The Goldrill Bridge
I am restricted to the confines of a bus, like a reptile in a terrarium, and as town turns to country I become increasingly tantalised by the world on the other side of the glass.
Upon the bus’s arrival into the village of Patterdale in the Lake District National Park, I am ready and raring to ramble, and so the second the doors open I irrupt into the spacious valley that now surrounds me, a space filled with fresh, cool, early morning air where I feel free and elated, every view in every direction a euphoriant in its own right, every birdsong a reposeful delight.
For now, the sky is a thick accumulation of cloud, low-lying grey clouds that shroud the crowns of all but the lowest fells. Below the heavens, a great summertime assortment of greens dominates the palette. On the fell-sides, tracts of bracken contribute a velvety texture, at least when viewed from afar; hectares of heather bestow a brown, and sections of scree add greys to the scenery. At my level, wildflowers add their own splash of colour to the mix: the yellows, whites, pinks and purples of buttercup, cow parsnip, ox-eye daisy, wild rose and clover, to name but a few.
I amble through the village to Goldrill Bridge, a stone bridge with two large and imposing linden trees standing guard on either side of its entrance, their commingled canopies forming an archway through which I walk. On the bridge I stand still, looking for life in the beck below. Close to the bank, I can just about make out the dark dorsal surface of a male three-spined stickleback, the idiosyncratic dart-pause-dart manner of movement serving as species identification. As I continue to observe him, I catch him constructing a nest, a small camouflaged chamber on the riverbed where he will attempt to coax a female into depositing a clutch of eggs.
Suddenly the dark backs of more tiddlers come into view, a small school of common minnows constantly on the move. Their frequent changes of angle cause glints of silver to emanate from gill operculum or pelvic fin, creating split-second flashes of optical excitement.
‘You won’t see any fish in there’, a passer-by tells me with a raised voice. ‘I’ve been looking for days!’ He says. ’If by “fish” you mean “trout”, then I don’t see any either, but there are quite a few tiddlers down here.’ I respond. The man comes over for a very quick and, what comes across as, half-hearted look before continuing on his way across the bridge. I have the feeling he didn’t see anything, after all, their colouration is incredibly cryptic against the bottom of the beck. Before completing his crossing of the bridge the man throws in a recommendation of such and such a place by a river apparently teeming with trout.
I continue further along the small bridge and then look over its opposite side down into the pellucid waters. Failing to find any form of life this time, my attention is drawn to a sycamore tree, some of whose branches are poised in front of my face. Its large leaves are palmate, lobed with five points, the shape reminiscent of a hind foot of a male palmate newt when dressed in his springtime finery. The tree’s winged, roseate-infused seeds dangle in pairs, waiting to mature and be dispersed by the wind.
I peer again into the beck below and, in so doing, capture a serendipitous glimpse of a brown trout swimming insouciantly downstream. As the sleek, eight-inch long, cigar-shaped salmonid slinks from the light of the open into the darkness of shadow, it becomes invisible from one moment to the next. It is in fact so effectively cloaked that as I stare keenly towards where I predict it might be in hopes of another sighting, I see at first nothing, and then, out of the blue, a tell-tale rippling splash where it must have risen for a fly right under my nose.