Planning - a pleasure or a pain?
21st March 2010
I am by nature quite an organised person. I like to do things in a disciplined manner but sometimes it is refreshing to take a less structured approach and just see how things work out.
When I started tracking down the routes of lost canals I adopted the "get on the ground and take it as it comes" approach but as I have gained experience the planning has become a much greater part of the project. In fact, I can safely say that I am now reluctant to just "have a bash" at a canal because the end result is always the same; I get lost, I miss out half the canal and then I have to come back a second time to do the job properly.
But is this planning a pain or a pleasure? Well, initially it felt like a pain but as time has gone on I find the research delivers its own rewards.
They do say that "to fail to plan it to plan to fail" and I have seen this principle taked to truly heroic levels. I was once taking part on a two week Outward Bound leadership course and one group was a bunch of mature policemen. We were all set a 48 hour challenge (the sort of thing OB love) and whereas most groups shut themselves away for two or three hours and then blasted into action, the bobbies locked themselves away and didn't energe for 12 hours - or 25% of their alloted time. Even the instructors were getting worried. In the event they had constructed a detailed plan which the executed with military precision and blasted all known records out of the water - all this while us plebs were busy bending the rules till we were threatened with expulsion. It's a lesson I have never forgotten.
So, back to lost canal hunting. Today represents a whole day given over to following the line of the Shrewsbury and Newport Canal from Norbury Junction to Longden on Turn Aqueduct. This is a long route compared to my usual urban forrays to it will be undertaked by bicycle with myself, Jeff and Dr D in attendance, with two cars being used to maximise the distance we can explore.
By way of pre work, Dr D has got the OS maps and the history whilst I have located a sequence of hand drawn canal maps from the canal society's website, and marked these up with what is visible from Google Earth. Hopefully the combination of this information will allow us to have an interesting and successfuil hunt as we snake along the route, inspecting what remains wherever access is possible. It's a shame that the towpath isn't a continous footpath, but then maybe that would make it all too easy!
So what started as a chore has turned into a pleasure in its own right. I thoroughly enjoyed my two hours marking up the route map with highlighters and a key and am now quite excited about the prospect of a day in the field. All those orienteering skills I have been learning on my Expedition Leadership course are being put to good use already - I havn't mentioned Expedition Leadership have I? Hmm - I can feel another post coming on.