Water Unfrozen

Through the centre of Ambleside, like many Lake District towns and villages, runs a stream. When wet, it can be quite a torrent as it runs over a series of ledges; Stock Ghyll once powered so many mills in the town that it had the nickname of Rattle Ghyll. However, it took me several years to realise that just a short walk upstream is something far more dramatic.

Stock Ghyll tributary running under the footpath.
(Click to enlarge)

Just outside the town there is a rather lovely circular path through woodland alongside the stream that was engineered by the Victorians. The first photo shows where a small tributary stream is crossed early on in the walk. The bridge is almost invisible from the main path, most people seeing it only on the return journey if the arrows are followed. (I prefer going sunwise as I am perverse, and also it is prettier if I am not planning to return directly to Ambleside.) Below the bridge are some stepping stones, from where you get a wonderful view of this beautifully built gateway into another realm – as well as the easiest place to dip a hand in the water.

Continuing upwards, whichever side of the river you walk there are several different viewpoints from where you can see the main waterfall, the 70 foot high Stock Ghyll Force. Some of these still have the Victorian ironwork in place; others are very muddy and are less protected.

Stock Ghyll Force
(Click to enlarge)

I have seen the falls at lower water levels, when most of the water falls river left (ie the right hand side as in the photo), but what I liked on this occasion was the near perfect balance of the two falls, which then come together to make one. It always feels a good place for me to connect with falling water, especially going sunwise so crossing above the falls (the wooden bridge is just visible) before following with the water in the direction it is flowing in order to see them in their entirety.

These pictures were actually taken in February, when the previous snowmelt was underway. I had every intention of posting them on our return – and then the snow arrived. I just couldn’t connect with running water! Now the snow has melted again here, I finally felt ready to edit the photos (as the colours didn’t come out the way I saw them) and to write about the waterfall, however briefly. So I learned something about myself at the same time, and how I live in ‘now’, at least as far as weather is concerned!

Wild Swimming in Yorkshire

One of my long-term dreams, mentioned previously on this blog, is to swim in the river Duddon at Birks Bridge, preferably on a nice sunny day when it looks like it does in the pictures… I always said when I gave up canoeing, it was because I wanted to spend more time walking and swimming. Well finally I have swum in a river, even if not one I had ever heard of before.

Thomason's Foss, Goathland, North Yorkshire

Thomason’s Foss, Goathland, North Yorkshire

This is Thomason’s Foss on the Eller Beck, which runs North and West through Goathland before flowing into the Murk Esk. The steam railway roughly follows the river, and can occasionally be seen high above the waterfall through the trees.

When I visited there was a fallen tree across the outflow from the pool that had clearly been there for some time and which, with the large rocks there, could form some interesting strainers in higher water conditions. However at this level it felt like a magical entrance archway that had to be passed under to reveal the full glory of the pool beyond.

It was cold. The pool was very deep, and shaded by trees. It was also very dark from the peat in the water so my feet disappeared when at only knee depth and rocks had to be found by touch. I stood for a long time, and then explored around the edges – most of my swimming in recent years was either in a dry suit or in a wetsuit in warmer waters! Today I had neither.

Eventually I asked the water for help. Remarkably it worked. I swam, and didn’t freeze. It felt beautiful.

Climbing out safely onto the awkward rocks, I paused for a moment, before having another go and swimming as close to the waterfall as I was comfortable before returning to a flattish rock. I thanked the water for helping me. I then had a third go, and seemed to find the full effects of the cold. Definitely bracing!


Frequently I read a book, or a magazine article, or even a post on someone else’s blog, telling the story of some amazing contact or conversation with spirit. There are even people who communicate with spirit as easily as they do with you and me, or at least that is the impression I get. Lorna Byrne with angels, Mia Dolan with her spirit guide, Sandra Ingerman with her spirit animals, Tanis Helliwell with her leprechaun, Verena Stael von Holstein with nature spirits, Rudolf Steiner with just about all of these… I could go on! I used to wish I could do the same, thinking how it must be wonderful to have such a deep connection. No matter that I too have had some amazing experiences, although mainly whilst in a meditative state, and may well have more in the future!

However whilst reading ‘Nature Spirits of the Trees’ this week and briefly wishing I could have the same sort of conversations myself, I was reminded of a realisation I had a couple of years ago when listening to a flute solo played superbly. I wish I could play like that, I thought. And then a millisecond later I realised, actually I don’t need to play like that, she’s playing like that! I sat back and enjoyed the moment with the freedom of sixty bars rest or whatever it was, just listening. Then in the next concert, playing second horn because of being six months pregnant and losing my upper register, I was suddenly aware of the whole orchestra and my contribution within it. How each player mattered individually, yet we were all part of this great organised structure, coming together to perform something we couldn’t do alone.

I am convinced that we are all connected as humans, and none of us needs to repeat what someone else has already done, unless we really want to. It is more important for us each to find our own special thing we can do. So I am grateful to Verena Stael von Holstein and Wolfgang Weirauch for taking the time to have the conversations and then writing them down for the rest of us to read; I now do not need to ask the trees the same questions. Instead, I can ask new ones based on a greater level of understanding than before I read their book, questions that are more relevant to me and my path which is different to theirs.

Ammer Veil Falls

This week it is the willow I have been most in communication with, enjoying the veil of fresh green growth, and the way that when underneath on a sunny day, it almost vanishes letting the sun reach the plants underneath. It has a very similar quality to veil falls on the Ammer in South Germany, in a completely unexpected way. (Pictured above; I’m assuming most people reading this already know what a willow looks like!)

Willow is a water tree, the weeping willow exceptionally so, through its shape, its branches, its leaves, and its choice of habitat. Standing underneath its canopy in a light shower will not keep you dry, like so many other broad-leaved trees will. Willow may rejuvenate from a branch plunged into the soil, so a tree may be very old and wise even though the wood we see may be young. This makes it relatively easy to communicate with; I have found in general that the older the tree the stronger its voice is. Willow’s soul quality is described in the book as ‘overcoming’; it teaches us how to be flexible and yet strong at the same time, as well as more direct help in the form of salicylic acid. Later in the year the leaves will form a thicker curtain, shading the undergrowth from the strong summer sun and providing a cool place to sit. However, such is its affinity with water that mud is a likely companion!