At first we didn't think anything of it, just a damp sandy patch between the roots of a tree. Then we noticed the bubble gulping up out of the sand, then another and another, tentative, almost not there, but persistent. They came and came, those gurgles of water, and somehow collected themselves into a tiny trickle which oozed its way inevitably to the stream that ran along the bottom of the field. We tried piling earth and stones on top of the bubbles, but eventually they came through. We studied the ground and noted it was quite a bit higher than the stream, so they couldn't be coming from there. Finally, holding our breath at the wonder of it, we concluded we had discovered a spring.
Periodically I would go and look at it, either when I was on my way to somewhere else, or especially to see how it was getting on. Down I strode, down the large field in front of the house, known as the Park, to the hedge that divided it from the Floats, a long meadow that stretched across the bottom of the valley. Most of the significant fields had names, but as far as I knew the spring didn't and we never got round to naming it. It was too secretive for that. Sometimes the bubble was coming up in a slightly different place, but it was always there, making its tiny contribution to the stream.
It's been a long time since I have been down to this river on my own. Perhaps it is the delight of renewing something that had been familiar that reminds me of the spring. I haven't thought about it for years. Yet as I lean on the bridge watching the water, churned brown by recent heavy rains and floods, it is there, vivid in its detail. There are other things too, stirred by the movement of water as it curves its course through these austere fields. I have neglected winter visits here, solitary occasions, stripped to stark outlines. Undistracted by the beguilements of a riverscape at the point of bursting into growth, in full bloom, or the quiet retreat, I find a quickening, an up-welling. The wrinkling water underneath comes and comes. Now that I have given myself time to look I remember the spring, and the other things.
A light fall of memories tumble around and, as they splash into this dark water, up come bright pictures, jostling for attention -- toes dabbling in that clear upland river, the startling nip of an exploring claw and a disappointed crayfish sidling away amongst the stones. We swam there too, between the rounded hills, seeking out deeper pools, sliding down miniature waterfalls. Up on the high ground among a strange outcropping of rocks and boulders we made our own miniature river. One particular rock had innumerable holes, crevices, channels. Nearby was a mere used for watering sheep and cattle. Using any container available, we turned this rock into a water garden, creating rivers, pools, waterfalls, decorating it with moss, lichen and other hilltop plants.
There were family stories: children of another generation who spent all summer in and around northern streams. They were vivid tales that drew in the young listener to join those other children. So immediate is the eddy, splash and cool feel of running water, events that stretch back beyond experience flow under this bridge, now.