We climbed the stile in the wall, and, led by sundry notice boards that told us we might go thus far and no farther, plunged through soft peaty places and mossy undergrowth till we stood at Walla’s brow. Then such a scene presented itself as beggars description. The little grey town seemed like an island in an emerald sea, and on that emerald sea lay other islands of many coloured wood. But this green island appeared to float between white skies, and one of those skies was Derwentwater lake, so absolutely tranquil that the heron that flapped across it seemed to be beneath the enchanted waterflood, and all the islands and its promontories floated double—you knew not which was Heaven and which was earth. But the wonder of the woodland far below us kept our eyes from wandering across the mere to Barrow, Newlands, and Catbels. No richer carpet was ever wove on oriental loom. The great bossy and billowy mass of forest upon whose tree-tops we looked down seemed a compact inlay of colour of all shades of russet brown, gold and green melting imperceptibly into one another, while here and there, as if some of the warp threads had not yet felt the leafy shuttle of the autumn colourist, stood grey and purple the leafless ash-trees gauzy fair. From under this wondrous carpet came the call of a pheasant, above it flew swift companies of doves with silver wings. And far off I heard a solitary voice. The hounds had met at Walla Crag at dawn, and had long since passed upon their way up Borrowdale, but one had remained and was inconsolable. A white road came from beneath the forest, sinuously, and with lines of beauty it gleamed to Castle hill, and beyond it was swallowed up by the town. A great green meadow, with curving bays and with dark changeless clumps of fir and spruce, filled the interspace to the north, between the woodland and the lake. White as the heifers of Clitumnus, cows moved and called to one another upon the emerald carpet, and sheep made moving bracelets of themselves, strung and unstrung queer beaded necklaces as they fed in single line. (pp. 60-62)
Now it seemed as if we gazed that all Keswick was breathing blue smoke into the air. The Town clock struck twelve, it was the dinner hour. At the same time the great guns of the Threlkeld quarry thundered, and we knew that there too the workers had rest and mid-day meal. That sound of the dreary blast seemed to take the sunshine out of all the air, and the peace from all the scene, the wild cherries in the great wood flushed as with blood, we heard behind the booming the sound of heavy guns away in the Transvaal, and we felt the sorrow and the horror of red war. (pp. 62-63)….
We passed the stream, and climbing the grassy bank made straight for Ashness Farm. Down below us the road Mat. Arnold knew, and the bridge by which he sat when he mused on his poem, “Resignation,” sloped from sun to the shadow of Barrow woods. There in the shimmering distance beyond the many-islanded Derwentwater lay “far down, / Capped with faint smoke the busy town,” which when he wandered hither he had contrasted in his mind with the perfect calm and restfulness of the Armboth Fells. Ashness Farm was passed, that white farm that always latest takes the light and gleams out like a burning jewel to the shepherds of the west—of Newlands and of Braithwaite—to tell them the sun still shines beyond their hills. It was to-day deserted, all the folk away in the potato field, but a cat lay on one side of the stone porch, and a dog on the other as guardians of the house, and the canariensis and the red and white fuchsias made as “ there had been a lasting spring.” To find these in full flower in November on the high fells makes one remember that, thanks to our neighbour the gulf-stream, the “isothermal” line that comes from Plymouth Sound passes up through our Lake District, and dissipates at once all false notion of the severity of our winter climate at the lakes. The fact is, we have less snow and fog amongst our hills and valleys than in any part of England. The very day of our sunny walk the worst fog of the year perplexed London and troubled Manchester. (pp. 65-66)
Now through meadows sweet with golden birch trees to a woodland full of all autumnal delight. The long-tailed tits whispered their way from larch to larch; the robins sang. A squirrel with his cheeks so crammed with acorns he could not scold or sputter at me leapt from bough to bough, and ever as we moved on, the rainbow lines of gossamer floated and were felt upon our faces. Notices warned us against leaving the high road under terrible penalties, but a footpath well-worn beckoned us off it to a seat which the proprietor of the wood had placed in days when no such warning was necessary. Thither, for it was luncheontide, we walked, but in an instant forgot all about luncheon in the feast for fancy and for soul that view point above the Barrow woods provided. Sheer down below us Derwent coiled backward, then ran forward, molten silver to the lake. About it almost flamed the sedges and the reeds. Painted woods clothed the crags about Lodore, and the whole air was reverberant with the cheerful sound of the ceaseless waterfall. (pp. 66-67)….
Deep gold burned the beeches, yellow-gold the larches, rich lemon shone the ash-tree, and deep lemon the waning sycamore, side by side with the russet oak were oaks still green as midsummer, and all this beauty had been doomed at the hand of the woodman to pass away. As we gazed across the reeds which led to the wooded slope, and our eyes went across the hollow meadow to the fair falling pasture, that was, as it were, the lowest skirt of old Catbels, I did not wonder that in times of long ago men felt the scene here so full of inspiration that hither they came to light their fires to the Sun-god, for whom to-day the hand of autumn lights the fires, and to whom the trees of Brandelhow do glorious sacrifice. (pp. 74-75)
We rose to go, and at the same moment a little flotilla of ‘golden-eye’ ducks, lately come back to spend a happy winter at Derwentwater, rose also, and shaking the mighty mass of Skiddaw, whose reflection came right across the waterflood, into vibration with the ripple of their sudden uprising went off towards St. Herbert’s Isle for their night’s resting. Passing from Otterbield Bay and through the hollow meadow fringed with wood that keeps its privacy sacred, we left behind us the grey stone barn that stands sole relic to-day of the wayside public-house that once gave its welcome to the jingling pack-horse trains which went to Borrowdale and the ‘Wad’ mines at Base Brown, and once summoned on Sundays the farm folk of the dales to see “girtest cock-feighting as ivver was,” and, by the ancient road now golden with the yellow leafage, we went beneath Hawes End to the thorn-tree meadows that lead us by delightful grassy footway past Silver Hill to Lingholme and Fawe Park. The sunlight was fading now, but so deep red and fiery stood the Silver Hill woodland in the afterglow, so deep red and fiery glowed the bracken and the birches of the copse we passed through, that it seemed as if on this enchanted journey it never could be night. Pheasants chirrocked as they went to roost, and acorns fell pit patter to the ground. Except for the scold of a startled blackbird, these were the only sounds that disturbed the absolute tranquillity of approaching eventide. So we gained the wooded hill of Fawe, climbed beyond it and dropped down by a mossy leaf-strewn rocky path to the main road of Portinscale. Passing through the village, its cottage windows flickering with rosy firelight from within, we paused at the bridge with the cheery smithy hard by; there, to the sound of anvil chime, we watched the last light from the west turn all old Derwent’s waters into silver gold, and waited for the first white star of eventide. Already companies of river ghosts were peopling the Howrahs and the level meadows between Derwent and Greta; and as we entered Keswick a weather-wise yeoman said, “It’s been a grand daay hooiver, but it’s a borrered one, I doubt. There’ll be a white shag frost to-neet, and raain before morn, to-morrow, I’se warrant it; noo mark my words.” We smiled and gave assent. We had had our day, and nothing could dispossess us of its November glory. (pp. 75-77)
(A Rambler’s Notebook at the English Lakes, pp. 57-77)