Posted by: Ross Gardner | April 1, 2014

City Life

Nature will never lose the ability to surprise, no matter how much you think you know about it or how well you think you have come to know familiar things.

I have been spending a bit of time in London recently as a result of my ongoing work with The Volharding Project.  This is a charitable sailing project, based in the River Thames near Tower Bridge in London and on the Essex coast at Maldon on the Blackwater Estuary.  The project aims to give opportunity to disadvantaged young people for sailing trips on our Volharding, our beautiful Dutch sailing barge.  My partner Lola and I have enjoyed working with Volharding before, running trips for young carers in Essex and these are a group we a very keen to broaden our contact with as a key part of the project.

Too continue this worthwhile digression, young carers are people under the age of 18 who can have to deal with an extraordinarily challenging and responsible day to day life, caring most often for family members who my be ill, disabled or even suffering from drug or alcohol abuse.  The may have to give emotional, domestic and even medical care, as well as perhaps looking after younger brothers and sisters.  What time, you may well ask, would they have left over for simply being children?  Well, not much, is the answer.  Being a young carer can lead to an acute sense of isolation as a result of such curtailed opportunities for socialising and recreation.  Their own health can suffer and so too can their performance at school or college.

You might also ask where the idea of sailing trips comes in to all this.  In the first instance it offers them respite from the stresses of normal life.  There is nowhere quite like the coast for the contemplation and carefree thought, that many of us might have taken for granted.  Then they have the opportunity to socialise and build relationships with others who share and understand their own issues.  And to be part of a crew, learning to sail the ship, meeting and overcoming new, but ultimately enjoyable challenges helps to build the confidence that being a young carer can chip away at.

There is a nature blog within all this somewhere.  Oh yes – city life.  Those things that in the context of a city, seemingly isolated from the means to come and go with the ease of those wild creatures in the suburban fringes and rural landscapes beyond.  Things that surprise you by their presence, even their abundance.  We spent the last glorious weekend on Volharding at the Hermitage Community Moorings open weekend.  We were never far away from Cormorant fishing in the river and gulls gliding past and overhead; to be expected perhaps.  More surprising I think, is the Grey Wagtail I have seen for a couple of weeks now and the Coot nesting conspicuously in the middle of the nearby Hermitage Water.  And while we sat out above deck in the mild evening we even heard the thin whistle of Redwing heading north… a long way north.

Your friendly neighbourhood Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo).  Copyright 2014 Ross Gardner

Your friendly neighbourhood Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo). Copyright 2014 Ross Gardner

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