As a number of you will be familiar, when we run a FreshWater Watch training event we ask the participants to recount a favourite childhood memory involving water. Mine invariably revolve around fishing, but I thought I would take a few moments to share my top five favourite memories of water whatever my age.
1. Sandwood Bay, Scotland
Probably the most beautiful location I have ever been, where water has sculpted art. Some 15km south of Cape Wrath and a 5km walk from Kinlochbervie over a well-maintained John Muir Trust walkway, lies Sandwood Bay. The 1km long beach is flanked with cliffs comprised of some of the oldest rock on the planet; Lewisian Gneiss (about 3 billion years old). Not only is it old, but it’s also extremely hard and quite stunning with waves of purple, pink, black and yellow. It needs to be tough to withstand the sandpaper effect of the beaches deep sand deposits being thrust upon it. Out to the sea stands the stack Am Buachaille (the Shepherd) and back inland is Sandwood Loch which collects water off the surrounding moors and outlets to the sea via a shallow babbling freshwater rivulet.
2. Byron Bay, Australia
The rocky outcrop from the lighthouse at Byron Bay is the most easterly point of Australia. I was sat there as the sun came up and the tide came in during a November morning in 2009. Naturally I was fishing, and excited at the unknown catch ahead of me. There is the perfect spot here for a morning of fishing where it is sheltered on one side from the winds that were sweeping up from the south and causing the waves to crash upon the rocks. On the other side of these rocks there is a relatively deep, calm inlet that fills suitably deep for a myriad of fish species to feed as the tide comes in. The fishing however took second place to the balmy combination of seclusion and rhythm of the waves crashing on rocks with the unknowns beneath the surface and the 13,500km of open ocean between me and Chile to the east.
By Brian W. Schaller - Own work, FAL, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=30782984
3. Pontneddfechan, Wales
My friend Richard’s stag do, gorge-walking in the Brecon Beacons. Not so much of an observer of water this time but very much a part of it. The Saturday morning after the Friday night before, a band of relative strangers took to the icy cold water with a plunge and any assemblances of hangovers were quickly washed aside. I can clearly recall the taste (so clean) and coolness of the water as we waded and glided occasionally taking our time to explore caves carved out of rock through many years of erosion and all but one trying and failing to traverse beneath a waterfall. I think we all felt a lot more connected after that morning, and thoroughly deserved the feast laid on for our return.
4. Block 127, near the Golden Stream, Belize
In 2002 I volunteered on an expedition to a newly protected area of rainforest recently hit by hurricane Iris, such that the jungle's deadwood lay around like tinder with the dry-season ahead. For two months we cut a firebreak around the northern perimeter of the area called Block 127, living in hammocks and bathing in the Golden Stream. Towards the end of the expedition the Stream was becoming increasingly saline as the dry season approached. It was tricky to maintain personal hygiene! However, I can remember being in camp with a storm ensuing. So heavy was the rainfall that it was the first time in nearly two months when taking a shower became a reality and I soon took advantage.
Golden Stream River, credit Maximiliano Caal http://www.conservationleadershipprogramme.org/project/watershed-impacts-belize-barrier-reef/
5. Jim Jim Falls, Australia
Just last year I visited Darwin in the Northern Territory of Australia. Darwin itself is not so much of a memory, but the land around it will live long in my mind. Kakadu National Park has two distinct seasons, one wet and one dry. When it is wet it is a landscape transformed with extensive billabongs and marshes awash with colour and life. Different, but no less impressive is the dry season when the weather is more accommodating (and the number of visitors far fewer). I spent a few days in Kakadu and one other failing to catch Barramundi. During those few days we took a hike to Jim Jim Falls made famous by Crocodile Dundee. Given it was the dry season the falls were little more than a trickle, but the rock pools were fantastical, deeper than most could dive, crystal clear and croc free. We swam across the circular pool formed by Jim Jim, so high were the falls that the length of the swim was hard to put into perspective but sat beneath them and looking up to the top of the cliffs was both dizzying and humbling.
Ian at Jim Jim Falls
…All of these memories are joined by water and many more hold a special place. I’ve been fortunate to see a few far flung places but equally as special are those much closer to home; a summer spent fishing my local canal and a winter breaking ice. What are your favourite water memories?