It was intended to be a short break, stretch the legs, fresh air, break the journey. With a third consecutive dry and calm day the outdoors was calling. Signs of spring were all around, the birds singing at last. And in the fields the lambs had finally been let loose, to bounce and frolic and suckle as lambs do. We had our first spring lamb a few weeks back, slow roasted with more than a dusting of eastern spices, but that’s another story. Now they’re out in the fields for all to enjoy. Lipsmacking.
I digress. We found ourselves in a park, vaguely familiar. I had been there before, once, and I put the time to be somewhere in the late 70s. Gradually memories started to come back. Hot summer day, possibly a picnic? Maybe three girls, and me – I was the one that had a car – but the details were long since gone.
Anyway Castlebank Park, Lanark. Hidden away beneath the old part of the town. And the town is old, 12th century and more. What was once a fine baronial pile now hosts flats. But the location is the same, with steep banks down to the Clyde, far below.
Boy Urchin and I had a wander, and soon were skimming stones and making splashes. The river was moving swiftly, and the banks suggested a recent five foot drop in water levels that had seen them expand by twenty feet or more in places.
I want to go back to that walk through the woods, in just a few weeks time. It will be alive with primroses, carpeted with bluebells, which just happen to be a certain person’s favourites. There are rhodedendrons between the trees. And the trees grow tall and straight, reaching for the light far above. The slopes are steep, but the path zig-zags down. The upper stretches are terraced and the local garden club is doing what once the estate gardeners would have done, being creative on walled steps.
We descend through the trees and the sounds of the river rise to meet us. Above, a woodpecker is busy, unseen, tapping away in busts. There is great tit, and crows circling. Then the river takes over.
The Clyde chugs away for over 100 miles, and we were nearer source than sea. Not far away The Falls of Clyde, a SSSI, brought the waters down from the higher ground, and marked the end of the run for the salmon and the trout. Too steep, too far, even for them.
And as we ploutered on the banks, putting off the wheezy path back to the top, a shadow passed overhead, silent, wraith-like. It flew upstream, not 20ft above the broiling surface. It had all the appearance, to my very untrained eye, of a heron on the hunt. But it was black; all black.
I can only think it may have been a cormorant on the wing. Those wings are more familiarly seen hung out to dry on some salted and barnacle encrusted rock offshore. We were some distance from those shores, some flight upstream. And even if the cormorant had followed the crow, some way from the nearest shoreline. Was it a cormorant, or a wraith heading for Mordor?
We’ll be back for the flowers soon. Wraith or no wraith.