Friday, 7 October 2016

Wentworth Falls, near the town of Wentworth Falls, Blue Mountains, NSW

A cascade/plunge waterfall 185m (610') over a sandstone escarpment in the Blue Mountains.
Notes: For many Australians, particularly those living in Sydney, the Wentworth Falls is one of the first waterfalls they will experience, as they motor through the Blue Mountains to the west of Sydney. For many who stop at the top of the falls, this is bound to be a little disappointing, as they only ever see the cascades right at the top of the falls, and they miss the drop.
Near the town of Wentworth Falls, this is well signposted, and features a number of well-maintained lookouts and (dangerous) walks, including walks to the base of the falls and the falls.

The drop over the sandstone escarpment makes this one of the finest Australian waterfalls, and these days there are a number of vantage points within a relatively easy walk to get a good view of the waterfall and the cascades above and below. High wind, shadows, and low water flows can be problematic.

The escarpment at this point is sometimes referred to as the Den Fenella (although this name is formally applied to the creek that cuts the escarpment a little to the west). Den Fenella, was named after a powerful Scottish witch, the lady Fenella (the grandmother of Macbeth). Some of the early settlers came from the cold places in North Britain. The name was given by a lonely Scot who felt her magic here. The story of Fenella is told below.

In summer, the drop is alive with the sound of cicadas or smell of bush fires. In winter you may get an occasional snowflake. All around is the magic of the past, and the great Australian artist Norman Lindsay lived on a farm a few miles from here.

The story of Fenella, Kenneth, and the dragon horde

Darkness descended on Rome. A few fought to rekindle the light. Pope Celestine I sent missions to far places of the world. Beyond the known world, to places never part of the Roman Empire. Places so far away that some claimed they were imaginary.

Celestine was told about the faraway lands of Northern Britain and Ireland by a young convert, Palladius.

A military family from Rome, the Palladii, had early adopted the name. As the Roman Empire collapsed, one of their family was the praetorian prefect of the Gallic provinces loyal to the last, even admired by the bards of the Celtic horde who stood in opposition to him. Like Celestine he had tried to stop the darkness, the Celts admiring his adherence to the law, and to equality.

When he died, his son fled to the safety of Rome. Celestine appointed him first Bishop of the Irish and he set off through the ruins of the empire to that far away land. Too soon for conversion, the rough men of the Irish shores ejected him and Palladius withdrew to the north east of North Britain. There he established a new community. It had grown into a strong community by the time of his death, with stone churches, relics, and books.

The dragon came generations later with viking invaders from the north. But around the area settled by Palladius, faith was strong and the dragon was set in stone rather than fire. The dragons of the vikings are sinuous and long. The dragon’s head reminds me of the sea lizards of the island shores nearby, but the length is another matter. It roils and twists like a monster of the deep, different from southern dragons.

So it was until the dying days of the first millennium when King Kenneth the Third rode to the church established by St Palladius.

King Kenneth the Third was a devout man, but he had committed many wrongs in maintaining power. His visit was both to seek forgiveness and repair his reputation.

As he turned home, near to the church, he was invited by the Lady Fenella into her castle of Fothircarne, near Fordun. Kenneth had killed her son, but Fenella promised the king her loyalty and invited him to view a wonder she had constructed in his honor.

Kenneth entered her keep to discover a brass statue. It had been constructed in his likeness, holding out a golden apple into which was set six different kinds of precious stones. He was awed by the statue, which was beyond the art of the province and the jewels represented wealth beyond that held by his kingdom.

He asked her by what art had such a statue been prepared and such wealth been collected. But he did not wait for her answer. Instead, he reached for the apple. The touch activated an ancient machine,that sent darts to pierce his body. He fell to the ground mortally injured.

The Lady Fenella answered his questions as he lay dying on the ground. When the dragon first came to the northern shore, a horde of St Palladius’s treasure was gathered. She had gained both learning and treasure from dragon whispers.

In time, her story disappeared. Still, the folk still remember her in burn and hearth, imagining her skill arising from witchcraft rather than science. The story of the statue was regarded as improbable until a clergyman, Dr Leslie, discovered engravings on an old red sandstone paving stone. When the stone was cleaned, it was revealed to be a hunting scene with a Celtic cross and strange circular markings. The antiquarian John Stuart of Inchbreck who first described and studied the stone, attaching it to the story of Kenneth and Fenella. Today the restored stone can be found at the Fordoun parish church, Scotland.

Atop the restored stone remains the figure of a dragon.

It is told that after Fenella killed the king, she ran to the coast, down through the Scottish abyss that is now called Den Fenella (although today crossed by a train line), and then onto the coast, where the ships were waiting for her to take her to France.

(story related in a novel i wrote a couple of years ago: Looking for Spring)


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