Photo of Bluebell Woods in Sussex Photo of Bluebell Woods in Sussex

Nature’s Clues & Signs – Grey Mare’s Tail

Grey Mare’s Tail is a nature reserve near Moffat, Southern Scotland. The reserve is named after a very beautiful 60m waterfall.

In August I hiked up past the waterfall to spend a night by Loch Skeen. I was the only one wild camping for miles around, that I could sense. That’s probably because the weather was mixed, but that was all good as far as I was concerned – it brought more interesting signs.

Grey Mare's Tail Waterfall
Grey Mare’s Tail Waterfall


The first clue is the name of the waterfall itself. There is a tradition dating back into prehistory of using the names of natural features as a way of helping to identify them.

If the name helps us to identify and remember any landscape objects, then they quickly in turn become part of our map. They become memorable and useful.

Sometimes the name stretches the imagination, but this does look at least a little like a horse’s tail to me.


In the online course we dicussed how natural navigators need to use all our senses.

When we do, we find that there is nearly always a sound map that adds a layer to our understanding.

Waterfalls make a lot of noise. We can think of them as a beacon. The sound travels outwards but not equally, it is strongly influenced by both wind and the shape of the land. They help us understand where we are relative to that particular spot.

It is very common to feel a sense of unease or even to feel lost when you suddenly lose the sound of a waterfall. But if you’ve tuned into the wind and landscape and are expecting it, then you are more likely to find it reassuring than worrying.

MEMBERS’ CONTENT: Clues 6-1, plus Q & A and a Quirky Clue.

Available to all members as part of The Collection.

All members have full access to the online course.

To learn more about membership or to sign up please see this page.