“With an eye
made quiet by the power of harmony, and the deep power of joy, we see into the
life of things.”
Despite the onerous thought of boarding a train for an
extended journey north after a trans-Atlantic flight (and the accompanying very
little sleep), unwinding in the Lake District upon my arrival to England proved
to be the perfect antidote to jet lag. Water, fells, stone walls, sheep – the bucolic
backdrop to so much of Wordsworth’s writing unfolded over three days,
punctuated by countless exclamations of “Look!” followed by deep sighs, no
language being sufficient to describe the sublime landscape.
|Walking along the Coffin Trail between Ambleside and Grassmere|
|Staples of the landscape: sheep and stone walls. As my father often says..|
"you know they didn't haul that stone in there" - an astute observation made
about Kentucky, but which applies to this area as well, which doesn't have
the best soils in England.
The town of Ambleside (the “heart of the southern Lakes District”) was our base for exploring, and a small, three room holiday cottage “How Head Barn” (the custom of naming one’s house is a practice both charming and perplexing, but I’ll not delve into that now), gave the weary travelers respite. Ambleside is located on Lake Windermere, England's largest lake. http://www.lakedistrict.gov.uk/visiting/placestogo/explorewindermere
|How Head Barn in Ambleside|
First of all, a little bit of architectural nerding out: everything is built of stone. How Head Barn (with narrow ventilation slits in the gable ends now covered with glass) was stone, all of the other houses and stores were stone (or covered in what we would call stucco) – rock, rock, rock.
For me, hailing from Central Kentucky where brick and log/frame construction was the norm historically, all of this stone was a bit overwhelming. Wonderful yes – but I am afraid I wandered around like slack-jawed yokel, reflecting on the scant stone buildings of my native environment.
|A stone barn near Dove Cottage|
|A stone outbuilding of "unknown function" near Troutbeck|
The Lake District is England’s largest national park – some 800 square miles came under that designation in 1951. Public footpaths meander across the Lake District, with a series of gates keeping sheep in and serving as reminders that the incredible, heart wrenching vistas described by Wordsworth as “a sort of national property, in which every man has a right and interests who has an to perceive an a heart to enjoy” are also someone’s livelihood. I saw few cattle during our trip and only from the train as we moved out of the Lake District did I see someone using the land for purposes other than grazing for sheep – a farmer cutting hay.
More on this journey later...I have a train to catch into the Big Smoke!