What’s in a name?

I never liked my own name when I was growing up. Other friends’ names seemed much ‘cooler’ and less old fashioned. I knew Rachel was a name in the Bible and that didn’t help. I wished I had a name like Mandy, Sally or even Jackie and worst of all I didn’t even have a middle name. I guess my parents ran out of ideas by the time they got to number five! So upset by this omission, I gave myself a middle name and for a few years I was ‘Rachel Mandy Reay’ – if anyone asked. To cap it all one teenage boyfriend told me my surname didn’t have enough syllables to be respectable. His was Buchanan!

Giving out or choosing names is a big responsibility. As I grew up Rachel didn’t seem such a bad name – I got used to it. Over the years I have puzzled over names for pets, followed by the joy of picking names for our own children. This was even more complicated as the names had to be agreed by two of us and they mustn’t include names of former boyfriends or girlfriends…

One thing I’ve never done until recently is give a name to a house. All our homes had numbers, although the last one also had a name. It was called ‘The White House’ – not because it had large pillars or an American flag but because it was painted white. But after we’d sandblasted the paint back down to red bricks the name didn’t fit anymore, so we just stuck with the number.

This Spring after a long search we bought a new home in Devon. It’s not a new house, but it’s new to us. It isn’t even a house really – it’s a barn. After several weeks of trailing back and forth and working on the garden and setting up the furnishings, we often referred to it as ‘the Barn’ and we could have simply called it that. But we wanted to invest a little more of ourselves, our hopes, dreams and history into this home, which we hope will be a place to welcome friends and family and even strangers.

We had several evenings of brainstorming names and batting them around for views from the family. ‘Farmer’s Den’ was ruled out early on and so were many popular ‘seaview’ options. After all it is a barn so we decided that should be in the name. We talked about our dreams and what was at the heart of all the journeys we’ve been on so far as a couple and as a family. We love wild places and wild activities, we like space and freedom and we love God. When the name was first mentioned it was so obvious, we knew it was right. Wild Goose Barn was chosen.

Why Wild Goose Barn? Here’s a bit of thinking behind the name, with thanks to a diligent researcher Simon Farmer.

Wild geese are inspiring birds. They can live to 30 years or more. They travel huge distances in migration and are often seen in ‘V’ formation. Geese are flocking birds reflecting a sense of community. This is something we’ve been enjoying in this special part of Devon with the local village, the church and the friendship in the Dolphin Inn. It was here we met a friendly agricultural engineer who came to help us with our ageing mower, while others passed on tips about the best wild swimming spots and generally made us feel at home.

When a Goose flies, its wings create ‘uplift’ for the bird following. By flying in a ‘V’ formation the whole flock actually adds 71% greater flying range than if a bird was on its own. Whenever a Goose falls out of formation it suddenly feels the drag and resistance of trying to fly alone and so quickly gets back into formation to take advantage of the lifting power of the Goose immediately in front. When the lead Goose gets tired it rotates back into the formation and another Goose flies at the point position. Finally, while geese fly in formation they make quite a noise sometimes as they honk from behind. This isn’t just a random noise but these sounds are their way of encouraging those up front to keep going and keep up their speed.

Devon has wild geese passing through and shortly after choosing the name we spotted a flock of geese flying in formation one evening. We watched as they changed course and flew directly overhead to continue their journey towards the sea into the setting sun. It was almost as if they were giving us a fly past of approval.

In the old days domesticated geese would have been kept around the barn. The Greylag is the ancestor of most domesticated geese. It is the largest and bulkiest of the wild geese native to UK and Europe.
‘Greylag’ either means “grey-legged” or “grey-laggard”, that is late, last or slow to migrate, or in other words, a loiterer or as we like to think just plain ‘laid back’.

Living near the sea, we’ve become accustomed to a deep sense of rhythm, especially the daily ebb and flow of the tide. And in the surrounding countryside the changing seasons are a part of life too, as farmers plough the fields, scatter seeds and gather the harvest. Migrating birds, nesting swallows all lead to this same sense of rhythm.

The Wild Goose is a symbol going back to Celtic times. In 500 AD the Celts developed a strong sense of spiritual rhythm living by the sea in places like Lindisfarne on Holy Island in Northumberland, Iona in the western isles of Scotland, parts of Wales, Ireland and the South West. And it was here in Iona and then Lindisfarne that Christianity first came to the British Isles. The Wild Goose in Celtic Christianity is traditionally aligned to the Holy Spirit although it can’t actually be proved. It is said, “The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” (John 3: 8). In Celtic tradition unlike the dove of peace, the wild goose fired up the mind and soul with song and dance and reveries of beauty. The Wild Goose is all about a spirit of adventure.

We hope Wild Goose Barn will live up to its name and be a place for coming together while offering a base for exploration and adventure. We’d like everyone who stays to receive a renewal of inner strength or ‘uplift’ as they gather with friends and family for adventures along our beautiful wild coastline.
To find out more or if you want to book a stay click here.

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A visit to the Dolphin

I’m always a little wary about walking into a pub alone… silly I know, but it dates back to childhood and being told that nice girls didn’t go to pubs and definitely not on their own. However, tonight I decided to brave it.

The sun had been in and out and mostly in all day, but by about 6 o’clock it finally made up its mind and decided to stay. The fields all around our barn were bathed in that golden light that descends at the end of the day and on the horizon a deeper band of blue was beckoning me. I hadn’t been down to the sea since arriving a couple of days ago and decided with the tide up, it was time I paid it a visit.

It was almost 7pm by the time I set out for the half hour walk across the fields, through the village of straggling thatched cottages and past a ‘dangerous’ herd of cows (apparently they had chased my daughter a week or two earlier) and then down a path through the woods to the mouth of the river Erme. I reckoned it would still be light by the time I got home and I was right – just!

I had slid a £5 note into my pocket just in case I wanted a drink at the pub on the return journey… that is, if I was brave enough to go in on my own.

At the slipway onto the beach a young couple were walking barefoot across the sand and the sinking sun was glistening its rays across the rippling water of the incoming tide. Gentle rollers were crumbling onto the beach and the slate and rust coloured rocks were gilded with sunlight. I was pleased I had come down, even at the last hour. This was Devon at its most superb. After soaking up the scenery and talking to God about it all, a Fisherman arrived and then two canoeists, followed by a couple who perched on one of the rocks to watch the sun go down. It was time for me to head back before it got dark.

When I arrived in the village, I thought I deserved a drink. After all, I’d climbed the hill through the dusky wood and disturbed a dear and I’d boldly marched past the fearsome cows and all before supper.

Inside the pub was packed with diners and I shuffled my way round to the ‘locals end’ where two men had pulled up stools, one reading a paper the other engrossed in his phone. I recognised the barman from a previous visit and we chatted briefly until he plonked a welcome pint of cider on the bar in front of me. .. so far so good. No one had asked me to leave because I was a woman on my own.

A man with a ginger beard and a lumberjack shirt appeared from the side door and ordered a pint and I shuffled up not wanting to hog the bar. Then another older man with glasses jostled past and placed a plastic box on the bar beside me, while he struggled to remove a jumper. I stared at the box and then glanced round at the blackboard… ‘Fridays open mic night… fish Sundays… Mondays darts…’

I looked across at the man next to me and surprised myself by saying out loud, “Is it darts tonight?”

That was all it took… he smiled and asked if I was on holiday and I explained we’d recently moved in locally… all of a sudden the other man with his nose in the paper came and introduced himself and started chatting, then a taller man walked in who I had met at the pub once before. Miraculously I remembered his name and we began chatting about his visit to see his new granddaughter in the Midlands and then someone else was telling me about the church and the parish boundaries and another about what was going on next week and by the way, did I play darts?

I decided not to take up the offer of joining in the darts.
1. Because I had no money left to buy any drinks – although they all offered.
2. Because I am very bad at throwing – darts especially.

Walking back up the lane and the along the fields ‘home’ I was hungry but warm. I was warmed by the open friendship I had experienced in that short time in the pub. Never mind the most wonderful scenery, what made me feel most at home is the fact that I had been welcomed by some of the community and this summer I hope we will be making new friends and taking our first steps into life in Devon.

It turns out going to a pub on my own was the best thing I’ve done in a while!

 

 

 

To camp or not to camp

Camping is like marmite. You either love it or you hate it. But even if you love it, at some point you’re going to end up hating it.

Despite having dropped plastic boxes caked in grass in the garage, loaded a pile of damp clothes into the washing machine and kicked sleeping bags and airmats into odd corners of the house because I haven’t the energy to put them where they belong, I’m still feeling fairly positive about camping. The last load of washing is drying outside and when we packed up the tent it was bright sunshine, so we don’t have to wait for a windy day to air it on the lawn to stop it growing mold… such is the lot of a seasoned camper.

Last week we headed off for our umpteenth camping trip beside the sea in Devon. What could be more wonderful? Two days before ‘D’ day we decided we couldn’t fit everything in the car plus an extra passenger and would need to order roof bars so that we could take a top box. This wonderful invention allows tall people to store beach things and anything sandy high up out of reach where they will never be seen again, until you come to unpack at the end of the holiday and discover that’s where the badminton rackets, beach ball, windbreak and umbrella were after all. The roof bars arrived and were carefully assembled, but unfortunately didn’t fit the connection with the roof box. Problem one. No time to order new bars, so alternative bars had to be purchased locally, which also didn’t fit. Problem two. Third time lucky the bars were exchanged, fitted and the box was on top and the car was ready to be packed. Another problem was the fridge. Problem three. Tents don’t have fridges unlike their superior caravan cousins. So cool boxes/bags had to be bought (and returned due to unsuitability)… We began to wonder – is it really worth it? Why are we going camping? What about air B&B?

 

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7 reasons I love camping:

  1. No housework
  2. Minimal cooking – due to limited pans and burners
  3. Waking up to blue skies
  4. Sitting out under the stars drinking… wine mostly
  5. The perfect view from the tent of a curving sandy bay and rolling waves, with an island in the distance
  6. Smelling fresh grass and BBQs 24/7
  7. Not feeling guilty about fried egg and bacon for breakfast

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5 reasons not to go camping:

  1. The possibility it may rain
  2. The long walk to the toilets in the middle of the night – or stinging yourself on nettles seeking alternative loo point by the hedge
  3. The beds – there aren’t any
  4. The cool box, that isn’t, and smells of cheese after 24 hours
  5. Filling the water bottle, carrying it up the hill back to the tent and then realizing you needed to go to the toilet
    Oh and also… leaving the Fairy Liquid beside the communal sink – returning half an hour later to find a half used Co-op bottle in its place!

On balance, I think camping is a good thing. Our children love it. We endure it and I expect we’ll be back again next year… after all there are 7 good reasons to go. And I forgot to mention the sunsets!

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that sinking feeling

Devon has been seeping into my soul this week. Its hazy afternoon horizons, skeletons of trees lining hilltops and rocky coves where cliff outcrops rise out of ice blue water have been reeling me in. I’ve watched the tide licking its way up estuaries and curling its tongue around bobbing boats and buoys. The painfully narrow lanes have become less threatening, switch backing through rolling hills, as cars and buses breathe in and kiss wing mirrors to squeeze past. Pretty painted houses line the sides of steep estuary banks like stacked dominoes staring down at themselves in silver water snaking through the valleys. This land of white washed cottages, beam-laden pubs with log fires, sailing boats and fishermen is pulsating with stories and intrigue.

A few days ago, lunch and water carefully packed, we set off along one of these mesmerizing estuaries as the tide ebbed out. When we reached the sea an ancient smugglers’ pub provided liquid refreshment on a rocky island just offshore, reached only at low tide. I checked out the barman for eye patches and parrots – the tell tale sign of a pirate or a smuggler. He seemed fairly law abiding and even provided free blue plasters for customers with sore feet – a bit soft for a smuggler perhaps. As we’d diligently followed a footpath across fields on the first leg of the journey, we decided to make up our own route on the way back and follow the curving river inland. How hard could it be with the tide out?

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Gradually rock and sand gave way to mud and fallen trees. OK so far. The banks began to turn steep and the mud became stickier. “Stay close to the rock,” was the instruction passed back – apparently this mud was less ‘sinky’. Some time later we had gone a long way, too far to turn back if the mud became impassable. There were fallen trees to clamber over and it became a case of picking a route on solid ground wherever possible. Curves in the river threw up new challenges as we had to navigate streams and more sinking sand and mud. So far we’d made it and surely it couldn’t be much further? A particularly substantial barrier of fallen trees and undergrowth blocked our path and although we tried to follow a line of firm-looking sand, we soon began to sink and had to head back to the bank and battle through the trees to make progress. By now we were convinced we had passed the worst of the sinking mud, so we crossed a narrow stream onto a line of solid sand, striding confidently onwards. Gradually I noticed the stream between us and the bank was widening and the sandbank felt more like the middle of the river. It was time to cross back to the safety of the bank because the tide had now turned and gullies of water were filling up. I had visions of being up to my knees in mud waiting for the air sea rescue helicopter. But before I knew it I was on my own and the lead member of the party was safe on the stones at the edge, urging me to run and not stop until I reached solid ground. I took a deep breath and began running, pulling my boots and legs out of the squelching mud threatening to suck me down. Obviously, I made it. Just. Mud up to the knees of my lovely blue jeans and coating my walking boots, seemed a small price to pay for the walk up the river and along the tidal road… but never again. I won’t be trusting Devon’s river estuaries, which look like sand, but turn into sinking mud.

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I realized it was a very near miss, when a few days later we witnessed a full RNLI rescue of a dog up to its neck in the mud on the edge of another estuary. When he was eventually carried out exhausted and mud drenched by several firemen and RNLI rescue crew everyone breathed a sigh of relief and I thought… it could have been me!

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