Drifting up the River Roding in a Coracle

The experience of floating up the River Roding in Ryan Powell’s Sensory Attunement Coralce will now be my most potent association with this blessed River. I’ll leave the video to explain how this came to pass and the beauty, drama and comedy of what unfolded. But it’s safe to say this was an experience I shall never forget.

Find out more about Ryan’s project here

Make sure to also watch Sean James Cameron’s video of this eccentric escapade up the River Roding.

My walks with Paul Powlesland in 2021 provides important context for this unforgettable riverine odyssey.

“The coracle – also known as the currach, bull boat, quffa, parasil – is a small, keel-less boat. Their main uses has always been as a means for fishing or transportation. Today, certainly within Europe, their main use tends to be recreational, although in Wales a number of licences exist to permit use as a fishing vessel. In other parts of the world, particularly the Middle and Far East, they are still used for their original purpose – as a workboat for fishing or transportation. The coracle has a long history spanning thousands of years, evidenced in cave paintings of their use from the early Bronze Age and perhaps as far back as the Ice Age. The coracle is likely to be the first form of water transportation” https://www.coraclesociety.org.uk/coracles

Rainy London Walk through Mayfair to Piccadilly 

The rain really reveals London in the raw. So where better to take a walk in a downpour than through the glitz and glamour of the London district most associated with ostentatious wealth – Mayfair. We peel off Regent Street down Maddox Street into St George’s, looking down into the valley of the lost River Tyburn. We accidentally stumble upon David Bowie’s old red phone box in Heddon Street where he was photographed for the back cover of the Ziggy Stardust album (I had no idea and learned this in the YouTube comments). We pass through St James’s Church into Jermyn Street and stroll Piccadilly Arcade to face The Royal Academy of Arts on Piccadilly. And its here we find the destination of this sodden walk (via Hatchards booksellers) – Burlington Arcade. Opened in 1819, following the fashion started on the continent in Paris and Brussels, this beautiful passage seems to belong in a parallel dimension. When I emerged at the other end – the rain had stopped.

A stroll round Oxford

This daytrip to Oxford came with the first whiff of Spring. I felt the excitement trickling through my nervous system as the train departed Marylebone for the ‘City of Youth’. And unlike those excursions where expectation and reality clash, the day unfolded like a dream in the radiant sun.

With no plan and a mostly unhelpful foldout map I just drifted the streets – down past Christ Church then back along the High Street and through the covered market. I took lunch sat outside in Turl Street not far from Brasenose College. Near the Bodleian Library I remembered the day I spent here shooting a BBC Culture Show with Russell Brand in 2007 that culminated in his address to the Oxford Union. A fun day.

Although I’d carried the image of finishing the day in a pub garden beside a river, when I reached the end of my perambulations I fancied a return to the ancient Turf Tavern where I’d spent an evening here celebrating the recent arrival of my 40th birthday. Emerging into the twilight I followed the voices in the alleyways (there’d been exams that morning) til I arrived at The Bear, said to be one of the oldest pubs in Oxford.

A glorious day and I shan’t leave it so long to return next time.

Livestream Walk – Ladbroke Grove & Portobello Road

Taking advantage of being over in West London with a rare burst of sunshine between the rain showers, I decided to livestream my walk down Ladbroke Grove and then along Portobello Road. I managed to catch the last of the market beneath the Westway, where we come across a great bookstall with some tempting editions of classic books. We pass the Electric Cinema, the Mews featured in Alfie, the site of the Travel Bookshop made famous by the movie Notting Hill, and the home where George Orwell lived in 1927 on his return from Burma.

It was fantastic to interact with viewers while I walked, giving me directions and places to look out for, looking up information. There were 962 chat messages in total during the stream. Thanks to everyone who took part in this participatory stroll through Notting Hill.