I have just enjoyed a few days away, staying in a lodge looking out on one of the lakes in the Cotswold Water Park. The Park is an extraordinary place, in two parts across a great swathe of east Gloucestershire between Cirencester and Swindon, and Fairford and Lechlade. It contains over 130 lakes created purely for leisure. Most of the lakes are privately owned, and the larger ones contain gated communities of exclusive property developments - your own second home by the water, as many of the adverts a few years back in the broadsheets read. Others are nature reserves, for fishing or water skiing, for canoeing and there is even a beach resort with real sand! I suppose in a way it compensates those living in the centre of England for not being near the coast.
Away from all the noise of local roads and airfields it is easy to forget that this vast area was once a hive of industry. All these lakes were once part of a huge gravel and sand extraction business and this still goes on in pockets of the area as large lorries trundle along leaving dust in their wake. The area, which could have been left desolate has been brought to life - not for work purposes but for leisure. Landfill has probably helped in the landscaping and continues to do so across our country. Now many parts of leisure England can testify to once being the waste lands of the sand, gravel and cement industry - Lakeside and Bluewater shopping centres to name two.
We are fortunate in this country to have the wealth so the plans of artists and architects can be translated into a new development so something can be created for pleasure, many around the world do not have that luxury. Thousands of people in developing countries live on piles of waste, and scrounge a living from scavenging on rubbish dumps, many more too risk their health mining for minerals across the globe. Today, as I give thanks for the joy of looking out at a lake at sunrise earlier this week I pray for and give to those who struggle to survive - for whom the concept of leisure is unknown.