Thursday, March 24, 2011

The falls of Cora Linn

The Clyde at New Lanark, March 2011

On Saturday August 20th 1803, Coleridge and the Wordsworths arrived in Lanark.  William headed off immediately to look at the celebrated waterfalls, leaving the others to find an inn.  Rejecting the Black Bull, whose 'genteel apartments' turned out to be 'the abode of dirt and poverty', they opted for the New Inn, where they sat in the parlour (tables unwiped, floor dirty and the smell of liquor 'most offensive'), grateful for a rest.  Dorothy's diary records that 'poor Coleridge was unwell', struggling with withdrawal symptoms, but she set off after William, hoping to meet him by the falls.  Evening was drawing in though, and she found that 'the Falls of the Clyde were shut up in a gentleman's grounds, and to be viewed only by means of lock and key'. Next day however, all three were able to see the falls of Cora Linn, where they sat on a bench placed specially for the view.  Dorothy was struck with astonishment, 'which died away, giving place to more delightful feelings; though there were some buildings that I could have wished had not been there, though at first unnoticed.'

'A lady and gentleman, more expeditious tourists than ourselves, came to the spot; they left us at the seat, and we found them again at another station above the Falls.  Coleridge, who is always good-natured enough to enter into conversation with anybody whom he meets in his way, began to talk with the gentleman, who observed that it was a majestic waterfall.  Coleridge was delighted with the accuracy of the epithet, particularly as he had been settling in his own mind the precise meaning of the words grand, majestic, sublime etc., and had discussed the subject with William at some length the day before.  'Yes, sir,' says Coleridge, 'it is a majestic waterfall.'  'Sublime and beautiful,' replied his friend.  Poor Coleridge could make no answer, and, not very desirous to continue the conversation, came to us and related the story, laughing heartily.'

Cora Linn Falls

I mentioned in a previous post that 'the 'astounding flood', as William described the falls of Cora Linn, appears less impressive now that hydroelectric power has been introduced to the Clyde.' This is evident in the photograph above which I took on Saturday.  The site today is a nature reserve, part of the New Lanark world heritage site, and the sign at Cora Linn explains that the electricity produced there 'is important not only for people, but also for wildlife'.  Other notices nearby warn visitors to stick to the path and be aware that the hydroelectric power station can cause water levels in the river to suddenly change.  Not that I was planning to have a dip - the walk itself was rewarding enough - and half way between Cora Linn and the falls of Bonnington Linn I stood for a while watching a peregrine falcon (its nesting site well signposted).  It is a steep walk back up to Lanark and I had a train to catch back to Glasgow and thence to London.  Dorothy Wordsworth and the poets returned for one more night at the New Inn where they 'ate heartily' of a 'true Scottish' dish: 'boiled sheep's head, with the hair singed off.'

Hydroelectric pipes near Cora Linn

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