The river… The woods. Following streams and walls. Discovering a waterfall. Exploring Coniston.
Witch’s Craig campsite. Stirling.
We left the lane and headed to Coniston to explore. Through lanes with granite-stacked walls at the sides, no particular car park in mind, we stopped the car as soon as we found an appropriate layby. There are countless designated visitor’s spots for different fells and hikes; these should be avoided whenever possible. The more people in bright macs and carrying specially designed carbon-fibre walking sticks you see, the more the area should be avoided. Most of the designated car parks are full of these types.
We hopped the wall and headed into the woods. The ground was soft and wet and moved under foot. Moss covered the area and tree roots were spread all over like emerging snakes. There were steep, shiny patches of rock exposed in the ground, layered with reds and greys. Some were glazed wet and reflected the white of the sun. These are the types of woodland you don’t find back home. They feel unexplored even when they sit by roads.
A stream ran through the forest, down the hillside. We abandoned the path and started following the water to its source. It frothed and bubbled over grey rock. The smell was pine freshness and damp. We stopped to admire the stream numerous times, where it dropped a foot or took a sharp bend to avoid high ground or dense rock. A few times we had to jump across it to avoid impassable undergrowth and continue our ascent.
Eventually we came to another loose, uneven wall. The forest broke on the other side and gave way to bare hills. There was a gap in the wall for the stream to pass through. This is how we got out of the woods. You had to hang off a partially rotten fence post over the water and swing your weight around to the other side of the wall, where your foot would feel around for solid purchase on wet grass and mud. This high up, the stream had turned into a small river and where the land dropped below the wall, a shallow, white waterfall ran with a sound like wind moving the top branches of tall trees.
To our left, the woods and to the right, a fell, capped with brown and yellow stone. Below the summit, on an incline where it wasn’t as steep, was a forest of fern; thick and almost impenetrable, rustling green in the wind. A hundred animals must have lived there unseen, tourists and their walking sticks trekking past them only two or three metres away.
After around a hundred metres, we came to a path well trafficked by hikers. As we followed it, the fell changed. The top turned to a deeper brown and was less washed by other colours. The ferns were replaced by patchy grass. Sheep droppings were almost everywhere and the originators of the droppings stood high amongst rocks, on their own or in small groups. Streams ran at the sides of the path and up high you could see waterfalls coming down the fell, steep and frothy white. From a distance they looked like scraggly, static lines of white paint that had been accidentally spilt down the fell side.
Further up, we came to a thin valley, carved by a fast flowing river. Some way off we could hear the roar of a waterfall. Something much bigger than the ones we’d seen so far. To find it, we climbed down a precarious slope, something like natural stairs of mud, following the sound, to a sudden drop with the river about forty feet below. From this position you could see the white wall of water running off its ledge and smashing the land below.
Sitting at the edge, you feel life like a minor adrenaline shot. You hear the water pounding the rock, you see the world, and you see it crouched from a precipice with your heart working like a fox’s.
Right now, I’m too obscenely tired to write. We’re actually in a tent tonight. It seems odd; following the plan feels unimaginative.