestors could have done this journey. Neanderthals could have done this journey. They wouldn’t have had compeed, and OS maps, but still. Or maybe it’s just that walking from the source of a river to the sea sounds mythical, and some part of my brain likes to pretend I’m Gandalf.

I still can’t pin it down, I suppose. But there’s something about it that makes me happy we are doing it on a lot of different levels. And it was really lovely staying with Bev. Not just cos she’s a lovely friend and made us bacon sandwiches and plied us with wine and was a perfect hostess. But because she asks good questions. And I like that…

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