+44 1273 676712

How I paused the everyday at a Norfolk campsite

When was the last time you paused the everyday? I mean properly set everything aside, cleared your mind of all the little things that occupy us and dedicated yourself to something which took you well and truly out of the day to day and firmly into the present. For me, it was a couple of weeks ago in a quiet campsite just outside the Norfolk Broads. If you'll indulge me, I'd like to share it.

A leap into the unknown

"Is that your idea of a canal?" I looked at Jo, who laughed a casual laugh in response. Apparently so. I exchanged disconcerted glances with my wife Emma and absent-mindedly oriented the lifejacket to my body. We were lucky with the weather, lovely day for it according to Jo - just an hour and a half or so to the pub. Yes, yes but is this the canal? I'd pictured something more 'canal' like. Not a glorified ditch. "If you capsize, just swim to the bank, empty the water and carry on." So simple, never mind what might happen to my beloved Pentax camera.

We were about to clumsily clamber into the canoe to paddle our way from the Canal Camping site down to the Wayford Bridge Inn and the promise of a well-earned lunch and pint. To get there, we'd first have to navigate the disused Dilham Canal - which today would have been more aptly named the Dilham Ditch. I could have made a half decent attempt at jumping from one side to the other. Ahead lay a tangled web of overhanging branches. Beyond that, who knows what?

Norfolk

"If you're not back by 6:30pm we have to alert the Broads Authority." Gulp. I'm assuming that's happened before then. "If you have too many at the pub, just call me and I'll come and pick you up". Blimey, was this going to be so bad as to send us into an alcohol-fuelled meltdown on this most pleasent of Saturday afternoons in the mid-September sun?

"Are you still up for it?" I looked at Emma, who looked at me and shrugged her shoulders with her eyes. "I think so...". "You'll be fine, have fun." Thanks Jo...

Pausing the everyday

It was at this point that I recalled the canal's former life as a transportation vessel for animal bones, to be crushed into fertilizer at a nearby mill. Crushed bones were on my mind as we picked our way past low-hanging branches, encroaching reed beds and unchecked river plants. Then we came to a disused lock down which the water tumbled furiously. We decided we didn't want to join it on its adventurous path, so made for the bank to dismount. It wasn't elegant.

We wearily dragged the canoe across the narrow wooden bridge, down a muddy path and to a small clearing, where we could continue our intrepid journey. Eventually the waterway opened up, not before we passed a family of swans, who eyed us with suspicion. An aggressive hiss told us to keep our distance. Easier said than done my friend. It's not personal.

And then, we stopped paddling for a moment. We drew breath. The sunlight slid its way between the branches, painting pockets of the surface a soft orange. The canoe glided effortlessly through the water, like we were floating on air. Out of nowhere we caught the unmistakable blue flash of a kingfisher. A little way on, we saw two swans approaching each other and balletically form that love heart shape with their necks - the one you see in photos but never with your own eyes. I saw it myself - even better, I sensed it was coming. In tune with nature.

Pausing the everyday in Norfolk

There were no noises, no distractions, no one else. Just us and glorious nature. We had gotten away from 'it all'; from the city streets, from busy workloads, from the hassle of moving, from the rhythm of daily life. We'd managed to pause time. We neither knew nor cared what hour it was. The 6pm return time was so far off in the distance so as to be an irrelevance. We'd get to the pub when we got there. It was a moment in time. It might have lasted a couple of fleeting minutes, but it's now a moment etched upon my memory. It will last for as long as I care to recall it.

That night we returned on a high, laughing about the several near misses I'd had when getting in and out of the canoe and exhilarated by the whole adventure. We finished the wine and stared at the flames of the campfire. When do we ever get to do this?

The day was ours. Nowhere to go but forward, nothing to do but push our little boat along. No noise, no phones, no worries, no schedules. It started by embracing a challenge - a leap into the unknown.

For us it was the waterways of Norfolk. For others, it has been the mountains of the Picos de Europa, the forests of Andalucia or even the rapids of Costa Rica, Chile or Peru. It could equally be a walk in the local park, a stroll along an empty British beach or just a trip down memory lane. No doubt you'll have your own precious moments.

Pausing the everyday is a wonderful thing.

If you want us to help you do it, we'd be delighted.

Get in touch   Subscribe to The Pothole

The Pothole is Pura Aventura's popular monthly email. We share what we love, what interests us and what we find challenging. And we don't Photoshop out the bits everyone else does. We like to think our considered opinions provide food for thought, and will sometimes put a smile on your face. They've even been known to make people cry. You can click here to subscribe and, naturally, unsubscribe at any time.

The Pothole is Pura Aventura's popular monthly email. We share what we love, what interests us and what we find challenging. And we don't Photoshop out the bits everyone else does. We like to think our considered opinions provide food for thought, and will sometimes put a smile on your face. They've even been known to make people cry. You can click here to subscribe and, naturally, unsubscribe at any time.

Share your story with us