For a long time I have dreamed of the time when I would be free to take the time to paddle the full length of the Saskatchewan River and hike the South Boundary Trail from Jasper to Banff. Both of these trips entail true wilderness travel something that I have always enjoyed. However, now that I have reached the point in my life when I have the time to fulfill my dream, the reality is that a 73 year old probably shouldn't attempt either of the two trips alone and it is almost impossible to find someone who would like to share the experience. So what to do? Two other possibilities came to mind. I have always loved the Devon and Cornwall coast and the SW Coast Path seemed like a good alternative to the South Boundary Trail. And if you want to travel the full, navigable length of a river, why not the Thames? Two definite possibilities if I could only convince Jenny, my wife. Then Gillian started Hazel's Heroes and I saw my opportunity. I could satisfy my sense of adventure and at the same time help to raise money for Hazel's retreat for grieving parents. So I suggested a fundraising adventure to Jenny and, to my surprise, she agreed. Perhaps because it would mean that I was out of her hair for 2 1/2 months!
Once I had made the decision to make the trip to England I realized that it was more than for fundraising. This would be my outdoor adventure to share with Hazel. My connection to the places I would be visiting started to stir and it was clear this was to be a family affair. When I was growing up in Camberley, Surrey my grandmother would often rent a car and driver and take us to Reading where we would take a trip on the Thames on one of the tour boats. I remember those trips well and how much I enjoyed them. On my way down the river I will pass by Pangbourne where there is a beautiful bluebell wood and the place where my father's ashes were spread. I also used to visit my grandparents and my aunt and uncle in Paignton, Devon. We spent many holidays there playing on the beach, sailing toy boats on the pond at Goodrington Sands, going out in a rowing boat with my grandfather and searching through the tidal pools for the many creatures trapped until the next high tide. Many years later I did my teacher training at St. Luke's College in Exeter and at the first college dance of my second year I met Jenny, my wife. For our two final years at college, me in Exeter and Jenny in Exmouth, we travelled all over Devon and Cornwall exploring and walking along sections of the cliff paths. So, in a way, my paddling and hiking will introduce Hazel to my family. Not to mention I can have lunch in a pub and stay in a bed and breakfast any time I feel the need. It seems to me this is one, big "Win, Win!"
On April 27 I arrive in London and go to Tony (Jenny's brother) and Christine's for two days. In that short stay I have to do some preparation for my paddle down the Thames. I will need things like Isobutane canisters, a tarpaulin, some food and other odds and ends. Then on Sunday, April 30 I will launch my canoe at Cricklade and begin my paddle down to Teddington, a journey of 135 miles. My hope is to arrive at Teddington on May 7 but I do have a small window of 3 days to allow for unexpected delays.
Then a few days of rest and more preparation before on May 14 I leave for Minehead on the Bristol Channel to start my 630 mile (1008km) walk along the South West Coast path. With a bit of luck and lots of good weather I should reach South Haven Point near Poole in Dorset on July 4 and my walk will be done.
I'll post about the days leading up to my flight to England and I hope it will be interesting. I'll share my activities and my thoughts as I move towards the canoe launch at Cricklade.
And the adventure begins! But the journey started on August 31, 2014 when we heard that our granddaughter, Hazel, at the age of three months had passed away suddenly and unexpectedly in her sleep from Sudden Unexplained Infant Death. We rushed down to Calgary to be with our son, Gareth, and his wife, Gillian. Those first days were full of extreme emotions – shock and grief for the loss of Hazel and anxiety for Gareth and Gill’s obvious trauma. After the months and years have passed the intensity of these emotions has decreased but they are still there.
One thing that has become apparent is that we all want Hazel to be remembered. A tree in the memorial forest in the Burnsmead area of Fish Creek Park and a memorial bench in River Park -- both in Calgary-- are special places we can visit when we need to feel close to Hazel. Another way to remember Hazel was started by her Mum after she saw a need to provide the opportunity for grieving parents to meet others in similar circumstances, to share their grief journey, and to create a community of support. From her recognition of the need Gillian started Hazel’s Heroes, a society to provide retreats for grieving parents who have lost infant children. The hope of these retreats is to provide a safe space for bereaved parents to heal their broken hearts, honour their children, and help other parents going through a similar experience. For more details about Hazel’s Heroes, please go to www.hazelsheroes.ca
So that’s where I come in and my adventure begins. Organizing a society and providing retreats at little or no cost to grieving families requires financial support to ensure its success. My passion has always been outdoor activities, especially canoeing and hiking, and I try to share this passion with my grandchildren. My goal is to take each of my grandchildren on either their first backcountry hike or on their first extended canoe trip. That is why I am going to England in April so that I can paddle the length of the River Thames and then hike the 630 miles of the South West Coast Path as a fund raiser for Hazel’s Heroes. This is the first of my trips with Hazel and she will be with me whenever I go out with any of my grandchildren.
If you would like to follow me on my adventure you will able see my progress on Facebook at Hazel’s Helper (www.facebook.com/HazelsHelper/ ) or on this blog ( www.hazels-helper.com ). I intend to post on a regular basis starting with my preparation and throughout my two trips whenever I have an internet connection. If you are following me and would like to donate you can go to the GoFundMe website at ( www.gofundme.com/27hqmgc ), or by Etransfer in Canada sent to firstname.lastname@example.org with the password HAZELROSE. 100% of all donations goes towards hosting the annual retreats and will make a difference in the life of a bereaved parent. Thank you for your support and I look forward to sharing mine and Hazel's journey with you.
I'm a grandfather who lost an infant granddaughter and who wants to help Gillian, her mother, provide support for other grieving parents through Hazel's Heroes.