online: 25 october 2003

19 october 2003 visiting a waterfall

16:55 My sister and her husband took me to visit a waterfall, the tallest in Britain (240 feet, 73 metres) at the end of the valley at Llanrhaeadr ym Mochnant [this link seems to be intermittent?].

Suddenly we are out of the comfort of air-conditioned motoring and I am striding and scrambling over rocks and tufted grass to get as near as possible to the falling water and the sound of it... Looking upwards I see a succession of delicate waterfalls down a tall cliff... there is not much water after the dry summer. Here is some of George Borrow's description* which is inscribed inside a stone shelter in which stood a red-haired goat:

There are many remarkable cataracts in Britain and the neighbouring isles ... but this Rhyadr, the grand cataract of North Wales, far exceeds them all in altitude and beauty, though it is inferior to several of them in the volume of its flood. I never saw water falling so gracefully, so much like thin beautiful threads as here...

...'I suppose the torrent is sometimes very dreadful' said I [to a woman who lived close by].

'It is indeed, especially on winter; for it is then like a sea, and roars like thunder or a mad bull'.

After gazing at the falling water I walked amid tall beeches growing on a steep slope - and between some bushy crab apple trees that were already nearly leafless. Then I walked up the slope to the beginning of the falling shale, fragments of slate, one of which I've brought back to the city. I was surprised to find a cold wind, almost wintry, only about 100 metres away from the warmer air below. I suppose it resembles the down draughts that can occur at the foot of a skyscraper.

Later we visited Lake Vyrnwy, the water supply for Liverpool, and found again still air at the water's edge and a cold wind only about a 100 metres higher up the slope.

That was what we used to call 'going for a drive on Sunday afternoon' - something I've not done since childhood... we used to go for drives in the mountains of Mid-Wales with a neighbour, Mr Bassett - one of the few to have a car in those days.

While I was adding the George Borrow quotation a pidgeon came to perch at my slightly open window. It must have spied the perching place from across the road as it immediately flew back there when I made a sound to keep it from entering the room.

I realise that I'm not as friendly as I might be to the wildlife of the city!

*George Borrow, Wild Wales, its people, language and scenery, Colliins, London and Glasgow, 1955 (first published in 1862), pages 346-347. He visited Wales in 1854.

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