National Geographic : 1936 Apr
INFORMAL SALUTE TO THE ENGLISH LAKES BY MAYNARD OWEN WILLIAMS HE English Lakes take a bit of woo ing. A rumble seat is better than a closed car, but a light knapsack, shorts, and a gay heart bring "ecstasy and deep delight" in a walkers' paradise visited by many and dreamed of by all. Wordsworth and Ruskin, Coleridge, Southey, and Sir Walter Scott retain that immortal quality of still being able to speak for themselves and the lakes they loved. But even between the showers of a single day the English Lakes can cast a haunting spell, and in autumn the "trippers" at tracted by Wordsworth have departed, leaving the solitude he loved and defeated. "These tourists, heaven preserve us! needs must live a profitable life," he wrote, before the age of steam. What would he say of the char-a-bancs loaded down with Lanca shire and Yorkshire laborers on a summer Bank Holiday nowadays? Although I breakfasted in Carlisle and dined mid Blackpool's Coney Island mob, Keswick and Buttermere, Friar's Crag and Bowness stand out with clear-cut beauty among my memories. BEAUTY SHROUDED IN RAIN October had colored the Highland woods, and the lovely hills of Cumberland, so mountainlike in charm, would soon show golden slopes about a dozen lakes. But the squeak of my windshield wiper down the arrow-straight Roman road to Words worth's native town of Cockermouth had become travel's tiresome theme song. Rain worthy of Seathwaite, the wettest inhabited place in England, with an average of nearly a foot a month, shrouded beauty instead of enhancing it, not a gossamer veil but a wet blanket. Spring, with its daffodils "Beside the lake, beneath the trees, Fluttering and dancing in the breeze" had passed, but so too had the holiday makers, whose music is not of poets but of concertinas. In Skye I had admired the photo graphs made by that mountaineer-artist, Mr. Abraham. As I retreated from Scotch mist toward Welsh downpours I came to Keswick-call it Kezzick-and sought the pictures I had coveted while on the stormy isle of Skye, not knowing that Dr. Grosve- nor, who had reached America since we had visited the Braemar Games together, was seeking for a color series on the Eng lish Lakes from the same artist. As Mr. Abraham lifted an experimental color plate against the light for my inspec tion, the sun came out and rosy dreams re placed the dullness of morning. A pretty girl in green shorts like those of a Tyrolean yodeler passed by this most English of win dows. It wasn't so dull a world after all. LURE OF RED-GOLD HILLS "In the next fortnight the color of the Lakes will be at its best," said my host, while temptation tugged at my sleeve. "Two weeks in the land of Wordsworth and Ruskin," it whispered. "Two weeks of red and gold, of quiet hotels with emer ald lawns, and delightful inns where the whine of a windshield wiper has never been known." How well I know such lures as that, even in less beautiful lands. Then a cloud passed over the sun. Kes wick seemed no more a Paradise. And who was I, to seek out the overhanging branch, the distant view, which my ardent rival had sought with such success through all sea sons? His tripod has marked, but not marred, every vantage spot from Skiddaw and Saddleback to the Old Man of Conis ton above Ruskin's home. A cablegram asking authority to assign to him the coveted task of making a series of color photographs for the NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC seemed the logical solution. BESIDE LIMPID DERWENT WATER Then, smug with virtue at a temptation routed and a duty done, I took that match less stroll beside Derwent Water, past the irregular block of stone on which is carved the face of Ruskin, who, mid the stones of Venice, never forgot the first memorable event of his life-a trip with his nurse to Friar's Crag (see Color Plate VIII). Rowboats were tied near at hand. An island like a stage setting reflected the fleet ing smile of the sun and then hid in mys tery as a racing cloud obscured the sky. Each lake-like an Arab street-has its shady side, morning or afternoon, so that one can escape or welcome the warmth of the sun, according to his own desire.