Well, yesterday, actually. Can you imagine his delight? For waterfalls are beautiful but rank, full of verdigris and charm, slime and serenity. A terrier’s little heart cannot help but beat a little faster at the thought of all that shallow-pooled gently rotting vegetation.
It was a hot day, and Mac was delighted to find a place to cool hot paws. He stalked around in gentrified lake water up to his doggy ankles, and policed ripples and sun glimmers with equal fastidiousness.
I use the word ‘policed ‘ advisedly; the pool at the top of the waterfall is surrounded by rocks. Anyone who knows terriers will be aware that the moment a terrier is next to a boundary, this is his land. And he feels almost irresistibly inclined to make his ownership explicit.
Thus, he barked officiously. He inspected and vetted each passing dog’s bottom, and followed paddlers to be sure they weren’t going to sully his watery empire. He put on his sternest look, for this was a serious business. Schnauzers are police dogs in some countries: and now they were, on this Summer afternoon in the balmy South of England, too. If a little bit self-appointed.
This waterfall is a youngster. It only came into being when it became the fashion for gardens to be very small perfectly formed lake land wildernesses. A small stream ran through the gardens which were part of the estate of Windsor Castle; rumour has it they were called Virginia after the virgin queen. But when the Jacobites rebelled against the rule of William and Mary, many became prisoners of war and they proved a handy force to dig the stream at Virginia, creating Virginia Water.
The man who made the dog’s waterfall- Thomas Sandby, in 1780 – was many things: a founder member of the Royal Academy; a self-taught architect and draftsman; he it was who designed the Freemasons Hall in London, now demolished but magnificent in its time.
And he designed Macaulay’s Folly: great blocks of stone over which the lake, fuelled by the River Bourne, tumbles. It must be owned it has little of the wild drama of some of the real ones I have seen, but it is the dog’s, and he likes it that way.
It is easier to police.