It was burning June. The sun shone on lake and fell. Skiddaw was cloudless and lifted into the clear heaven its purple lilac shade powdered with the fresh fern and the emerald green of the bilberry. The corncrake cried in the valley, the throstle whistled from the larch plantation; in and out of the elder-blossom the tireless bees went humming, and the haymakers could hardly get on with their work for gazing at the exquisite beauty of the wild roses on the hedge. In Cumberland, as Southey said, we miss the violet, but we make up for our loss in April and May by the blush roses of the June. They embroider the lanes, they dance upon the hedgerows, they flash against the grey blue waters of the lake, they flutter against the green fellside. Such roses! not faint in colour and scent as we see in the South, but red of heart and filled with fragrance, wonderful wild roses of Cumberland. (pp. 94-95)….
To-day as we dash along under Skiddaw to see where Roman and Norseman once had home, we feel that the same beauty was beheld by earlier races, and the wild rose that gladdens our sight was very dear to eyes of far-off generations, and has been a perpetual garden of life and loveliness for all the passing years. (p. 95)
We are going to see the camps of the warriors of old, and we do well to gather and put in hat and buttonhole the emblem of England’s warrior saint, the good St. George. (p. 95)….
We are on visit bent to Roman and Viking who dwelt in sight of Skiddaw—the cleft one, in the days,
When never a wild-rose would braid
To honour St. George and the Virgin Maid. (p. 96)….
Now we leave the carriage, and while it goes round to pick us up at Whitefield Cottage on the Uldale and Ireby road, we descend into the meadows and find ourselves gazing on a large square entrenchment, at the angles of which were once raised mounds, lying to the south-west of Overwater. No Roman camp this, for Romans did not place their camps in the bottoms, unless they had a secure look-out above them, or a fortified camp on a height near by; and Romans did not when they dug an entrenchment round their camp, throw the earth out to right and left and make an embankment either side their fosse, as it is plain was the case here; besides there is but one entrance to the camp, and that was not the Roman way. No, the camp we are looking upon was probably the kraal or stockade farmstead of a Norse chieftain, any time between 874 and 950 A.D. (p. 99)
Its owner probably came up the Derwent with Ketel, son of Orme, with Sweyn and Honig or Hundhr, what time they harried Cumberland under Ingolf or Thorolf the Dane. For aught we know, he may have been tempted hither by some sudden surprise-peep he got of the Overwater tarn and neighbouring meadowland, from the heights of Skiddaw, the first time he clomb that double-fronted hill. (pp. 99-100)
It is true that a Roman tripod kettle is said to have been discovered near, but the Romans were not the only nation on earth that worked in bronze, and knew the advantage of putting legs to their kettles; and both in the museum of Copenhagen and Christiania such tripod kettles may be seen to-day that came from the hands of the Norsemen of old time. (p. 100)
As we gaze across the quiet meadow land to the north-east, we see the high raised hill, where it is more than probable that the Viking chieftains, who here had their steading, ‘died into the ground,’ as they expressed it, when the death hour came. At any rate that hill is called Latrigg, which may well mean the ‘Hlad Rigg’ or ‘Ridge of the Dead,’ and as at Keswick so here, the Vikings may have carried up their dead chieftains for their last long rest to yonder height. It is by some thought possible that the word Latrigg may come from Norse words that signify the ‘Lair Ridge,’ the ridge of the lair of wild beasts, and doubtless in those early days the farmer who built his stockade had cause to dread other wild beasts than such as now trouble the hen roosts beneath Skiddaw. Now on still nights the shepherd of Underskiddaw may hear the fox of Skiddaw calling across the waters of Bassenthwaite to the red-coated vixen at Barf, and hear her shrill bark answer to his cry, but then the wolf howled and the wild boar prowled, and there was need of stockade not only against man but against the creatures of the wild woodland. (pp. 100-101)….
Now rejoining our carriage let us drive west, up hill, to the neighbouring Caermote. We shall feel all the time that the tribesmen, gathered at their battle holme, can follow us with their eyes, and wonder what on earth can possess us to leave them with their fierce axe play just going to begin, for the old deserted look-out camp on the slope a mile away. We leave the carriage to descend the hill to the south and await our arrival at the large square double camp of the Romans on the lower slope, and not without many pauses to wonder at fair scene of the seaward plain, we make our way up to the northern peak of Caermote Hill. (p. 104)
This, with its circular rampart, was probably the ‘mons exploratorius’ of the large double camp on the lower south-eastern slope, and a glorious look-out the Roman legionaries must have had, if on such a day of June they came with their wild roses in their hands to see the sun come with its wild rose over Helvellyn, or move slowly to its setting and turn the whole grey Solway into gold. (pp. 104-105)
Down now we go southward across the pleasant green sward, negotiate one or two rather awkward fences, and bearing a little to the left, towards the main road that runs to Bewaldeth, we soon find ourselves in the midst of ramparts of the quaint double Roman camp. It is a camp within a camp, the larger of the two being about 180 yards by 160 yards square. There is evidence that the cohort that first encamped here must have felt that it was a place of much strategic importance, for they made the road from ‘old Carlisle’ to Keswick run right through the middle of it. The continuation of this road, though it remains untraced, probably ran along the east side of Bassenthwaite up to the tiny Roman watch camp at the ‘Gale,’ and so by Guardhouse towards Penrith, and to Causeway Foot, on the road to Ambleside. (p. 105)
They appear also to have felt that they were in a dangerous country when first they rested beneath Caermote, for they circled themselves with a triple rampart and a double fosse. (p. 105)….
Hardly are we able to get forward, for the cries of those who are with us in the carriage to draw up, that we may gaze at this or that wild-rose bush in all its tender fluttering beauty. But at last we win our goal—Castle How Inn, near Peelwyke; then scrambling up the hill we inspect the four trenches on the side of the hill looking towards Peelwyke, whence of old time grazed out the hardy Britons upon the Roman camp fires blazing at Caermote. (p. 107)
As we gaze we think not only of Roman Times, but of the Viking times also; for down below us lies the wyke or harbour where the first Norsemen who ever came up Derwent from the sea ran their boast ashore. (p. 107)
Who, or whence the Norse ancestor of John Peel, who hewed the tress of the woodland at our feet into planks and built his ‘Pride of the lake,’ we cannot know, but he probably had friends, Ketel and Ormr, and Sweyn, and Honig and Walla, who would from time to time come across the Crosthwaite Vale and step aboard his galley, and sweep with flying sail or gleaming oar along by the woods of Mirehouse or the shadowy cliffs of Barf to his ‘steading’ here at Bassenthwaite; and it is more than probable that he and his family ‘died into the ground’ at Castle How, and there await the glory of the gods and the coming of Odin. (pp. 107-108)
We, as we gaze out south from the How of the Viking, can see plainly to-day the burial ground of other Viking chieftains of the dale on the grey green Latrigg’s height; and sadly enough, we think, must they have passed into the dark, if so fair a sun as this shone upon so fair a scene, and the roses and elders were as sweet for them as they are for us to-day. On now through fragrant briar wood and odorous larch to Keswick, and the ghosts of Britain and Rome and Norway keep pace with our hearts as we go. (p. 108)
(Lake Country Sketches. 1903, pp. 94-108)