The English Lake District

... 'tis mine to rove
Through bare grey dell, high wood, and pastoral cove;
Where Derwent rests, and listens to the roar
That stuns the tremulous cliffs of high Lodore;
Where peace to Grasmere's lonely island leads;
To willowy hedge-rows, and to emerald meads;
Leads to her bridge, rude church, and cottaged grounds,
Her rocky sheepwalks, and her woodland bounds;

- William Wordsworth

Cumberland and Westmorland share between them the major portion of the Lake District, which without hesitation may be claimed as the most beautiful corner of England. In attempting to convey any adequate impression of this lovely district, the most gifted writer would find himself in difficulties. Though he combined the precision of a skilled topographer with the imagery of a poet and with all the artistry of graphic description, he, probably more than anyone, would realise the measure of its failure.

How can one describe the sleek curving flanks of Blencathra or the massive domed brow of the Great Gable; the haunting solitude of Ennerdale, the desolation of Upper Eskdale or that grand sweep of Scafell and the Pikes as seen from Bow Fell? What words can depict the oval mirror of Derwentwater inset in a ring of fells endowed with the magic property of selecting every pleasing shade of the spectrum, and blending them in countless combinations, ever changing yet ever in perfect harmony?

At the outset, it should be admitted that the Lake District is not planned on the grand scale. An energetic walker might traverse it in a day. Scafell Pike, its highest mountain, only attains 3210 feet, and Windermere, its largest lake, does but extend for ten and a half miles. But for all its modest dimensions Lakeland does provide the impression of being in a mountainous country, making the most of its materials, and in some secret fashion exaggerating its proportions, so that on the heights one often appears to be at the centre of an extensive group of mountains, or in the dales, confronted with the full sweep of a hill from its crest to the margin of a lake, one has the illusion of seeing a mighty peak several times higher than the modest allowance of the Ordnance Survey.

- Tom Stephenson, in Lovely Britain, published circa 1950.

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