I planned to document a bicycle trip from Cheshire to Kent with images of street art. I imagined this afterword would be drawn from street artists’ words and ideas. Yes, I’d expected that murals and graffiti would be ubiquitous. But no, there was less urban scrawl than I’d expected, especially rare in the heritage parklands of the Peak District. Instead, it was the elusive Chiffchaff that inspired us.
The first encounter was with an unseen Chiffchaff singing from nearby trees as I headed off on the laden bicycle from my home in Dublin. Then came a ferry trip to Wales, followed by a drive to Manchester. Half-a-day later, the same song serenaded us while we took tea on a sunny Mancunian patio. Three of us set out the next day, two cyclists together with a reclusive Chiffchaff whose familiar calls and songs accompanied our departure.
Among scant bushes and windbreak trees in the Dales of Derbyshire, along the somnolent canal towpaths that transect other shires, through planned suburban and gifted urban parks, the piercing ‘chiff-chaff’ encouraged us over eight days. I was bolstered through hedge-trimmed thorn punctures and squeaking brakes by many ‘chiff-chaff, chiff-chaff, chiff-chaff, chiff-chaff, chiff-chaff’ doublets.
The little bird even defeated gale driven hail while guiding us along cycleways in Kent. Finally, as the sun set while on our approach to Canterbury, the little bird that soundscaped the 550 km journey, chiff-chaffed us in towards the East Gate, singing just as it surely sang before the end of Thomas à Beckett’s time there in 1170.
The Bracket Books chapbooks are available for online purchase through FabHappy and TheUpliftKit but perhaps you’d prefer to enquire here. They’re being issued by the calendar month, each edition in 2022 limited to 100 copies, each copy uniquely numbered and posted at the end of each month.
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