Leafy June—that is the title for June in the Midlands, but Bilberry June and Bracken June is the name by which we may call it at the Lakes. It is true that there is one tree that comes pre-eminently into beauty of leafage in this month, that is the stubborn ash. She flutters into feathers of fine golden green in the first week, and is full-fledged by middle June, but as for the other trees, larch and birch and beech and sycamore, they have not only put on their full-leaved finery before, but they have become monotonous in hue, and though it is true they make up for this want of interest to the eye by becoming vocal and filled with the sound of wings of flies and gnats, filled with “the murmur of innumerable bees,” except for the blossom of the lime the time of tree-flowering seems past. (p. 74)
But there is one flowering shrub that brightens our homes, and fills the more favoured garden slopes with beauty in June. This is the rhododendron, and while the laburnum pales and the lilac fades, the rhododendron with its miniature mountains of colour maintains its gift of joy in exuberant blossom till Junetide hears the call of fair July. As to the fields, they shine now purple with cranesbill, now silver white with oxeye daisies or pink with sorrel flowers. The flower of June par excellence in our Lake Country meadows is this daisy…. Not beloved of cattle-rearer nor hay provider, one cannot help being thankful to these sturdy flowers for the glory as of moonlight that they lend our scarcely darkened meadows in the long twilights of June. All through the day they follow the sun, and when at last he sinks from sight beyond the gateway in the hills to the west, they stand to see the last sight of him and remain with their faces to the north, as if they felt sure that he would come again whence he had gone. (pp. 74-75)….
If our eyes during the latter part of this month of June are held captive to the valley flowers, at least in the earlier weeks they seek the heights. For we are suddenly aware that a vivid emerald dust has powdered the fell tops. The shales shine darkest purple by reason of the contrast, and the stranger passing through the country looks up and cries, how vivid the mountain fern is on the height. But the stranger is wrong. The “sweet mountain-fern,” it is true, is tufting the lower shales with green or green and grey, and the bracken, where it has shot up to its three feet height of stalk, has filled the southern sunny places of its beloved haunts with a miniature forest of amber tree stem and brown-hued branch; but that green vivid thing upon the heights is the changeling bilberry. I say changeling because last month it covered all the hill tops with coralline, and the young rosy leaf has in this month of June let all its coral pass into its thousand vitreous flower-cups, and bidden its leafage shine with such vivid emerald as makes us perforce lift up our eyes to the hills and feel that summer is sure. (pp. 76-77)….
One is sometimes asked what is the individuality of June as regards the colour of the hills. There is in June an absence of that blend of peacock green and blue which was noticeable in May. But a peculiar mixture of slate and hyacinth blue is perceivable in the distances. Hot June days, even if there is no wind from east and south, breed haze, and when the smoke-makers of Lancashire and Yorkshire add their veils of dimness also, a great deal of colour goes out of the fellsides during the day, and one must rise betimes if one would see the hills in their rare beauty. Then marvellous purple shadows are seen to lie upon softest greens right up to the sky line, and whilst the valleys swim in silver mist, the upper fells are clear, as if drawn in a silhouette upon a canvas of opal heaven. (p. 79)
We have our thunderstorms in June, and often these clouds lend enchantment, but taking the months through, there is not such change of expression upon our mountain slopes as one knew in April and in May. These thunderstorms are curiously local. I have known it rain a deluge in Keswick, while not a drop has fallen upon the Vicarage hill. I have seen a thunderstorm break almost with force of a waterspout at Applethwaite in Underskiddaw, and not felt a sprinkle of rain in the Vicarage garden. But one phenomenon in summer heat is noticeable. It is the way in which a storm will brew and brew in the distance. Borrowdale will go black, Derwent into inky blue, and in an hour’s time the whole storm cloud be seen to have been lifted right up into the higher heavens and the sun shine out in a clear sky, as if no trouble of rain or wind had ever threatened us at all. This dissipation of storm that seemed imminent is very noticeable in June. (pp. 79-80)
But to return for a moment to the general colouring of June. It may be said that, putting aside the vivid emerald of the bilberry on the heights, and the lesser vivid green of the bracken at the base of the hills, the general hue of our fellside covering is a green with a slight wash of coral-pink in it. A peculiar lilac grey is seen to be an undertone of the new green that clothes the lower slopes, the grey green of a new mown field of hay that has felt one day of summer sun. The valley meadows as yet uncut and filled with their flowering grasses, seen from the height, are of the same lilac grey. It will not be till July has come in that the vales will change this lilac grey-green for the vivid aftermath, and the painter June seems to use the uncut valley meadow colouring for the painting of the mountain slopes, with the result that marvellous harmony of tone prevails. (pp. 80-81)
The joy of June is still the thrush’s song, but he who would hear the earliest pipe of half-awakened birds must be up betimes. By three o’clock in the morning the Junetide chorus of the thrush and blackbird and chaffinch is heard, and not till eight o’clock in the eventide will vespers begin. From eight to half-past nine or ten in our long-lighted evenings will the birds in woody places make sweet music, and when the last thrush has ceased her praise about the garden walks, the swift’s shrill scream will be heard in heaven, the corncrake in the near meadow will begin his tale, and the cry of the gulls who at this time haunt the valley and quarter the fields in quest of the night moths, or the chirr of the night jar will break the twilit silence. There is nothing quite so satisfying to the weary man as to sit then on his garden seat or at his cottage porch and watch the golden glory in the mountain gap to the north fade from saffron into lemon yellow, from lemon yellow into molten silver, while the bees still murmur in the sycamore, and the ash-tree stands in feather of darkest purple against the lucent sky. A dog barks at a distant farm; the mowers with the first moonlight on their scythes, pass up the lane; the scent of the hay and of the elder blossom mingle in the quiet balmy air; the beck begins to be musical and murmurous from the meadow near, and the first star shines above the western hill. If only the corncrake would cease and the swift be silent, now would peace absolute be ours. (pp. 81-82)
(Months at the Lakes, pp. 74-82)