to the lake

A full year after leaving the old cottage in the English countryside for the Pacific coast of Canada, we have found home. On the island, on a lake, in a cottage. A moment at the lake, and we all knew it. A month at the lake, and it has all fallen quite astonishingly into place.

paintbox lake

I first stayed in this cottage on Teanook Lake half my lifetime ago. It keeps reappearing in the family, this place. My grandparents built a house around the corner a good forty years ago; some of my cousins grew up here.

mirror lake

The old fishing village is now a handful of cottages. There are no motors on the water to disturb, and if there are ripples on the water it is the wind, the ducks, a swimmer. The water nurtures each cottage, and everyone cares for the water. Great, vivid connection.

raining lake

Despite its position just a few miles from the city, and the odd sounds that carry over now and then, the lake feels like a faraway place.

lake mist

Like the rolling hills of Sussex that we’d gaze across, like the mountains and ocean in my childhood home in the cove, this landscape is in constant, exquisitely beautiful change.

lilylake.s.jpg

I find a new plant in the garden each day, we see another animal, another bird. The sheer variety in creatures and plantlife here is astonishing. Indigenous stories.

splashing lake

Yet if there’s one thing that I longed for in a home, it’s to be where we are living in the landscape, not just looking at it. Drinking it! Eating it! Diving into it.

childhood lake

There are great possibilities for us here, a million stories. Shall I tell you them? I look forward to it. We’re dreaming about so much. Keeping hens, keeping bees, growing and gathering food. Wild swimming, boating, fishing. Days and days of playing outside with friends. And setting up the old school studio to have workshops here!

storybook lake

It is so good to be home.

(Don’t miss a story from appleturnover on-the-lake. Sign up for the postcards.)

coracle

Since the earliest days of spring I’ve been visiting the pond on Old Plawhatch Farm, to document a project that grew out of a beautiful mentorship. A handmade boat. To celebrate the solstice and long days at the water, swimming days, boating days, I bring you the launch of the Flying Terapin.

coracle-beginning
When Callum, our 9-year-old mate in bushcraft, woodwork and art, first showed me the coracle, it was a skeleton of young coppiced branches stuck deep into the banks of the spring and woven together along the earth. Logs from a major pruning round the water (the algae on the pond needed to be reduced by exposing it to more sunlight!) weighted the top to create the boat’s shape as the young branches aged.
the coracle wood
This is the coppice where the new, bendy, sprouting branches were cut from. I love the tradition of building a boat beside the water where it will be set afloat, and using the materials found around it.
<the coracle woven
On my next walk on to the farm the framework had been woven together with more young shoots. In the farm shop one day I ran into Callum’s mentor, the affable Daniel Yabsley, and asked him about the project.
the coracle
Calico would be a traditional cover, but being fairly expensive, Dan helped Callum attach a tarpaulin to the framework instead. Canvas or animal skins were also used for these types of boats. One beautiful day in June a crowd of us joined the boatbuilders down at the old spring to launch the coracle. We flipped it over, off the bank and into the water. You can see the seat wedged in, not an easy project in itself.
the coracle launch
I think a mentorship is such a brilliant way to learn. One into the boat, two into the boat;
the coracle - they're off!
And they’re off! The boys used just one paddle and a wiggly sort of rowing.
coracle-passengers
Once round the pond and to the bank for passengers. The coracle is astonishingly stable! A race with the rowboat, and just about everyone (and their dog, truthfully) had a go.
the coracle © elisa rathje 2012 with thanks to james mccabe
Even me. What a thrill, to be out on the water on a beautiful day, in a handmade boat. Callum popped open a bottle of sparkling blueberry juice to mark the occasion.
the coracle © elisa rathje 2012 with thanks to james mccabe
(For the coracle thrill-seekers amongst you, you might like to know that one can spin round in circles rather quickly.) Such a wonderful old British tradition, coracle building. Happy summer solstice!