Thursday, 1 October 2015

Green and blue commuting

Guest post by Dave Berry, Lecturer in Pharmaceutics, Durham University

How do you get to work? Like most people, I personally use a car. Sometimes I run, more often than not though, I use a bike. However, I was asked to blog about the times I do none of these things and still get to work.

As I’ve said I regularly cycle to work, I do this for a number of reasons: 

1) I have a bike and walking past it in the morning makes me guilty
2) It saves money
3) I’m lucky enough to live within 6 miles of work
4) It’s good for the environment
5) It keeps me happier
On the way to work
The last point may not seem like a particularly pertinent one, but exercise has a significant benefit on my mood and leads to positive outcomes across the rest of my life. Without exercise everything has a tendency to get a bit black for me. This was made worse by a move of job two years ago to the North East where the darkness in winter becomes quite oppressive for the uninitiated. Despite the cold and dark I enjoy cycling in winter, coming home cold and wet to then become warm and dry, gives me a feeling of taking winter head on and most of the time it feels like I’m winning. I do however sometimes get bored. It’s still just cycling repeatedly down a road when it boils down to it.
I love being outside and our move to the North East, from the Peak District, makes getting to wide open spaces feel hard at times. I do happen to live near a river, with a lovely path down to it very close to my house. I’m also very lucky to work even nearer a river, specifically three metres from the same river, so one bored day I made the logic leap and decided it would be quite nice to try and canoe to work.
This would have been very simple if:

a. I owned a kayak/canoe
b. I had any real experience (since scouts) of paddling. 

By this time though I’d become excited, so these small obstacles seemed less relevant, especially since I’m a strong swimmer. I bought a kayak on Ebay, a paddle (having heard tales of problems without one) and a spray deck.
Nearly at work
I did a bit of homework before setting off on my maiden voyage, as I/my wife were unsure of many practical points. These included:

  • What happened if I fell in? Emergency clothes stashed at work.
  • How would I get the Kayak from home down to the river? Kayak trolleys can be bought (£25-80) for the 800m trundle. Got some strange looks from the neighbours though.
  • How long will it take to get the six miles? I picked a day where I had no specific time to get to get to work and discovered I moved at about five and a half miles an hour (which is pretty average).
  • What happened if I fell in, how clean is the Tees? Quite clean actually, there are salmon living in it.
  • Showers? Gym at work (I’m lucky enough to work for a University)
  • Where would I store my kayak? I’m lucky enough to work at a University with a boat house - otherwise it would have been funny looks with it locked in the bike shed.
  • What are the rules for navigating a river? Very basics are drive on the right, if it’s bigger than you- get out of the way to the right of it.

One practicality that I hadn’t really considered was the need for a license to travel on the water. This can be purchased from the canals and rivers trust on an annual or day rate basis.

There was a little bit of a splash on the first attempt and the emergency clothing was called for, but it did get me the seclusion, exercise and general feeling of adventure I was looking for. So I’d recommend it.

I appreciate that I’m incredibly lucky to be able to do this and have a fairly unique set of circumstances, but in the UK we all live near a river and many of them are managed by the Canal and Rivers Trust, so there probably is a river or canal near you that could be used. Go on, make a splash.

A map of the canals and managed water ways can be found here:

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