I gazed–and gazed–but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought
– William Wordsworth in “I wandered lonely as a cloud”
Tucked away in the north western corner of England, in a region sweetly called Cumbria, is a slice of heaven on earth. Tremendous calm pervades large lakes while mountains ring their perimeter, sheltering them from the outside world. Winding trails caress these mountains, revealing around every turn a panoramic view of blue, green and brown. There is a fuzzy line between this place and a pleasant dream where all is well with the world and there is nothing but infinite beauty. The Romantics have walked these paths and opened up a whole new world of poetry for the layman, and I totally get how and why.
If I was asked to recommend one place in England, this would be it. It is a lethal combination of the barren highlands of Scotland, the desolateness of North Wales and the cuteness of the The Cotswolds – all rolled into one sweeping landscape. You would think that could get a little crowded, but in the Lake District there is room for it all and more. I especially loved it that the towns that ring these lakes abound in local stores, artisan markets, heavenly bakeries, inviting independent eateries and a theater for dance and drama. Best of both worlds, I daresay.
Keswick, at the head of Lake Derwentwater, was my kinda town from the moment I stepped off the bus. The stores were all closed as I wandered around town past 6pm, but I could sense a simmering cheeriness just below the quiet blanket. That burst forth the next morning – people all around me were in hiking gear, the kind that my heart yearned for. Rain jackets, ankle boots, backpacks and hiking poles; I was in heaven. Fells and crags loomed large in conversations and also around the area. I tackled one such in my unwieldy winter coat and jeans – Walla Crag. Once I reached the top, I just sat there for a half hour – drinking it all in. I remembered my thought from The Cotswolds – It ain’t hiking; it’s walking. And slow down you must.
Wordsworth’s “Daffodils” had been ringing in my head ever since I bypassed this area on my way south a few weeks ago. It was the season and they were in bloom everywhere. Once I decided to work this area in on my last leg, the refrain in my head only became louder, reaching a crescendo by the time I walked through his cottage door. It was a pilgrimage of sorts. The couch purported to be the one he meant in “for oft when on my couch I lie” gave me the goosebumps; I could see him reclining there as he looked out the window towards Lake Grassmere and the surrounding fells. I ran my hand over the packing case he used on his trip to Europe, which was the seed from which the Romantic era sprung. It was soft, leathery and ethereal. Outside, I gawked; inside I knelt in homage to one of the first few poets who challenged elitist poetry and brought it to the masses. My pilgrimage concluded with a visit to the Wordsworth family grave, and also a walk the next day near Lake Ullswater, very close to the daffodil fields that inspired this poem. Om.
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the Daffodils.