National Geographic : 1929 May
THROUGH THE ENGLISH LAKE DISTRICT AFOOT AND AWHEEL BY RALPH A. GRAVES AUTHOR OF "THE GRANITE CITY OF TIIE NORTH," "A SHORT VISIT TO WALES," ETC., ETC., IN THE NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE With Illustrationsfrom Photographs by Clifton Adams, Staff Photographer " T is too bad that you should see the SLake District under such unfavor able circumstances," said the solicit ous hostess at the commodious Lodge in Grasmere. "This drought has caused many of our loveliest waterfalls to disappear and our precious flowers are perishing." "How long has the drought lasted ?" in quired the sympathetic staff photographer. "This is Friday, isn't it? We haven't had any rain since Monday," replied the Lake District apologist with much the same air of personal responsibility for untoward weather conditions that the true Californian adopts when a visitor's good opinion of that State is at stake. But the "distressing drought" came to an end a few hours later. Saturday morn ing the Rain God once more was in his heaven and all was right with the Lake District world. It is indeed a rare day in June-or July, or August-when some rain does not fall in that famous scenic beauty spot of Eng land, so generously and continuously mois tened by the mists from the Irish Sea. No other area of similar extent in the British Empire has been so much vaunted by poets and nature lovers. It provides an unanswerable argument to those who think of beauty always in terms of the grandiose. Many statistically minded per sons are surprised to find that of all the 16 lakes, or "waters," as they are here designated, only one is as much as Io miles long, and the most famous of them, Grasmere, seems hardly larger than a good-sized swimming pool, with a mere speck of land in the center for an island. The highest of the District's 60 im portant peaks would rise only halfway to the summit of Mount Washington, New Hampshire, while the extravagantly ad mired Old Man of Coniston, if piled upon itself five times, Ossa-on-Pelion fashion, would not reach the brow of Mount Whitney (see page 583). But where else in all the world can one find in a sweep of the eye such a varied panorama as from the shores of Coniston, or from Kirkstone Pass? On the slopes surrounding Grasmere, Derwent Water, and Ullswater the visitor frequently sees stretches of parklike trim ness and ordered loveliness; amid the somber beauty of distant Wast Water he may encounter one of those majestic, al most terrifying, scenes when "the wild wind drives the crested foam far up the steep and rocky mountain, and booming echoes drown the voice" of countless cas cades. It is not the extremities of height or depth or expanse which distinguish the vistas of the Lake District, but the kalei doscopic changes, the juxtaposition of rugged bowlders with sweeping curves of pasture land and upland fell, the shimmer of myriad waterfalls, the glow of count less wild flowers in a verdant carpet of ferns, and the sparkle of ruffled waters sapphire or turquoise blue, emerald or onyx black, according as the shadow of cloud or peak falls upon them-that have inspired the Wordsworths, the Southeys, and the Coleridges. In Nature's scenic casket there are many more magnificent jewels, but few with so many brilliant facets. CHOOSING A BASE FOR EXCURSIONS When a prospective visitor to the Lake District is so unwise as to consult friends about the most desirable base from which to take his jaunts afoot and awheel, he is overwhelmed with earnest advice. Each enthusiast has his favorite center and he brooks no compromise or second choice. The newcomer is told that he must es tablish his headquarters at Keswick, be cause of its favorable location at the apex of the region and because of its intimate association with the gifted poet and incom parable letter-writer, Southey.