Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Day 4: Lake District, William Wordsworth and The Daffodils

Today’s Walk: Grasmere to Patterdale (09/August)



I wandered lonely as a cloud

That floats on high o'er vales and hills,

When all at once I saw a crowd,

A host, of golden daffodils;

Beside the lake, beneath the trees,

Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine

And twinkle on the Milky Way,

They stretch'd in never-ending line

Along the margin of a bay:

Ten thousand saw I at a glance,

Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced; but they

Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:

A poet could not but be gay,

In such a jocund company:

I gazed -- and gazed -- but little thought

What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie

In vacant or in pensive mood,

They flash upon that inward eye

Which is the bliss of solitude;

And then my heart with pleasure fills,

And dances with the daffodils.

William Wordsworth (1804)


During my school days I used to hate poetry – simply because the teachers insisted that I had to learn those poems “by-heart” and reproduce word by word during exams (which I was bad at). Of course there were mathematical and scientific formulas which also had to be remembered and reproduced in its entirety ; anyway there were no choice for formulas, but there were tricks to remember them! As I hated poetry I put an extra effort to un-learn after the exams. For everything else other than poetry, you just need to remember the key points and then you can reproduce it in your own words (which I was good at). In spite of all the hatred toward poetry, I still remember a few of them - at least some part of it – and Daffodils is one of them, because I could visualize a host of golden daffodils, beside the lake, beneath the trees, fluttering and dancing in the breeze.


A few years back when I visited Lake District with my family, I saw in real life what Wordsworth said, and it was much more beautiful that what I thought. This time there were not many – Daffodils bloom during spring season and not in the fall.


Lake District in the North West is one of the most scenic spots in England – the other being Cotswold. Lake District is a part of the largest of British National Parks (or is it the other way?), and is famous for its beautiful and exotic scenery. National Geographic picked this as one of the must visit 50 places in your lifetime. The hills and mountains (why a hill or mountain is called a “fell” in this part of the world?) rise from sea level to heights of over a kilometre (not difficult as climbing Everest, but more difficult that climbing Bukit Timah, the highest point in Singapore – 150 meters), and are intersected by expansive landscapes often containing some of the most stunning lakes.


Everything one associates with the romantic notion of an English Country side is also there in the Lake Districts. Rolling meadows, grazing sheep and cattle (let me not describe in detail the not so romantic thing – sheep droppings) quaint villages besides beautiful lakes (many of them aptly named like Elterwater, Loweswater and Ullswater), expansive landscape, streams, rivers and wonderful inns and pubs – it is all here in the Lake District. And of course this is where the largest national park in England as well.


With the exotic mix of lakes and mountains (and mountains reflecting on the lakes), it is very natural that this beauty of the Lake Districts has inspired many poets and artists – William Wordsworth, John Ruskin, Beatrix Potter (of Peter Rabbit Fame – my son’s favourite), Shelly and Keats were some of them.


Like many other places in England, the most famous being Stonehenge near Salisbury, Lake District too has its own stone circle, the Castlerigg Stone Circle. I wonder what is with the prehistoric Englishmen and their love of erecting stone circles at very odd places!

It is also interesting to note that it is generally mentioned (where else, Internet) that William Wordsworth walked some 280,000 kilometres (175,000 miles) in his lifetime, mostly in the Lake District. Though it gives me great pleasure to know that the great poet was a “walker” like me, I think it is just a story as it is unlikely Wordsworth carried a pedometer to accurately measure it. It also works out to 9.5 kilometres of walk a day, for every single day of Wordsworth's 80 years on this earth. However I have to admit that it is still plausible. I have just covered 1,000 kilometres in 10 months, just 279,000 kilometres to go to beat Wordsworth’s record and I have 40 more years to do so…


Today’s Walk (Simple and straightforward, climb up a hill and climb down):

Last night the stay was at Ivy Dene, a very new bed and breakfast place in Grasmere, not even many locals knew where it was. Very nice and comfortable place, it is very small as well, probably could take only a couple of guests. A two storied house, the landlord occupied the lower floor and the two rooms on the top floor was rented out. Breakfast is served in the morning in the landlord’s dining room. And that sums up a bed and breakfast arrangement in the UK.

The only problem with Ivy Dean was it was on one extreme end of Grasmere. The pubs, hotels and all the touristy places are on the other end – which means a kilometre and a half of walk to the pub and then walk back the same distance after dinner. That was the last thing I wanted to do after a day of walking – but there was no other choice.

Being a popular place, Grasmere has many pubs and hotels – including some high end expensive ones (which all walkers tend to avoid). Went to Lamb Inn which a part of Red Lion hotel (one of the many Lions on the Coast to Coast route). Excellent ales and some ordinary food (which is the theme for most pubs in the UK).

P8090065Started very early next day. It is slightly drizzling and is somewhat cold – both nothing that I cannot handle after so many days of walk. As I lived on the extreme end of Grasmere there was a choice of taking a short cut by walking by the side of the A591 highway, but decided not to do so. Instead I back tracked to Goody Bridge and started the walk for the day. After all that was a much charming route instead of walking by the side of big vehicles whizzing past.

Then come the climb and after a tiring climb to the Great Tongue, one gets two options – a further climb towards the left via Little Tongue Gill or another climb via Tongue Gill! Strangely Little Tongue Gill seems to be tedious than Tongue Gill (some one needs to pay more attention when naming routes).

After the climb(ing up) for the day, on the way down is Ruthwaite Lodge, a stone house, where once Wordsworth’s poems were carved on a rock tablet there. There are many such stone houses on the way, some still in use, and some abandoned. The stone houses, mostly in the middle of no where, is an awe inspiring sight.


Walking by the Grisedale Beck (river) one doesn’t need to look at the maps anymore – the path to Patterdale is straightforward.

P5221245The walk of the day ends at the White Lion Pub - remember it ended yesterday at Red Lion Pub.


*NB: A few of the photos above were taken during my last trip with my family a couple of years back.

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