|Mountain stream, Wharfedale, Yorkshire Dales|
Streams, brooks, rivers, ponds, lakes and the sea are a living, dynamic presence amongst the inanimate soil and rock of the land.
When in an upland valley my vision is always drawn upwards to the fluting gullies carrying the becks and streams down from the boggy high ground to the parent watercourse below. Following such fledglings is an elemental thrill - hand on rock and moss, boots in water - upwards to the source, or downwards to find a way off a mist-shrouded hill; the murmuring water a reassuring companion. Scouting out a spot to stop for lunch on a days walking on the fell is always predicated on finding a watery idyll to hunker down beside.
Some of the clearest entries in my own landscape memory bank are water-based: a waterlog in effect, with apologies to Roger Deakin. Endless childhood hours playing around a disused sheep-dip on Finham Brook; shudderingly cold skinny-dipping in a mountain lake after a long, hot days ridge-walking taking in Carrauntoohil, Ireland's highest peak; canoeing on the river Wye; crawling behind a waterfall in Venezuela; and two days spent absorbing the visual and aural grandeur of Iguazu Falls. And whilst I have experienced the visceral thrills and spills of coasteering on a couple of occasions, my own personal highlight has been gorge-walking in the Neath Valley, South Wales: following the course of a fast-flowing river up a narrow gorge, scaling boulders, traversing rapids, crawling into tunnels forced through rock by water, and a fully clothed plunge into a waterfall pool as a finale.