As a rule in our Lakeland the snow falls towards the end of the month, and the lengthening day and strengthening sunshine upon the silver heights makes rare atonement for the hint that winter will not yet be unthroned, and may yet rule lake and vale with his rod of steel. (p. 2)
But the glory of January is, after all, the wonder of its pure white light of dawn which passes slowly into saffron, and then, whilst fleecy clouds high up like flocks of giant birds change from white to rose-pink and fly towards the west, fade slowly from saffron to lemon yellow, from yellow to the common light of day. (p. 2)
Owing to the peculiar temperature it will be generally noticed that in January the cloud-pack settles low upon the hills and does not lift to break the clearness of the upper air. To-day, as I watched the daystar rise, the feature of the landscape was the heavy grey hoar-frost and dew that coloured the whole valley, meadow, and grove with monotone of grey, the feature of the sunscape was the exquisite clarity of smokeless air as white as silver above Helvellyn to the zenith. Deep purple and brown run together was the colour of the vast blanket of cloud that lay unmoved above the mountain ranges, and over this the sun came gloriously, filling the air with light and kindling the snowy cones on Skiddaw till they shone like burnished ivory. (p. 2)
Very slowly as it seemed did the mists rise from field or waterflood to veil the lower lawns and western hills, and all this while the steady cloud-pack above the eastern range was motionless. But suddenly, as if the giant beneath had turned in slumber and would rouse himself, the mighty blanket tossed and heaved and sent itself a thousand ways, and there Helvellyn lay, a great white wall from which the dazzling sun already sent the little angel choirs of golden cloud to follow in the wake of the riven cloud-pack and mount to Heaven. (pp. 2-3)….
Yet that January has two moods even the mosses testify. Sometimes there comes a January rime, and lo! when it passes away the beauty of the moss has vanished. Not till next year will the emerald brighten and the ten thousand elves of the moss shake their golden spears with gladness. Yet let the Frost King keep away and then the wanderer at the English Lakes, whether by roadside well or in the sunlit woods, shall have such beauty for his eyes’ delight, as makes him feel that even without the snowdrop spring is here. (p. 4)….
It is a grey month this month of January. The copses are grey, the meadows are grey, the hedgerows are grey, the waters are grey and the skies and the hills are grey, and if snow is not on the hills it is a dark month too. One hardly realises how much we have to thank the snow upon ‘the tops’ for adding brightness to the daylight till suddenly a warm wind brings us a warm rain and the fells are seen in their sombrest Januarian dress. Sombrest, for the bracken has had its colour washed out of it and the bents and grasses have been blanched to death paleness, while except for the sunny southern fields there would seem to be no thought of returning green. But it is a month of marvellous slate blues and grey lilac at eventide. Many a time when the sun has sunk beyond the western hills, when only one white star has swum to sight, there comes upon the hills a colour such as one sees at no other time in the year. They rise to Heaven not as if they were mountain masses so much as if they were thick veils of drapery in mountain shape falling straight from some invisible hand to earth, and stand in clear silhouette against the sky, no longer range beyond range but as if they were all merged into one grey blue lilac wall of delicate lawn. (pp. 5-6)
If down in breezy Lincolnshire during this month one may hear the buzz and humming of the steam threshing machine, may see by the diminishing stack, as Tennyson Turner wrote,
The endless ladder and the booming wheel,
here in the Lake Country a sound more rare with its old world associations falls upon the ear. The pat pat, thud thud of the old-fashioned flail echoes from barn to barn. It is a month when one other sound strikes one because of the rainfall, the sound of the becks that hurry to the vale. And few sounds are sweeter when on some moonlit night one passes homeward ’neath the stars. If one wished for solitary walks this is the month for them. Our main roads are, except on market days, deserted. One may walk twenty miles and not meet mankind or wheel-kind. Think of it, oh ye ‘scorchers’! What ‘record’ times could ye not attempt. Without dust and without police-traps, what motor distances could ye not in comfort cover! Happy are we that ye know it not! (p. 6)
But it is a merry month—a month of pleasant social life. The Christmas card parties at the farm are over, but in the villages’ ‘socials,’ as they are called, and concerts, and lectures are in fashion, while at such centres of dramatic life as Grasmere, the village play gives work enough and to spare for any leisure moments, and crowns a whole year’s expectancy of winter pleasure. (p. 7)
(Months at the Lakes, pp. 1-7)