Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Water Break Its Neck

A shiny black Ford Focus thrums along the A44. I hold the steering wheel in a relaxed fashion as I glance at my surroundings, the bleak beauty of the Radnor Forest. My car is named Vixen, partly because of the arrangement of letters on the numberplate, and partly because it's an appropriate name for the Vulpinemobile. I washed it shortly before setting out, knowing that the coming week will see it getting streaked with the rain of Powys and marbled with the dust of Bodmin Moor, and attempting to minimise the coming dirt.
I glance at the dashboard clock and sigh. Despite the breakfast stop at Leominster, I'm two hours ahead of myself. I told my friends that I'd reach Llandrindod at a certain time, now I need to slow down as I'm only twenty minutes drive from them. The village of Radnor moves past on the right, a Norman motte towering over small winding streets and a large memorial to a local dignitary. After another couple of miles, I make a sudden decision and slow down, steering onto a track to the right, ascending part of the way up a hill to a small car park.
Striking north from the car park is a track, once dirt, now cindered thanks to the generosity of the Welsh Assembly. It's an easy ride so long as I don't go too fast, and I set off along it, knowing that I only have to cover another kilometre before parking near the banks of a small Radnor river.
Something's coming. A grey object is hurtling along the track toward me, a smaller pied object bringing up its rear. A sheep, escaped from its flock, border collie in hot pursuit. I brake to a halt and watch with amusement as the two beasts approach, the canine exerting itself to overtake and control the ovine.
My smile freezes somewhat as I realise that the oncoming animals are making no effort to swerve around my car.
'Go round,' I murmur. Then, 'Go round!' a little louder. Then, 'Go round go round you soppy woolly bastard!'
My widening eyes meet the vacant expression of the sheep before it briefly drops from sight, masked by the front of the car's bonnet. There is a thump; Vixen shakes briefly as the animal makes contact with the bumper, then I twist my head to the right and watch as it bumbles past the car, none the worse for wear for the impact.
I look in the rear view mirror as the sheep continues its wobbly gait, kicking up cinder and dust as the streak of border collie follows close on its tail. They shrink in my vision. I shake my head in wonder.
Is Vixen damaged? If so, what am I supposed to do about it? I hear myself telephoning the insurance company, telling them 'I'd like to make a claim. My car has been attacked by an absconding sheep.'
Feeling somewhat weary, I open the door, step out of the Focus and begrudgingly inspect its bumper. There is a smear of dirt, a smudge of lanolin, and that is all. I wipe them away with my sleeve and return to the driver's seat.
Half a kilometre later, I park in a small layby and exit the vehicle once again. I lock and immobilise it, just in case some of the animals around here fancy a spot of joyriding. I no longer trust sheep, and will not put anything past them. I walk for a short distance along the bank of the little river, until I hear the welcoming roar of what I have come to see, and gaze with admiration at the astonishingly beautiful cascade of aqua, pouring down the mountain as the river refuses to allow such things as precipitous drops to impede its flow.
'Water-break-its-neck' is its name, and if there is a better name for a waterfall in the British Isles I would like to hear it. I whip out my mobile phone and switch to camera mode, holding it up and taking a self-portrait with the fall in the background. That'll look good on the Myspace homepage, I reckon.
Lush ferns and mosses cling to the rocks around me. The trees overhead let through dappled light, just enough to infuse the scene with a sense of natural harmony. I breathe deeply and smell green.
Waterfalls, clean air, marauding sheep. It's good to be back in Powys.

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