Thursday, 22 August 2019

Lydford Gorge

I did a very British thing at Lydford Gorge in Devon. My long-suffering sister was my companion for Part Two of the 2019 Devon National Trust Scone Tour. I had lectured her into previously unknown levels of boredom about the need to bring her trainers for the Lydford leg of the trip. I even recapped at length about it on the morning of the visit.

Whitelady Waterfall at Lydford Gorge

So it was quite a tricky moment when, just as we swung into the carpark, I looked down and realised that I was wearing ballet flats. We went into the reception booth and it turned into one of those sitcom scenarios where everywhere I looked were signs saying "THE ROCKS ARE SLIPPERY - STURDY SHOES ARE ESSENTIAL", and all I could hear was NT staff telling other visitors wearing massive walking boots "you'll have NO PROBLEM as long as you have DECENT SHOES!"

A very enthusiastic man gave us directions on the various options for reaching the waterfall. This is where I did the British thing: I listened and nodded, I thanked him profusely, I walked confidently through the gate, then I did a sharp turn into the tea room. I ordered some scones while I did what any sibling would do in this situation - I tried to work out how I could blame my sister for this debacle. Having failed on that as well, I 'fessed up and shared my concerns: I probably needed to go back to the hotel and get my trainers, otherwise I might plunge to a tragic death and our parents would blame her. 

I don't know if the enthusiastic man saw us pulling out of the car park only 15 minutes after he'd given us directions (directions that definitely didn't involve getting into a Renault Clio and driving off towards Tavistock). I hope not.

But his words were not wasted; the very next morning we were waiting for the kiosk to open so we could pick up where we had left off.

Whitelady Waterfall

We weren't disappointed. Here are some highlights:
  • Lydford Gorge was created 11,500 years ago - when the glaciers retreated the meltwater created the steep gorge that we see today
  • The rocks themselves have been around for over 350 million years
  • Lydford Gorge contains a 'river capture' - the River Lyd 'captured' the River Burn 450,000 years ago, which changed the course of the Lyd and resulted in Whitelady Waterfall
  • Whitelady is 28.2 metres high (the highest in the SW of England)
  • It was named after a spirit that is meant to appear if you are drowning in the river - unfortunately there's some debate about whether she appears to save you or to tell you that you're done for
  • The Devil's Cauldron can be found at the other end of the Gorge - it's a bubbling pothole that visitors can walk over in summer
  • Over the years the Gorge has been home to mills and mines until it was bought by Daniel Radford after 1871
  • His family bequeathed the Gorge to the National Trust in 1943

But let us return to the Lydford scone, which we had eaten on that first day of footwear fail. It was a fine-looking specimen and I had very high hopes for it. I cut into it and immediately feared the worst, however: it looked a bit dry and I had a strong suspicion that it wasn't fresh. 

In fact, it tasted very nice. It had a slightly soft texture as if it had been kept in a container (I've been wrong about this before though, so maybe it hadn't). But I did enjoy it.

Lydford Gorge scone

As we drove away after our second (successful) visit, I did a Google search for Lydford Gorge. It turned out that an unfortunate visitor had broken their ankle there the day before and had to be rescued, not too long after we had postponed our attempt. I hope that poor person is recovering.

Lydford Gorge: 5 out of 5
Scone: 4.5 out of 5
Restraint of my sister: 5 out of 5

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