I’ve lived in Barrow for 22 years and it’s taken all this time for me to actually get on the river and enjoy one of the huge benefits of our beautiful village!
Thanks to the Soar Bridge Inn Monday Market I got to meet Dave from Whitewater Ways (https://www.whitewaterways.co.uk/) and signed up my partner and myself for an activity weekend of kayaking and SUP boarding (Stand Up Paddle boarding). It was fabulous to get to know the Barrow loop and see the village boundaries from another perspective – level with the ducks and swans who didn’t seem to mind sharing the water with us.
I’ve spoken in previous articles about the health benefits of being in green spaces but the benefits of “blue space” (beaches and coastlines, rivers, lakes, canals, waterfalls, even fountains) are less well publicised, yet the science has been consistent for at least a decade: being by water is good for body and mind.
Water covers almost three-quarters of the planet and nearly 70% of our bodies, our heart and brains, is water. This biological connection triggers an immediate response in our brains when we are near water. In fact, the mere sight and sound of water can induce a flood of neurochemicals that promote wellness, increase blood flow to the brain and heart and induce relaxation. Thanks to science, we’re now able to connect the dots to the full range of emotional benefits being on, in, or near the water can bring. Paddle boarding is about to be offered on the NHS to boost wellbeing as part of a social prescribing project in Nottinghamshire, but if that is too strenuous, you can ride a mobility scooter or take a gentle walk along the canal towpath, which will do you the power of good.
Wild swimming has become popular (see Gaynor Barton’s article in last winter’s issue of Barrow Voice) and has many health benefits but one debate I’ve been having with many fellow walkers along the bank of the Soar is to swim or not to swim? Many swimmers say it is safe if you know the best spot but Alan Willcocks, a lifelong resident of Barrow, warns about the health risks from biological pollutants in the river. The Environment Agency has only one designated area in the east Midlands, Colwick Park near Nottingham (https://environment.data.gov.uk/bwq/profiles/ ) but says that information about swimming in open water is available from https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/swim-healthy-leaflet
In, or on, I am definitely looking forward to a summer of messing about at the river, seeing the local area from a different angle and connecting with my local blue space. There’s so much choice to get out there safely and join one of the fastest growing fitness and wellbeing trends this last year.
TOP THREE THINGS TO LOOK OUT FOR THIS SUMMER:
|Kingfisher - I have been privileged to have seen a jewelled flash of colour of this beautiful bird several times along the canal between the Navigation Inn and Barrow Deep Lock. Kingfishers can have up to three broods each summer, so the nesting season is long. They make horizontal, tunnel burrows along riverbanks. Some say a kingfisher is the sign of love and prosperity.||Wild hops - growing amongst the wild hedgerow of the canal towpath, look out for the flowers of hops. I like to think seeds were blown here over 100 years ago from boats passing along the canal to the Maltings in Sileby, but who knows? Hops contain many natural essential vitamins
and oils and can be dried and used for medicines or hair products.
|Swallows - skimming the water catching flies, swallows look so wonderfully delicate and agile, it’s amazing to think of the thousands of miles they fly each year to reach us. I love just standing as they nimbly dip and dive around me. Look out for their distinctive forked tail.|