Eight miles from Keswick, sir; if you want the best walk in these parts you will turn in the gate there, back by where them waterworks gentlemen is making all that smother with the engine, and get along on foot toward the city, and keep on the old packhorse road to Armboth House, and so along west of the mere, and join the main road at Bridge End, beyond Great How. Finest walk in these parts; and the best of it is, them Manchester folk is going to leave it alone, they say. (p. 483)….
We pass Birkett’s picturesque little post-office, smothered in cotoniaster; go beneath the hideous wooden bridge erection that carries the trollies’ of the waterwork excavators to the tip at the great embankment of refuse close by the sluice that will one day open its mouth and set the Thirlmere waters streaming deeply underground, and along far heights and through distant meadows, to far-off, thirsty Manchester; and our eyes are straining now to catch sight of—
An upright mural block of stone,
Moist with pure water trickling down.
For beside the road, where it runs parallel with and close above the shore of the lake, stands the ‘Rock of Names’—
That once seemed only to express
Love that was love in idleness.
but to-day expresses with ‘monumental power’ the reality of life, that in its loveliness death could not divide, the simplicity of heart and hand, that our time would hardly make allowance for. At this rock, in the beginning of this century, met in happy tryst the Keswick and the Rydal poets—not once or twice. At this rock six poets—
Meek women, men as true and brave
As ever went to a hospital grave—
worked to engrave their initials in full trust that—
The loved rock would keep
The charge when they were laid asleep.
Their names were William Wordsworth, Mary Hutchison (afterwards Mrs. Wordsworth), Dorothy Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, John Wordsworth, and Sarah Hutchison. Mercifully for the engravers, the moss, fed by the water tricking down, obscured their handiwork. (p. 484)….
We pull up at the ‘King’s Head.’ The coachman wants his meal, and the horses want their meal and water. What a bit of old Cumberland the half-farm, half-inn, truly is! The yew-tree and the sycamore shadow it from behind, the stream runs bravely for the stable-boy’s bucket beside us, and there, in one long line of radiant hospitality and use, under one long roof-tree and with one unbroken front, stand stable, coachhouse, post-office, bar, best parlour, livery-house, lodging-house, and barn. (p. 487)….
On now, till a sharp turn to the left gives us ample view of the Naddle Vale, so boulder-strewn, so treeless, that it looks almost as if a waterspout had been at work, and it is not till we have turned once more to the right over Rougha Bridge that we find the stone walls have given place to hedges of such rich wild roses and wild-service bush and bird-cherry trees as to recall the dream of paradise and banish the thought of desolation. (p. 491)….
Now there are evidences of the hand that strewed Naddle Vale with those huge boulders. On our right the rocks are planned into smoothness by the glaciers that once ground their way towards the south. On our left is seen against the sky one of the rock perchés, which, from its likeness to a huge bishop’s head-dress, has been called St. Kentigern’s Mitre. (p. 492)
Nothing now but roses, roses, all the way, till, facing one of the oldest, mossiest dry walls in the country, the humble little parsonage of St. John’s Vale greets us, standing close to the turn that takes us across the valley to Naddle Fell. The next farmhouse upon our left has historic significance in its name. It is Causeway Foot. Hither ran the Roman road to Penrith, or from the Roman camp beyond Bassenthwaite. Hence by Miregate, close by, the Roman soldiers passed to and from their camp on Castrigg of to-day. That Miregate road, deep-trodden into the hillside, has seen centuries of travellers passing up to the camp for protection. And up and down that old packhorse road have plied the horses laden with wood or black plumbago from Borrowdale, the mules laden with salt for Furness Abbey, from Grange; the horses laden with copper ore from Goldscope. And up and down that packhorse road have gone Roman, Saxon, and Dane on travellers’ errands. (p. 492)….
‘Up Castrigg’s naked steep’ we, with Wordsworth’s waggoner, now make our way. But the commons enclosure has robbed it of much of its nakedness. Upon our left is seen one of the ancient milking-rings—a circular fence of holly-trees. We pass along slowly; the horses feel the hill. It is a grand view that we now have of Helvellyn, if we will but look backwards. It is hence that his majestic tawny height is best seen. It is hence that, for three parts of the year, can best be understood the meaning of his name—the Yellow Moor. (p. 493)
On Wanthwaite Crag, away to the right, one of the earliest of the prehistoric pit village remains are found. (p. 493)….
We are at Castle Lonning end. To the left runs the old Penrith road to the camp or castle, to the right runs the lane to the Druid circle, unique with its thirty-eight stones in outer circle and its eastern inner sanctuary. It is a thousand pities our coach-road just misses sight of this circle. (p. 494)….
Suddenly such a scene opened at our feet as you will not describe. Skiddaw fairly seemed to leap into the air, so suddenly did its height grow upward from the depth, that was as suddenly revealed. (p. 495)
Broadwater or Bassenthwaite looked as if the sea had put forth an arm of silver brightness, and was feeling its way up into the land. Wythop and Barf and Grisedale shone mottled with wood and upland green and purple-shaded shale. The plain was prinked and patterned out in squares of green and gold, and, like a serpent, the Derwent coiled through the fields towards the far-off lake. (p. 495)
There, beyond the clump of trees where nestles the vicarage of Crosthwaite, was seen the ancient parish church of good St. Kentigern. Southey’s resting-place was, I knew, there; and nearer, hid by the veil of trees upon its mound by Gretaside, was dimly seen Greta Hall, to which at Coleridge’s invitation came Robert Southey with his wife nigh heartbroken for her little ones’ loss in September 1803, and from which on a dark and stormy morning, March 21, 1843, there was borne to his rest, by the side of his wife and his children three, beneath yonder white church tower in the plain, the mortal remains of the most learned, the most unselfish, and high-minded Laureate England has known. (p. 495)….
And certainly, as one gazes down upon the plain with its welcome of hospitalities—for the farms gleam among happy fields and cared-for plots, and there, pink and warm, gleams the Derwentwater Hotel at Portinscale, here, grey and solidly comfortable, stands up the Keswick Hotel, while all the little quiet town-chimneys are breathing up the assurance of ‘home firesides and household mirth’—one feels that one is gazing upon a scene such as may well cause a traveller to say, with Gray the poet (in his ‘Journal,’ dated Oct. 8, 1769), ‘Mounted an eminence called Castle Rigg, and, the sun breaking out, discovered the most enchanting view I have yet seen of the whole valley . . . . the two lakes, the river, the mountains in all their glory: so that I had a mind to have gone back again.’ No wonder Gray was so near recalled as he set forth for Ambleside. (p. 496)….
For Keswick is here, and we have much to learn in this enchanted valley. The Fitz Park grounds are full of folks enjoying lawn-tennis and bowls. Happy little town to have such a public playground! And happy England to have such a national recreation ground as the hills and vales we have driven through to-day! (p. 498)
(Cornhill Magazine, 11 (November 1888), 483-98)
[This article was published, along with Parts I and II, in book form - A Coach Drive at the Lakes: Windermere to Keswick (Keswick, 1890)]