Friday, 23 November 2012

The Lake District

Sheep are ridiculously hard to catch. They seem all fluffy and tame, like giant cotton balls resting in the grass. But they have this habit of letting me get a foot away from them, and then running like there’s a crazed American chasing them across the field.


I tell you this not to discourage you from chasing sheep. By all means, do so, because it’s a helluva good time. I tell you this to illustrate why I love the English Lake District.

Last weekend, I attended a Nature in American Writing seminar, which focused mainly on Emerson and Thoreau. I loved it, but it kept reminding me of the Lake poets, whom I love even more. Then it occurred to me that I never wrote about the Lake District, which is a shame because it’s one of my favorite parts of England.

The Lake District is in the northwest section of the country. Gorgeous landscapes full of mountains, waterfalls, and of course, lakes.

Overlooking Grasmere

I first traveled up there to research a paper I was writing on the Lake Poets (Wordsworth, Coleridge, and Southey). We spent several days touring the countryside while visiting Dove Cottage and Rydal Mount. I got all the material I needed, as well as an 1889 8-volume set of Wordsworth’s complete works. I was one happy camper.

We returned to the Lake District because we loved everything about the area and wanted to see it one more time before returning home to the states. My favorite part of the area is Dora’s field, which you can visit via Rydal Mount. I can’t help but cry when I look at it, because I find it heart wrenchingly beautiful that her parents (while in their 70’s) planted a sea of daffodils in her memory after her death in 1847.

If you’re not a Lake Poet fanatic, you can still find lots to do. It’s the perfect area for rambling, and there’s plenty to do on the water. There’s also a fantastic falconry center, if you’re into birds of prey. The people of the Lake District were very accommodating, and we spent several days wandering around Grasmere, Ambleside, and Windermere.

Their sheep aren’t nearly as accommodating. You’ll inevitably have to pass through a sheep field if you’re going to explore the Lake District on foot. At some point while crossing the fields and taking pictures of the sheep, I got it into my head that I needed to pet one. I never succeeded in my goal, but I can say with good faith that I gave it my all. Next time I’m taking my Velcro gloves.

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