What draws the crowds to the Lake District? If you’ve ever been there you’ll know. But leave the car and the tourists and start climbing into the fells. You’ll soon find yourself alone walking where Wordsworth walked and sharing his thoughts so beautifully expressed in his poetry.
Dove Cottage in Grasmere, near here, with its peaceful lake and its surrounding fells was Wordsworth’s home for 14 years. He called it, “the loveliest spot that man hath ever found.”
“Dear Valley, having in thy face a smile Though peaceful, full of gladness. Thou art pleased, Pleased with thy crags and woody steeps, thy Lake, Its one green island and its winding shores;..”
From ‘Home in Grasmere’
“Other writers have a passing connection with place: Wordsworth’s poetry has seeped into the soil of the Lake District.”
Another of Wordsworth’s favourite places was Blea Tarn, in Langdale, which he describes here:
“full many a spot
Of hidden beauty have I chanced to espy
Among the mountains; never one like this;
So lonesome, and so perfectly secure; ……
–In rugged arms how softly does it lie,
How tenderly protected! ..were this
Man’s only dwelling, sole appointed seat,
First, last, and single, in the breathing world,
It could not be more quiet; peace is here
Or nowhere; ”
From ‘The Solitary’
Onwards and upwards
As we set out to climb these hills, fine views begin spreading out below us of the valley with its patchwork of small green fields enclosed by drystone walls. With the sun shining strongly the clouds cast fast moving shadows that caress the rugged hillsides around. It’s fascinating to watch the changing colours. There’s an overpowering presence of grandeur and majesty in these ancient hills.
All along the way we’re accompanied by the occasional welcome bleat of sheep which are scattered about the hillside. After an hour of hard climbing it’s time for a rest beside a mountain ‘beck’. A wheatear appears on a rock, its white feathers showing as it flies away. We continue to follow the beck’s course for a while, the sound of its waters gently cascading from rock to rock, each little waterfall with its own music singing in our ears. We absorb the wonderful sense of timeless calm here. As Wordsworth says ‘peace is here, or nowhere’.
On top of the world
Reaching the summit we stop for a most welcome rest and lunch. Opening the map fully we take in a wonderful panoramic view, as we re-acquaint ourselves with old friends: Crinkle Crags and Bowfell, the Langdale Pikes, and even a glimpse of Scafell Pike and Scafell seen now from a different angle. Standing on this peak we seem to be alone. There’s a silence up here apart from the sound of the wind, a sheep busy nibbling grass and two crows calling to each other in the air above the summit cairn. As we stand here lines of Wordsworth’s come to mind:
Yet sacred is to me this Mountain’s head,
Whence I have risen, uplifted, on the breeze
Of harmony, above all earthly care.
From one of Wordsworth’s Sonnets
With the hardest climbing now over, much of the remaining journey is easier going, giving us more opportunity to enjoy the spectacular views. In this delightful passage Wordsworth ends by describing the different sounds he hears as he returns to the lakeside after a walk on the hills.
The song of mountain-streams, unheard by day,
Now hardly heard, beguiles my homeward way.
Air listens, like the sleeping water, still,
To catch the spiritual music of the hill..”
From ‘An Evening Walk’
He hears a dog barking in distant woods, an owl calling in some trees, the sound of horses hooves and a gate shutting across the still water of the lake; as photographer David Lyons says in his book ‘Lake District – Land of the Poets’ :
“Perhaps the real lesson taught by the Lake Poets is that sometimes the finest poetry comes from just taking a walk with our eyes open.”
We return to our starting point in the valley below, more tired but better people, with our lives enriched by the experience of this unforgettable day out on these majestic Lakeland fells. Up on the peaks we’ve felt ‘above all earthly care’ and the trials and difficulties of life have been put into their true perspective. No wonder Wordsworth, Coleridge, Ruskin,Wainwright, and thousands of others, me included, have loved these homely fells.
Keep on Climbing
This is a climb based on happy memories of the past that are as real in my memory today as ever. Walking the hills for real or in memory is good for you!
Many thanks to Carol Mullineux for providing these photos