It was one of those days; wild, windswept and very wet. The soup pot for the week ahead had been filled, bread cooling from the oven; and there was a rose-petal & sumac-encrusted leg of lamb demanding that some fresh air and exercise aid the digestion. It was the sort of day when will-power was needed every bit as much as the wellies and waterproof trews. I recalled a walk made not long ago, and a promise to return, when the water levels were higher, and on the opposite bank. So off I went.
Parking the car at West Lodge, a couple of miles outside Kirkfieldbank, I headed into the woods, leaving behind the buffeting wind. Calm descended as I plashed through the puddles. As the noise of the winds receded so a distant thunder grew. The water levels had risen.
The path took me past the remnants of Corra Castle, which dated back to mid 14th century and itself had some tales to tell. The remaining walls rose atop a sheer cliff, way above the river below; just the sort of place Stoker may have had in mind. Young Martha Bannatyne, after the greatest wedding that ever took place in Lesmahagow and five days of feasting by the Clyde, raised the drawbridge, imprisoning her lover who had been intent on joining Charles II and his advance on England. I can’t imagine he complained, too much. That was back in 1651.
Since then many others had walked this path. In the days when Wordsworth penned some doggerel – In Cora’s glen the calm how deep/That trees on loftiest hill/Like statues stand, or things asleep/All motionless and still. – the water surpassed what I saw even on this drenched day. For the current is harnessed now for hydro, and no longer is it Scotland’s Smoke That Thunders but a few miles from Livingstone’s birthplace.
The river drops 100ft, in three stages; but it is the sheer cliff face, rising a further 130ft above the waters that close in, sheltering the glen from the tempest raging above. Coleridge visited, as did Scott; Turner painted, Jacob More too.
There is a new viewpoint below the falls on the west bank, at a much lower height than that well-tramped path opposite. A copper carpet led me there, and as I turned and headed back up the hill, through the woods to falls at Bonnington Linn, so it became bronze, then golden, as the oak and then the sycamore replaced the beech of the lower levels.
The paths were silent, and at intervals three dogs walked their keepers in the wet. An ancient lab toted a stick the width of the path and I stepped aside as she shuffled onwards.
The falls at Bonnington thunder down ledges, draping dark cliffs in mist; twin falls, creating a tree-crowned island. From there I took the upper path, circling back to the lodge and a warm flask. The last rays of the first sun of the day filtered through the trees and the sky turned from pewter to match those beech-carpeted paths below.
If there is a better wee woodland walk in Lanarkshire I really would like to hear about it.