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WALKING TOURS 1827-32 - John Stuart Mill, The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XXVII - Journals and Debating Speeches Part II 
The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XXVI - Journals and Debating Speeches Part II, ed. John M. Robson (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1988).
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The Collected Edition of the Works of John Stuart Mill has been planned and is being directed by an editorial committee appointed from the Faculty of Arts and Science of the University of Toronto, and from the University of Toronto Press. The primary aim of the edition is to present fully collated texts of those works which exist in a number of versions, both printed and manuscript, and to provide accurate texts of works previously unpublished or which have become relatively inaccessible.
john m. robson,General Editor
harald bohne, j.c. cairns, j.b. conacher,
d.p. dryer, marion filipiuk, francess halpenny,
samuel hollander, r.f. mcrae, ian montagnes,
f.e.l. priestley, ann p. robson, f.e. sparshott
Walking Tour of Sussex
MS, St. Andrews University Library, MS 1499. Mill’s companions on this trip were George John Graham (1801-88) and Horace Grant (1800-59), both close associates of his in the late 1820s, collaborating in his study and debating groups, and accompanying him on walks through London as well as in the countryside. Grant was also a colleague of Mill’s in the Examiner’s Office of the East India Company, 1826-45. As not published in Mill’s lifetime, not listed in his bibliography.
20th July 1827
This morning I commenced a short tour of the Sussex coast in company with Graham and Grant. I was taken up at Leatherhead by a Chichester coach which proceeded through Bookham, Effingham, East Horsley, Clandon and Merrow. The road skirts the foot of the Ranmer hills, of which however the ascent on the north is so gradual that little is visible of their peculiarities except an occasional chalk pit. To the right, although we had the advantage of a clear horizon and a blue sky chequered with flying white clouds, by far the best weather for surveying the country, we could perceive nothing remarkable for the first eight miles except a black ridge of high land which must lie near Cobham,1 but of which, although I have often observed it from Ranmer common, I do not know the name. N.B. I have since discovered that it does lie just beyond Cobham—and is called St. George’s Hill.2 Towards Guildford however the distant country to the right becomes less monotonous, and a long ridge of high hills presents itself in front, which must extend from Farnham to Bagshot or beyond. After passing through the cheerful old town of Guildford, and crossing the Wey, we turned to the left, and entered into the valley which extends from that place to Godalming. We left the vale of Albury, and the beautiful hills which almost close the mouth of it, to the westward, and pursued our course between a low rather tame range of hills on the right, and a series of higher and more abrupt insulated hills covered with oak copse on the side next us, and prettily feathered at the top. Through this country we proceeded to Godalming, an old and very ill paved town, much less clean and well built than Guildford, but apparently of the same date, that is to say, the best houses built about the reign of Charles II, the others about that of Queen Elizabeth.3 The place, I believe, is chiefly remarkable for its pleasant situation, and its bread, which we were told is the best in England: but this will not be easily credited by any person who has lived at Dorking. After Godalming the country rises for a time, and the road passes over some high sandy ground, leaving to the left the last of the range of sand hills which commence with Boars hill and end at Godalming. In ascending the sand hill a fine view opens behind of the ridge called the Hog’s back, which extends from Guildford to Farnham. In gradually descending into the plain of Sussex, we passed to the right, the high and peculiarly shaped elevation of Hindhead, which seems composed of several lofty eminences, some of them conical, united together by short ridges, and a little farther we passed the still higher eminence called Blackdown hill, which rises gradually from the foot of Hindhead, passes into a long ridge and ends abruptly towards the south like Leith hill. The vegetation and general cast of these hills, which are all of sand, very much resembles in appearance the sand hills near Dorking. The smaller occasional elevations and diversified appearance of the well wooded country through which we were passing, added to the occasional glimpses which we caught of Leith hill and the whole of that high range of country, rendered this drive one of the most agreeable which I ever experienced. After Blackdown hill there is an almost continued series of sand hills to the right, not connected into a ridge, but, like the Leith hill range, entirely separate. We skirted Lord Egremont’s park4 for about two miles, which seemed as far as we could observe, to have nothing remarkable about it except its size, and arrived at Petworth, a very old ill built town, with narrow and winding streets, like many other old towns upon a hill. We could perceive that the arrival of a coach from London was a rare sort of event (although occurring every day) by the number of people whom it drew to the windows to observe us.—For some distance before Petworth we could perceive distinctly before us the range of the South Downs, which we easily recognized by the waving lines, characteristic of chalk hills. On leaving Petworth we could see and distinguish clearly two great ranges of chalk hills, the one extending far westward into Hampshire, but eastward only a short distance, the other appearing to rise somewhat farther south than the termination of the first, and extending far to the east. After descending from Petworth, we perceived, in the valley of the little river Rother, almost the first meadows we had seen: the country thus far being entirely woodland or corn, the corn much less advanced than we had found it between Leatherhead and Guildford, probably because the country was more inclosed and shaded by trees and hedgerows. After crossing the Rother, we commenced ascending the western branch of the South Downs. The view to the north, in ascending, is among the most delightful I ever beheld. Not only, to the east, we could perceive the whole series of sand hills from Dorking to Godalming, but in the direction of Hindhead and Blackdown the country was thickly studded with beautiful sand hills, extending nearly as far as the celebrated Selborne. On reaching the top of the hill, we perceived that this chain is composed of two complete ridges, one to the north, the other to the south, with a long valley of considerable elevation between them. In this remarkable valley lies the village or hamlet of Waltham and it wants nothing but water, the usual deficiency in chalk hills, to be perfectly lovely. The descent from the further ridge is gradual, through a thick but very beautiful copse. The plain of Sussex lay before us, the Downs behind, the sea most visibly to our left at the distance of about eight miles. From these hills our road lay over a dead level to Chichester, which we reached about four o’clock. While our dinner was preparing we walked into the cathedral, which is small, and not very well arranged for architectural beauty in the interior, being too much filled up, but on the outside it is one of the most elegant buildings of the sort which I have seen. Chichester, which is not a very pretty or well built town, has nothing remarkable except its cathedral and the cross, as it is called, I suppose from being situated where two roads cross, for it bears no resemblance whatever to that figure, but is a fine specimen of the oldest Gothic architecture, as the cathedral is (if I mistake not) of the latest.—After dining at the Dolphin, we walked to Bognor, over a dull and dreary flat, and arrived at that watering place just in time to perceive its extreme ugliness both in what pertains to nature and art. We put up at the Claremont hotel, preferring the name as well as the look of the building to a new house of much larger dimensions under the pompous title of The Hotel.
In the morning before breakfast we walked out and looked at the town, which in situation possesses as few advantages as a place on the sea side can have, and in appearance, though an insignificant village, is full of abortive attempts to rival Brighton. We walked westward a little way on the beach, which we found still duller and more monotonous than the sea shore usually is. It is not indeed wholly destitute of trees, but there are none of any great height, and both trees and hedges uniformly grow away from the sea, so that the side of a hedge which is next the sea is as bare as if all the leaves had been picked off, or as if it were winter on one side of the hedge and summer on the other. This walk however afforded the Atriplex laciniata and littoralis, Hordeum maritimum, Phleum arenarium and Beta maritima. On leaving Bognor, we continued to follow the beach towards the east, which remained equally dull and uninteresting, nor could we even walk upon it with any comfort, since even the sand which the sea left behind it in retiring was scattered all over with shingle. Corn however grows quite down to the seaside, but is far less advanced towards ripeness than we had found it farther north. The sole ornament of this coast is the Glaucium luteum or horn poppy, which grows in immense abundance among the shingle. The only grasses which abound are the Triticum repens, which is perfectly glaucous by the sea side, and Hordeum maritimum, which grows in such profusion as almost to form a bed. We found in this morning’s walk the Poa maritima, Medicago sativa, Apium petroselinum and graveolens, Scirpus maritimus, and Conium maculatum: the latter we had also found near Chichester. It is remarkable that I have never seen this plant in Surrey though very common all over Sussex. After passing two or three stations of the preventive service,5 and meeting one of the men in almost every two miles, but seeing scarcely any ships, as those which come down the Channel put further to the southward in order to turn Beachy Head, and Selsea point, we discovered the river Arun by the vessels which we perceived in it. We crossed it by a ferry, and perambulated the town of Little Hampton which appears to be wholly built of the flints picked up on the seashore; pointed and in a few of the best houses faced with brick; but flint composes the side and back walls even of these, and almost the whole of a curious new church which they have recently erected at this place in rather better taste than has been usual lately. It is more unpretending than Bognor, and therefore less ugly; but there is nothing positively pretty about it except the little gardens in front of the cottages, which in general are exceedingly well stocked with flowers. This town I believe is becoming a place of some resort as what is called a watering place, though surely no place can be less suited for acquiring health than the low lands at the mouth of a tide river, overflowed every spring tide. We walked from this place to Arundel by the coach road, which we found more cheerful and diversified as well as fortunately shorter than the road from Chichester to Bognor. When, on climbing the hill beyond Leominster, we caught the first view of Arundel, its castle and park on the opposite hill, and of the South Downs to the north, separated from it only by a narrow valley, we were extremely struck by the sight.—A town on a hill is always striking when seen from the opposite hill, but here the fine Gothic building which overlooks the town, one of the few specimens remaining of the perfect Gothic castle, and the park behind rising above it, and spreading itself over a high ridge of chalk hills, renders the view when it first breaks upon the approaching traveller, one of the most striking conceivable. On stopping at the immense inn called the Norfolk arms, we were much annoyed by discovering that we were too late to see the Castle that day, and that the next day, Sunday, it could not be seen. We however climbed the hill, and first looked at the church, which is built in the cathedral shape, with the steeple in the middle: and the interior, at least that half of it which is in front of the organ, is considerably finer than that of Chichester cathedral. The other half, which is the Gothic of a considerably earlier period, is, it seems, the burial place of the Fitz Alans, earls of Arundel; it was destroyed by Oliver Cromwell (so at least we were told by the woman who shews the church) and has never been restored till now, when the present duke of Norfolk is about to repair it.6 We could perceive nothing remarkable in the interior of it except some curiously carved woodwork. An owl has her nest in the inside, which is indeed a fit place for her. On leaving the church, from the roof of which I should first say that we had a very fine view of the surrounding country, it being at the very top of the hill on which Arundel stands,—we skirted the park for a short distance, reserving a fuller view of it for the next day. We passed through some beautiful hanging beech woods on the sides of a very deep dell; from which issues a copious stream as clear as that of Carshalton, and saw a chalk cliff of considerable height, which affords shelter to a number of jack daws. Near the base of this cliff we found the Dipsacus pilosus. The valley below Arundel, through which the Arun flows, is perfectly flat, and filled with meadows which must I should think be overflowed in winter, if not every spring tide, for they are scarcely to appearance, above the level of the sea. The hills which inclose it are low and tame below Arundel; above that town the valley gradually narrows, and the hills which contain it are high, being on one side the hill on which the castle and park are situated, on the other the downs which descend southward from the range of hills commonly called the South Downs. There is a gap in those hills through which the Arun flows, very similar in appearance to the gap between Box Hill and Norbury. The termination of the western range very much resembles that of Norbury Park, but there is nothing to the east so striking as Box Hill.
This day set in rainy at an early hour, but after having remained at Arundel till eleven o’clock, seeing some appearances of its clearing up, we pursued our journey through Arundel Park. The road from Arundel to London passes through the park, and by far the greatest portion of it lies west of that road, but this part is not open to the public, though it appears equally ornamented with the rest. We traversed that part of it which lies east of the road and nearest to the valley of the Arun. This covers both sides of an extremely deep dell, such as is not unfrequently observed in chalk hills. A ridge rises from the valley to a considerable height, then turns round and descends again parallel to itself leaving a dell between. Other dells run up from the principal dell to the two ridges, particularly on the eastern side: we followed the west. At the very bottom of the dell, issues from under the chalk the beautiful body of water which I mentioned in my journal of yesterday: above which, on the side next the town, is the tall hanging wood of beeches also mentioned in the same journal. We ascended to the summit of the ridge, the whole of which is composed of a beautiful turfy down with here and there a beech copse, and issued out through a castellated gate (for about Arundel everything is castellated) upon the broad open downs. Here we met the London road, which we followed across the downs and a little way down the hill, and should doubtless have enjoyed the prospect extremely, had not the rain here begun to increase. To the west of it, extends a fine open down towards Dale Park (Mr. John Smith’s new acquisition)7 and Eartham: and we could now clearly perceive that the western range of the South Downs, which we crossed at Waltham, instead of dropping down over the valley of the Arun, merely turned round and descended gradually by the ridge we had now ascended, after the manner of chalk hills to Arundel where it stops, having nothing but low insignificant hills towards the sea. We returned to the Park Gate where a road turns off to Steyning. By this road we descended gently, by a pretty woody slope, into the valley of the Arun, and put into a little village named Houghton to wait for fair weather: but as we saw no signs of improvement in the sky, we crossed the Arun, which, we could perceive, continues to wind through the same flat low lying meadows to the north of the Downs, as it does to the south,—and leaving the coach road to Steyning, ascended the Downs. The rain soon after set in with such violence, and the clouds descended so thick upon the summits of the highest hills, that I can give but an indifferent account of the Downs or of the surrounding country between the valleys of the Arun and of the Addur.8 But we could plainly see that the Downs at first consisted, as at Waltham of two ridges, with a valley between them, but much more bare of trees; afterwards of three ridges, a series of curious round-ended eminences seeming to rise in the middle of the valley, which seemed about the same time to widen, and the southernmost ridge to slope away towards the sea. We could perceive indistinctly through the mist, as we walked along the northernmost ridge, that many of those furzy dells, so frequent in chalk hills, came up the side of the ridge from the intermediate valley. We could see little of the plain except sundry churches and commons and fields just at the base of the hills, and frequently not even that. We crossed the ravine through which the road from London to Worthing mounts upon the downs and after passing a round hill* covered with wood which either was a camp, or is laid out in imitation of one. At length, after some difficulty in finding our way through the clouds we arrived on the hill above Steyning, to which we descended through cornfields, and at which we arrived perfectly drenched. We were taken good care of by the old people at the White Horse, at which we put up.
After raining till a late hour this morning it ceased raining and began to shew symptoms of clearing up, but we felt by no means certain of a fine day when we left Steyning. Steyning, though a borough, is an exceedingly small place, and, as we had some reason to know from the difficulty we found in obtaining certain articles which we wanted, a place of very inconsiderable commerce. It is a mean looking place too, in its interior, though looking tolerably well when seen from the high grounds above it: nor is there any thing remarkable in its appearance, except that the public footpath on one side of the street is planted in several places with flowers, sometimes under the walls of the houses, sometimes on the side next the street; which gives it a very pretty and cheerful appearance. Steyning lies at the entrance of another of the valleys, which intersect the range of the South Downs: this is the valley of the Addur, one of the little rivers which rise in the plain of Sussex, and which would be inconsiderable and perhaps pretty if the tide did not come up them and render them navigable and ugly. This valley is also called Shoreham gap, from the two Shorehams, which lie the one near, the other close upon, the mouth of the Adur. This valley, at Steyning, is well cultivated and contains some fine cornfields; it continues pretty for some distance below. It gradually narrows, and we soon perceived that the round hill with the wood upon it, which we observed yesterday, is in reality the boundary of Shoreham gap, although we had to follow a long receding ridge beyond it before we came to the spot where the plain appears to narrow itself into a valley, and where Steyning stands.—On leaving Steyning we pursued for some distance the Shoreham and Brighton road, turning aside only to view the ruins of Bramber castle, which lies close to Steyning, and which must have been strong from the steep though not high elevation on which it stands, though now looking very like any other ruin. Parts of the outer wall, and one of the walls of a single tower, are all that now remain. The road passes through the village of Bramber, which is rather extensive. It then crosses the Adur, and soon after leaves the valley, and crosses over part of the eastern hill, to save, as I imagine, one of the sinuosities of the valley or perhaps to be out of all danger from floods on the low ground. We also left the valley, but did not climb the hill in the same direction: We ascended to the top of the downs, of which this point is called Beeding hill; and could from its summit perceive almost the whole of the gap from Steyning to the sea, with the mouth of the Adur, the town of New Shoreham close upon the sea, in the eastern angle formed between it and the Adur, and the whole series of hills or downs which compose the western côteau of the gap, commencing from the round wooded hill, or camp, so often mentioned, and terminating not far from the sea: for the downs, as we had suspected yesterday, spread themselves out in the direction of the sea, and came much nearer to it in the direction of Shoreham, than they were near Arundel, though gradually becoming lower as they approached it in so much that we could for a considerable distance see the sea over the top of them, from the hill where we stood. The horizon in that direction was enveloped in thick and heavy clouds so that the rising of the sea (which like any other plain of course seems to rise when seen from a height) was completely confounded with the clouds: and to me at least, who am unused to sea views, and could not at first justly estimate the extent of the visible horizon where unlimited by any thing except the convexity of the earth, it appeared as if the more distant of the vessels which we perceived were actually sailing at a great altitude in the clouds. On the side of the gap on which we now were, as well as on the other, and indeed still more than on the other, the downs now spread themselves out towards the sea, so as entirely to lose the character of a ridge, except on the northern side, and might be considered a range of hills, rising very abruptly on one side, sloping very gradually on the other, and intersected on that side in a direction perpendicular to the ridge by several prodigiously long dells, cultivated in the lower part and bare in the higher. Had it been our object to arrive as expeditiously as possible at the place where we intended to abide for the night, we should have kept on the ridge of the hills; but wishing to look down towards the coast, we proceeded diagonally across the downs, nearly in the direction of Brighton and soon perceived, in addition to the port of New Shoreham at the mouth of the Adur, the town of Old Shoreham on the same side of the river higher up, the village of Lower Lancing beyond the river on the coast, and the town of Worthing still further to the west, which was enveloped in a sea fog, though on the heights we were free from clouds, except over our heads. As we rose over the top of the descending ridge on which we were, and looked down into a long deep dell or ravine, which extended to Brighton, we could perceive that that place, a considerable part of which we could now see, became enveloped in like manner in a sea fog, which was moving rapidly to the north east and after leaving Brighton ascended to the heights beyond us to the east, to which we were about to proceed, and which we observed enveloped in fog as we sat on the ridge where we were. We at length summoned courage and descended the ravine, on the sides of which was a large quantity of South Down sheep, the black faced breed, of which we observed always two or three flocks within sight during the whole of this day’s walk. After we had crossed this ravine and ascended the opposite hill, we found that we had the same process to repeat, a second ravine lying in our way, which also abutted at Brighton. This time we did not cross the ravine, but went round it, as it was filled and covered, at the spot where we were, with a very large field of beautiful oats. Having gone round another ravine in a similar manner, and been rewarded with nothing but two specimens of the Ophrys aranifera, and a fine view of Brighton; for the downs here are extremely tame, and appear to be still tamer immediately above that town; we ascended to the main ridge, from which we obtained a splendid view of the plain of Sussex bounded on the north by the Surrey sand hills and to the west by Blackdown hill and Hindhead, both of which we could most distinctly perceive, as well as the high range of the Western South Downs from Waltham to Arundel gap, and the Eastern from Arundel gap to Shoreham gap, including the camp so often mentioned, which served us as a landmark during a great part of this day’s walk. The air, which during the early part of the morning had been oppressively sultry, now became fresh and clear; we had a fine breeze on the heights, and the weather after being for a long time dubious, became now (about two o’clock) decidedly fine, and sunny, though with some clouds, which, and the clearness of the air after yesterday’s rain, rendered our view of the plain, which we scarcely lost sight of during the rest of the day, still finer than its inherent beauties of themselves sufficed to make it.—After proceeding a short way along the ridge, we perceived at the foot of the hills the village of Poynings, close to the road from Brighton to Horsham and Dorking; and a ravine in front of us, through which that road ascends the downs. In order to cross this ravine, we descended a very steep declivity on our right, and ascended beyond it into the higher part of the ravine in question, from which, when we looked back, we perceived that the declivity we had climbed and that which we had descended formed the two sides of one of those dells which so often run up into chalk hills, but I never saw one in which the hilly sides were so bold or the bottom more neatly cut out. I have since learned that this is the celebrated Devil’s Dyke. We ascended the eastern side of the ravine, from the summit of which we could now not only perceive the tower on Leith hill,9 with the whole of that range of sand hills, but also the ridge of chalk hills which terminates at Box hill, the slope of Denbies, and the Dorking gap together with the chalk pits above Reigate. At a considerable distance south of these but considerably north of the South Downs, we observed a range of tolerably high sand hills stretching from West to East, which we supposed to be the range of St. Leonard’s forest. We saw more and more of this as we gradually left the Surry10 hills behind us to the left. We soon came to another ravine and accordingly descended the side of it on which we were, in a sloping direction, towards the village of Pyecombe in the ravine. The downy slope of this hill was covered with the Genista tinctoria and Rosa spinosissima, but of the latter we could discover only one specimen in flower, the remainder having gone by: The lower part of the descent lay through corn fields, in which, as in all other places which we have observed in our tour, the corn appeared fine. Two Brighton roads meet at the little village of Pyecombe; the road through Reigate and Crawley, and that through Red Hill and Cuckfield. We crossed these roads, and ascended, by a gentle slope, the other side of the ravine, from which all the remainder of our day’s march lay on the summit of the hill. We perceived that the downs here returned to their original form of a double ridge with an irregular valley between; at least this was the form in which they appeared to us, though beyond the south ridge they probably spread themselves out towards the sea. The north ridge, a little beyond the last ravine, turns short round to the south towards the other, dropping down into the valley however, before it meets it; which accounts for the apparent termination of the South Downs at this point when seen from the hills about Dorking. We here took our last view of the Surry hills, which we now saw with extreme distinctness as well as Hindhead but Blackdown hill and the western range of the South Downs, though perfectly visible, were greatly obscured by a white glaring haze. At this point, we were in the centre of a vast amphitheatre bounded by hills on almost all sides. We could see far beyond Petworth, to the west, as far as the country about Hailsham to the east, as far as Dorking to the north, and to the south the Downs, and an immense extent of sea, appearing like a range of high hills. We seemed about as far elevated above the plain, as we appear when on the top of Leith hill, and this ridge is probably as high above its base as Leith hill, though not so high above the sea. We soon came in sight of another large gap in the Downs, the valley of the Ouse, which we could trace quite down to its mouth, and to the tall cliffs about Newhaven and Seaford: this gap being wider and less sinuose than those of the Arun or Adur. Chalk hills, though much lower than those on which we were, seemed to rise beyond the gap and extend themselves a short way at the entrance of the valley in the same line with those which we were upon: but what I have before called the southern range of the South Downs rose up on the eastern side of the Ouse into high bold hills, very steep toward the north and sloping towards the sea. We crossed another Brighton road, that through Godstone, and proceeded along the ridge above Plumpton (a village and estate on the plain) enjoying all the way a most delightful prospect, in which the verdure and brightness of the plain contrasted charmingly with the dreariness of the Downs, now somewhat obscured by clouds; until at last these hills dropped down, and so did we, into the valley of the Ouse in which the large town of Lewes lay before us, and in this, after crossing another of the roads from London to Brighton, viz. that by Lewes, (which, curiously enough, crosses a hill instead of coming up the valley, and enters at the further end of the town instead of the nearer) we took up our residence for the night at the Star Inn. In the evening we strolled out to take a view of the town, which is very considerable, having three churches and a principal street full a mile in length. It is, great part of it, on the slope of a hill, and is one of the neatest and most cheerful country towns I ever saw, as its valley is one of the most richly cultivated. We observed late this evening a meteorological phenomenon not, I believe, very uncommon, but well worthy of notice; very heavy clouds hanging over the hill, and blown continually over the edge of it by a brisk wind, but dissipated and entirely disappearing immediately after.
We commenced the business of this morning by visiting the Castle, which is an old building on the highest point of the town, only partially preserved, but not in ruins, Mr. Kemp (who holds it of the three Lords of Lewes)11 having fitted it up to be inhabited by the person who shews it, and occasionally for a night by himself. What remains of it is chiefly two watchtowers, one of which we ascended and looked down from the roof of it upon the valley of the Ouse, the town of Lewes and the surrounding hills. The woman who shewed the place pointed out to us seven churches instead of three, as I had supposed; all of them in the town, or suburbs connected with it. At the foot of the hill is an Infant School, which we inspected: it is a general school, there being a Church of England one beside; I was therefore glad to perceive, among the patrons and benefactors of this school the families of all the candidates for Lewes at the last election, a Mr. Kemp, Mr. Donovan and Sir John Shelley.12 It seems an extremely well managed school and the ideas given to the children are rather less exclusively religious than is frequently the case at these schools. We left Lewes by an extensive suburb called Cliff, on the opposite side of the river, and commenced climbing the hill above it, which is one of the chalk hills which I mentioned in my journal of yesterday as lying nearly in a line with those about Plumpton, though decidedly farther to the south. From the ridge of this hill we descended into a ravine which runs up into the hill in the manner so often described. The bottom of the hill, which was rather highly cultivated, afforded us several specimens of a somewhat rare plant, the Papaver hybridum. We went up the ravine for some distance, and at last ascended the other of the ridges which include it; we then mounted up to the top of the ridge, from which we observed, from a seat which had been generously placed there, the surrounding country. We found that the hills on which we then were, entirely ceased immediately beyond the hill where we were sitting. The plain which bounded them appeared flat, dull, and uninteresting, mostly covered with water meadows without hedges, hedgerows, or trees of any kind. To the south, between us and the bold ridge of hills mentioned in yesterday’s journal lay a valley richly laid out in corn fields like the valleys at Dorking, though of little extent, opening on one side into the valley of the Ouse, on the other into the plain. To the west lay the valley of the Ouse itself, which is the ugliest gap we have yet fallen in with. The Ouse, like all rivers artificially made navigable, looks like a mere canal: the valley is as flat as a deal table; a quality which adds beauty to a valley when the hills which bound it are bold and abrupt, but spoils it when, as in this case, they ascend gradually and tamely. The whole valley is filled with water meadows, which are inclosed by ditches instead of hedges or trees; and though more than a dozen small villages lay in sight, none of them were quite in the valley, but all of them a little, though a very little way up the hill, shewing that the valley is frequently flooded, indeed I should think that spring tides must almost overflow it. We descended into the little valley to the south, where after passing the village of Glynd, and crossing one or two meadows of extremely coarse herbage, we fell in with the Glynd river, an ugly muddy canal-like stream, which falls into the Ouse, and into which the tide was running with great force. We crossed this river and the valley and then ascended the range of bold hills which extend, as I have before observed, towards the east, and which though so far south of the hills we yesterday traversed, are here the outermost ridge of the whole chain. Our object was, to make for the cliff above Newhaven, which we had observed from the Plumpton hills the day before. We could now plainly perceive Newhaven at the mouth of the river and as the downs spread out towards the sea, exactly as they appeared to do above Brighton, sloping extremely, and being intersected by dells which run up from the sea to the very top of the ridge, we thought that by following one of these dells we should reach the sea more agreeably than in any other way. We did not however go into the bottom of the dell, but followed it about half way up its western side. At first we encountered down, then furze, then down again for a short distance, and then ground which had been ploughed up and allowed to go out of culture, like that on Box hill; the first land of the sort which we had seen. We here found the Marrubium vulgare. We then met with some barley, also the first we had seen on the downs, all the corn which we had hitherto met with being either wheat or oats. The barley however seemed as fine as the other grains which we had met with in this country. We now descended by a chalky field-side into the ravine, which here turns away somewhat to the east; and perceiving a village in the bottom lower down, although the path to Newhaven seemed to lie further to the right we pursued the ravine. We found some fine wheat in the bottom, and a large field of lucerne; which we met with not unfrequently during the rest of this day’s walk and the deep green of which among these dry hills was highly ornamental. The hamlet of Norton, through which we now passed, is a wretched looking place, with the exception of one rather large cottage with a moderately large and richly stocked flower garden round it. We next skirted an immense barley-field—I should state that all the corn fields are uninclosed throughout the whole of the Downs. Here we again found the Papaver hybridum; and the edges of this and of all the other barley fields in the neighbourhood abound with the Caucalis nodosa. At the extremity of this field, and a little lower down than Norton, was the village of Bishopstone, which contained a church and some ugly but not poor-looking farm houses and barns. We continued to follow the valley quite down to the seaside. In the meadows at the bottom of it, south of Bishopstone, we saw some rather fine trees. At Bognor, and on the Downs from Poynings to Lewes, the trees were stunted, and grew away to the north east in a very marked manner; being the direction opposite to the sea, and to the prevailing wind. But here, being sheltered in that direction, the trees grew tolerably well. The dell is bounded to the west by the cliff already mentioned, above Newhaven: this we therefore missed. After searching a sort of bog or place of reeds in the bottom of the valley which was covered with Scirpus maritimus and Apium graveolens (wild celery) and in which we found the Samolus valerandi and Oenanthe pimpinelloides, we crossed the road which runs along the coast from Hastings to Brighton, and mounted a little sandy cliff over the sea, to the east, where we saw the Salvia verbenaca and our old friend the horn-poppy. Beyond this was a rather high chalk cliff immediately above the sea, which we climbed, and enjoyed the magnificent spectacle of the ocean spread out under our feet. The sky being now clear with a few clouds interspersed, we saw the sea of a deep blue intermixed with patches of white, which is its finest state. At the foot of this cliff was the old borough of Seaford, a rather shabby looking place, surrounded however by fine cornfields: we passed through it, and descending to the beach, found the Statice armeria, or common thrift, which we also saw in great abundance on the cliffs during all the remainder of our walk. Here we saw one of the Martello towers, put up to frighten Bonaparte:13 it seemed about ten feet high, and cut the most ridiculous figure imaginable. We climbed the next cliff, which was rather higher than the preceding, and from which we could perceive that the whole coast was skirted by such cliffs to Beachy Head, which is the southernmost point of Sussex, unless Selsea near the western border be farther south. From this hill we could perceive another gap in the hills, having a river in it and terminating in the small haven or bay termed Cuckmere haven. We descended the hill, and forded the stream, which, among the shingles, had not more than a foot of depth; much water being lost in the stones from which it oozes out here and there. We were rewarded by finding the Crambe maritima, or sea-cale a short way up the adjoining cliff. We ascended the cliff, and found that the coast from this point to Beachy Head resembled on a large scale a number of graves laid side by side, so regular and frequent were the ascents and descents. We met with stations of the preventive service every two or three miles and with the men themselves almost every half mile. This coast yielded to us a grass which I believe to be the Hordeum pratense; but a more striking object was the sea, rolling beneath us at a depth of from 200 to 300 feet, and a more interesting one was the flights of seagulls hovering and sporting about the cliffs; we admired the extreme beauty of their flight, in which their wings scarcely appear to move. Almost as soon as we had passed over Beachy Head, the summit and extremity of the highest of these grave-like promontories, the coast turns off almost at right angles, having sloped E.S.E. almost from Shoreham, and turning now almost directly N.E. Here the downs suddenly cease, and the flats commence: and though it was now nearly dark, we could perceive the town of Eastbourne a little way beyond the foot of the hill to which place we descended, and in which (at the New Inn) we took up our quarters for the night.
Our perambulations in the South Downs were now finished, and the remainder of our walk lay through a comparatively flat country. We first went down to the sea. The village or small town of Eastbourne is about three quarters of a mile from the beach: the principal houses of entertainment for visitants are at the hamlet of South Bourne on the beach. The two together compose a tolerably pretty town, at least when compared with most of the other watering places on the Sussex coast. The vicinity of the South Downs and of Beachy Head is of itself sufficient to give this place a decided superiority, as far as regards situation, over such a place as Bognor. Here too there are trees, of tolerable magnitude, and not growing away from the sea, as we had observed in most other places, because the open side is here to the south east, and the place is sheltered from the prevailing, or South-west wind, by Beachy Head and the adjacent downs. We proceeded along the Pevensey road, between the sea and the South Downs, that is to say, their eastern boundary: for, as I have already mentioned, the chain, considered in regard to its length, drops here, but considered in its breadth it extends of course northward to the eastern extremity of the bold hills which commence south of Lewes. To our right now lay a long row of Martello towers, and the shingles of the beach, which are here extremely wide, and thickly covered with horn-poppy, echium, cynoglossum, and other common plants. To the left lay watermeadows divided from one another by ditches; in some of which the hay-harvest was not yet concluded. These ditches afforded the Hydrocharis morsus ranae, Typhya angustifolia or minor, Sparganium simplex, Cicuta virosa, Sagittaria sagittaefolia; they also abounded in the Butomus umbellatus and Scirpus maritimus. After two or three miles of this sort of country, the road lying over a dead flat, we came among some little sand hills, on which there were cornfields, but the corn, though every where fine, not much advanced for the season. We soon reached Pevensey, a shabby looking town of no great size, containing the ruins of a large castle, placed as those buildings usually are, on a little eminence; and surrounded by a moat. The greater part of the outer enceinte is preserved, and much of the walls of the keep: but in other respects it was just like any other ruin. On its walls we gathered the Anethum foeniculum, a fennel. On leaving Pevensey, we crossed, for several miles, a tract of country resembling Romney marsh, that is to say, composed of watermeadows intersected by ditches. The grass appeared good, and the cattle upon it, which were chiefly bullocks, the finest I had ever seen. But indeed all which we had seen since we left Lewes were of the same kind. Some are red, others black, and both superb animals of their kind. In this and the neighbouring country they appear to employ chiefly bullocks for draught, and even for ploughing. The ditches here afforded the Scirpus lacustris. On leaving the marsh, we passed through the little village of Wartling, and turning to the left, made for Herstmonceux park. This park, which is in itself nothing extraordinary is, however, rather pretty for such a spot. It lies on several little heathy sandhills. But the remarkable feature in it is the old castle of Herstmonceux, which is in excellent preservation. We could perceive by its lying in a bottom instead of being situated upon an eminence, as well as by its being built of brick instead of stone, and by the stile of its architecture, that, although imitated from the Gothic, it is of a date greatly posterior to the feudal times. We were accordingly told by the person who shews it, that it was built in the reign of Henry VI, although there is a wall standing in it of a much earlier date. The outer walls are almost perfect, and some of the inner ones: even some of the timbers still subsist, in good condition. In fact, it was inhabited till about sixty years ago, when it was dilapidated in order to build the present Herstmonceux house. It derived its odd name, according to the man who shews it, from the names of its founder, Mr. Herst, and a subsequent possessor named Monceux.14 Altogether it is the best worth seeing of any castle we have inspected in this tour. On leaving Herstmonceux, we approached the sand hills which we had seen from Plumpton downs and taken for the St. Leonard’s forest range, but which in fact commence about Uckfield and end at Hastings, as we could now plainly perceive. The approaches to the main range of sand hills, though merely common place pretty country, with gentle sandy slopes and corn fields, appeared delightful to us after the dull flats which we had just crossed. We passed through the village of Boreham, on the road from Lewes to Battel15 and Hastings, which road we followed for some time, and found the Linum angustifolium under a hedge by its side. We however soon left this road, and turning off to the left, crossed a bottom, ascended a pretty high sandy ridge, and descending into the valley beyond, came to Ashburnham park. This park, for the beauty of its trees and the pretty manner in which the ground is laid out, is really one of the best which I have seen, but it appeared still finer to us, who came from among water meadows and ditches. The house, of which the architecture is chaste though not without ornament, had the merit of appearing solid and at the same time light. It belongs to the Earl of Ashburnham, who is I believe descended from Ashburnham the attendant of Charles I,16 and they shew various relics of that monarch at the place, but we could not see it, as part of the family was there. Having ascended from the bottom in which we were, by a beautiful dell among trees, forming part of the park, we found ourselves on the top of the main ridge of these sand hills, and soon came in sight of Battel, a pretty though not large town, on the same ridge. Having dined at the George Inn, finding that there was nothing to be seen at Battel (for the Abbey is shewn only on Mondays) we walked to Hastings. It was nearly dark when we set out but we had light enough to see the exterior of the Abbey, the front of which though not symmetrical appeared to us a very fine specimen of that branch of the Gothic architecture. The part which is inhabited is comparatively modern, but the uninhabited part has been prevented from falling into ruins by judicious repairs.
Hastings is, as all know, a very old town and the greater part of it has the appearance of one, the streets being paved, but narrow, and the houses high. The part which lies immediately on the beach is the only part which has the appearance of a watering place, and this has not the tawdry appearance of watering places in general: the houses are large and well built, and the place appears to have no greater pretensions than it is able to support. It is a great fishing place, and we saw abundance of fishing vessels in the harbour. Compared with most watering places, the country about Hastings is certainly fine, there being some tolerably pretty sand slopes, though not equal to those about Battel, and some very bold sand stone cliffs on both sides of the town. We went to the base of the first cliff west of the town, on which the ruins of the castle stand, and then ascended the first cliff to the east of which we explored both the summit and the base, as well as part of the base of the second cliff, and a little woody dell between them. As cliffs, they are not equal to the chalk cliffs about Beachy Head; but being of a different composition, viz. sandstone, intermixed with large lumps of a stone appearing to bear a great resemblance to clay slate, they were worth seeing even after those which were so much finer in themselves. The vegetation is, of course, of a character very different from that of the South Downs and so many rare plants are set down in the neighbourhood of Hastings, that we expected a rich harvest. We found the Sedum anglicum on sand rocks in the dell already spoken of, and the Crithmum maritimum (samphire) on the second cliff, together with a tall grass probably the Festuca rubra; but could find none of the plants peculiarly attributed to Hastings. I should however state that the cliffs are absolutely covered with Statice armeria and Linum angustifolium; but these we had found previously and they were therefore of less value to us. From Hastings (at the Swan Inn) we proceeded by one of the London coaches to Lamberhurst, on the border of Kent, through a very hilly and sandy country, rather pretty but containing nothing extraordinary and differing in nothing from any other sand hills except in the multitude of hop gardens which we met with as we approached Kent. From Lamberhurst we walked across, through the same sort of country to Tunbridge Wells, continually looking for Waterdown forest in a part of the country where it was laid down in our map of Sussex, but where it really is not and passing through some pretty woods in the domain of Bayham Abbey belonging to Lord Camden,17 which woods we took for Waterdown forest until we were informed of the contrary.
We employed the greater part of this day in seeing the country and the various sights in the neighbourhod of Tunbridge Wells. This place, though nearly as large as Dorking, has no church, being in three different parishes and in two counties, Kent and Sussex. It is a straggling place scattered about on the two slopes and in the bottom of a broad sandy dell. One side (the north side) of the dell constitutes the common, on the top of which, as we are informed by the guide book, there are magnificent rocks, containing caverns which remind one of that of the robbers in Gil Blas.18 We walked to those rocks in the morning, and found that there were some tolerably large blocks of sandstone lying about on the top of the hill, out of the bottom of some of which a little sand had been dug. After amusing ourselves for some time with this piece of humbug, we returned to breakfast at the Royal Kentish Hotel and after breakfast proceeded to the westward up the valley in which Tunbridge Wells is situated. The country about Tunbridge Wells is composed of sandy ridges and dells, tolerably well wooded, and on the whole decidedly pretty, though by no means striking to any one who has seen the beautiful parts of Surrey. This valley we found to be among the prettiest parts of it. We followed the valley for about a mile, till we arrived at what are called the High Rocks, that is to say a long ledge of perpendicular sand stone rocks intersected by natural fissures, and from forty to seventy feet high. These rocks, being ornamented and in some measure shrouded by trees, have very much the appearance of real mountain scenery, and appeared to us worthy of the praise which they copiously received in the guide book.19 This spot belongs to the Earl of Abergavenny, and has been somewhat altered from its native wildness by artificial ornaments, but sparingly, and in good taste. On the damp and shady parts of the rocks we found the celebrated Tunbridge fern or Hymenophyllum tunbridgense; and in the cornfields above them as well as in some other places included in this day’s walk we found a beautiful purple variety of the Viola tricolor, or heart’s ease, which Forster in his Flora Tunbridgensis conjectures to be a peculiar species.20 After inspecting these rocks in some detail, we looked at some other rocks in the same valley—for large blocks of sandstone lie about, sometimes scattered and sometimes in ledges, in various places about Tunbridge Wells, and we then reascended the north side of the valley to Rusthall common, on the top of the hill, where a number of curiously shaped blocks lie about, one of them called the Toad Rock, because in shape it somewhat resembles a toad sitting on a stone. We now kept on the top of the hill for some distance towards the west, in the direction of East Grinstead, but left that road at Langton Green, whence we redescended into the valley, here spread out into a plain, crossed a large open warren belonging to Lord Abergavenny in the low and boggy parts of which we found the Abama ossifraga (Narthecium ossifragum of Smith)21 in great abundance, and entered into Waterdown forest. This forest belongs to Lord Abergavenny, and is beautifully laid out almost in the stile of a pleasure ground. It is intersected in all directions by broad grassy drives, one of them extending for nearly a mile along the base of a ledge of rocks, almost as pretty though not so high as the High Rocks already described. A large portion of this forest consists entirely of birch. We wandered through almost every part of it, (for it is much reduced in extent since it was a royal chase), enjoying the beauty of the spot and searching for some of the numerous rare plants said by Forster in his Flora Tunbridgensis to grow there: but though we purchased the book on purpose to assist us we met with no success in our search for the plants. On leaving the forest by the eastern side, we experienced another disappointment by finding that Eridge Castle and Park, belonging to the same nobleman, and mentioned in the Guide Book as a great shewplace, was not to be shewn.22 We were now on the direct road from Lewes to Tunbridge Wells, and by this road we returned to the latter place, where we took a cold bath in the chalybeate water of the place. The baths are situated close to the Parade, which is well furnished with shops, and, for a watering place, tolerably pretty and cheerful. The rest of the town, village, or hamlet (call it which you will) is dull and watering-place-like enough. After dinner we walked six miles across the country to Tunbridge23 an ugly old town consisting of one street, about a mile in length, situated on the Medway and contriving two bridges over as many branches of that river (two of them considerable streams) from which multitude of bridges it derives it name Town of bridges, or Tunbridge. We stopped at the Crown Inn.
We commenced the operations of this day by seeing the Castle, one of the best preserved and most curious specimens of that sort of building which we had seen in our tour. Of the outer enceinte a very small portion is preserved, but the high part, or citadel, remains almost entire and consists of a high quadrangular tower, with circular turrets at the four corners, nearly equalling in diameter the breadth of the building. Figure 1 exhibits the base of the building, Figure 2 its appearance when seen on its broad side, Figure 3 when seen on the narrow.
It is now joined to a more modern, and inhabited mansion, but continues to be exhibited to those who visit the place. On leaving Tunbridge, we pursued the Maidstone road, through an uninteresting country enough, as far as Hadlow, where we turned off to the left, crossed several fields, and a park of no particular beauty, and then came to the range of sand hills which begins at Reigate and runs parallel to the chalk hills of Surrey and Kent. From these beautifully wooded hills we discovered the chalky range of which Box hill and the Ranmer hills form a part: It now lay directly before us and we could perceive that it does not stop at Wrotham but merely opens into a gap similar to that at Dorking and lets through the Medway just as the other lets through the Mole. Our distance from Rochester through this gap would appear not to have been great. After allowing the Medway to pass through it, the range of chalk hills rises again, but changes its direction: instead of running from west to east, as it does from Guildford to Wrotham, it turns into a direction considerably south of east, and we could perceive it slanting away to so great a distance, that on comparing the face of the country as we perceived it with the map of Kent, we had no doubt that it runs a little north of Ashford, leaves Romney marsh to the south, and joins the sea about Folkestone; and that the chalk cliffs from Folkestone to Dover, and even those north of Dover, are formed by these hills, as those of Seaford and Beachy Head are formed by the South Downs.—Having viewed this interesting range of hills for some time, we crossed the valley, and began ascending the chalk hills, taking in our way the ugly village of Wrotham. The view from the summit of the chalk hills is extensive, but far less diversified and interesting than that which may be perceived from the parts of this range nearest to Dorking, or even to Godstone and Reigate. We however proceeded by field paths along the summit of the hill, and did not redescend into the valley until we came nearly opposite to Sevenoaks, which, as we could not see it from the hill, we had some difficulty in finding. It lies a little way up the range of sand hills which still continues to run parallel, or nearly parallel, with the great chalky range: and the town is situated near the head of the Darent, and almost opposite to another gap in the range of chalk hills, through which that river flows to empty itself into the Thames. In the little that we could perceive of the declivity of the chalk hills towards the north, it appeared gradual, but not spreading out into Downs as between Dorking and Reigate, or as the range of the South Downs does between Shoreham and Newhaven. The width of the ridge, at this point, seemed about equal to what it is near Oxted. In beauty of appearance, whether at the summit, or as seen from the plain, it was somewhat inferior to the part above Godstone, still more to that above Dorking. We stopped at the Rose and Crown, Sevenoaks, and while dinner was preparing, we inspected Knole Castle and Park, the old residence of the Dorset family.24 The park is one of the very best which I have seen, the beauty of the trees, and the disposition of the ground, being taken together: though I have perhaps seen others which excel it in either of those qualities considered separately. The castle seems of an age posterior to that in which castles were built for defence; I should say somewhat older than Herstmonceux. The internal arrangement and the furniture, of a great part of it, is carefully kept in the same state as formerly: two miles of rooms, which were fitted up for James I and II respectively when on certain occasions they honoured Knole Castle with their presence are still retained precisely in the same state in which they were left by those monarchs.25 The old bedroom-furniture is curious because it is old, and this is one of the principal curiosities of the place. Another is a large collection of pottery etc. from Herculaneum, in a state of preservation, both as to the vessels themselves and the designs upon them, which is truly surprising. There is also a collection of very ancient china. But the most interesting, to many spectators, of all the sights to be seen at this place, is the extensive and fine collection of pictures, both by the ancients and modern masters. I am so indifferent a judge of painting, that I will not venture to say any thing of their merits, though I was greatly struck with several pictures. A rarer and to me a more interesting characteristic of this collection was, its containing portraits of almost all persons who have distinguished themselves in English history, whether as public or literary characters, whether as statesmen, poets, orators or philosophers.—In the evening, we walked along the valley to Westerham through the large villages of Riverhead, Sundridge and Brasted, and here, at the King’s Arms, we remained for the night.
This day we concluded our tour by walking from Westerham to Dorking, through Godstone (where we breakfasted), Bletchingly, Nutfield and Reigate. Our course lay between the chalky and the sandy ranges during the whole of our course, and we were now upon ground which was familiar to me. We remained at Dorking the rest of the day.
My two friends returned to town this morning and I myself in the afternoon. I subjoin an account of the expenses of our tour for the information of myself and others on future occasions:
Walking Tour of Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire, and Surrey
MS, Yale University Library, John Stuart Mill Papers, Box 2, MS 350. On this tour Mill’s companions, in addition to Horace Grant, who had also accompanied him on the previous tour (see No. 29), were Francis Edward Crawley (1803-32), and Edwin Chadwick (1800-90), the latter a close associate of Mill’s from this time throughout life. Chadwick and Grant left Mill and Crawley on 14 July to return to London. As not published in Mill’s lifetime, not listed in his bibliography.
Thursday 3rd July 1828
Set out from town this morning with Crawley, Chadwick, and Grant, on a tour to the Stoken-Church and Chiltern Hills. We set off from the Black Lion, Water Lane, by a Reading coach, which leaves that inn at half past eight, and which we chose as well for its early hour, as because it possesses the privilege of driving through Windsor Great Park. The road as far as Staines Bridge is tame and common place enough but becomes interesting immediately on entering Surrey. The river to the right, St. Ann’s Hill to the left, Cooper’s Hill and the high ground of Windsor Park in front, compose a pretty enough ensemble. Shortly after passing through the neat town of Egham, we left the great western road, and ascending a hill to the right, came upon some high flat ground intersected by waste and plantations, not like any thing which I ever remember to have seen. We passed through Englefield Green, a pretty village surrounding a common, and composed chiefly of gentlemen’s houses and gardens, and we shortly after entered the Great Park. This is composed of a large tract of sand hill, gradually sloping down toward the Castle and Town, and forming in its descent some exceedingly fine broken ground, the whole (with the exception of some copse and shrubbery about the Royal Cottage of which we could but just see the chimnies over the trees) beautifully laid out in the forest stile with large trees and glades. Our road led us along the brow of the hill, and afforded us numerous shifting views of the castle and town, which are situated on a hill at the northern extremity of the Great Park. The castle is at the top of the hill; the town on its side, and like all towns so situated, very striking. We saw it, first by occasional glimpses through the trees, then in full view, then down the fine avenue called the Long Walk, of which it formed a magnificent termination. The Park, with the exception of this Walk and some other avenues, has completely the air of a forest, with the common deer and the red deer with their noble antlers moving about it or reposing themselves. When we left the Park, we descended the hill, and found ourselves in a corn country the greater part of which was to appearance newly inclosed, and had indeed been taken in from Bagshot Heath at no very long interval. It appeared to yield tolerably good corn, and there were some fir plantations on it, but these were less good, the quantity of other trees intermixed and profiting by their shelter not being sufficient. We left Ascot Race Course to our left, within sight, and rejoined the Bath Road at the village of Bracknel, a place on a hill, which, as we observed in most of the places which we passed through, resembled more a town in the West of England, than those near London, the houses being smaller and less ornamented, and the general appearance of the place not so neat. The truth is that we were now out of the range of the houses and white cottages of persons living in London and passing a day or two days of the week in the country. The ground near us continued for some distance further, to be nearly of the same character as before, but it gradually became more woody, and at the approach to Oakingham a fine view opened to the left. Bagshot Heath appeared to form a fine long ridge dropping suddenly down at its western extremity near Sandhurst, and two round hills appeared between it and Oakingham, one of them nearly bare, the other with a large tree or clump of trees at the top, bearing a considerable resemblance in shape to the round volcanic hills of Cette and Agde on the coast of Languedoc.1 One of these hills I remember is called Edgeborough Hill—and from one of them, but I forget which I have when living near Sandhurst College,2 looked down upon Oakingham.—The town of Wokingham or Oakingham, like the village of Bracknel, has more the appearance of a West of England town than of one in the south eastern counties. In the outskirts, the houses are shabby enough: in the centre there is a large open market place, on which several good houses look out, although rather in the old stile, and one of them (that of the surgeon) so like an inn, that we looked about us for the sign. From Oakingham to Reading it is a common-place corn country, not ugly, nor very beautiful. We crossed the Loddon, celebrated in Pope’s Windsor Forest,3 and about three o’clock arrived at Reading, seeing to our right the valley of the Thames, and the beautiful chalk hills beyond. Reading is an exceedingly large country town, with a considerable number of long wide streets, neatly built, and apparently of rapidly increasing size, long rows of new houses in the London stile appearing on the different avenues to the town. We here met M. d’Eichtal, the friend of Eyton Tooke,4 who being at Newbury had ridden over to meet us, and who guided us over the town. We went down to the old bridge at Caversham about a mile from the town, and explored the chalk pits and hills on the other side of the river: We found no plants, but had a magnificent view of the river and its valley. The valley is filled with beautiful meadows very like those at Marlow: a range of chalk hills cultivated at the top comes close to the river on the north side; on the south the hills are lower and more remote. We found near the bridge a plant which I believe is the Myagrum sativum.—We dined at the Horse and Jockey an inn quite at the extremity of the town in the road towards Pangbourn5 and Wallingford:—and after dinner we took our leave of M. d’Eichtal, and descending to the bridge, followed the towing path to Pangbourn. The meadows, as I have already observed, are exactly like those at Marlow, and the hay is just cut, in some places not yet carried. The immediate fringe of the river is just beginning to come into its highest beauty; the towing path is nothing more than a pretty footpath through a meadow, and therefore takes away nothing from the beauty of the scene. The river is broad, but quiet, and not very deep, as is proved by the rushes and other weeds from which in some places no part of the channel is free. The valley becomes presently deeper and closer; the hills on the left approach to the river, leaving at last only a small strip of meadow between. The side of the hill on our left is covered with a beautiful wood, and the chalk hills on the right become woody instead of cultivated. The river first approaches to the road, and comes so near that we could see at the top of the hill, a house on the road, and could hear and see carriages on it. The river then makes a bend to the right, and the towing path crosses for a short time to the Oxfordshire side in order to avoid a pretty house and pleasure ground on the declivity of the hill. At Mapledurham lock, one of the most beautiful spots on the river, it again bends to the left, and the valley widens, being still filled with meadows. The ridge of high chalk hills to the right now changes its character, becoming bare and irregular, and resembling less the chalk hills of Surry6 than the descent from Salisbury plain. It was almost dark when we arrived at Pangbourn, where we stopped for the night, at the “George.”
Having seen yesterday that there was much ground worth exploring on the north side of the river, and wishing to pass another entire day in the vicinity of so beautiful an object, we resolved to dine at Pangbourn and not proceed further than Streatley tonight. We accordingly crossed the river by the wooden bridge which connects Pangbourn with Whitchurch, and after passing through some meadows by the river side, we commenced ascending the first woody hill in the direction of Reading. We crossed the wood by a very beautiful path, and came to a deep dell, filled with corn fields and woods, which with one or two fallow fields composed a mixture of light green, dark green, and red, of extreme beauty. We found the corn fields quite full of the Iberis amara, or candy tuft, which is here one of the commonest of all weeds. Having crossed this dell, another small wood, and a beautiful sandy green, we came out upon a high range of corn fields on the ridge of the hill, overlooking not immediately the valley of the Thames though turned towards it, but a dell, the bottom of which was mostly filled with wood, which ascended from the valley of the river near Mapledurham, and turned round to the left. Over the declivity of this dell, which was covered with fine wavy corn fields, we saw the chalk hills of Berkshire sloping away to the south and beyond them a high range of bold sand hills shaped like those of Leith Hill, which on enquiry we found to be called in this neighbourhood the Hampshire hills, and the highest of them Scoddington Hill. We descended to Mapledurham, a neat little village with a church, like all in this neighbourhood, furnished with a square tower, of a tesselated appearance. We loitered for some time in the beautiful meadows about the river, explored another woody hill something like the wood of Denbies near Dorking, and returned by the bottom of the woody dell before mentioned. After dining at Pangbourn, we proceeded to Streatley, for the first two miles by water as the towing path crosses the river about half way, and it was doubtful whether the ferry boat would be on the right side for us to push ourselves over by the chain. On leaving Pangbourn we had to the left a fine steep bare chalk hill, like those formed by the refuse of the chalk pits. The road from Pangbourn to Streatley was close to the river, and at the foot of this hill. It is a road considerably frequented, as we had reason to observe, having seen several stage coaches stop at Pangbourn which go from Brighton to Oxford and Cheltenham through Reading and Wallingford. To the right there were rich meadows and gentlemen’s houses between the river and the hills. This continued for some time, with the exception that the hills on the left approached the river, and then receded when the hills on the right approached it, forming a fine line of beech wood, to which the last gleams of the setting sun gave a rich yellow colour. We here left the punt in which we had ascended thus far, and took the towing path on the Oxfordshire side. The hills on the right now receded and appeared gradually to drop down, while on the left they grew high and steep, and came close to the river, leaving scarcely room for a pretty house and small pleasure ground between the river and the steep part of the ascent. Near the end of these hills are the villages of Goring and Streatley, the former on the north, the latter on the south side of the river: we crossed by a ferry, and took up our abode at the upper extremity of Streatley, which is a very neat village, and the main street of which, by a gentle declivity, ascends the chalk hill.
Before leaving Streatley, we climbed the hill above it, by an old road commanding a magnificent view of the valley of the Thames down to Pangbourn and up almost to Wallingford, as well as of the sloping sides of the Stoken Church Hills, on the other side of the river, which commence at Chinnor and end here. The river in this place runs nearly north and south. To the north of us on the Berkshire side we could perceive no more than one elevated slope, with wood at the top and down on the side next us, which joins a little higher up, the hill which we were upon. To our left, at the top of the hill, was an extensive wood which covers the entire top of the hill overhanging Streatley: We found a path which led us directly through it, and to the edge of a dell running up from the valley of the river, filled with corn fields, and the opposite side of it covered with a thick and extensive wood. In a field in this dell we found a rare plant, the Bupleurum rotundifolium. We returned into the first wood, and crossing it in another direction, came out on the crest of the hill directly above Streatley, on what is called the High Down, a fine chalky and grassy slope like that of Brockham Hill.—After breakfasting at the Bull, Streatley, we recrossed the river, passed through the village of Goring, and commenced ascending the Stoken Church hills, taking a fine view of the hills on the Berkshire side of the valley, as we ascended. Turning off to the right from the direct road to Woodcote on the top of the hill, we got into another of the woody dells which so beautifully run up from the valley of the Thames into the chalk hills on both sides. By following this dell we reached the top of the hill, and had a fine view to the east, in several places, seeing the Hampshire hills in the distance, and the plain of Oxfordshire and Berkshire between, with some hills which we imagined from their position to be those of Henley. We pursued our course through corn fields and woods to Nettlebed, along the top of the hill, which runs from S.S.W. to N.N.E. The summit of the range is tame enough, like most table land, and it had even lost the character of chalk, being covered with clay to a considerable depth. In ascending the hills, all the woods we had passed through were of beech: but as we advanced they were of oak and beech, or oak alone. The woods are the great beauty of this country. They are real woods, not copse, that is, they are not cut down for fire wood, but allowed to grow into timber, though not to any great age, nor are there as far as we could perceive, many very large or fine trees among them. Towards Nettlebed, we had to cross some deep dells, which appear to run up into the hills on the eastern side: which was the cause of our seeing Nettlebed (which lies high on the top of the hill) long before we came near it. In one of the woods we found that elegant and rare plant, the Pyrola media. We passed through the hamlet of Woodcote and the village of Checkendon,7 but the last is the only place which can be mentioned as having any beauty, either in itself or its vicinity. We stopped at the White Hart, Nettlebed, for the night, and in the evening walked down the hill by the Oxford road towards Henley. It passes through a fine forest-like beech wood, and on the whole the ascent to Nettlebed from Henley is far more beautiful than any thing else which we have seen in its vicinity.
On leaving Nettlebed, we still kept the line of the hills, crossing over occasionally from one side of the ridge to the other, but in general keeping close to the side next Oxfordshire, and descending as often as we could into the woods which skirt that side of the hill. The summit of all these hills is clay, the foundation chalk, the sides are consequently chalk, and the woods mostly of beech. We only had an occasional peep of the plain until we came out upon the brow of the hill just above Watlington, a large market town which does not appear to lie on any thoroughfare from London. The plain as seen from this point, appeared a flat tract of corn land, with scarcely any hedgerows, but studded with numerous villages surrounded by trees; like some parts of France, particularly the Haute Normandie. There is on this part of the hill a park of some extent, called Watlington Park, one corner of which we cut off by a footpath. Here for the first time the sides of the chalk hill seemed to be bare and grassy, and the plain to come quite up to the foot of the hill; a small range of low hills having appeared at the last place where we observed the plain, to intervene between it and the great range of hills. Just before we met the other Oxford road, by Beconsfield8 and Wycombe, we passed above a projecting elbow of the hill, sloping gradually down into the plain in a manner which need not be described to any person who has seen chalk hills. On meeting the Oxford road we turned to the right, and followed it to Stoken Church, a little village on the top of the hill, where we dined at the King’s Arms. Before proceeding farther on our route I left my three companions at Stoken Church, and went in quest of a place of some botanical celebrity called Penley Hangings.9 I took the road towards Great Marlow, which passes through a most delightful forest-like beech wood, by far the finest which I had yet seen on these hills. By enquiring of the woman who keeps the first turnpike, I discovered that it was necessary here to leave the road, and crossing a part of the above-mentioned wood, and an extremely green and beautiful meadow to enter another and thicker wood, on the side of a deep dell, one of the most secluded and romantic spots which I had seen even in this country, and of which I had taken a fine view from the meadow through which I had previously passed. Descending through this wood, which was enriched with the finest vegetable productions of a chalky soil, by a path so steep as to be almost precipitous, I came into a grass field less fertile than the other, but completely embosomed in woods, and full of the Chlora perfoliata and other beautiful creataceous plants. At the lower end of this field, which was still on the declivity was the wood called Penley Hangings, which I was in search of, and which must be of very considerable length, since I followed a path which led through it along the bottom of the dell, for nearly a mile. I here found the Paris quadrifolia; and this with the Linaria monspessulana (or repens) which I had found near Nettlebed in the morning, formed all the botanical acquisitions of this day. The wood called Penley Hangings appeared to cover one declivity of the dell entirely, and a small part of the other, and is one of the finest beech woods in this country. I returned to Stoken Church nearly by the way I came from it, and we reached the brow of the hill by so beautiful a path through fields and woods, that we may readily pronounce the environs of Stoken Church to be very delightful. From one part of this path we had a distinct view of what we had only seen by glimpses in our way from Goring; that the range of the Stoken Church hills is a double range, having a valley in the midst, and a narrower at first a lower line of chalk hills parallel to the other on the side next to Henley. When we attained the summit, we had a splendid view of this immense plain, illuminated by the horizontal sun, by which alone this country should be surveyed as it casts long shadows, and by the contrast between gleams of bright yellow, and deep shade; gives to the large expanse that variety which it would otherwise want. Another and smaller elbow, feathered with wood to a considerable depth, here runs out into the plain: this we crossed, keeping as near the edge as possible, and obtained in one part a glorious peep of the fields close under the foot of the hill, through a very romantic spot in the wood, where the trees being not so close together, left room for us to see through them, and allowed gleams of sunshine to penetrate the leaves and illuminate the fine chalky turf at their feet. We then issued out upon the bare top of the hill, and came to the edge of it, where the range of the Stoken Church hills nearly drops down to the ground, and the low hills which succeed it after forming a semicircular basin, rise again into the higher and more beautiful range of the Chiltern Hills. Here we stopped and surveyed on the one hand, the line of hills which we had passed, and which formed a segment of a circle with the concave side turned towards the plain, the elbow of the hill on the other side of the Oxford road being the other extreme point: on the other hand, the beautiful jutting out elbows of the part of the hill we were upon called Chinnor Hill, and the hill which follows it called Wain Hill, or as the people of the country pronounce it Wynle Hill, a woody hill which recedes from the other hills, and ends the Stoken Church range. The plain below us was the rich vale of Aylesbury, bounded in the right half of the prospect by a series of low hills, near the foot of which was Aylesbury itself: while a line of villages at the foot of the hill, Rowant, Aston, Crowell, Chinnor, and Henton, running parallel with the hills, and surrounded by trees, gave to this country something of the appearance of the plain of the Garonne seen from the Frontin and Pompignan hills, with trees marking the course of the river across it. We descended the hill, admiring the beautiful woods on Wain Hill to our right, and a tongue of land which descends from it gradually and to a great length, leaving the side towards us as nearly perpendicular as the Devil’s Dyke near Brighton. It was now becoming dark, and we saw little in the remainder of our route. We however crossed the brook which separates Oxfordshire from Buckinghamshire, and passed through several villages in the semicircular basin of which I have spoken already. The generality of the houses appeared far less neat and elegant than at Pangbourn and Whitchurch, where every cottage had its pretty and well-kept strip of flower garden, and had an appearance of neatness and modernness about the whole building. Here, on the contrary, the cottages were hovels, and appeared to be almost falling down. The churches are extremely large, for such insignificant places, and in a very superior style of Gothic architecture: every church which we saw, in this evening’s walk and that of the following day, with one exception, were on the same model, having a Gothic, generally a square tower and a large aisle, terminated by a smaller aisle. In every village, or close to it there was one, and but one, very large house and grounds which reminded us of a French village and the château of its seigneur, and no doubt originated the same way. We put up for the night at the old decayed town of Prince’s Risborough, at the foot of the first hill in the Chiltern range, which hill is distinguished by an immense cross which is formed on it by taking off the turf and leaving the chalk bare. We stopped at the Cross Keys.
We walked to Wendover before breakfast, along the foot of the Chiltern hills, which present to the plain a singularly irregular and diversified edge, shaped in some places very oddly. We passed through or near a multitude of villages, each with its church after the fashion of those mentioned yesterday. Many dells run up into the line of hills, but of these I shall have occasion to speak more fully hereafter. Having arrived at Wendover, we took up our headquarters there (at the Red Lion) for two or three days. Wendover is an old town, situated at the northern entrance of a long valley which intersects the Chiltern Hills from Amersham or “Agmondesham” on the other side. It is of tolerable dimensions, though appearing very small when seen from the high ground above it. The people seem poor and miserable, as is usually the case where the British lace manufacture (as it is termed) exists—and here it exists universally every female having her pillow and bobbins. We breakfasted at Wendover, and then ascended Combe Hill, being the first hill of the range towards Prince’s Risborough, and extending out into the plain, with a fine bare chalky down on the declivity; and a beech wood on the top. Beyond this hill a dell runs up from the plain, in the middle of which are the house and park of Chequers, formerly belonging to Oliver Cromwell, now to Russell, the member of parliament for (I believe) Bletchingly, who is descended from Cromwell in a female line.10 We went over the house, which is in the stile of the period, both externally and internally—with triangular roofs, battlements, strong sided window frames without sashes, cornices in the same stile, oak floors and staircases, etc. Of the park we saw only the part next the house reserving the lower and most celebrated part for another day. It contains fine trees, and being surrounded by woody hills, it is pretty, although finer when seen from Combe Hill than from the valley. Viewed from above the trees of the park being prettily grouped, and backed by a rather thick wood of the same large trees, had a fine effect. We ascended the dell, which above Chequers continues well wooded and pretty but without anything very striking, to Hampden, the estate and house of the celebrated John Hampden, and of his descendant the present Viscount Hampden.11 This is a very large old house, without much pretension to beauty, on the further side of the dell. The ground about it is in the usual character of these hills, which in the interior much resemble any other chalk hills, their peculiar beauty consisting in the edge. We returned over Combe Hill, and in the evening ascended Halton Hill beyond Wendover which projects from the range to a very great length towards the plain. It is steep, with fine turf on the sides and beech woods on the top, commanding a fine view of the plain, of the valley of Wendover, and of a dell which intersects the hills, from the valley of Wendover towards Tring in Hertfordshire. I found no plants in this day’s walks, although all the common vegetation of a chalky soil was most abundant.
We set out from Wendover this morning to explore that part of the Chiltern Hills which is beyond it. We took the road to Tring, which goes round the foot of Halton Hill (the further side of which is called Aston Hill). The bare part of this hill I have described: Beyond the most projecting point it recedes and forms itself into a magnificent amphitheatre of wood, at the other extremity of which it again projects forward into the plain, and we here left the road, crossed a field or two, and climbing the hill at the edge of the amphitheatre, found that it became again bare on the sides and woody at and near the top. We skirted the wood to its further extremity and then ascended to the top of the hill, from which we had an entirely new prospect. The direction of the hills here changes—and as the elbow near Stoken Church had once been the boundary of our prospect, and Chinnor Hill and Wain Hill afterwards, so now Aston Hill became, as long as we continued on this side of it, the limit of our view. The view from the top of this hill was the noblest we had yet seen. Another valley here opens through the hills, and beyond this valley a long line of them again projected forward into the plain, still further into it indeed than Aston Hill. The two last of these were bare, steep, and sinuous, like the South Downs, and were terminated by the Beacon Hill above Ivinghoe which was destined to be the extreme point of our this day’s walk. We could distinctly perceive, at the foot of the last mentioned hill, the little town of Ivinghoe and a great number of villages with their churches together with several considerable pieces of water serving as feeders to the Grand Junction Canal which passes through these hills by Tring and Berk Hampstead. There is a Navigable Feeder which runs from Wendover to this canal, and conveys thither a large quantity of water which rises from beneath the chalk. The low range of hills which we had seen beyond Aylesbury, here comes nearer to the chalk hills, and we perceived several little hills which seemed to possess considerable beauty, particularly two bare round ones between Ivinghoe and Aylesbury. Having enjoyed this view for some time, we quitted Aston Hill, an arm of which descends to a prodigious length and with a very curious shape into the plain; and taking a footpath to the right through the wood, we came out on one side of the woody dell described in my yesterday’s journal as intersecting the hills from the valley of Wendover towards Tring. This dell was extremely irregular and beautiful, covered with corn fields and woods with occasional patches of bare open corn fields in the midst of the wood, and surrounded by it on all sides. This opened into the valley of Tring, at which place we speedily arrived. Tring is a considerable town, situate on the high road from London to Aylesbury, in the gap of the hills above spoken of and in a long strip or tongue of Hertfordshire which here runs up into Buckinghamshire from Berkhampstead almost to Wingrave. The high hills about Tring form a sort of natural basin, overlooking that town and its valley. We crossed the valley, the canal, and a fine large clear brook which runs close to it, and crossing several fields and slight elevations, ascended a chalk hill of considerable height, which, seen from Tring or from Aston Hill, appears to be one of the range of hills projecting towards Ivinghoe but which in reality stands out from them an insulated hill in the midst of this very wide gap or valley.—We ascended this hill through a wood, one of its sides being wooded—we had seen no hill as yet which had not an extensive beech wood somewhere; and skirting the ridge of it, which projects as usual a considerable distance into the plain, we crossed the gap which separates it from the two bare hills which we had seen from Aston Hill, and ascended the first of these. I have called it bare and so indeed it was on the side next us, and at the top being an extremely fine chalky turf, resembling the edge of the South Downs toward the plain of Sussex—Its shape too resembled that of the South Down range, in its sinuosities—but when we reached the top we found, that besides a large clump of trees in one spot, which serves as a landmark to a distance, the other side of the hill was covered with a noble wood of full grown trees, the first which we had yet seen of that character. Here for the first time on these hills we found box growing. On the declivity turned towards the wood, was a thicket of box—and we could perceive other similar thickets lower down. Beyond this hill was another gap or valley, after which the range of chalk hills rose again, and pushed itself forward to a great distance into the plain as before. These are in Bedfordshire, and are called the Dunstable hills, from the town of Dunstable at the foot of them on the other side—the vicinity of which was also indicated by the appearance of straw plaiting in the cottages instead of the manufacture of “British lace.” These hills, at the end next us, appeared somewhat triste, but those which projected farthest out into the plain were bare, turfy, and shaped like Brockham hill, having much of the same sort of beauty, and we should have desired to explore them, but that we probably saw them to greater advantage from the opposite hill than if we had been upon them. We now crossed a little bottom, much like those of the South Downs, which separated us from the Beacon Hill, the highest and most projecting of all. Through this gap the Icknield Way, an ancient British road which had run along the foot of the hills almost if not entirely from Goring to this place, now cuts over the hill towards Dunstable. We ascended the Beacon Hill or rather its higher summit, for it has two summits connected by a waving line, and is the only absolutely bare hill which we had seen. From this we saw not only over the descending arm of Aston Hill quite to Wain Hill and Chinnor Hill beyond Prince’s Risborough, but far eastward into Bedfordshire, and the considerable town of Leighton Buzzard in that county, due north of us at no great distance. There is much beauty at this point in the plain itself, which besides the open corn fields and villages surrounded by trees, offered a considerable variety of gentle eminences, which although insignificant when seen from the high chalk hills, must be sufficient to give no inconsiderable beauty to the details of the country. We descended the Beacon Hill in order to return to Wendover by the foot of the hills; and passed close to the town of Ivinghoe, the church of which though bearing a general resemblance to the ordinary Gothic stile of the village churches in this neighbourhood is still more beautiful, being in the cathedral stile, with two aisles crossing one another in the middle and a steeple rising from the point of intersection. The road to Wendover from this place, and the footpaths with which we occasionally varied it, are extremely beautiful. Towards the foot of any range of high hills it is usually found that the ground gradually rises to a considerable height, before the hills can be said to commence; and this road, being an old road now very little used, was carried over these eminences in order to avoid the plain, which must formerly have been a marsh incapable of being crossed except on causeways. We had thus the pleasure of overlooking the plain, and at the same time observing closely the beautiful and often singular shape of the hills; and our satisfaction would have been unalloyed had not an extremely heavy rain come on, accompanied with thunder, which had just time to soak us thoroughly to the skin before we arrived at Wendover.
We had intended this day to explore the line of hills between Wendover and Prince’s Risborough, but were prevented by the rain, which continued all night and with very slight intervals all day. This however did not altogether prevent us from taking exercise, though it induced us to confine ourselves to the roads. We took the road towards London, which runs along a valley intersecting the hills in their widest part. Two lines of hills, sometimes gradually sloping, sometimes precipitously ascending, were on the right and left, and were not hid even by the thick clouds which covered the whole sky. Rather more than three miles from Wendover on this road, is a village, as it is termed, though it is fully as large as Wendover, called Great Missenden. It is the prettiest village we had as yet seen in this district. A short distance before arriving at this town, there rises in the valley a clear stream or brook of considerable size such as is rarely seen in a valley bounded on both sides by chalk hills. Beyond Missenden to the left a portion of the side of the hill, as well as of the valley, is inclosed, and forms a park, in which stands a place called the Abbey, which could be seen from the fields adjoining the road, and appears a handsome but not very large building. The brook, or little river, the Misbourne as it is called, runs by the side of the road, constantly increasing in size. It runs into the Coln some miles further. Had we continued in the valley, we should have shortly reached the old town of Amersham or Agmondesham, a place of considerable dimensions: But we turned off to the right a short way before arriving at the village of Little Missenden, and entered into a pretty lane, which winds over the hill. The soil, we here found to be sandy, and we were led over a great variety of grounds over little commons and deep woody dells, never seeing more than a hundred yards before us till we came out upon Wycombe Heath, a piece of sandy table land, of no particular beauty of situation, about three miles from High Wycombe. We returned by the way we came, and the rain now coming on violently we were again soaked.—This road, being a high road (except the lane to Wycombe Heath) is well made, as is the great Aylesbury road by Berkhampstead and Tring: All the other roads which we have seen in this country are extremely bad. On this account it is perhaps to be desired that the district should be a place of more resort. Cockneys, though they destroy seclusion, have this advantage that they cause increased traffic and consequently improved communications.—At the entrance of the town on this side we passed to the right, the house and pleasuregrounds of Lord Carrington, the patron of the borough.12 They are small and insignificant, and probably are only valued by him because they happen to be combined with and situated on the borough property. Missenden fortunately for itself is not a borough, and therefore looks thriving and increasing in size. In Missenden there are new houses, in Wendover none, or next to none; all appears old and decaying. There is but one inn and one or two public houses in the place; a large house at the bottom of the hill on which the town stands, was once an inn but is now deserted. A great quantity of beautiful water comes up in different places close to the town, from under the chalk, and supplies the navigable feeder
We left Wendover finally this morning, and set out on the most delightful day’s walk which we had hitherto experienced in this tour; whether the beauty of the country, or the agreeable temperature produced by the bright sun and high wind, be considered. Before proceeding further on our journey we resolved to explore the hills between Wendover and Prince’s Risborough, and the dells which run up into the range of hills within this space. I have already intimated that Chequers stands in one of these dells, which is bounded towards Wendover by Combe Hill, towards Risborough by another long and high hill, which descends very gradually into the plain. I had not however previously mentioned that at the embouchure of the dell, between these two hills rises another hill, round and insulated, presenting a mount-like form to the plain, which like the hill over Ivinghoe and no doubt for the same reason, is called Beacon Hill. This, which is covered with the finest and most mossy turf I have ever beheld, we ascended from the village of Ellesborough at its foot, one of the numerous villages on the road from Wendover to Prince’s Risborough. Between this hill and the furthermost of the two hills between which it stands, we now perceived the finest hollow which we had yet seen. It is a little ravine, flat at the bottom, and running up between two hill sides, until stopped by the almost perpendicular ascent. I have known several such in the Surrey chalk hills, especially about Box Hill, but never one so deep, and so long, or with three of its sides so precipitous. The whole of the further declivity of this beautiful hollow is covered with box, as thick as in the thickest part of Box Hill, and interspersed with beech. On the other side, and at the extremity, the box and other wood was not so thick, but left several spaces nearly bare and chalky. At the foot, and in the flat part of the bottom, lay a fine green turfy lawn, which has received the well merited name of Velvet Lawn. After going nearly round this beautiful hollow, we descended into it, by a path through the box, and enjoyed it in its whole extent. We then reascended the further side. That side of the hollow which is formed by the Beacon Hill, descends to a flat grassy table, which gently rises at the further extremity and forms a low grassy steep hill, on which there is an old Roman camp. The opposite side forms itself into a variety of fantastic shapes, and slopes in several lines down to the plain leaving several deep ravines between. The first of these is thickly wooded with box and other wood; this is only separated by a single ridge from the Velvet Lawn. Above it is a flat down of some extent spangled with flowers, which we crossed and went down the side of the dell to some distance, and then crossing another ridge, came to a ravine of a very different character. This is extremely bare and stony both at the bottom and on the sides, although with occasional thickets here and there. It is extremely deep, but rises rapidly, and divides itself, about the middle, into two parts, leaving a round bare hill between them. A chalky path is practised in the side of the hill we were upon, looking towards the ravine. We followed this path until we came to the place where the ravine divides itself and forms a fork: Some distance above this point we crossed one of the two divisions of the ravine, climbed the intermediate bare hill, went round the other prong of the fork, and went down the opposite ridge, which is covered with a mossy turf, to a round insulated eminence which it forms at its extremity overlooking the plain. At this point we rested some time, and took our last view of the Vale of Aylesbury, previously to departing for the south. As this was the part of these hills in which I had observed the greatest variety of plants, although none which to me, who have explored the Surrey chalk hills, were rare or curious, I will enumerate the plants which a young botanist may expect to find here: Buxus sempervirens, the staple of the county, Sedum acre, Hyosciamus niger, Atropa belladonna, Reseda luteola and lutea, Conium maculatum (which I mention, because though common in most places I have never seen it in the Surrey chalk hills) these in the bare parts of the hill. In the turfy parts are the Orchis pyramidalis, Epipactis ovata, Ophrys apifera, etc. In the woods, Hypericum hirsutum in immense quantity, Valeriana officinalis, Cornus mas, etc.—From this point we saw the hill so often mentioned, Chinnor Hill or Wain Hill, stretching out into the plain, with the valley of Risborough passing through the hills on this side of it, bounded by the high and long hill called Risborough Hill, and between which and the hill we were on, was another deep valley. We followed the edge of the hill we were on, cut off the corner of a wood, and came out on one side of this last mentioned valley; which is deep, and extremely diversified and beautiful. Directly opposite to us lay Risborough Hill, the same which, on its side next the plain, has inscribed on it the large white cross which has been mentioned in a previous part of this journal. On the side next to us, it is an irregularly wooded hill, with all the sinuosities of ridges and hollows, so common in chalk hills—with tongues of land covered only with down, projecting out from the wood, while the intervening dells, the side of the hill and even the declivity of these tongues are covered with wood. The general effect of this is extremely beautiful—while in the valley there was on a smaller scale as much diversity of hill and dale as would have sufficed to form a prettily diversified country if the larger hills had been taken away. We here met a road, which, after winding along the side of the hill, and through a wood, conducted us to the bottom of the valley; which we found in due time to be the same which we had crossed three days ago, in going from Wendover to Hampden: and in fact it is a valley which intersects the hills, and divides itself near Hampden into two parts, one of which is the valley of Chequers, and the other, that into which we had now descended. In taking the field path to High Wycombe, we now had an opportunity of again passing Hampden House, to which we ascended by the path which we had before taken in descending from it, and which I am thus enabled further to describe. The house stands on the top of the ridge on the right hand, that is, west, and south, of the valley in which we were. There is no immediate beauty of prospect from the house: Its ornament is a number of fine trees, and some very rich meadows. We ascended the hill along a line of stately beeches; and going round the further side of the house, saw some very fine cedars and limes. The church of Great Hampden is close to the house, or rather to the solid and old looking stables, which are in full view of the windows but shrouded by a belt of high trees. Passing between the house and the stables, and between the house and the church, we came out into a sort of park-like meadow: for park properly so called this house does not possess: but in this meadow, which is one of the finest whether for beauty or pasture which I ever beheld, is a long irregular avenue of the most magnificent limes. We crossed this field and several others and coming to the edge of the hill, beheld another deep valley: it was not however that of Risborough, but one which either branches out of it, or does not go entirely through the hills but ends near Hampden. We were now on the sand, and there was consequently a brook in the valley, which in this high part was covered with brushwood and fern on both sides to the very top, like the valley of Broadmoor on Leith Hill, to which it bears a great resemblance. We could see the valley for the length of miles before us, winding down towards the plain, among cornfields and woods, until stopped and closed by the high chalk hill beyond Wycombe. We kept for some time the top of the hill which bounds this valley on the left, and which forms part of Wycombe Heath. We then followed the side of this same hill, by field paths and roads, and at last got into a road which runs along the bottom, close to the brook before mentioned, which has here attained a considerable size. In this manner we reached High Wycombe, a town embosomed in hills, and decidedly larger and more thriving than any we had seen except Reading. It is indeed a large and handsome place. It is bounded on the north by the hills which we had now descended; on the south by the high chalk hill called Wycombe Hill, the greater part of which is inclosed to form a beautiful park about a fantastic looking building called Wycombe Abbey. We dined at Wycombe (at the Crown) and within sight of the church, with the beauty of which we were much struck. It is in a very superior stile of Gothic architecture, containing many of the beauties peculiar to that stile, without any frippery or meretricious ornament whatever. The steeple especially—which is high, square and pointed like those of Westminster Abbey—is a model which it were much to be wished that our stupid race of London architects had consulted before they had deformed the capital with a race of new churches, the ugliest surely which ever were built by man. This church is extremely old, but they have restored two large windows and are repairing some other parts in a taste entirely conformable to the original. We now took the direct road to Great Marlow, crossing the chalk hill, and the table land at its summit, and descending gradually into the valley. I was now upon ground familiar to me, and have therefore the less occasion to be extremely particular in the description.
Marlow is a considerable town containing some good houses and one very broad and neat street, with another long and somewhat ugly one perpendicular to it at the extremity. It lies upon the Thames, which is here a broad and clear but not a rapid river. No part of the valley of the Thames, except that from Streatley to Reading, can be compared in beauty to the valley of Marlow: but as the hills are much less bold and high than those which we had recently seen, we were not so much struck with this country as I had been in 1821, or as it is probable we all should have been, if we had taken it in an earlier part of our walk. The south side of the valley is formed by a very long and steep, though not very high hill, which for about a mile is entirely covered with wood saving in two places in each of which a field of oats peeps out. The river, in a part of this line, runs immediately under this hill; in the remainder, it winds away from it, having some fine meadows, and the little village of Bisham, between. These meadows we crossed and reached the wood, which, as seen from the meadows, is one of the finest objects in the neighbourhood. A broad excellent path is practised in the hill very little above its foot, and runs along the whole line, until it joins a road which comes over the hill and unites itself to the road from Marlow to Maidenhead and London at Bisham. We here struck into the said road, which slopes up the hill, and from one point (where one of the corn fields intervenes) commands a fine view of the valley and the opposite hills from considerably east of Marlow, to a sudden bend of the valley and river at a place called Newlock above Marlow, above which place the hills bounding the river still higher up can be seen forming a fine and somewhat bold line, over the tops of the gentler eminences near Newlock. Having reached the top of the hill, we turned back, and explored the other extremity of Bisham wood, striking into a path which runs between the river and the base of the hill under an old quarry, and climbing to the top where it becomes bare, and takes the name of Winter Hill. From the two views which we had taken of the opposite hills from these two elevated points it appeared that, although ascending gradually and gently, they rise to no mean height, and had, or, when seen from the opposite hill appeared to have, sufficient boldness, to be endurable even after the Chiltern hills. The hill on which we were, as it gradually descends towards Maidenhead, turns round to the right, the river here making so great a bend, as to run in a retrograde direction almost parallel to itself. We went down to the edge of this hill, (which abounds in that pretty plant the Dianthus armeria) from whence we saw the village of Cookham on the river, and beyond it the long and fine line of wood appertaining to Hedsor and Clifden,13 which skirts the river for a considerable distance, rising suddenly from it to some height. We crossed the river at Cookham ferry, and followed the towing path as far as we could: for, after passing directly under the foot of the beautiful hill and wood for a considerable space—which from the beautiful bends in the wood, the clearness and tranquillity of the river itself and two pretty houses and grounds on the opposite side, may be justly held the finest spot on the Thames (and where I found the Helleborus foetidus and Dipsacus pilosus)—it is at last stopped by the Clifden inclosure. Some of our party however climbed over the palings, and explored several walks which are made in the wood along the side of the hill, affording now and then a fine peep of the river, meadows, and opposite hill: we then got over the palings at the other side, and rejoining those of our friends who had remained without, struck into the lane which leads up and along the hill to Clifden gate. In a chalky and grassy thicket by the side of this lane, on the brow of the hill I found the Astralagalus glyciphyllos. We peeped in at the gate, but could see little except the house, which consists oddly enough of wings without a body, the centre part having been burnt down and not rebuilt. We returned to Marlow by the villages of Woburn14 and Little Marlow, finding the Borago officinalis by the way. In the road there is nothing remarkable; but we took a path from Little Marlow which led us by the side of Westrop, a house and grounds belonging to Sir George Nugent,15 with some very fine trees and particularly some cedars, one of them the largest I think I ever saw.—In the evening we went up the river by the towing path through beautiful meadows and passed Bisham Abbey on the other side of the river (a place belonging at least in 1821 to Mr. Vansittart uncle of Lord Bexley),16 and somewhat small considering its name, but Abbey is no uncommon name for a country house in this part of England. We crossed the river near the copper mills and somewhat commonplace but immense dwelling house of Owen Williams, Mr. Grenfell’s partner and the patron of the borough of Great Marlow.17 A little above this is Harleyford, belonging to Sir William Clayton,18 a handsome old English brick house, with a very pretty park and woods, and a lawn coming down close to the river, or rather to a non-navigated arm of it, which forms a handsome appendage to the park and estate. A large willowy island intervenes between this and the navigated arm, on which stands a house of a very different appearance, called Lady-place, near Hurley, an extremely old and old looking manor-house, with which some historical recollections are connected, as a vault or cellar under it was the place of the secret meetings of the men who called over William III from Holland.19 Just above these two houses is the bend of the river at Newlock; chiefly beautiful from a sort of chalk cliff of some length and height, sprinkled with trees which occasionally hide it, and skirted with them almost all along the summit or edge. At the foot of this cliff, close to the river, is a cottage, to which it is fashionable among the Marlow people to come up by water and drink tea. We crossed the river, ascended the cliff, and returned to Marlow by the Henley road, which passes through a wood of full grown trees belonging to Harleyford, and descends several rather steep declivities to Marlow. Rain came on in the evening, and we reached Marlow somewhat wet.
We went to Newlock by the route by which we returned from it on the previous evening, finding the Thlaspi arvense, or perfoliatum, in the way. We here crossed the river and took the opportunity of a shower which rendered a place of shelter desirable, to go over Lady-place and see it. This ancient priory (for such it was, having been founded about the time of the Norman Conquest) is now, and has been for the last ten years, entirely uninhabited, and is so much out of repair that it probably will never be inhabited again—although indeed it is just about to be sold. There are an immense number of rooms in it, most of them small, others very large and handsome, with oak wainscots and floors, the walls and roofs often painted, in several different stiles and tastes, with a very fine entrance hall and staircase. In a vault under the house, we saw an inscription on the wall, to the effect stated in my journal of yesterday. Leaving this place, we followed the winding of the river, and soon arrived at Medmenham Abbey, the place where Wilkes and his Hell-fire Club held their celebrated orgies20 —it is a very small place, not much larger than a large cottage, but a part of the wall formerly belonged (as we were told on the spot) to an Abbey and the remainder which is modern was built of the old materials. It is situated in an extremely beautiful part of the river, and the hills round it, particularly on the Buckinghamshire side, come closer to the river and are bolder and steeper and of a more beautiful shape than on the other side of Newlock. At this place it is usual for parties to dine, and a room looking out upon the river is kept on purpose for their accommodation—the place being uninhabited, except by the woman who keeps it. From Medmenham we crossed the river, and followed a very beautiful path, which keeps the side of the river for some distance, and then crosses the hills on the Berkshire side in order to save a bend of the river. We crossed Culham Court Park, passed the house, a large regular brick mansion, and after passing through several fields amidst the rain, which pursued us the greater part of the day, we struck into the London and Maidenhead road just before it descends the steep chalk hill to Henley. On the declivity we found (as it is set down in the books)21 the Linaria repens; but this is a common plant here, as I found it in several places about Streatley and Baseldon. We crossed Henley bridge and took the towing path on the Oxfordshire side, to get a full view of the chalk hills on the other, which here descend very precipitously towards the river, forming the grounds of the celebrated Park Place—which consists of two elbows descending very steeply from the hill to the river, with trees of many kinds very handsomely grouped thereon, and the hollow between them covered with chalky turf. Beyond the furthest of these elbows the side of the hill formed a wood chiefly composed of large trees, hanging directly over the Thames, and skirted on the water’s edge by some very large white looking trees which seemed to be willow, poplar and ash. We soon arrived at a place where the towing path is stopped on the Oxfordshire side by the very pretty grounds of an old house, which seven years before, when I was last there needed to be propped up by buttresses, but we did not however approach near enough to it to see whether it had made any further progress to decay. We now made the best of our way to the turnpike road from Henley to Reading, which led us along the heights over the valley of the Thames, with occasional glimpses of the river, and one fine view of Park Place behind us, but no particular beauty of any other kind, and keeping along this road we arrived at Reading, where the doubtfulness of the weather induced us to remain for the evening.
Having a day to spare, and that day being very fine, we resolved to pay another visit to Pangbourne and Streatley. We accordingly walked to the former place by the towing path, as before described. The beauty of the scenery lost nothing by repetition; on the contrary, we had never thought it so beautiful as now when we came to it from the bolder scenery of the Chiltern Hills. At Pangbourne instead of going up to Baseldon by water as before, we ascended the bare chalk hill, resembling those formed by the refuse of the chalk pits, which as I formerly mentioned, overlooks the river, with only the Oxford road between. Its summit forms a narrow strip of chalk down: and if we had thought this hill fine when seen from the river, we thought the river and adjacent objects still finer when seen from the hill. We could see not only the country on the other side of the river up to the tops of the hills, but (by the aid of a bend in the river and valley) the whole range of hills on the side where we were, first woody, then bare, as far as Streatley High Down, to which we now directed our course: We struck into a path in the side of the next hill, a thickly wooded one: the path, near the lower edge of the wood, just overlooking the Oxford road, and commanding a view through a narrow belt of trees into the valley, reminded us of the long walks at Wotton. Beyond this hill we took one of the dells which run up into the range of hills, and came out upon the table land, which is as uninteresting as any other table land we had been on—but intersected by several woody dells, which we crossed and at length came into the most beautiful of them all, the winding dell into which we had looked down from the edge of the wood on Streatley Hill. We ascended this dell, first at the bottom and next on its right-hand hill, till we came to the spot at which we had issued out into the wood; commanding all the way, a continually changing prospect of this beautiful dell, which from its depth, the frequent bends in its course, the quantity of wood, and the beauty with which the wood is disposed in it, well rewarded the time we spent in it and would be worthy of a more minute exploration. We here entered the wood and came out as before on Streatley High Down, from whence we descended not to the village but to the Oxford road, and went to Pangbourne by that road, which passes through the pretty village of Baseldon, between Baseldon Park and the river, which it constantly overlooks except where it is obliged to turn the house and pleasureground of the right bank of the river mentioned in a former part of this journal. We dined at Pangbourne, and returned to Reading in the evening, partly by the towing path and partly by the road.
This morning at five Grant left us for London and it may be as well to remark that a coach leaves Reading at that hour, from Williams’s coach office, which reaches the White Horse Cellar at ½ past 9 and the city at ten. We breakfasted at Reading, and proceeded at nine o’clock by one of the London coaches to Oakingham,22 where Chadwick also left us, going on to London. The remainder of our party, which was now reduced to two, being Crawley and myself, resolved to take this opportunity of exploring Bagshot Heath, and the range of high heathy hills between it and Farnham, before he returned to London and I proceeded to join my family at Walton-upon-Thames. We therefore left the coach, and took the road to Finchampstead, through a flat commonplace country, and when we had arrived within sight of that place, turned to the left and soon came upon Bagshot Heath, which in this part wears the most dreary and desolate aspect conceivable. The immense tract of country called Bagshot Heath, is situated in three counties, Berkshire, Hampshire, and Surry: the Berkshire part of it consists chiefly of wild irregular heathy hills, without any cultivated spots, and consisting entirely of bog and waste, new planted here and there with small groves of stunted Scotch firs. We soon came in sight of the two round hills mentioned in my first day’s journal: The smallest of the two has a clump of trees on the top, and is called, as I believe from recollection, Edgeborough Hill: this lies close to our route, and we ascended it: from the summit we could see on two sides nothing but waste, on a third (being that from whence we came) waste near at hand, and a tame cultivated country beyond, bounded at a considerable distance by the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire hills, of which, lying due north, we could easily distinguish those of Marlow. On the remaining side, which was the west, we saw the valley of the Blackwater river, which intersects the Bagshot heath hills from south to north, forming a strip of cultivated land chiefly meadow, across this unprofitable waste.—Some trees of no great size, scattered over it, contributed to render it not absolutely ugly, which is the utmost that could be said for any part of our present prospect. In this valley we saw the village of Yateley, and the valley almost to Eversley, beyond which the western part of Berkshire towards Newbury seemed gradually though tamely to rise to a considerable height. To the east, amid a dreary waste, and sandhills of no very remarkable shape or appearance, was the other of the two round hills before alluded to: This which I believe to be Crowthorn hill, is considerably larger than Edgeborough, though not much higher. This also has a clump of trees on the top but much smaller and less conspicuous than those on Edgeborough—the sides also appear to be almost entirely bare, with no vegetation or any thing except the gravelly sand, whereas the sides of Edgeborough are covered with heath and furze, and various other of the plants commonly growing in the less barren parts of this immense waste. We descended the hill, and continuing on our former road, which here skirting the edge of the cultivated country, becomes a lane bordered by very high hedges, we passed through the little village or hamlet of Sandhurst, and soon came to the Military College, where I revived my old recollections by wandering about the semi-cultivated ground in front of the College, about the Governor’s house,23 and on the margin of the first lake—for the ponds on the heath at this point are sufficiently large, and their banks sufficiently ornamented, to deserve that name. We here came out upon the great Western Road, and struck into it towards London. After passing the College, this road gradually ascends a long heathy hill, passing to the right a knoll planted with wood, at the top of which there is an old obelisk, a conspicuous landmark to the surrounding country. This hill forms part of the long line of heathy hills called here Chobham Ridges, and subsequently assuming the name of Romping Downs, which extends from a little to the north of this place, to Ash between Guildford and Farnham, and which we now designed to explore. At the top of this hill is the public house called the Jolly Farmer, better known by its old name of the Golden Farmer. Here one of the Southampton roads, by Farnham, separates itself from the Western road. Looking eastward, we could not see Bagshot, which was hid by a corner of the hill, but could see an extensive portion of the heath beyond it towards Egham with a high healthy hill (probably Virginia Water Hill) in front of us, and the cultivated country to the left towards Windsor. On the other side we saw down into the Hampshire part of Bagshot Heath on the other side of the Blackwater: into the valley of which, we now gradually descended by the Southampton road, leaving the Chobham ridges to our left, which have here a somewhat irregular and varied edge. We quitted this road at the village of Frimley, near the Blackwater. This place contains some pretty ornamented houses, and though not very beautiful, may be considered as one of the prettiest spots in this dreary country. We crossed the Basingstoke canal, and ascending the Romping Downs, kept on the top of them for two or three miles further. On the left we could see down into the valley of Woking and Pirbright, almost the only ugly and commonplace district in Surrey: but the healthy sandhill, at this edge, assumed a variety of pretty shapes, like St. George’s Hill at the extremity adjoining Cobham.24 On the other side the hill descends very gradually to the valley of the Blackwater, with long ugly heathy dells running up through the hill to the very top: Of the valley itself we could see little or nothing, and the hills beyond it in Hampshire were a mere barren heathy waste, without any of that beauty of form which in some parts St. George’s Hill and even the Romping Downs possess. To the south, however, as we approached the southern extremity of the Downs, we could perceive the long chalky ridge called the Hog’s Back, which extends from Guildford to Farnham, and which our present course would nearly have bisected at right angles: and beyond it the ridge of sandy hill ending with several irregular peaks, which is north of Hindhead, and which seen from St. George’s Hill appears directly in the gap where Guildford stands. To the left of this we saw the Guildford gap, and the line of Merrow and Effingham downs, with part of the great Surrey sand hills (the Leith hill range) beyond them. The Romping Downs are perhaps the barrenest tract in all Surrey (except Blackheath near Albury). It produces scarcely any thing but heath—no fern grows there, and even in the boggy parts there is not soil enough for any of the usual bog plants; nothing is to be seen in the water but the bare black peat earth. Near the end of the hill we descended towards the east, and passed through some miles of the tame common place country forming the valley of Woking, Worplesdon, and Pirbright. There was nothing worthy of notice in this space until we arrived within a mile of Guildford, where the declivity of the Hog’s Back and other hills to the right, and Merrow Downs to the left, are interesting enough. We remained at Guildford for the night.
When we ascended the chalk hill above Guildford this morning, and still more when we reached the top of Martha’s Chapel, although the view was not new to me, and although I had recently come from the fine country described in this journal, the valley of Godalming and the surrounding hills appeared to me more beautiful than ever. There is so much variety in the arrangement of the hills one behind another, and so much richness in the appearance of the country, studded with large full grown trees instead of the woods of Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire, with the bold ridges of Hindhead and the peaked hill forming the background to the right, and the Leith Hill range to the left, that the Chiltern hills are entirely eclipsed by it. I shall not describe the vale of Albury, as it was familiar to me before. We dined at Dorking, whence Crawley proceeded by coach to London: I accompanied him as far as Leatherhead, when the chalky edge of the Norbury Park Hill appeared to me much finer than the finest specimen I had seen in the Chiltern hills even of this which is the peculiar stile of scenery of those hills. From Leatherhead I walked to Walton by Claremont Land, and Esher. And here “ends this strange eventful history.”25
I shall insert an account of our expenses in case we or any others should wish to go this journey hereafter.
Walking Tour of Yorkshire and the Lake District
MS, Bodleian Library, MS Don.d.26. The entries are undated, but external evidence, including the diaries of Dorothy Wordsworth and Henry Cole (1808-82), yet another of Mill’s close friends at this time, makes it almost certain that Mill reached Leeds from London on 8 July, and ended the tour at Kendal on 8 August. The inferred dates are added in square brackets. Mill’s companion was Horace Grant, who had accompanied Mill on his earlier walking tours (see Nos. 29 and 30). They were joined on 30 July at the Queen’s Head Inn in Keswick by Henry Cole. Cole’s diary (MS, Victoria and Albert Museum) of his part of the tour supplies information that adds to Mill’s account; extracts are given in footnotes. Mill also gave Cole guiding instructions for his continuation of his tour after Mill and Grant left him; these (also in the Victoria and Albert) are given in the concluding footnote. As not published in Mill’s lifetime, not listed in his bibliography.
[8 July, 1831]
It would be useless to attempt describing even the general features of a country which was seen only through the windows of a mail coach. I was able to obtain a place on the outside for an hour or two, during which I could perceive that the north of England very much resembles any other country of gentle slopes, covered with corn and pasture, and in which a very slight elevation enables you to see for many miles round. It is not destitute of wood; but there is nowhere enough, either of timber or even of coppice, to give a character to the landscape, except for very short distances. When you enter Yorkshire, you are in a country of higher hills, and deeper valleys; but the hills are in ridges, which rise and decline gradually, and usually support more or less of that most insipid of all natural objects, table land. Here, too, you cannot see very far in any direction without seeing smoke; and the towns, which are usually, when seen from a distance, especially from an eminence, the finest points in a landscape, were here nothing but foci of black smoke poured forth from lofty chimnies rising like the masts of the ships in a well-filled dock. The towns, indeed, when you passed through them, were well worth seeing. I had never before seen a town three fourths of which consisted of manufactories, built in a stile half way between a barrack and gaol. All the remainder of every town seemed to consist of little ill-looking houses of artisans, with a few shops—few at least when compared with the towns of equal size in the south of England. And every object was blackened with smoke beyond what can be conceived by a person who has seen only London: with the difference that in London the smoke is visible chiefly as one indivisible mass of cloud or haze, but in these manufacturing places you could discern each separate volcano boiling forth its odious contents, which continued distinguishable from the rest for a considerable space. Nor was the town only infected by this plague; the whole of the environs were thickly sown with manufactories, each of which contributed its share towards darkening the sky and giving noisomeness to the breath which you inhale. There is generally in each town a quarter in which the houses are better looking and are occupied apparently by the manufacturers, professional people, and so forth: they usually have the good taste to chuse the upper part of the town (for these towns are mostly upon a hill) but they cannot prevent the smoke from reaching them and deforming their houses whether built of brick, as at Nottingham, or of stone as in some of the Yorkshire towns. The only fine objects in these places are the churches. In most of the towns there is one lofty edifice, built in the cathedral style, and considerably ornamented, but with the ornaments kept in due subordination to the general plan of the building which is simple. The taste of the neighbouring architects seems to have been early formed on good models. The manufacturing towns which we passed through were Nottingham, Mansfield, Chesterfield, Sheffield, Barnsley, Wakefield, and finally Leeds. The general description already given will serve for them all; the differences, whether in degree or in kind, are inconsiderable: but as Leeds is the largest, and as the effect of its sooty atmosphere was aided by rather a thick haze which met us there (the air having till then been delightfully clear) it was there that we were enabled to study, under most favorable circumstances, the effect, pictorially considered, of that imposing feature in a landscape, darkness.
Having determined to take Bolton Priory and its beautiful neighbourhood in our way to the Lakes, we were desirous of taking the stage coach which goes into Craven through Otley and up Wharfedale, but as this did not set off till the afternoon, we chose to go in the morning by the other road, to Steeton, which is the nearest point on that road to the place of our destination. Before we were well out of the smoke of Leeds and its environs, we came unawares upon a celebrated ruin, Kirkstall Abbey. There is nothing striking in the situation; as a mere ruin it seemed fine, but the coach carried us past it too rapidly to enable us to judge of any thing but the first appearance. We proceeded up the valley of the Aire, and entered among hills which gradually increased in height, and were tolerably steep, but made little figure in the landscape; partly because there was nothing picturesque in their forms, and partly perhaps because the valley was too wide in proportion to the height of the hills. Still, we felt that we were approaching to a mountainous country, and the details were frequently pretty. We passed through three more manufacturing towns; Bradford, Bingley, and Keighley: all these are of stone, a coarse-grained sandstone, the millstone grit of geologists, a most serviceable material certainly, since of it are made houses, roofs, the inclosures of the fields, and the pavement of the streets. I cannot compliment it with the possession of beauty proportional to the multitude of its uses: it is like many men and women homely without being rustic: it takes away the charm from the idea of a stone house, just as the baby-house rocks at Tunbridge Wells robbed my imagination of a rich fund of enjoyment,1 by breaking the association which made me never look at a drawing of a rock without fancying myself in the midst of lofty mountains. I have a special spite against this millstone grit. Not one of the hills, so far as I could see, which were composed of it, was bold and precipitous in form, or had the air of anything much above an overgrown molehill: to see even ledges of rock, or projecting masses jutting out of a hill side, we had to wait till we came into the limestone country. It is a great quality in a mountain as in a woman, to carry herself well and to seem conscious of her whole height. These mountains, for some of them might have claimed that rank if mere elevation could give it, seemed to lie on their backs; stretched out at their lazy length, with their heads barely higher than a long ugly ridge. Still this was far from an unpleasant journey, and the smaller manufacturing places had an uncouth air, and afforded a contrast to the surrounding scenery, which was not without its effect upon the imagination. At the little village of Steeton we left the coach, as we had intended, and crossed over from the valley of the Aire to that of the Wharfe. This we did by a long steep road, winding over the corner of a long ridge called Rumble Moor. I say a ridge, but that which takes up the whole space between these two valleys should rather be called two ridges, supporting between them a dark, bleak, barren moorland. From the highest point of this road, we saw over into Wharfedale, where the first object that struck us was a high prominent hill, called Beamsley Haugh, which forms the eastern boundary of the valley to a considerable distance, and is the most like a mountain of any elevation we had seen or afterwards saw in this part of Craven. It had something like a peaked top, and did not seem afraid to shew it, but overtopped and overlooked the adjacent hills with an air of dignity. We descended into Wharfedale, and, by a very pretty rural lane among fields and trees, reached Bolton Bridge where we put up at an excellent inn, kept by excellent people, whom every person who likes to forget that he pays for his entertainment, should make a point of visiting.
In order to understand and feel what Wharfedale is, it is necessary to forget what is at the top of the hills which form it, and to consider them merely as the walls of a valley. Let the visitor beware of climbing any of the hills. He will find nothing but bleakness and barrenness there, and will see nothing but bleakness and barrenness all around: for the meadows, the woods, the winding hill sides, which are the charm of the valley when you are in it, appear insignificant to one who looks down upon them from above, and are then but a speck of fertility in an extensive waste, the desolate aspect of which is for the most part unredeemed by anything imposing in form.
The lower part of the valley is closed, (as every fine valley should be closed by something) by the above-mentioned Rumble Moor, which looks dark and steep, and affords great variety of shade according to the position of the sun. Looking towards it, you are overtopped to the left by Beamsley Haugh, with its sharp bold summit: to the right the hills are tamer in themselves, but the lower part of them is clothed with wood over which you see the green summits. If you now turn round, you see before you the eminences which bound the valley gradually approaching to each other, but in proportion as it narrows it becomes winding so that you cannot without ascending some of the smaller eminences, see far into the narrow part of the valley. At the entrance there is a kind of natural amphitheatre, in which is situated the noble ruin called Bolton Abbey, or more properly Bolton Priory, equally beautiful in itself and in its situation.
The Wharfe, a mountain stream which rushes impetuously over a bed filled with large masses of rock rounded by the waters, here winds round the base of a precipitous declivity, of almost a pink colour, concave towards the river, and down which a rivulet falls from a considerable height into the stream. The river may be crossed here when the water is low, by about twenty blocks of stone arranged as stepping stones. On the other side, or within the folds of the river, is a rich meadow scattered here and there with stately trees, chiefly ash, sometimes in groups and sometimes single. In this meadow, at about fifty or sixty feet from the river, stands the Priory: the extremity of the nave pointing to the cliff, and stream. Behind the ruin, is another woody bank, sufficiently high to shut out all the rest of the world, and give a feeling of the most complete seclusion. Above, the hills approach nearer and nearer till they almost meet, and both sides become more and more wooded; the lofty summits on the right shewing themselves as a prominent part of every view until the woods become too thick and lofty to allow them to be visible. This is the position of the Abbey: but it is itself so prominent an object in all the finest views that for this reason if for no other it would require a description. Fortunately it is easily described. Fancy a long Gothic cathedral of the simplest kind, with nothing but the roof taken off; all the arches which contained the windows being perfect; even the tracery, in many of them, little or not at all injured; and the arch of the window at the farther extremity (that next the river) towering above the rest, and shewing exactly what was the height of the roof: one little turret-like ornament remaining on the right hand of this lofty arch, but the corresponding one on the other side being wanting. The top of the wall on which the roof rested is covered with brown grass and other weeds; some of the external buttresses are overgrown with ivy, but the ruin is not hidden in it as is often the case. In the interior of this part nothing seems wanting except the stone pillars carved in the wall, the tops of which only are remaining. On the other side of the cross aisle, (of which there are considerable remains) the ruin has been newly roofed, and is now used as a church. We did not see the inside of this, but looked in at the entrance, which is at the extremity furthest from the river. There is a double front; the inner one could be seen, through the open doorway of the outer. Both are fine, but the carving of the interior one is extremely delicate and in the most perfect preservation: it is well delineated in Davis’s lithographic Views of Bolton Abbey.2 The old gateway (a separate building) has been enlarged into a habitable house, and is used as a hunting box by the Duke of Devonshire,3 to whom the Abbey and the adjacent woods (Bolton Park, as it is very inappropriately termed) belong. Near the ruin are two very pretty cottages, having an air of rustic seclusion, with their faces, however, very judiciously averted from the ruin, which would suffer in appearance from the proximity, and from which they are shut out by trees. One of them is the vicarage; the other is used by friends of the Duke who come here to hunt or shoot.
It is impossible by any description, to give a just idea of the immense variety of aspects, under which the ruin and its surrounding trees are seen from different points in the adjacent woody hills on both sides, with striking and ever varying effect. The present, or some former proprietor of the woods, has selected, with singular judgment and taste, all the most striking points of view, has kept the trees from growing up in front so as to hide the prospect, and has placed seats, of the most artless and unobtrusive kind, at every place where the passer-by would desire to halt for a few moments and look about him. This remark applies not only to the woods immediately round the Abbey, but to the higher and narrower parts of the valley of the Wharfe.
The stream rushes down between two high and moor-like eminences, one of which, called Barden Fell, appears to close the valley at that end. It then enters a narrow glen, clothed with thick woods on both sides, and leaving little space at the bottom beyond what is occupied by the bed of the river. This bed, of which the greater part is now empty from the dryness of the season, is filled with masses and slabs of sandstone rocks, which sometimes stand out as eminences far above the present level of the river, and many of them must when it is higher be insulated by its waters. In tumbling over these rocks the Wharfe forms miniature cascades, and every imaginable form of rapids; and there is one spot, perhaps the most sequestered, and the most completely closed in with woods and rocks, of them all, in which the stream flows rapidly down in a sort of trough, four or five feet wide, which it has (apparently) cut for itself to a considerable depth in the very substance of the rock. At several points in this space, it would be easy to jump over the river: from which circumstance the spot has derived the name of the Strid. It is related, that the catastrophe of a youth, the last scion of the family to whom this property belonged, and who lost his life by attempting to jump the Strid with a greyhound in a leash, was the circumstance which led to the foundation of Bolton Priory, or, at least, its removal to this spot. Wordsworth has made this legend the subject of one of his smaller poems; and Rogers has commemorated it in his.4 It is also alluded to in Wordsworth’s “White Doe of Rylstone,”5 the scene of which is laid in this neighbourhood. Rylstone is a small place higher up the valley, at the foot of Barden Fell, which is also known by the name of Rylstone Fell.
As the valley or glen winds round and round between its woody sides, the paths which are judiciously cut through the wood along the sides of the hills afford an immense variety of views; some extremely confined and secluded, nothing being seen except part of the opposite hill and wood, and the bed of the torrent below: others allowing a sight of a considerable portion of the valley, closed by so much of the great eminence, Barden Fell, as the intervening woody hill would suffer to be visible. In these last, or larger views, a prominent object is Barden Tower, the ruin of a building as little like a tower as can well be conceived, which was formerly the residence of various noble personages chiefly Cliffords, and among others, of the celebrated Anne countess of Pembroke:6 parts of it I believe are still habitable; it is visible from a great distance, if you are high enough; it is seated at the foot of Barden Fell, just where the wood ends and the moor begins, and marks, as it were, the boundary between verdure and desolation. The woods themselves would not be without great beauty, even if the surrounding scenery were in no way remarkable. They have the beauty which uneven rocky declivities planted with wood cannot fail to possess. The rocks occasionally assume picturesque forms, and one in particular which stands close to the path bears a close resemblance to a ruined turret and we at first imagined it to be one. Paths and drives are cut through various parts of the wood: but we kept that which immediately overhangs the torrent, and from which branches off to every point on the water’s edge, which is in any peculiar degree remarkable. I have spoken principally of the right bank of the stream, that on which Barden Tower and the Priory stand. On the other side the paths are all at a considerably greater elevation, and the river is rarely visible from them, at least in the narrow part of the valley. A beautiful path on this side the river leads up Posforth Ghyll. Ghyll is the name given in this country to a narrow ravine in the side of a mountain. Both sides of this gorge are thickly wooded. In one place the brook, or mountain stream, falls over an amphitheatre of rock and forms a pretty, though not a very lofty waterfall, which people usually go to see. With the rustic bridge immediately below, it certainly forms a pretty object for the painter. The higher part of this ghyll, above the waterfall, is called the Valley of Desolation, from the barren, uninviting aspect of the moor, no longer wooded, which it intersects and in which it is finally lost. We did not track the stream up this valley, but contented ourselves with looking down upon it from one of the heights which command both the ravine and the vale. In this desolate tract which still forms part of what is called Bolton Park, we were told (for we did not see it) that the indigenous red deer of the country still survives; though now appropriated, and cooped up within inclosures. There are other ghylls, or gorges, mostly clothed with wood, and which, with the brooks they contain and by which probably they were originally hollowed out, debouche into the valley of the Wharfe. All these seem pretty; one of them, near Bolton Bridge, on the left bank of the river, we ascended for some distance and were much pleased with.
The trees of Wharfedale are chiefly the ash, which abounds and is most healthy and luxuriant; the oak; some sycamores (planted); and the wych elm, which is here very abundant and fine, growing in all situations, and giving to the banks and roadsides a peculiar character by its large and luxuriant foliage. There is some birch in the woods of the narrow valley. A remarkable feature in the country is the immense abundance and luxuriance of the wild roses, of which there are some rather uncommon species; this however we observed throughout Yorkshire; but what we saw nowhere except in Wharfedale was the profusion of honeysuckle, which grows every where, sometimes climbing to the tops of very high trees, sometimes gracefully clustering round bushes or near the stone inclosures, and covered with flowers which, especially in the evening, positively perfume the air.
Having staid at Bolton the remainder of the day on which we arrived, and the whole of the succeeding day and night, we crossed the country the day after to Skipton to meet the same coach by which we had come from Leeds. At Skipton we saw the exterior of the castle; which is kept in repair, and inhabited. As far as a castle, and an abbey, can resemble, its stile reminded me of Ford Abbey.7 These places strike the imagination more (mine at least) when inhabited, than they do when in ruins; the notion of living in a building a thousand years old, and built externally and internally as they built in those days, heightens and vivifies one’s conceptions of the peculiarities of the place. This castle is no sham antique, it was evidently built for defence, and the parts which I think must have been added after the mode of warfare which made a private house defensible had ceased, are in good keeping with the rest. The building bulges out into two noble semicircular towers, and the remainder of the front projects forward at short intervals into a series of angles, and is terminated by a kind of small wing. On the other side of the cylindrical projections is another small wing, not separated from the towers by an intervening line of front: but this seems to be uninhabited; the stone steps up to it have an untrodden air, being overgrown with weeds. The whole is not more than one story high. The gateway, also old, has been much repaired, though in the same stile, and the word Desormais is cut out, or built in stone, over it: you see light between the letters. What was once the court yard is now a very pretty grass plot, overlooking the town and the surrounding country.—We here met our coach, and proceeded through Craven to Kendal. From Airedale where we were, we first crossed over into Ribblesdale and then into the district through which the rivers Wenning, Greta, and Lune, issue from the mountains. We can hardly be said to have been among the mountains of Craven, (though we crossed some considerable eminences); but we certainly passed under their bases, having several of the highest of them very near to us on the right. They disappointed me much. They possess neither grandeur, nor beauty. Even Ingleborough, the highest of them can only be called a high hill, not a mountain. There is little of sharpness or boldness in their outline: their summits rise so little above the rest of the ridge, and are thrown so far apart by its immense length and breadth, that each hill seems a separate mass; they are never clustered, nor crowded together, as in a really mountainous country. At Settle, the entrance into Ribblesdale, we came upon limestone, which afforded us some precipitous hill sides, and ledges of rock; but the upper part of the hills was still composed of the millstone grit, and had the tameness which belongs to it. Not being able to consider this district in the light of mountains, we could not help looking at it in the light of moor: and as such, connecting it with the unpleasant notions of cold, wet, barrenness, sameness, long tiresome journeys and losing our way. But if the view towards the mountains was uninteresting, that towards the plains was far worse. The descending ranges which formed the valleys of the different rivers, expand at the foot of the hills into the tamest openings that you can possibly conceive: two lines of eminences, never at the best remarkably bold, and now not even high, spread out their arms, and embrace a little plain, cultivated indeed, but seeming to have been but lately redeemed from moorland, retaining its pristine air and character of barrenness, and sloping up and down and round about in every possible form of insipidity but none of beauty or even prettiness. As we were passing Ingleborough it began to rain violently, and for the remainder of the journey we saw little or nothing. We could however perceive that after leaving Craven, the country remained hilly and became much prettier; the eminences being not much less lofty, rather bolder in form, and the country intermixed among them being far more richly cultivated and wooded. We slept at Kendal which is a long, rather cheerful looking town, and started on foot the next morning for the banks of Windermere.
We took the direction of Bowness, a little village on the east bank of the lake, and about the middle of it. Our road passed over gentle, and tolerably well wooded declivities, frequently allowing a view into a broad valley on the right hand, the valley of the Kent, or Kendal river: bounded again, on the further side, by the low, but gradually heightening mountains of Kentdale and Long Sleddale. At other times, we saw down to the left between heathy and craggy hills, towards the mouth of the same river. The stone inclosures began to be clothed with mosses, and mountain plants, but in no great variety: and the limestone rock, alternating with clay-slate frequently shewed itself in slabs and pointed masses on both sides of the road. At length, after winding up a gentle woody ascent, we caught a first view of the mountains of Coniston and Langdale: and from this moment we felt that we were at length in a real mountainous country. Two or three bold high pointed mountains overlapping one another with broad bases, commenced the chain on the left; to the right of these we beheld a perfect sea of mountains, crowded together, yet distinctly individualized, resembling some of the panoramic views of the Alps; all deeply shaded, and from the position of the sun and the character of the fine light in which we saw them, wearing that peculiar cloud-like appearance which makes it so difficult, in looking at distant mountains, to believe that they belong to this earth. More bold, peak-like, and precipitous than the rest, stood out the twin mountains called the Langdale Pikes, the outline of which, extremely sharp and abrupt, and their position, which made us see them distinctly separated from the mountains that seemed nearest to them, rendered them the most commanding objects in a prospect which contained several elevations higher than they. Nothing can be more various than the aspect of these mountains as seen from different points. Their bases are united; the lower of the summits, which as usually seen, appears on the left, is a real peak, that is a sharp triangular summit descending rapidly on both sides. The higher of the two is not a perfect peak, being broader, and looking as if the extreme top had been cut off; and it declines suddenly indeed—not however to the valley at once, but to a ridge of considerable height and some length. From the form of these two mountains, they sometimes seem to bend over into the valley; at times the remoter and more perfect peak seems double: from other points they look like two lions couchant, side by side, the two peaks being the heads, the ridge of the higher mountain seeming the body of the nearer animal and being supposed to hide that of the more distant: from other situations you fancy them elephants, and you positively imagine that you distinguish their tusks: and I have seen them when the nearer, and higher summit appeared of itself like a lion, but a lion coiled up. These however were subsequent discoveries. From the Kendal road they seemed nothing but two peaks, and noble ones of their kind; and as every fine prospect should have some points more conspicuous than others, these were the most conspicuous. We did not yet see the lake: but by going in at a gate to the right and ascending a little above the road we caught a first view of a very small portion of it, which then appeared dingy brown; but we saw it of at least twenty colours before the day was at an end. Our journey now lay down hill; we were descending into the valley of the lake, and before we had gone far, a turn of the road brought into view its finest part. The bold lofty mountains of Coniston, which overtopped every thing intervening, formed the background of the landscape: but in front of these, and strikingly contrasted with them, was a high ridge or bank richly wooded with thick plantations, which rose immediately from the margin of the lake. The space between these and the hill on which we were was completely filled up by the beautiful Windermere, or Winandermere, which stretched itself out to right and left, further than we could see; terminated to the right, by the noble mountains of Langdale; embosomed in hills which in any other district would have been thought bold and striking, but which here, by their verdure and repose, set off the more sublime scenery of the high mountains, which in turn added a new charm to their graceful elegance. The lake, at the first glance, but at the first glance only, disappointed me in point of width. Seen from above, it looked like a magnificent river. Its length is certainly more remarkable than its breadth, and the point at which we first saw it, was the narrowest point. Yet on descending lower down, when the view threw off its map-like and bird’s eye character, the distinctness with which we could discern the outlines of the beautiful objects on the opposite bank of the lake, seemed to us an advantage in point of beauty which we should have grudged to sacrifice for the effect of a more imposing width. Lower down, and (still more) higher up, the lake widens, as it follows the graceful sinuosities of the valley. Beautiful bays and recesses, and numerous headlands projecting from the shore, deprive it of its river-like appearance and make it look like what it really is, one of the finest of lakes. Bowness is a pretty little village close to the bank, containing a large and well-appointed inn (where we put up for the night) and several cottages surrounded with little gardens full of beautiful flowers: this does not appear to be common in these parts, and we afterwards learnt from Miss Wordsworth8 that it was all the work of one lady,9 who had not only introduced this taste into the village but had inspired the people of the neighbourhood with such a respect for it that they never meddle with a single flower, though they might easily pluck them as they pass: a forbearance, which has not always been observed where the taste for flowers is new. We passed the evening in sauntering about the margin of the lake, bathing ourselves in the quiet enjoyment which tranquil water, but above all a large mass of tranquil water in the midst of mountains, always pours over the mind. At a point about the middle of the lake, a little below Bowness, where it is narrowed by a promontory on the east bank which projects far into the water, that promontory is connected by a ferry with the opposite side of the lake. We had been advised to cross the ferry, and see the woods and the Station House, a little building erected by Mr. Curwen10 on the further side of the lake and commanding a beautiful prospect. This we should have done, but a haze coming over the Langdale mountains, we resolved to wait till the morrow for a finer view: the morrow came and with it a much thicker haze, so that the mountains at the head of the lake were for a time completely invisible: and not thinking it worth while to lose a day in waiting for a single view, we resolved to proceed onward. Both in the evening and morning, however, but especially in the evening, the home views of the lake with its wooded islands, which most abound in this part of it, and the rich green of the opposite woody banks which in any other neighbourhood might have passed for high hills, sufficed for our enjoyment. We desired no more; and could have staid here a week with pleasure under the certainty of seeing this, and nothing but this, every day.
The road from Bowness to Ambleside lies, not on the margin of the lake, which is in a great measure taken up by a succession of little parks and pleasure grounds; but a little way up the adjacent hill, commanding occasional fine views of the lake and opposite mountains, but more frequently traversing woods, or coppices. The banks of Windermere are extremely well wooded, but mostly with planted wood: on the further side, it seems to be chiefly fir: on the near side, the sycamore, not an indigenous tree, and also the Scotch fir, so often occur in the woods which would otherwise seem to be native, as to excite suspicion that the whole wood is an artificial plantation. Yet it is said, and is probable, that formerly the banks of all the Lakes were thickly clothed with indigenous timber trees.—About a mile, or somewhat more, from Bowness, we left the road by a gate on the left which opens upon Rayrigg bank, a little green eminence immediately overlooking the lake, and commanding a fine view both upward and downward. The haze was now sufficiently cleared off the mountains, to enable us to see them tolerably well. The lake, in that direction, appeared a broad sheet of water, while to the south we were struck by the air of perfect flatness and smoothness, which a valley completely filled by a lake, necessarily possesses, and which contrast so finely with the hills which rise immediately from the water’s edge. These hills grow less elevated, and of a less marked character as they approach the foot of the lake, but they are all graceful, and lofty enough not to appear insignificant even in such noble company. At the extremity, or what seems such (for in reality the lake makes another and final bend as it passes this point) the valley seemed to be closed by a roundish hill, with something on the top of it which was probably one of those piles of stones, not uncommonly erected on the summits of these mountains, and known in the dialect of the country by the term Man. Whatever it was, no one could have resisted the temptation of imagining it to be the abode of some unfortunate being, placed as sentinel at the entrance of the mountain scenery; condemned eternally to view the fair prospect to which he might never approach nearer, and overlooking nothing on the opposite side but a dull and tame flat. Having proceeded two or three miles further, and crossed the little stream called the Troutbeck, which runs down from a steep ravine on the right, and falls into the lake, we diverged from the road a little before reaching Low-wood Inn, to ascend a steep lane which crosses a portion of the base of the adjoining eminence, into the same ravine. As we ascended, we gradually attained the most glorious view of the mountains at the head of Windermere, which we had yet enjoyed, or which can be had from any other point. The haze had now entirely cleared off, and the bright sunshine in a cloudy sky, which afforded constantly varying lights, produced effects which a painter would vainly strive to imitate, and which no one, who has not seen a mountainous country, can conceive. When the sky is favorable, the view is never the same for two minutes together. Sometimes the whole were confounded in one delicate grey tint, far softer than any even of our best landscape painters ever succeeds in producing. At other times gleams of sunshine illuminated the side of a mountain, and brought out the light green colour of the fern with which it was clothed. At times some of the mountains were in so deep a shade, that no part of their contour was distinguishable except the broadly marked lines and angles of the summit, while others were brought into bold relief by the sunshine on one side of them, and their own shadow enveloping the other. We were now near enough to discern each separate mountain: the cluster or group which I compared to a sea, was now resolved into its separate waves: we saw the lower and greener mountains in front, the higher and darker ones gradually rising behind them, and finally the loftier summits forming the background of the whole. The Langdale pikes still maintained their preeminence over the rest, by their abrupt bold ascent, their sharp summits, their distincter outline and the greater variety of light and shadow, arising from their shape. Clouds were continually skimming over the whole group, and sometimes one, sometimes another, had his head for a short time capped with mist and concealed. Below was the upper end of Windermere, skirted with green meadows and plantations and closed by the village of Clappersgate, an appendage of Ambleside. To our right, on the same side of the lake, was a green mountain with a sharpish top covered with fern and well furnished with wood. After we had climbed some distance higher, we came out upon a sort of terrace, high enough to clear all the intervening high ground; and here how different yet how splendid a view met our eyes. We now could not see a single high mountain, but in lieu of it the whole length of Windermere lay beneath our feet, quite down to the foot, or at least beyond the last bend: there it lay with all its gentle, graceful windings, flowing round its numerous islands, and embosomed in the cheerful, happylooking green hills forming the basin or valley which contains it. We at once recognized the view of Windermere which we had oftenest seen in paintings. And indeed the great length of the lake, and of the vista of hills by which it was inclosed, every part of it being nevertheless visible from the extreme gentleness of its windings, affords effects of perspective most valuable to a painter, both for their effect and the facility of imitating them.—We proceeded still a little further, and descended sufficiently far towards the village of Troutbeck, to perceive the general character of Troutbeck vale; it rises rapidly and is lined on the further side by bare steep eminences with well defined summits rapidly succeeding one another, and on the whole it well represents on a small scale, some of the valleys of the Pyrenees. We were afterwards told by Miss Wordsworth, that we should have descended quite into the valley and seen more of it. However, we returned by the same road, and stopt to dine at Low-wood Inn. This is the only inn of the whole Lake district (Coniston excepted) which looks out directly upon the water: there is only a road between, and two or three straight tall firs which divide the prospect. The lake is here broad, but has somewhat more of a confined and inland appearance from our being so near its head. The view of the mountains is substantially the same as that from the lane above with only the disadvantage of a lower position. Here, as elsewhere, we were struck with the variety of colour given to the lake at different times, and to different parts of the lake at the same time, by the state of the sky, the reflection of the adjoining objects, and the wind. We did not see Windermere in the state of glassy smoothness in which these lakes are sometimes seen, reflecting the mountains with so mirror-like a purity that it is difficult to know where the object ends and the image begins. But we saw it alternately of a deep lead colour; a beautiful iron-grey; a lightish blue; a glittering white sparkling with the rays of the sun; alternate streaks of brown and white; and not unfrequently, in spite of its beautiful clearness and transparency, a dingy mud-colour, from the reflection of dingy clouds, unalloyed by any illumination derived directly from the sun. From Low-wood it is not more than a mile to the end of the lake. Ambleside is a little further on, immediately under the foot of the low range of scars, or precipitous rocky eminences, which front the lofty mountains. One of the loftiest, however, though not the boldest (Kirkstone) touches the town. The two mountain streams which feed Windermere, the Brathay and the Rotha, run down, the first from Langdale, which lies to the west; the other from Grasmere and Rydal, by a narrow valley which winds exceedingly, but the immediate direction of which, reckoning from the head of Windermere, is to the east. Ambleside lies in this valley, not far from its entrance. After leaving the head of the lake, you must turn to the right, and doubling the pointed mountain already mentioned, you come in front of Kirkstone, find yourself for the first time in a narrow vale, and see immediately above you to the left the range of scars, which though low, have a most wild and mountain-like character, being mere masses of rock standing erect, and half made up of crags with bushes growing out of their clefts.
We took up our quarters at the Salutation Inn at Ambleside, intending to stay there for several days, as it is the most convenient centre for making excursions to the whole southern part of this mountain region. Here I found an acquaintance, Mr. Madge, the Unitarian clergyman,11 who had arrived at Ambleside the very same day.
The next morning we set out on an excursion to the head of Coniston water, a lake about two thirds the size of Windermere, and running parallel to it at a distance of a few miles. We followed for a short way the course of the Brathay, which runs down from Langdale to the head of Windermere; but soon diverged, and took a shady lane which crosses the moderately high ground, that bounds this valley on the south side, at its commencement. These eminences are rocky, but not high and bold enough to make amends for their bareness; they however command some good views of Windermere head, and the mountains behind Ambleside. Through the pass at the head of Grasmere vale, we even discerned one of the shoulders of Skiddaw. Having reached the summit of this little range, we passed to the left the little lake of Easthwaite,12 with the small old town of Hawkshead at its upper end. This lake runs parallel to Windermere, from which it is separated by a single range of hills. It is of moderate size, but would be highly prized in any other neighbourhood; and the hills which form its basin, though here somewhat tame, would elsewhere be thought fine; it is true that elsewhere much greater advantage would be taken of their capabilities; they would be laid out in parks, and planted down to the water’s edge: this would give them the sort of beauty of which they are capable, for their forms do not admit of grandeur. Pursuing our route, we crossed the line of high ground which separates the basin of Easthwaite from that of Coniston lake, and presently caught a view of the mountains at the head of Coniston, as we had seen them (though at a greater distance) from Bowness, over Windermere; but when the road with much winding, at last descended to the other side of the hill, and immediately overlooked the upper end of Coniston water, we then came upon a view to which, for grandeur and wildness, we had yet seen no parallel in our journey. Placed at a moderate height on the hills which bound the lake on its east side, we looked across the water, which at this short distance from its head is not very wide, and beheld facing us, two of the loftiest mountains, Coniston Fell (often called the Old Man) 2577 feet in height, and its neighbour Wetherlam, whose base, for some distance, overlapped that of the former mountain. In a hollow in the left side of Coniston Fell, a torrent rushed down the almost precipitous steep into the lake. A winding ghyll, or steep narrow ravine, ascended between Coniston Fell and Weatherlam; this also contains a torrent, which seemed to tumble over the rocks, making various waterfalls. No mountains of equal height closed up the valley at the water’s head; but a line of rocky eminences (between which and Weatherlam runs a little narrow dell) crossed from one side to the other; fronted by two beautiful round hills slanting obliquely across the valley, covered with verdure, the one completely planted over, the other laid out in a pleasing intermixture of park-like meadow and trees, being in fact an appendage to a pretty little residence placed within a stone’s throw of the lake. Between the last mentioned hill and the place where we stood, the head of the vale was filled up with some fine waving ground, richly covered with pasture and corn fields (almost wholly oats—for we saw little other grain in all this country). The bareness of the mountains required to be relieved by richness of verdure in the valleys, and I nowhere saw so fine a combination of the two as at Coniston Vale-head. On the other side of the water, immediately under the high mountains, stood the pretty village of Coniston. The view down the lake, though beautiful, was inferior to the views on Windermere. The lake lies too regularly between its banks: unlike Windermere, which, without ever changing its general direction, contrives to produce all the effect of the most graceful windings. The hills, too, which surround Coniston water towards its lower end, are lower and less interesting than those about Windermere. The lake was smoother, at least towards its head, I suppose from being more shut in by high mountains in that part. It afforded some tolerable reflexions of the fields and trees immediately bordering on it. From the light by which we happened to see this lake, it seemed of a much deeper blue than Windermere, though in parts it seemed almost yellow from some accidental reflexion. We did not proceed far down the valley towards the foot of the lake, but sat down at the water’s edge to look at the mountains, and hear the waves (for the wind had meanwhile risen) dash against the shore. This may seem too strong an expression, but I have seen waves, particularly in Windermere lake, rolling in long lines of surf, exactly similar to breakers in miniature, and with a sound bearing some distant resemblance to the breaking of the sea on the shore. We stopped at a little inn at the head of the lake, to take shelter from a thunderstorm. When the storm was over and when we had dined, we took our leave of Coniston water and crossing the green hills which give so rich an appearance to the vale-head, entered the narrow dale, which separates the great Weatherlam from the rocky eminences fronting the water-head. This little valley is called Yewdale: there may have been many yews in it formerly, but we could not see one at present. I have since learned, however, that there are some. The little river which is the principal feeder of Coniston lake, runs down this vale. Like all the other brooks, it was now full, from the rain of the previous night and the storm of today. Lower Yewdale is rich with verdure: Weatherlam overtops it to the left; to the right the eminences which bound it are not high, but in front it is very soon stopt by something, which you may term rock, crag, scar, or mountain, it is all four at once: it is a mass of rock, rising up by itself to a considerable height (though far inferior to Weatherlam) and of which the massiveness and the fantastically uneven summit, rising into points and knobs, gives it some resemblance to a castle. Between this and Weatherlam, at a considerably greater elevation, lies Upper Yewdale, a far narrower dell, not flat at the bottom like the other, but keeled like a boat, with the brook running impetuously in the bottom, and water rushing from all the hollows of all the hills to join it: a complete Alpine valley. Here too for the first time we saw some alpine plants, particularly the bright yellow Saxifrage, one of the most beautiful of our mountain plants whose golden flowers grow in tufts up the moist sides of this dell. Beyond the little hamlet of Tilberthwaite, this beautifully wild glen rises into a mountain pass: at the highest point in the pass, and on the sides of the adjacent mountains are some slate quarries, which appear to be now deserted, but must formerly have been worked to a considerable extent. The pass contains much boggy ground, which is completely covered with that delightful shrub, the sweet gale, also called the Dutch myrtle, from its myrtle like appearance and smell: here and in Langdale, whole acres are covered with it, and the air is perfumed by it to a great distance. Mixed with its little bushes, a more delicate plant the Lancashire bog asphodel raises its bright yellow spikes. We descended among moist woods into Little Langdale, and found ourselves again on the banks of the Brathay: the course of which we followed, though at some height above it, in proceeding down the valley to Ambleside. Though it was now too nearly dark to discern minute objects with distinctness, the mountains before us which were the continuation of the range of scars immediately behind Ambleside, were rendered more imposing by the apparent loftiness which they derived from the imperfect light: behind them the Langdale Pikes reared their majestic heads: and we were astonished to perceive how brightly and sharply, even at ten in the evening, in this northern country the outlines of the mountains, delineated themselves against the sky. The Brathay, now full to the very brim, and in one part of its course, extremely smooth, afforded even at that late hour a most distinct and beautiful reflexion of the line of mountains and the sky. The evening star, immediately over the summit of a mountain far to the west, had the appearance of a small bright yellow flower growing out of the mountain-top. We passed on the left, below us, the little lake called Elter Water, at the junction of Great and Little Langdale, and passing along the side of a well wooded line of hills, arrived at Ambleside rather late in the evening.
I omitted to mention in the proper place, that before setting out for Coniston, we climbed the hill above Ambleside to see the waterfall called Stock-ghyll Force. The mountain, already more than once mentioned, at the foot of which on the north side Ambleside stands, and which I find is named Wansfell Pike, is separated from the adjacent mountain of Kirkstone (with which it is connected by a ridge) by a steep narrow ravine, called in the language of the country a ghyll. This ghyll like all other ghylls has its torrent, or beck (German, bach) and this beck like all other becks has its waterfalls or forces, but where waterfalls are common, people only go to see the finest, of which this is one. The ravine is thickly wooded, as is usual in the neighbourhood of Windermere but unusual among most of the other lakes. The falls are of considerable height, and their beauty is greatly increased by their being completely shut in by trees.
We had abstained from calling on Mr. Wordsworth immediately on our arrival, having learnt from Mr. Madge that he was absent from home. Having reason to believe however that he might now have returned, we set out for Rydal Mount the day after our excursion to Coniston. Leaving Ambleside and turning your face towards the north east, you are in a sort of narrow basin, filled with rich meadows now newly mown, and interspersed with trees. To your right, this basin is formed by Long Wansfell Pike, succeeded by Kirkstone on your left, by the line of scars already mentioned, of which the nearest is Loughrigg, more remarkable for its boldness than its height, backed by Knab Scar,13 a more considerable eminence. Directly in front, and filling up the whole interval between Knab Scar and the high but rounded Kirkstone, is the lofty Fairfield, looking like several mountains in one; it would appear to bar up the valley, rendering further progress impossible did it not seem to be intersected by two long deep glens; these, however, are in reality mere ghylls, scooped out in the mountain itself, and the real egress from the valley lies where no one would expect it, sharp round to the left between the mountains Knab Scar and Loughrigg. This is the narrow outlet of the vale of Grasmere: through this the Rotha,14 a beautiful mountain stream, issues into the basin of Ambleside and runs down to lose itself in Windermere, almost washing, as it passes, several ornamented cottages of great beauty, surrounded by their little flower-gardens, along the foot of Loughrigg. At the opening of the narrow outlet, and along the base of Knab Scar and Fairfield, are the house and woody park of Lady Fleming, widow of the late Sir Michael le Fleming.15 Exactly in the outlet lies the valley of Rydal, composed in great part of cottage residences ornamented with great taste: passing through a kind of strait, along the banks of the Rotha, you enter the valley, which expands immediately into a narrow basin, containing the little lake of Rydal, or Rydal-water out of which the Rotha flows. It is surrounded by craggy mountains, though of no great elevation; they are tolerably well wooded, though not so well as the banks of Windermere: and the cluster of tasteful cottages at its entrance gives it an air of snugness and comfort highly pleasing. I have always observed that as in the bustling neighbourhood of a city we always seek for the appearance of the completest solitude, so on the other hand nothing is more pleasing to us in the midst of a wild, than some slight admixture of the signs of human life, and human enjoyment. Overlooking the opening; placed a little way up the base of Knab Scar, and commanding, from different points, a view both of Rydal and Windermere, lies Mr. Wordsworth’s cottage and grounds. I called there with Mr. Madge: he had not returned; but we saw his sister, Miss Wordsworth, and his wife’s sister, Miss Hutchinson,16 two elderly maiden ladies, with whom we had some conversation and of whom I formed a very favorable opinion. Miss Wordsworth is the sister so often alluded to, and with so strong an affection, in his poetry, and is also the author of three little poems published in his works, and ascribed to a “female friend.”17 He calls her in his verses, his sister Emmeline:18 but this is euphoniae gratia, her real name being Dorothy. His daughter,19 of whom Mr. Madge spoke very favorably, and whom I afterwards saw on my way back from Keswick and Patterdale was christened Dorothy after the example of her aunt, but is called Dora. It is not surprising that people should resort to twists and devices to evade so unpoetical a name. Yet perhaps a poet, if he durst, might succeed in rendering it interesting, since there is nothing unmelodious in the name itself, and in the original Greek it is extremely fine. It sounds trivial only because it is a name rarely worn by any person above the degree of a cookmaid. But why not?
The day, which had threatened rain from the first, became so decidedly unfavorable, that we were not disposed to walk much further, but went to see the waterfalls at Lady Fleming’s. A waterfall, in itself gives me little pleasure: I value it only as one of the incidents of a mountain torrent, which as it bounces down over huge fragments of rock, must make numbers of little falls, and now and then precipitating itself over a crag, produces one of the cascades that people go to see. But the beck, or torrent, which makes the Rydal falls, is the finest specimen of its kind which I ever saw. The bed, or trough down which it rushes, seems as if it had been chiselled several feet deep in the living rock: the sides of the ghyll are green, and richly wooded, but over the stream the rock is laid bare, and shews itself in crags above, and slabs and fragments below, superior in wildness to every thing I have seen of this class. The falls are only, in a stream of this character, like the most most brilliant passages in a fine piece of music. The stream is all waterfalls. We had gone to Rydal by the field-path; we returned by the road: they are on opposite sides of the basin, and I hardly know which is the finest.
The weather prevented any further walking this day except a run in the evening a little way up the steep road which leads over Kirkstone to Ulleswater20 and Penrith. The succeeding day, which was exceedingly fine, we devoted to Langdale.
Langdale divides itself at about two miles from its commencement into two forks, called Great and Little Langdale, the becks of which meet in a little lake called Elter Water out of which flows the river Brathay. We walked up Little Langdale exactly reversing the course by which we returned two evenings before from Coniston and Yewdale. The rains had swelled the Brathay, and it was now a fine mountain stream; one of the peculiarities of this country is that the rivers and brooks are only swelled by the rains, without being rendered turbid, the water coming over the living rock instead of mouldering heath and bog-earth. The banks of the Brathay were full; no part of the stony bed was visible, except the larger fragments of rock, some bare, some carpeted with moss, round which the river played and over parts of which it continually fell. But no river is so changeable in its character, as a mountain stream. Below, and for a considerable space, it was rocky, foaming, and impetuous; above, for an equal distance, it was smooth as glass: its banks assumed a character suitable to its own diversities; below, it was overhung and sometimes almost hidden by bushes and trees; above, it washed and seemed on the point of overflowing open and verdant meadows. The eminences on the left, though not very high, were steep, and woody: the road winds through the woods, allowing occasional views, but we found a field path which more continuously overlooked the vale. Whole acres of wet ground are here covered with the Dutch myrtle, which diffuses its fragrance widely through the air. We crossed the Brathay at Colwith bridge, a little above which, concealed among trees, is a pretty waterfall; it is audible from the road, but not visible, you descend to it by a shady path. Instead of a fall, I should have called it a series of falls, in various directions, some of them lateral; some high, others low, connected by rapids; this description applies to most of the waterfalls made by these mountain torrents. We soon passed, on the left, the way over from Coniston by Yewdale, and winding up the side of the hill on the right, saw below us a piece of water called Little Langdale Tarn. The proper meaning of Tarn, is a piece of water contained in a hollow, high up the sides of a mountain: such small tarns have peculiar, and characteristic features, unlike any other lakes or ponds: but here all ponds which are not large enough to be called lakes, seem to receive the name of tarns, although, like the one in question, they be reedy, fen-like, and low in a valley. We were now drawing near to a pass in the high mountains. To the left we had Weatherlam, and its neighbour Fairfield (not the same Fairfield which I mentioned as being near Ambleside); and directly before us, the high irregular mountain or rather range, called Wrynose, the point of which is visible from Mr. Wordsworth’s terrace, and over which an old packhorse road winds slowly and heavily towards Whitehaven. Presently we perceived on our right the pass which was to lead us from the head of Little to that of Great Langdale: but before entering into it we ascended high enough on the face of Wrynose, to perceive the shape of the mountain, the length, and character of the inlets into it from the valley, and the torrents rushing down their channelled sides. By scrambling over rocks and the beds of brooks, we regained the pass, from which these bare treeless mountains, green with fern to a great height, but shewing little else save rock, had a very wild appearance. The pass is not very long, but it widens and descends in the middle, and incloses a little narrow vale, mostly too wet to be cultivated but containing one or two old, cottages and two or three patches of cultivation. Here also is another pond, called Blea Tarn; but neither is this properly a Tarn, being in the hollow between two mountains, not in the bosom of one. This wild place is that selected by Wordsworth, in the Excursion, as the dwelling-place of his Solitary;21 and every thing combines to fit it for such a purpose, except some small groves of young larch which false taste has planted on both sides of the dell. The country is filled with these ugly plantations, intended no doubt to alleviate the desert-like appearance given to many of these mountains by their extreme bareness; but no tree can be so ill fitted for this purpose as the larch, which is formal, pale-coloured, has no boughs, and but little foliage. I cannot remember any one spot where these plantations have been laid out with taste, nor have I found that they any where improved the landscape, except where the shade being thrown directly upon them, lent to them a depth of colour which they possess not of themselves. These perverse improvers might have taken a lesson from the sycamore; there are a few of these trees in every valley, and though it never was a favorite with me, I have taken a fancy to it from the extreme richness of its deep green foliage, a quality precious in these valleys because they possess it not in any other tree. Oaks there are few or none except in the state of coppice; I have seen no fine oaks except a few (very fine ones certainly) in Lady Fleming’s grounds. The ash is indigenous here, but generally pollarded, and seldom very fine: besides, this tree never has many leaves in proportion to its wood, nor is their colour bright. Beeches there are none, and scarcely any elms. The sycamore therefore is the great vegetable ornament of these vales: it is almost the only tree which is allowed to grow high and to conceive how necessary it is, it must be seen growing in these situations.—In descending the pass, we came upon a scene wholly unlike any other we had yet beheld. We were now at the head of Great Langdale, and we might have fancied ourselves at the wall of the world: huge mountains rose in front, we might walk up to them, but there we needs must stop. The valley is closed by Bow Fell, one of the highest mountains in the country. It is scooped out into natural amphitheatres, and its bare sides displayed every torrent and every waterfall glittering in the sun. The valley which remains perfectly flat up to the very foot of the mountains which terminate it, sent up still another arm in front of us, between the furthest point of Bow Fell and the Langdale Pikes. This also was soon stopped by precipitous heights, out of which must issue somewhere, I could not see where, the brook which forms the principal source of the river Brathay, and which even so high up as this, is considerable. The Pikes, as seen from the pass, appeared with their accustomed magnificence, but when we reached the bottom, they seemed a confused mass of rock, the general outline being lost in the proximity, and in the multitude, of the details, and each Pike having immediately before it, a lower summit, not high enough, nor standing out sufficiently from the mass of the mountain, to be visible at a distance. Between the two Pikes is a deep and narrow ravine, or rather groove, called Dungeon-Ghyll: in this is a waterfall, to see which we ascended the green turfy sides of the mountain, covered with fern. The rocks forming the sides of the ghyll approach in one place so near together and are so perpendicular, that if you were standing between them you could see as little of the sky as if you were at the bottom of a well: hence the name, Dungeon-Ghyll. At the further end of this narrow pass it is crossed by a rock as high and as perpendicular as its sides; over which in consequence the torrent precipitates itself into the bottom of the dungeon. If you are on the height above, it seems to fall to an indefinite depth; your eye follows it very far and then loses it. You can see the whole fall from below, by looking in at the bottom of the pass. A mass of rock has by some accident lodged itself between the two walls of rock, somewhat below the top of the fall, and forms a natural bridge. Higher up the mountain there are two or three other falls, all of them pretty; and there are others in the hollows of the very next mountain, and so on through the whole country. Descending Great Langdale, we passed some slate quarries which are in full activity, and which explained to us the appearances we saw, of some considerable population. The houses of the peasantry in these valleys are not pleasing. There seems to be much of the reality of comfort about them, but there is little of the appearance. They have none of the flowers round about them, or the creepers on the walls, which are so general in the south of England; there is little neatness about the outsides, which are coated with an ugly whitewash, to hide the rough stones with which they are built. I should like their houses much better if they would but leave them as they leave their barns. These are built of the same material, but there is no attempt to hide it; and the masses of solid slate, some blue, some red with iron, intermixed with masses of the greenstone, or trachytic amygdaloid of the country, have a singular, and not unpleasing effect. To see these villages to advantage, you must look down upon them from above. There, the whitewashed sides are so foreshortened as not to be conspicuous, while you have a full view of the cheerful slate roofs and the little, square, unpretending, yet not ungraceful chimnies.—We passed Elter Water, which was now on our right; it seems green and reedy, and like a swamp: it is not much more interesting than a pond. But the Brathay, running out of it, which was still as clear and smooth as glass, made ample amends. The road being here lifted considerably above it, allowed us to embrace at one view its graceful windings to a considerable distance. We also had full enjoyment of the woody sides of the opposite hills. Soon after, in a little dell to the left, between us and the mountain Loughrigg, we perceived Loughrigg Tarn. Even this does not come within the proper idea of a tarn, but it has much of the beauty not of a tarn but of a little lake: its form and situation are pretty; there is some wood on its banks, and its smooth surface reflected the image of the mountain beyond with the minutest accuracy and in all the colours of nature. Were it not for the inverted trees, we should never have suspected that what we saw was water, instead of the continuation of the green hill-side.—We kept the left bank of the Brathay all the rest of the way, and arrived at Ambleside without seeing anything further worthy of notice.
The next day we walked to Grasmere. We might have taken the road by Rydal-water, directly up the valley, avoiding all hills, but we preferred to reverse the road by which we returned from Langdale the day before, and we struck off a little beyond Loughrigg Tarn, into one of the roads which lead across (or through passes in) the range of heights which separates Great Langdale from the vale of Grasmere. The distance is not great, and we soon arrived at a point which commanded the valley and the lake. We were less struck by them, at the first view, than we expected; and on the whole this lake and valley, though fine, seem to me to be surpassed by many spots among these mountains. The vale in which Grasmere is situated is a roundish basin: the mountains forming it are but of second-rate magnitude, but are green to the top with fern, and partly with coppice, of which there is more, in proportion to the extent, than in any other place we had come to except the banks of Windermere. The eminences on the east side are, I think, the highest, and are intersected by two long steep ghylls, one of them finely bent: this I believe is Green-head Ghyll, so finely described by Wordsworth in the poem of “Michael.”22 A bent ghyll is much finer than any other: a ghyll which descends at once from the top to the bottom of the mountain is a mere channel cut in its sides, but if it runs up into the mountain laterally, then alters its direction, and reaches the peak or ridge after two or three more turnings, it forms elbows overlapping one another; projecting angles, which break the uniformity of the hill-side; and the ghyll being seen laterally, is always covered by one of its walls, so that you cannot see into it, but merely see a hollow, which you may suppose to be of any depth you please. It is also a great advantage if the ghyll instead of growing narrower as it ascends the mountain, grows wider, and opens into a kind of circular hollow scooped out of the mountainside, resembling the amphitheatre of mountains which terminates a broad valley. This is the case with many of the finest ghylls in these mountains, and renders the mountains themselves much more striking, when seen from any place whence you can command their entire height. When ever you read of a high mountain as seen directly in front, from its base or from an opposite hill, you are safe in imagining that some considerable part of its top is scooped out into one of these hollows, out of which a torrent runs and forces its way down the rocky sides, making either a mere channel or a deep ghyll.—The entrance into Grasmere vale from Rydal is completely closed up and concealed, being lateral, like the outlet from Rydal into the valley of Ambleside. The lake would therefore appear completely enclosed in mountains, were it not that a broad and visible outlet is formed at the north-east corner, by a low pass which leads to the opposite, or Keswick side of the mountains, down the vale of St. John’s. This is somewhat unfortunate for the picturesque effect of Grasmere lake. This, like the other lakes, has several islands, one of them of larger size than common, and less wooded: there is however a handsome clump of Scotch firs upon it, a tree which is as ornamental here as the larch is the reverse. In the valleys there frequently rise little roundish knolls, on many of which, clusters of five or six firs have been planted with considerable picturesque effect: this tree has boughs, which most of the fir tribe have not; its blue, or purple tint at this season, harmonizes well with the mountain scenery, and the bark is here of that peculiar red, which is often given to it in paintings but which I have not generally found it to wear in nature, at least not so finely as in this district.—At the head of the lake is the little village of Grasmere; the church was open, the day being Sunday, and rushing-day, as I believe it is called, that is, the day for laying fresh rushes on the floor of the church: it is very small, and by far the most rustic and unsophisticated building of its kind I ever saw. The roof consists of naked slates, whitewashed internally, but shewing all the junctures; and nothing else except the old bare rafters. There is a sort of a wall which divides the church, or part of it, down the middle, but this wall does not reach to the roof, it reaches only to the principal cross rafters, and supports them. There are only one or two pews, and those of the simplest and most unpretending kind: in lieu of others, rows of benches, are placed down both sides of the church, with rushes (fresh ones) under them instead of a carpet; and the pulpit was not more ostentatious than the other apparatus of the place. Every thing however that admitted of it was hung with bouquets and festoons of fresh flowers, intermixed with some quaint bunches of feathers; the rustic character of these ornaments harmonized as much as their gaudy colours contrasted, with the homely appearance of the building and its paraphernalia. In the little room containing the clergyman’s23 pontificals, (which they perhaps presume to call a vestry-room) were a (I suppose I might say the) bible and prayer-book, both of them I should think the first edition: the bible was in black letter, published in 1617,24 and I suppose no other has been used in this church from that time. In the church-yard, washed by the brook which feeds Grasmere lake, are the graves of two of Wordsworth’s children who died young.25 There is a little school-house at the further gate of the church-yard; this also was open, but contained nothing except two or three boys’ hats, and sundry copies of Mrs. Trimmer’s abridgment of the New Testament.26 —The head of the little lake is separated from the mountains which bound the vale on that side, by a space considerable for the size of the valley, of fields and trees: this, together with the green banks and the green fern and coppice on the sides of the hills, gives to this valley a more verdant appearance than is usual here, from which, no doubt, the lake and village derived their name.—The only mountain at the head of Grasmere which is remarkable in form, or stands strikingly individualized, is a pyramidal eminence, called Helm-Crag: green to the top, or rather greenish—for that is the utmost you can ever say of the Westmoreland mountains, the Cumberland ones are far greener. At the top of this height, but more distinctly visible from the pass into St. John’s vale, are some curious rocks, which I likened first to a monkey feeding her cub, next to a bear devouring some small animal: I found by looking afterwards into a guide-book, that I was not singular in finding odd resemblances for this cluster of rocks, and that my two comparisons, which seem so unlike one another, were but a type of the diversity of the images which the objects have suggested to different observers. “Mr. Gray” says the guide-book (meaning the poet Gray) “likens it to ‘some gigantic building demolished’; Mr. West to ‘a mass of antediluvian ruins’; Mr. Green to the figures of a ‘lion and a lamb’; and Mr. Wordsworth to an ‘astrologer and old woman’; and the traveller” (adds the author of the guide-book, venturing to swell from the stores of his own fancy, the list of odd similies) “who views it from Dunmail Raise, may think that a mortar elevated for throwing shells into the valley, would be no unapt comparison.”27
To the left of Helm Crag, the principal feeder of Grasmere-water issues out of a winding valley called Easedale, the opening into which, as seen from Grasmerevale, is nearly covered by hills. It is a sort of Langdale on a smaller scale. There is a neat little house built at the corner of a hill, in a situation something like that of Mr. Wordsworth’s cottage, commanding both Grasmere and Easedale:28 I have since learned that this was once occupied by Wordsworth: from a road belonging to this house, you have an excellent view into the little mountain valley, and can see to great advantage the knobbed and rocky eminences forming the boundary of the valley on the left hand. These look as if knots of rock had been dropped all over their sides. The valley at first is green with fields and trees; higher up it becomes bare and wild, and is soon closed by mountains furrowed with torrents. We walked up it till we could see the end, then returned by the further bank of Grasmere lake, along which passes the road from Keswick to Ambleside. The lake appears finest from this bank, where as you are not lifted very high above it, you are not made so sensible of its small extent. We returned to Ambleside by Rydal water, and the field path along the banks of the Rotha. In the evening we walked to the banks of Windermere, passed Low-wood, ascended Troutbeck lane, and again enjoyed, in the twilight, the view down the lake: in the opposite direction, the mountains were too much hid in clouds to shew us much of their beauty. We this time descended by Miss Wordsworth’s advice, to the long straggling village of Troutbeck, in which are several substantial-looking houses: but here too the heads of the mountains were involved in clouds and we saw little more of Troutbeck vale than we had seen previously.
The next day we shifted our quarters, and proceeded to Keswick. Our route lay by the side of Rydal and Grasmere lakes: in passing I called upon Miss Wordsworth, and saw her: Mr. Wordsworth had not yet returned; but I afterwards met him on the road, by the side of Thirlmere lake: he was on the top of a stage coach, I was on foot, but he stopped the coach and we exchanged a few words: he asked me to call upon him in returning.—We kept the high road, which is perhaps the most beautiful in England; and issued out of the vale of Grasmere by the low broad pass which I mentioned in describing that lake. The head of the pass, or the parting of the waters, is marked by a heap of stones called Dunmail Raise, supposed to be the cairn of Dunmail the last king of Cumberland, who is said to have been defeated and slain at this place by one of the kings of the Anglo-Saxons.29 A wall which crosses the cairn here separates Westmoreland from Cumberland, and the vale terminating in Windermere from that which issues into the plain by Bassenthwaite lake. This point, and the whole of the road from Rydal to Keswick, are familiar to those who are acquainted with Wordsworth’s poem of “The Waggoner.”
To understand the face of the country one should bear in mind the comparison so aptly employed by Mr. Wordsworth in his little work published separately as a description of the lakes.30 There is in the centre of this mountainous region a cluster or knot of very high mountains, consisting of Sca or Scaw Fell, Great Gable, Bow Fell, and one or two others: this may be considered as the nave or centre of a wheel, and the valleys, most of which terminate at this point, may be regarded as the spokes; due allowance being made for their not being absolutely straight. Langdale, which afterwards is prolonged into the valley of Windermere, is the first spoke; turning round towards the west, we come first to Coniston Vale, which as it does not quite reach to the nave, may be considered as a broken spoke; further on, Donnerdale, Eskdale, Wastdale, Ennerdale, and the vale of Buttermere and Crummock, are perfect spokes; as well as Borrowdale which runs due north, opening upon the beautiful Derwentwater or Keswick lake, and closed by the majestic Skiddaw, who stands apart, wholly unconnected with the general plan of the other mountains. In like manner, Legberthwaite dale, or the vale of St. John’s, is closed to the north by Blencathra, otherwise called Saddleback, which though separated by a deep ravine, is a sort of continuation of Skiddaw. At the foot of Saddleback, St. John’s vale turns off to the west, debouches into the basin of Keswick lake, and from thence issues out into the plain by Bassenthwaite, at the opening between Skiddaw and the mountains of Newlands and Buttermere. St. John’s vale does not run up quite to the nave of the wheel, but meets Grasmere vale, its counterpart on the south side, at the pass of Dunmail Raise. There is yet another valley to the east, Patterdale, which contains Ulleswater; this terminates still further from the centre, so that on the whole the resemblance to a wheel is by no means so perfect on the east side of the mountains as on the west.
From the top of the pass we came immediately in sight of Thirlmere, or Leathes Water; a narrow, winding lake out of which, bare, and almost precipitous mountains rise almost at once, leaving a very narrow margin, enlarged however by numerous long headlands, partially clothed with trees. Though we first saw this beautiful lake at its head, we were no losers, as, unlike most of the lakes, it is best seen from upwards, becoming as it descends inclosed in higher mountains, and terminated not by an opening into the plain, but by the lofty Saddleback, concealed from us as yet by intermediate eminences, although we saw, through a pass in the western range, one of the beautiful shoulders of Skiddaw, thus shaped. The mountains which form the western boundary of the vale became more and more precipitous, and finally took the form of a black perpendicular cliff called Raven Crag. (Crag, in this country, means any perpendicular rock.) On the right, the mountains above us were perfectly bare and rocky; every part of the torrents which furrowed their sides was therefore fully visible. These mountains form part of the base of the great Helvellyn, the summits of which were concealed from us by proximity and also by clouds. The day was rainy; scarcely half an hour was free from rain, but as the views in this valley are not extensive, our enjoyment of them was very little impaired by the rain, which generally was rather a drizzle than any thing like a heavy shower.—The road was lifted somewhat above the lake, and afforded beautiful views of it and of the opposite mountains, but on the whole the road naturally descended with the valley; until we came to a point nearly opposite to Armboth, where the lake either contracts to a strait or is divided by an isthmus, and forms two lakes, an upper and a lower one. The road here diverges from the lake, and ascends one of the lateral eminences, from which, on looking back, we had a noble view of a precipitous crag on the other side, with a torrent pouring down it. Having crossed this eminence we unexpectedly perceived before us another line of low mountains rising up in the middle of the valley and dividing it into two parts: that to the left contained the lower half of Thirlmere, and was invisible to us: the other, called more emphatically the vale of St. John’s, or Legberthwaite dale is extremely narrow; bounded on the east by the long steep range which has collectively received the name of Helvellyn; on the west by the lower range of mountains just mentioned, and closed up to the north by Saddleback, or Blencathara,31 a mountain vastly superior both in beauty and apparent elevation, to any which we had seen. The line of its summit, as seen from this point, consists or appears to consist of two beautiful curve lines, like small segments of very great circles, with the concave side turned towards us, and ending in three sharp points. The ridge, thus formed, had the appearance of being so narrow and angular, that it would be impossible to walk upon it. This we supposed to be an ocular deception but it was irresistible. To the concavity of the two circular arcs, answer corresponding hollows scooped out in the body of the mountain; and these beautiful hollows are bounded by three long turfy arms or sloping lines thrown forward into the vale. The mountain was happily free from clouds; and we had a gleam of sunshine, which lighted up some of the adjacent objects, leaving Blencathara in a deep purple shade. The effect of this noble mountain seen at the end of a deep hollow dale, cannot easily be described. The foreground was well calculated to set it off. The first of the range of intermediate mountains, a conical eminence which must, from its position and character, be that known to readers of Wordsworth by the name of Great How,32 is wooded almost to the summit, with indigenous wood, the rocky sides peeping out only where they were so completely perpendicular, that trees would not grow upon them: resembling, therefore, in every respect, what I have been told is the general character of the rocky sides of Dovedale. Beyond this, another bulky mountain rises steeply from the narrow vale. Raven Crag, on the other side of Thirlmere, peered occasionally over the intervening heights, and nearly opposite to it, on the Helvellyn side, another I was about to say a finer crag (called Green Crag, or the Enchanted Castle of St. John’s) stood out boldly from the mountain side. The waters of Thirlmere discharge themselves through this narrow vale, by the river Greta (now a classical name),33 which flows through the gap between Great How and the next mountain of its series, and flows down, more quietly than could be expected, but at a great depth below the road, into the glen. The road does precisely the reverse, it crosses, by the same pass, from St. John’s vale to the other valley, which, as to its direction, seems a continuation of the vale of Thirlmere, though on a considerably higher level; at this point it is filled with a bog, covered with the Dutch myrtle and called Shoulthwaite moss. When we had proceeded for some space along the road which crosses this moss, we obtained gradually a full view of Skiddaw; which we at once admitted to be a mountain of a character immensely above all which we had seen on the opposite side of the mountainous country. Skiddaw, though on a scale of comparative minuteness, reminded me of the conception I had formed of Aetna, from its extensive base, its insulated position, and the descending arms which it stretches out into the plain. It consists mainly of two high roundish summits, not far from each other, and two long shoulders which sink at once to a considerable depth below the summits, but are still of a great height, and stretch out on the right and left to a very great distance. Towards the valley in front, the descent on the contrary is rapid, though not by crags but long turfy slopes, separated by ravines chiselled out as deeply, and with the same nicety, as those of Blencathara. We could not take off our eyes from these two mountains. Dwelling apart from the rest and towering above them, Skiddaw seems the king and Blencathara the queen of this mountain region. Justice is hardly done to the beauty of this last mountain; for when it is seen from Keswick, the lateral view hides entirely the character of the beautiful ridge, and hollow sides, and makes it seem an insignificant appendage to Skiddaw. From this spot, however, we were unable to decide which of them was the finest. From Blencathara we learned, how very slight a deviation from a straight line is sufficient, under some circumstances, to give boldness and impressiveness to the long ridge of an eminence. Skiddaw, again, satisfied us, that the most gentle and elegant of mountains,—totally destitute of cliffs, or bare rocks, and meeting the plain with grassy slopes like those of a chalk hill, might yet give a stronger impression of magnitude and grandeur, than any of the others, even those which surpass it in height. This we ascribed, partly to its insulated position; partly to the large space it covers, being nevertheless itself commanded and towered over by its own summits; but most to this, that it consists of a very small number of features, each of which may therefore be in itself broad and conspicuous, and which are boldly and decisively marked out. Its outline might be correctly conveyed by a much smaller number of lines than even the little mountains near Ambleside; and this is eminently favorable to imposingness of effect as we see in a Greek temple.—Turning our eyes backwards, we could now see the highest point of Helvellyn, at last freed from clouds. This mountain at least this side of it, is in every respect the opposite of Skiddaw: its highest summits are only a little higher than those of a whole row of mountains connected at the base, which together bear the name of Helvellyn: its forms are neither graceful nor dignified, it never takes credit for its whole height, and is chiefly conspicuous because it seems to turn its back to you, and its highest points, which are curiously notched or indented, seem to be peering over at something on its opposite side. We passed on, gaining a better view of Skiddaw and losing the fine one of Blencathara every instant. We soon found that the waters of this valley run out not towards Thirlmere nor St. John’s but towards Skiddaw and Blencathara, so that the vale may be considered as a tributary of that which separates those two mountains from the others. The lower part of the valley is green, and richly cultivated. The road winds over the heights on the left hand and presently when we began to descend the glorious vale of Keswick burst at once upon our sight.
We looked down upon this splendid valley from a hill named Castlerigg. Close under our feet, though a little to the left, was the lake of Derwentwater, completely inclosed in a basin of high mountains. It washed their bases on every side except that of Skiddaw, from which it was separated by a considerable extent of wavy green fields, among which the little town of Keswick shewed its cheerful blue roofs. Beyond Skiddaw, and in the opening between it and the mountains on the further side of the valley, was the commencement of another lake, that of Bassenthwaite. Looking next across the valley, we beheld mountain rise behind mountain, so thickly sown and in such forms that I can only compare them to waves in a tempestuous sea. Turning now towards the left, and looking up the lake, we saw the opening into Borrowdale, almost closed by a black fir-clad rock, named, and appropriately named, Castle Crag: it seemed impossible to imagine any greater opening there than a narrow gorge; the high mountains at the head of Borrowdale were so veiled in clouds that we could not see more than their bases, and it seemed as if something dark and dismal opposed all attempt to penetrate further in that direction. The heights on the side where we were, rose immediately into a high cliff called Walla or Wallow Crag; and formed little else but a series of crags from that point to the head of the lake. The banks on all sides, and even the mountains to a certain height, were thickly wooded, (a sight very uncommon in this country), and numerous islands, completely cloathed with trees, were spread over the surface of the lake. This magnificent prospect was closed at the extremity by Skiddaw. We descended to Keswick; and having taken up our quarters there, we strolled down to Friar’s Crag, a promontory covered with trees, looking out across the lake to the mountains beyond, and the path to which, is the public walk of the town. At Keswick we again encountered Mr. Madge.
The next morning we again strolled out before breakfast to Friar’s Crag, from which, and from a field adjoining, we had delightful views of the lake; and crossed from thence to a higher eminence named Castle-head Hill, which in fact would be an excellent situation for a castle, and from which you see the whole lake spread out under your feet, with the circumjacent mountains. We now distinguished, on the western side of the lake, the high Grisedale Pike with its two summits; one greatly above the other, and its long arm stretched out towards Bassenthwaite and Skiddaw; Causey Pike, shaped like a small paper copy of the former; Catbells, a little mountain, green to the top, immediately overhanging the lake, and consisting of a ridge folding itself once round and terminating in the last of two bell-shaped eminences; High Stile, and the other mountains of Buttermere and Crummock beyond these and overtopping them; and Manesty Crags, walling in the lake towards its head. To the left, not far from the extremity of the lake, we could partly see the great waterfall of Lowdore, pouring down the chasm between two perpendicular cliffs of immense height. After breakfasting at Keswick, we attempted to reach Lowdore by the road along the east side of the lake, but the weather settled into steady rain, and forced us to return. We went to see Mr. Crosthwaite’s Museum,34 where among many soi-disant curiosities, all that interested us were a number of very fine specimens of the minerals and rocks of the country. In the evening we took advantage of a short interval between the showers, to walk down the town to Crossthwaite church, the parish church of Keswick, and standing a little way from it: there is an engraving of this spot in Southey’s Colloquies:35 the church, though ugly in itself, and covered with the disagreeable whitewash of the country, is prettier than most that we had recently seen. Although the head of Skiddaw was covered with clouds just upon the point of discharging their moisture he was still magnificent, and we were much struck with the deep purple colour, under this light, of the neatly chiselled and almost bare interior of the ravines or hollows which are scooped out of his sides. The evening was thoroughly rainy, and we could go no further. The Greta, which runs at the foot of the town to join the Derwent just issuing from the lake, was swelled with the rains, and, unlike the Ambleside rivers, considerably discoloured. There seems indeed to be about Keswick, and especially in the interval between the two lakes, a considerable extent of alluvial soil.
The next day was on the whole rainy, but not so much so as to prevent short walks. We went from Keswick to a village called Ormathwaite, close to the foot of Skiddaw: from the front of a gentleman’s house close to the hamlet, and from a road which runs along the side of the mountain at a slight elevation above the valley, we had several admirable views of the lake and mountains; and we were sometimes surprised to find how great a variety in the view was made by a very trifling change in our position. The highest mountains of Borrowdale, Scawfell and Great Gable, were still, however, concealed from us by clouds. After returning from this little walk, Mr. Madge and I called upon Mr. Southey, which we had not done sooner because we were aware that he had not returned from an excursion to Ulleswater. We were both of us acquainted with him, though but slightly. He received us very kindly, conversed with us for some time very agreeably, and invited us to tea the same evening: we accepted his invitation, and spent the evening very pleasantly. His house is close to the town, and lifted a little above it, though at the lower end. It looks up the lake, like all the gentlemen’s houses hereabouts; though it does not command quite the best view. The rooms are filled with books, and the appearance of the house is like the conversation of the man, which is an admirable mixture of the book-student, the man of elegance and taste, and the man of the world.—Between our two visits to Southey, we took advantage of an interval of fine weather to circumnavigate the lake. It was very high from the late rains; and we readily believed what the boatman told us, that it had risen four feet in the two preceding days. It also covered a considerably greater surface than before, having encroached upon its grassy banks wherever there was room for it to spread itself out. It is an indispensable part of viewing this country to go upon Derwent Lake: the face of the lake affords the finest positions for seeing in perfection, the mountains which immediately surround it; and you obtain a juster notion of its own magnitude, for without experience it is impossible to imagine how falsely one estimates distance and size in mountainous countries: the objects being all magnified in nearly an equal proportion, no one of them affords a scale to measure the greatness of the others. When I first saw Windermere I could by no means persuade myself that in some places it is a mile across; and I could as little conceive that Keswick Lake is in length three miles and in breadth a mile and a half; but I easily believed it after going on the water, for I found that an island, which from the Lowdore side appeared almost close to the opposite shore, was really near the middle of the lake.—The right bank as you ascend towards the water-head, is thickly clothed with the fine woods belonging to the late Lord William Gordon;36 these fill up the small space between the lake and the mountains, and cover some promontories which project finely into the water, inclosing delightful little bays. On the other side, Walla Crag and other crags the continuation of it, mostly well wooded at the base and to a considerable height, except where they are completely perpendicular; formed the boundary of the vale. One of the islands, near the bottom of the lake, belongs to General Peachy, lately member of parliament for Taunton;37 it is, like the other islands, covered with trees, but it also contains a house, his only country residence: it seems prettily laid out and ornamented. We landed at Lowdore, which is not a waterfall, but a cataract, and perhaps the most striking single object in the vale of Keswick. It lies between two cliffs of immense height; the one, which bears a striking resemblance to a ruined castle upon a rock, is affirmed to be near 500 feet high, and may possibly be so: the other is nearly, if not quite, as high: both are wooded at the top, and on the sides wherever trees will grow, that is to say in the clefts, for the rock itself is completely perpendicular. The narrow ravine between the two cliffs is also thickly wooded, and immense blocks of stone are scattered all over it; these have evidently fallen from the cliffs, either dislodged by tempests or frost, or by the torrent gradually undermining more and more. In the ravine a brook almost amounting (after the rain) to a small mountain river, tumbles down from a height of, it is said, 360 feet, but of this not more than one-half is visible from below: it does not form one fall, but many, its channel being broad and heaped up with blocks of stone, over which the water precipitates itself; there are many streams falling like one. In our way back we saw what is called the Floating Island, which appears at considerable intervals and is now visible. It does not change its position (it is said however that there is a real floating island on Esthwaite Water); it only rises occasionally to the surface, and sinks again, without any visible cause: it seems a kind of bog, barely above the level of the water and covered with the vegetation that grows in the shallow parts of the lake. It is ascertained that what keeps the island afloat is gas, generated probably by peat at the bottom of the lake. Professor Sedgwick38 let out some of the gas by making a hole in the island, which immediately sunk several inches, with him upon it. His theory, as we learned from Southey, is that a brook which runs into the lake just opposite to the island (it is not far from the shore) penetrates between the peat, and the clay which is below it, and prevents the peat from adhering to the clay, so that it is easily blown up by the gas which is generated in its own substance.—Although the evening had every appearance of being fine when we set out on the water, we did not get back to Keswick without being caught in a shower; an example of the uncertainty of the climate of these mountains; the ordinary English climate is steadiness itself in comparison.
The next day we set out from Keswick with a full determination to explore Borrowdale, but were again driven back by the rain: less from fear of getting wet, than apprehension of not being able to see. In the interval between two showers (in which interval you are to include one intermediate shower) we went to see a Druidical circle of stones, on a point of Castlerigg Hill a little to the right of the old Penrith road, about a mile and a half from Keswick, commanding a fine view of Skiddaw and Saddleback, of Helvellyn and the intermediate mountains across Shoulthwaite Moss, and of the tops of the mountains of Newlands on the other side of Derwent Lake. The stones, which are placed on end, and some of which are about the height of a man, form a complete circuit, though not a correct circle; and there is a much smaller circle touching the larger one internally, which was a possibly a kind of sanctum sanctorum, a place distinguished in holiness above the rest. The road to this place, (as well as to Penrith) lies along the foot of Skiddaw, or rather of Latrigg, which Gray, the poet, called Skiddaw’s cub;39 this mountain is apparently about 800 or 900 feet high, that is, about the height of Leith Hill, but really two or three hundred feet more, and seems to lie under the feet of Skiddaw, or to grow out of it, as is the fact, for it is a sort of excresence, connected at the base with the greater mountain. It is rounded in its forms, almost like a chalk hill; it is also artificially planted, and (an exception to the general rule) with real taste: woods, corn fields and bare turf or brown heath, are in this instance mixed with very agreeable effect. At the foot of it, and between it and the road, the Greta runs with its usual violence, on its way from St. John’s vale to Keswick: it was now much swelled with the rain, but, in this place at least, was clear. Its bed is large, and strewed with lumps of rock probably brought down from the foot of Helvellyn: it foams over these lumps or turns round them, in a manner which reminded me much of the Adour near Bagnères de Bigorre, in the Pyrenees, a river which this resembles more than any other of the mountain streams about Ambleside or Keswick.—The afternoon proving fine, we walked through some rich meadows on the banks of the Derwent, which carries the waters of Keswick lake into Bassenthwaite, in a stream of no contemptible rapidity and depth. The occasional, and even habitual violence of this stream is attested by the labour and expence, with which whole rows of little breakwaters have been constructed at every one of its numerous windings, to prevent it from changing its bed by cutting through and carrying off the alluvial soil on the bank against which the current sets. We crossed the river to the pretty cheerful village of Portingscale,40 and took the road up the west side of the lake, but soon quitted it to enter Lord or rather Lady William Gordon’s woods.41 In these there are a variety of tall trees of various kinds, which not being common in this country, were the more agreeable: there are many walks cut out in the woods, all very pretty, but rarely allowing more than a momentary glimpse of the surrounding scenery, until we arrive at the house. This is almost deserted by its owner, who has never visited it since she was a widow: accordingly all other persons may go all round it and enjoy every one of the beautiful views which are abundant and various in its immediate neighbourhood. It stands fronting the lake, at the bottom of a little bay, formed by two richly wooded promontories: and the lake may be enjoyed in perfection either from the terrace walk in front of the house, or from various points of view selected with great taste on the shore of the promontories. The objects seen across the Lake have been already described. The noise of the Lodore falls may be distinctly heard, though this is the broadest part of the lake and though they are far from directly opposite: we heard it so loud as to mix with all other sounds, forming a deep, sonorous, though low, accompaniment to the ripple of the lake, which ever and anon drowned the more distant sound in its nearer, though comparatively insignificant, noise.—This day my friend Henry Taylor, of the Colonial Office,42 an intimate friend of Southey’s and to whom I am indebted for the little acquaintance I have both with him and with Wordsworth, arrived at Keswick, to stay there about the same length of time as ourselves. Mr. Southey had told me that he was coming, but did not expect him so soon. His father with whom I was not previously acquainted, accompanied him.
The next day we set out (that is, my companion and myself—Mr. Madge returning to Ambleside) with a firm resolution to see Borrowdale, whether it rained or not. And we were rewarded, for although we got wet more than once in our way to Borrowdale, we had scarcely entered the valley when the wind, which had been south-west, shifted to a few points north of west, and the weather completely changed. The shower from which we took shelter under the Bowder Stone was the last shower of the rainy weather. This stone is an enormous mass of rock, the largest of many which have fallen, in the course of ages, from the crags by which the narrow entrance into Borrowdale is hemmed in, and almost closed up. The mass has accidentally fallen in such a manner as to rest upon a very narrow base, slanting upwards like the inside of a roof on both sides; but it does not vibrate, like some other stones in similar situations. The valley in this place, which would be very narrow at any rate, is still further narrowed by Castle Crag, already mentioned as forming part of all views of Derwent Lake from the neighbourhood of Keswick; and two or three other rocky heights, most of them more or less wooded, which seem designed to block up the valley and among which the river or brook which feeds the lake, finds its way not without apparent difficulty, at a very great depth below the road, forming a striking picture. This is certainly the finest part of Borrowdale. When we descended into the open and broad part of the valley, we found it rather less striking than I expected. Like all the other valleys it is a narrow plain, flat to the very edge of the mountains: it is green and rich, and was now soaked with wet; the road in some places being overflowed. The brooks, and especially the main stream, or river, were now very full, and beautiful. They are crossed by numerous bridges, built of lumps of slate put upon their ends; these have a highly picturesque effect; which indeed may be said of all the bridges over these mountain streams. The valley winds, and has two or three reaches, as they would be called in a river. Between the villages of Rossthwaite and Seatoller, it divides itself into two forks, nearly equal in breadth; both appear interesting; the shortest we passed on the left, and took the longest, which retains the name of Borrowdale; at Seatoller, this branch turns round to the left, having on the right the pass of Gatesgarth, leading to Buttermere vale. This is now the final reach, terminated by one of the bases of Scaw Fell, and bounded to the right and left by Gable and Bow Fell; yet we did not seem to be among very high mountains; the tops of some of them were hid, and others were foreshortened: the head of Great Langdale is finer. The mountains are here clothed in many places with turf and fern, and in others with trees, but the upper parts are universally craggy and bare. We went as far as Seathwaite, the last village, near which are the celebrated black-lead mines of Borrowdale: the entrance to them is at a considerable elevation, in the sides of the mountain on the right. Not far from thence, though lower down, among other trees, are the Borrowdale yew-trees celebrated by Wordsworth:43 these, and the single yew in Lorton vale mentioned by him in the same little poem, are, I suspect, the only fine yew-trees in the whole country of the Lakes, and on the whole, any trees of the kind, indeed any indigenous trees of great or even moderate size, are wonderfully uncommon here. The country of yews is not Cumberland, but the Dorking Chalk hills.—There is a pass over a very high part of the mountains, at the very end of Borrowdale, called the Sty-head, and leading into Wastdale: we did not climb up to it, but approached very near to its foot, and then returned to Keswick by the way by which we came.—In the evening we walked once more to Castlerigg Hill.
The next day was one of the finest of the season, and we resolved to employ it in ascending Skiddaw. This we easily accomplished without a guide, by the aid of the directions given in Otley’s Description of the Lakes:44 indeed this mountain both is, and appears, very easy of ascent, and we might have climbed it in any of several other directions. The sides, where they are sufficiently sloping (which is the case every where except in the hollows) are covered with the richest and greenest sward: it is only near the top that the bare rocks, or rather fragments of slate, begin to peep out, and even there the intermixture of vegetation is generally sufficient to render the bareness imperceptible from below. I have already given a general idea of the form of this mountain. I mentioned that it has two summits, visible from Keswick: they are separated by not a very deep ravine; the highest of them forms the lower extremity of a short, slightly ascending ridge, of which consequently, the opposite end is the extreme summit of the mountain, and is not visible from Keswick, though it is from Newlands and the mountains adjacent. This highest point was one of the stations for the Trigonometrical Survey,45 and a pole raised on that occasion five years ago still remains, as well as a cabin of loose stones, probably constructed about the same time as a shelter to the operators. As we ascended, we gradually left below us, first Latrigg, which our path began by winding round; then Catbells, Causey Pike, Castlerigg Fell, and all the mountains immediately surrounding the lake; at last even Grisedale Pike, which for a long time seemed to tower above us; but Scaw Fell, Great Gable, and the other high mountains in the centre of the wheel,46 rose more and more as we rose; and we did not seem to overtop the Helvellyn range, the whole length of which we could now see, together with the mountains of Grasmere and Ambleside, beyond, which seemed mere hillocks. Black Combe, a mountain joining the sea, at a great distance from the other high mountains, and which commands the most extensive view in England, according to Colonel Mudge who had an ample range of comparison,47 was also seen over one of the passes among the high summits; and the Coniston mountains were visible, though, to us, not very accurately distinguishable. There were no clouds today on the high mountains, so that we saw them in all their glory. Derwent Lake seemed dwindled to a mere pond. Turning now the opposite way, we saw at the foot of Skiddaw, and of Saddleback (now considerably below us) a small number of lower elevations, green to the tops, and separated by a large tract of turfy sloping moors, of a cheerful character, not of the sombre cast of the Yorkshire moors; beyond these an immense plain, bounded on one side by the hills of Northumberland and Durham, a long range in the middle of which Cross Fell raised its dome-like summit; to the north there was no boundary but the haze of the distant horizon: to the west and north west, the sea, with the Scottish coast sloping away to an immense distance beyond the narrow seas, forming broad bays and long projecting headlands. The atmosphere was not very clear when we were on the extreme summit; but we descended by a part of the mountain called Ullock, of much inferior elevation, from which, the air having greatly cleared, we saw the hills of Kirkcudbright rising one behind another with the greatest distinctness, the opening of Wigton bay, and the Mull of Galloway protruding its great length into the waters; then the open sea, and beyond that the Isle of Man, with its high hills and a long promontory stretching out towards Scotland. Between us and the coast was the town of Cockermouth, and further north were several other towns which we were not quite certain that we could recognize from their position, but we thought that Carlisle was one of them; to the east we distinctly saw Penrith and something looking like a large castle due south of it. The country to the north seemed well watered, but very flat, until, to the north-east, the eye reached the Cheviot Hills. To the south we saw the estuary of the Kent near Milnthorp, which has probably been mistaken for Windermere by those who have professed to see that lake from Skiddaw: they both lie in the same direction but Windermere is concealed by mountains.
We were so little fatigued by this excursion (though we descended by a much rougher, and steeper line, quite off the regular paths) that we took another long walk the same evening: across Shoulthwaite Moss to the bridge of the Greta, at the foot of Great How, and then down St. John’s Vale. We were obliged to ford the Greta to avoid a circuit, (the stepping stones being now under water) and we found the road completely flooded in several places; it lies close to the river, and seems even worse than the ordinary mountain roads, although it lies at the bottom of the valley. This is the narrowest vale of all: the Helvellyn range on one side, is separated by a very narrow space from a lower, but precipitous mountain on the other, which at one point even projects beyond its natural line on purpose to hem in the valley. In front, we had the fine view of Saddleback which I first described. As we approach Saddleback the valley widens and becomes more common-place in its features: at last you meet the Penrith road, which conducts you to Keswick along the Greta at the foot of Latrigg, as already mentioned.
The next day, being somewhat tired, we abridged our excursion, and contented ourselves with ascending Causey Pike, a mountain with two summits, one of them greatly above the other, at an hour’s walk from Keswick, west of the lake, and adjacent to the valley of Newlands. This green and richly cultivated valley runs up like the vale of Keswick, from the base of Skiddaw, but in a slightly different direction; south-west instead of south: it is separated from Keswick vale by the mountains Catbells, Hindsgarth,48 and others, and stretches for a length of seven or eight miles, to meet the valley of Buttermere, from which it is only separated by a low pass. We crossed this valley by field paths, and tempted by the small apparent elevation of the mountain, ascended it without making any enquiry about the easiest way up; but this we had reason to repent, as we had an hour and a half of very hard climbing, first over green turf, then among heath, and lastly among the clefts of the rocks, to reach the highest summit. A deep ravine or ghyll separates the mountain from an almost precipitous height, north of it, consisting of what in this district is called Screes, that is, small fragments of stone lying on the steepest elevation on which they can remain, and dislodged at once by any attempt to tread on them. From the top, we saw nearly the same objects as from Skiddaw, except those which Skiddaw itself intercepted from us; and we had, in addition, a nearer and better view of the red sienitic mountains of Buttermere; High Stile, Red Pike, and Grasmoor with its long line of summits of which the highest is or seems a broad segment of a hemisphere. It is sometimes said, that the best views of mountains are from the valleys: this is true when you are in the midst of the highest mountains, and we so found it afterwards: but at Keswick, where the high mountains are at a considerable distance, they can only be viewed to advantage from high places, for there alone are they sufficiently conspicuous, and seem to tower above the lower elevations in front.—This day I dined with Taylor: his mother, and a cousin of his,49 apparently a clever, sensible woman, had joined him, and Mr. Southey with part of his family came in the evening.
The weather being now completely settled, we left Keswick for a three days excursion to Buttermere and Wastwater. There are two roads to Buttermere from Keswick; one of nine miles, by the vale of Newlands, passable for wheels all the way; the other a horse path merely, of fourteen miles, by Borrowdale and the pass of Gatesgarth, under Honistar Crag.—We took the latter route, lengthening it still further by a circuitous entry into Borrowdale. We turned to the left from the banks of Derwent Lake just before passing Mr. Pocklington’s house (Barrow House) on the way to Lodore;50 and ascended into a sort of pass, or elevated narrow vale, running parallel with, and above, the valley of Keswick Lake, and occasionally affording fine views of it. The rocks on both sides are wild and craggy, and the space between them is filled up by a considerable quantity of coppice wood. This pleased us much more than any part of Borrowdale except the entrance, which from the marks of ruin and destruction that it exhibits, is grander than any defile in the whole district. After a time this woody and elevated gorge conducted us into a valley of some depth along which the stream, which forms the cataract of Lodoar,51 flows on towards its destination. The valley is here more commonplace; green at the bottom and bare on the mountain-sides like Borrowdale. We followed it up to the village of Watendlath; here it flows through a tarn, which, however, like all the others which we had hitherto seen, was a tarn only in name; in reality a reedy pond, bordered by a swamp. Higher up the stream there is another tarn which may possibly deserve a better character, and a little further on are the sources of this little river, in the fells which separate Borrowdale from Legberthwaite vale. We however saw nothing of all this, as our path here crossed over the fell on the contrary side, and descended through a thick coppice into Borrowdale, of which we had a fuller, and a more interesting view from this eminence than from any other point. The place at which we entered the valley was not far beyond the Bowder Stone, and considerably short of Rossthwaite, the first village. We were now on known ground: we left the eastern fork of the valley, with its village and little chapel of Stonethwaite, on our left hand, and when we reached Seatoller, began to ascend the high and steep pass, which connects Borrowdale with the head of Buttermere vale. We followed the course of the brook, (or beck as the people of this country would call it,) which is to be found in every valley, pass, or ghyll, and of course indicates its lowest line. As we ascended, the mountains which bounded the pass became drearier and drearier; on looking back, we had lost sight of the green bottom of Borrowdale, and saw only the dreary tops of the fells on its further side, and the still more dreary summits of the Helvellyn range over them. The prospect on the whole was one of mere desolation, enlivened only by the rapids and continual miniature waterfalls of the little brook, and by the sheep who wandered and found a tolerable subsistence on the moors. But we had scarcely reached the top of the pass, when, by a sudden turn, the majestic Honistar Crag came in sight; a cliff almost eight-hundred feet in height, nearly or entirely perpendicular, under which as under a wall, the mountain path descends to the hamlet of Gatesgarth: in the bottom of course is a foaming brook; on the other side another cliff, less bold but nearly as high; and enormous blocks of stone, which have fallen from one or the other cliff, are scattered through the narrow glen. The extremity of Honistar Crag joins to the head of Buttermere water, along the bank of which we proceeded to the village of Buttermere, lying at the foot of the lake bearing the same name, between it and a larger lake named Crummock water, which fills the lower part of the vale.
The scenery of this valley is infinitely more striking, and makes a deeper impression of that kind, which lofty and precipitous mountains are peculiarly fitted to give, than any other part of the mountainous country that we had yet seen, though even this, perhaps, was excelled by what we saw afterwards. The breadth of the valley is barely sufficient to hold the two lakes: on the eastern side, or the right hand in descending from the vale-head, it is only here and there that there is room for any thing but the road between the lake and the mountains: on this side however the ascent of the mountains themselves is not, in all parts, alike abrupt and sudden: but all along the western side of the valley, mountains nearly as lofty as Skiddaw and Saddleback and far steeper in most parts, grow up, like a tree, out of the lake itself; not leaving room for even a path; and no doubt, they continue to descend as precipitously to an immense depth under the water. These mountains are, in most lights, of a strong red colour, arising from a rock of a sienitic character, sometimes called granite, of which they are chiefly composed and the basis of which is red felspar. The most remarkable summits in this line of mountains, (all of which are connected at the base) are High Crag, High Stile, and Red Pike. Between High Stile and Red Pike you can plainly see (inclosed by two ridges connecting, by fine waving lines, the lofty summits) a conical hollow, containing a considerable tarn known by the name of Bleaberry Tarn. The brook which carries off the water of the tarn, thunders down the wall of rock which supports alike the craggy tops and the recess between them: it falls into the lake underneath, and the little hollow which it has cut for itself in its passage down, is called in the neighbourhood, from the frothy appearance of the falling water, Sour-milk Ghyll. These mountains are individualized by the marked diversity of their summits: two of them have high craggy tops, while Red Pike is, as the name imports, peaked, but the peak predominates over the ridge only as the head over the shoulders. Between these and the mountain Melbreak,52 which forms the western boundary of the lower, and larger lake, there is a ghyll with a wider opening, and a considerable recess, but Melbreak, again, immediately overhangs the lake: it is a long, ridge-like mountain but its summit does seem a ridge, and not a flat piece of table land, and it rises precipitously like its nearest neighbours. On the other side, Crummock lake is nobly hemmed in and surmounted by the extreme points of Grasmoor, and its dependencies: Grasmoor, the loftiest of the north-western mountains, consisting of a long line of mountain with huge broad summits; mostly segments of circles, interspersed or alternated with pikes; and joining on so closely to other lines of mountain-top, that they seem part of itself: from the heights about Keswick, this mountain with its broad imposing front, is seen overtopping the pointed summits of Grisedale Pike, Causey Pike, and all the neighbouring eminences, and eclipsing even the other Buttermere mountains: as seen from nearer its foot, it appears, like these last, of a bright red, and its sides seem to consist of red screes, in most places hardly possible to be climbed.—If we now turn our face to the head of Buttermere vale, we find it closed by Honistar Crag, which in height almost rivals the mountains which bound the west side of the vale; it is here seen in profile, but is still wonderfully bold and grand; it presents towards the vale, something like one of the faces of a triangular pyramid, greatly truncated at one of the angles of its base. The opening of Gatesgarth pass is rather too much seen, and is rather too low; this, in some of the views, though not in all, prevents the vale from appearing so completely closed up, at its head, as would be desirable. Between Honistar Crag and the mountains High Crag and High Stile, the space is completely filled by a precipitous knotty eminence called Hay Stacks, from an imaginary resemblance between the rocks forming its summit and the hay-stacks of the country which in shape are most like the corn-ricks of the south of England. Between Hay Stacks and Honistar Crag there is a cove, coomb, or scooped out hollow, over which goes or seems to go, an alpine path, but the opening is not sufficient to break the continuity.
Such are the outlines of this delightful valley; which, as it lies pent up in its den of mountains, gives for the first time in our present journey, a feeling of perfect separation from the world and all its concerns; while the rich meadows, with two or three fine fields of corn and a considerable mixture of trees, which fill the short space of dry land between the two lakes of Buttermere and Crummock superadd to the feeling of seclusion, that of life and rural enjoyment, and render the spot one of those, among all I ever saw, which excited in the imagination the most vivid sense of the delight of living there for one’s whole life. Through these fields a little river flows out of the upper lake into the lower; and this is not a foaming mountain torrent, roaring boisterously over a rocky bed; it is of another and a more engaging character; its bed consists of fragments of rock pounded so fine, as not sensibly to agitate its surface, and over this bed it rushes with arrowy swiftness, yet with that deep repose and silence which excites far stronger feeling of power, than is raised by a noisy torrent. Not a breath of wind disturbed the surface of the water; but the centre of the current, the point where the stream was swiftest, might be traced along its course by a faint undulation, the effect of its extreme rapidity. Near where it issues into Crummock lake, two little knolls composed of rock and covered with wood, the one a peninsula, the other an island, afford a beautiful prospect of the lake.
Notwithstanding the suddenness with which the mountains rise out of the water, neither of the lakes is destitute of those projecting headlands which are so great an ornament of the lake scenery of these parts. Such promontories are sometimes formed by a turn in the mountain itself; and every brook which flows into the water carries down the materials from which a great or small projecting point is gradually produced, and the margin of the lakes diversified by capes and land-locked bays. One of the largest promontories, on the east side of Buttermere water, is occupied by a pretty little residence shut in by trees; and to avoid this the road from Gatesgarth makes a sudden turn to the right, which exhibits through a vista of trees, a high mountain directly in front and towering immediately over the traveller’s head before he dreams of its existence.
Buttermere itself is a very small village, with a church which might hold four inside, and ten out, if churches were licensed to carry passengers to heaven in this latter method. Not to exaggerate its smallness, it is about the size of a large omnibus: and the parson, I understand wears the dress and speaks the dialect of a Cumberland farmer, as he is.53 The houses in the village wear an appearance of comfort and comparative affluence; but this is not peculiar to them, it is the general character of the habitations of the peasantry in these mountains. No traces of penury have shewn themselves to us anywhere.
The following morning we set off for Wastdale by a wild rough path through the passes of the mountains. We walked to the head of Buttermere water, and there ascended the mountain ridge on our right to a narrow pass on a great elevation, called Scarf Gap, between the mountains called Hay Stacks and High Crag. We frequently turned round to look down upon Buttermere Vale and its adjacent mountains: the view had nothing of that desolation which struck us so forcibly in the backward view from the ascent to Gatesgarth pass: the mountains were very nearly as bare, but their forms were so much grander that their bareness no longer suggested unpleasing ideas. From the top of the pass, however, the forward view was still more striking. Below us lay the narrow vale of Ennerdale, bounded on the opposite side by three immense mountains, Great Gable, Kirkfell, and the Pillar: about the middle of this last enormous pile of rock, a projecting cliff, from which the mountain derives its name, and the summit of which, until a few years ago, was deemed inaccessible, stood out magnificently. The head of the valley is formed by lofty summits and steep craggy sides, forming an impenetrable barrier. Not a human being nor a habitation was visible; the rapid mountain stream called the Leesa alone divided, with a few straggling sheep, the possession of this wild, uncultivated, but not uncheerful valley, down the middle of which it curled in and out with an uneasy writhing motion. Brooks, of course, from every nook and hollow in the mountains, plunged into the valley; which, in its upper part, was strewed with little green hillocks, covered with sward, always dry and fresh, not the deep swampy, rushy green of the moister bog-grass which occupied the hollows between them. From most points, this upper end of the valley appeared a mere basin, of great depth, inaccessible but by crossing the lofty mountains which bounded it; but from one point in the descent, looking through the narrow gap between the Pillar-mountain and the back of High Stile, we caught a partial view of Ennerdale Water filling up the hollow vale, its lower end encircled by smaller and tamer hills, but the upper part built up by mountains like walls, and a precipitous mountain-end actually jutting out with a bold long cape into the water. This striking scenery is little known to tourists, who seldom visit Ennerdale, and if they go to Wastdale, pass over the Sty-head pass from Borrowdale, or else travel up the valley from its opening near the town of Gosforth and the sea.
Having crossed the narrow upper end of Ennerdale, we ascended a still higher, and steeper pass, called Black Sail, between Kirkfell and the Pillar; though indeed it was rather a part of those two mountains and not much inferior to them in height. When we had crossed this and began to descend, we saw before us a narrow basin like the head of Langdale, but formed by still steeper, and still more lofty mountains. Facing us was one of the finest of all, Yewbarrow, the sides of which were rendered inaccessible by screes; the summit was a bold ridge, rising to the left into a lofty peak. To the right, and all round to the place where we were descending, the back of the mountains of Ennerdale formed a high, impenetrable amphitheatre. To the left, Kirkfell, one of the most solid and massive as well as highest of the mountains so thrust forward its immense bulk that we could only imagine, but could not see, the opening between it and Yewbarrow, through which we afterwards descended into Wastdale. This basin opens laterally from Wastdale head, and is in one respect finer, that it is a complete circuit of almost impassable mountains; while the proper Wastdale head, though formed by still loftier summits, leaves between them a broad opening called the Sty-head, which travellers usually pass over from Borrowdale, and which though as high as the tops of many mountains, breaks the continuity of this immense mountain-ridge. As we gradually wound round the sides of Kirkfell, we obtained a peep of the upper end of Wastwater, and the mountains of its head began to shew themselves. Gable was now completely hid from us by Kirkfell, but the Pikes of Scawfell began to shew themselves over the top of a ridge which mounts up to the summit of another part of the same mountain, called more properly Scawfell. To the right of this, over another and lower part of the mountain range, the road to Eskdale slanted away to the south-west. The head of Wastdale is rich with meadows and fields; five or six prosperous-looking farmhouses are grouped together, and comprise all its inhabitants: lower down there is no room for cultivation, so immediately do the mountains rise out of the lake. On the left side as you look downward a long ridge called the Screes forms the impassable wall of the valley and lake; you see that were you to set your foot on its side you would come down, carrying with you an avalanche of loose stones, and would fall at once into the water. On the other side also the mountains rise immediately from the water, though a very little more gradually, leaving here and there a small headland. A road here follows the margin of the lake, close to it yet in most places considerably above it.
The valley of Buttermere and Crummock gave the idea of seclusion, but Wastdale gives that of absolute solitude. You may look down the valley for hours and see no trace of humanity: for though you see the opening towards the level country which separates the mountains from the sea, this opening is not quite flat, but marked by sharp angular lines, and seems as wild as the mountains themselves. One solitary spot of green meadow, exactly at the foot of the lake, alone distinguishes the prospect before you from a mere desert; but a desert of cheerful aspect; you see nothing of man, but you do not seek him; the forms of the mountains, and the bright sparkling water which fills the vale, and breaks upon the shore at your feet, supplies the place of every thing else. It is fortunate that this lake is not accessible but by steep climbing or a long circuit. Were there a single house on its banks, its peculiar charm would be gone; it would be beautiful, but no longer Wastwater. This peculiar feeling of happy solitude makes the view down the lake more pleasing and striking to me, than the backward view towards the water-head, though this is the more generally admired, and is in fact the noblest mountain view in the whole country. At the head of the vale stand the two highest and grandest mountains of the district; Gable, and Scaw Fell. Gable lifts up his pyramidal summit high above the mountain passes on his right and left, and seems one, individual, tall, solitary object: Scaw Fell seems a heap of mountains, consisting of three principal parts, with craggy ridges, points, and descending lines or neeses as they are here called; one point termed Scaw Fell Pike, the highest land in England, asserting its preeminence only by a small superiority of height. Between these mountains and connecting them, is the waving line of Sty-head Pass. To the left of Gable, and separated from it by a far loftier pass, is the massive globose mountain, Kirkfell: next to that the broad gap between them being masked, stood Yewbarrow, which turns towards the valley a tall roundish point, cleft like the mitre of a bishop. Other high mountains succeeded to this, while on the other side the whole bank of the lake was occupied and shut in by the Screes,—the mountain itself receiving this name from one of its most marked characters—until the ridge declines away, at the foot of the lake, almost into the plain. There are no islands on Wastwater, as there are on the other lakes; they would destroy its wildness.—We stayed some time on the edge of the lake, looking alternately up and down; having first gone far enough down to command the finest view in both directions. But of all the lakes, this perhaps is the one of which any idea, which can be formed from description, is least like the reality. The objects may be described, but the character of cheerful loneliness which belongs to the whole picture when you look down the lake leaving its upper end behind you, must be felt to be understood.
We dined at a farm-house, one of the small group already mentioned; and were exceedingly well treated and much pleased. We then returned to Buttermere by exactly the same way by which we came; road there was none, and often scarcely a path: and arrived about night fall.
The next day we employed in seeing the lower part of Buttermere Vale, before returning to Keswick. We walked down the road by the side of Crummock water, at the foot of Grasmire, or Grasmoor; at one projecting point, jutting out into the water, the road is excavated in the living rock, and the cliff above you is continued beneath your feet, till it sinks under the lake below. Further on, the mountains recede somewhat from the lake, and leave room for a few corn fields, and meadows, which the road crosses without hedges, between two flowery and bushy roadsides. We turned, soon after, into a field-path which almost immediately entered a wood, and conducted us through it (immediately above, and almost close to, the water,) to meet the road which crosses the valley at the lake-foot. From this road, the view of the mountains of Buttermere was unequalled. The projecting point, already adverted to, was seen to form part of a knotty little mountain, which protruded itself into the valley where it had properly no business, but where it created a pleasing variety; behind it the lofty mountains round the head of the lake of Buttermere were seen in a splendid series, clearly individualized, and adorned by brilliant lights and deep shades, while exactly over the top of Haystacks we dimly saw, amid the clouds which partly veiled its pyramidal summit, the noble mountain Gable. The mountains nearer to us were not less striking, though very different: Melbreak with its long ridge and steep declivity overhanging the water on the right, Grasmoor with its vast bulk and graceful forms on the left, fronted by Whiteside, a mountain which we had not seen from any other point; well-named, and contrasting most effectively by its colour, with the red sides of Grasmoor and the mountains opposite. In front of all this was Crummock Lake, more beautiful from this point than from all others; and were it no otherwise beautiful, it is water, and therefore an unequalled foreground to hill or mountain scenery. Behind, the valley finds its way, I cannot tell exactly how, among lower mountains, to the plain. But there is an opening to the right, which lets out into the valley of Crummock Lake, another valley and another lake; smaller indeed, and of a less magnificent character, but highly and pleasingly beautiful: this was Loweswater. We walked along the road, already mentioned, till we found a gate into a field sufficiently high and open to overlook the whole of the lake. Loweswater, unlike the other lakes, has its head among tamer hills and its outlet among bold high mountains. There is nothing sufficiently individualizing in its circumstances to render a description interesting. We returned to Buttermere by the west side of Crummock water, along the side of Melbreak, seeing by the way the celebrated waterfall Scale Force, which is situated in a deepish opening between Melbreak and Red Pike, the only place where the mountain range recedes on this side from the water’s edge. This is the highest single fall in the country, being about 150 feet in height; a thin but adequate stream dropping down like a ribbon of foam, at the end of a defile of rock. You climb up some fragments of rock to get into the defile; you then find yourself between two walls, as high as the fall itself, once no doubt joined in a single mass, but gradually worn away by the waterfall, which, every century, will form the termination of a deeper recess. The two opposite faces of rock are interspersed with bushes, where clefts permit; and to a considerable distance from the fall, they are wet with the spray, as you will be, if you approach as near to the fall as you will certainly be inclined to do. The end of the chasm is a solid rock, crossed from its summit to its base by a single streak of falling water.
The same evening we walked back to Keswick by the valley of Newlands. The pass to this valley, (the Hawse, it should be called in the local language) lies exactly over against the village of Buttermere, or that village, I should rather say lies at the foot of the pass; to which you ascend by a short valley, remarkable for the turf and bright green fern with which its mountains are clothed to their very tops. The pass is not high, and when we had crossed it, the vale of Newlands lay straight and open before us: Skiddaw and Saddleback soon came in sight, and the view would have been more complete had not a cluster of mountains, Hindsgarth and its dependencies, narrowed the valley near its outlet, over against Causey Pike. This vale from its head is green and cheerful, though uncultivated, and in time, groups of cottages multiply; with their sycamore and pollard ash, and their little thickets of smaller wood about them. The road becomes more and more beautiful at every step, and beyond Causey Pike it lies wholly among hedge-rows and thickets, and finally through a wood. Here however you must cross the valley, or you will reach Whitehaven instead of Keswick; and after skirting a little furze-clad mountain, we found ourselves in the road along the west side of Derwent Lake, near Lady William Gordon’s woods, from whence, passing through Portingscale, we reached Keswick by the track with which we were already familiar.
After this little tour, we contented ourselves the following day with short excursions. Among others, we went to see the waterfalls at Mr. Pocklington’s, on the way to Lodore: they are pretty, and pleasingly situated among trees, but inferior on the whole to any of the other falls. We also climbed up to a height just above the top of Lodore cataract, in hopes of seeing more of the previous course of the stream which forms it, but could see little of what we sought, though a fine view of the lake fully rewarded us for our labour. This evening I went with the Taylor family to drink tea with Southey.
We were desirous of ascending Scawfell the next day, it being the highest, and by the account of all who have climbed it, the finest of the mountains. The easiest mode of reaching it is from Borrowdale, and we therefore set out early and breakfasted at Rossthwaite, after which we lingered in the valley hoping that the clouds which at present covered the tops of the highest mountains (although in other respects it was a clear, beautiful day) might dissipate themselves. But although they did clear off very much, a cap of clouds remained upon Scawfell and Gable, and most of the other summits at the head of the vale were only occasionally free. We employed the day first in exploring the eastern fork of Borrowdale, from Stonethwaite up to the pass into Langdale; it bears a general resemblance to the other fork, but is rather more interesting; then in climbing from the narrow wild upper end of this vale, over part of the mountain Glaramara which separates it from Borrowdale proper. From this elevation we saw the backs of the Langdale Pikes and Bowfell and over them the mountains of Little Langdale and Coniston; occasionally we could see the long vista of Great Langdale, almost to Ambleside; but oftener, we could see nothing but clouds scudding over the summits at the head of the vale, and rolling down the centre of the valley, at a level somewhat below us, though we were free from them. And we observed, that though the clouds were congregated about the knot of high mountains from which the valleys diverge, yet the smaller fragments of cloud which were continually disengaging themselves from the larger masses, (detachments which never diminished the main body) always took the direction of the valleys and never adhered to the heights which bounded them. From the top of the mountain we looked down Borrowdale upon Keswick lake, which was spread out in all its loveliness, as it might have been seen by an eagle in his highest flight; while the view was closed by Skiddaw and Saddleback, perfectly clear of cloud and mist. We looked down into the narrow vale at the head of Borrowdale, somewhat above Seathwaite and the black lead mines; and sat a considerable time watching the clouds on the summits of Scawfell, as they occasionally opened and afforded us a momentary view of some point or other of the mountain. But finding a complete dispersion of the mist to be entirely hopeless, we returned to Keswick by the Bowder Stone, and by the road on the west side of the lake, which is a terrace road, a little way up the mountain, commanding the whole of Lady William Gordon’s woods (a delightful foreground to the lake) and affording by far the finest views we had ever had, of the lake itself. The islands, which from some points appear too much clustered together, or confined too exclusively to one part of the lake, here placed themselves in graceful array, and no one of them hid or injured the effect of any other.
The next day, which was the last of our stay at Keswick, we employed in climbing the delightful mountain Blencathara, or Saddleback; and no day, of our whole excursion, was more delightfully spent, although the weather was hazy, and did not allow a clear view of distant objects. We walked five miles and upwards towards Penrith, almost round the base of the mountain, in order to ascend it by the way of Threlkeld Tarn, so beautifully figured and described in Southey’s Colloquies.54 We quitted the Penrith road a little beyond the village of Threlkeld, and took a little road which winds round the base of the mountain; until, after turning round the last neese or descending ridge which is visible from Shoulthwaite Moss, we arrived at a broad but bold recess or ghyll along the side of which a good horsepath winds up towards a mine that lies high up the mountain. When we reached the top of this ghyll we saw in front of us from right to left a long deep ravine, with steep turfy hills (of indescribable but beautiful shape and grouping), on the other side of it; our path turned to the left along the side of the mountain overlooking the ravine: far up the hollow at a point where it winds round towards the north, is the mine, immediately overhung by one of the horns of Saddleback; by horns I mean the sharp points which form the extremities, and intermediate angles of the sharp wedge-like but bent ridge formerly mentioned in describing the top of the mountain as seen from St. John’s Vale. The beautiful mountain-brook which afterwards runs at the bottom of the ravine, is seen flowing into it laterally between two points of the mountain on the left, and by its course, guides the exploring traveller to the Tarn of which it is the outlet. We however finding that the path conducted us round one of these points and not between them, followed it in hopes of an easier ascent; but were merely conducted to the foot of a lofty crag, surmounted by one of the summits of Saddleback; and we had to scale the grassy height which we had thought to turn. When we reached its top, we saw below us, in a nook, surrounded on three sides by heights as precipitous as turf will grow on, the beautiful tarn; we descended to its brink: it was the first genuine tarn that we had seen in these mountains (I had seen others in the Pyrenees), and we could not take our eyes off it. The water, which is of the deepest blue, seems hid, out of the reach of man; no trees or shrubs, nor even the smallest herb, overshadow it, yet one wonders at having found it, and deems it a prodigy that it should not have been overlooked. It is beautifully clear; a part of it is shallow, but it deepens suddenly; some light green moss-like weeds shew themselves at the bottom, but it is said to contain no fish. Its situation, and its little extent compared with the heights that overlook it, remind one of the pure crystalline water which collects in the basin formed by the united leaves of the teazle, or other perfoliate plants. But the comparison is too humble, and does it injustice. At the outlet of the tarn, where the mountain brook issues out of it, the break in the side of the basin allows a distant, bird’s eye view of part of the vale of Penrith, with a part of the range of Cross Fell in the distance. When we had satiated ourselves with gazing at the tarn, we climbed the side of the turfy hollow where it lies and reached one, and the highest, of the three sharp points, which are the angles of the sharp ridge. Wedge-like as the ridge appears from below, it seems not less so from above; it is an angular line, formed by the intersection of a steep green slope and a series of steep bare coves, combes, or recesses: separated from one another by long ridges or neeses equally angular and equally bold. The view is still finer than that from Skiddaw: you see but little towards the sea; but you see Skiddaw himself in a long profile, as fine as his immense front (for in profile he has an immense advantage over Blencathara); the remaining smaller mountains of the Skiddaw group are seen much more advantageously from the less lofty elevation of Saddleback; and to the south, Helvellyn, and St. John’s Vale are better seen: of the latter we had, I should think, the best possible view, with Great How and the lower part of Thirlmere (invisible from Skiddaw) to terminate it, and beyond the mountains of Grasmere and Ambleside. We went successively to each of the three sharp points, and then descended to the mountain foot by a turfy declivity, affording an easier descent than any other mountain we had climbed. Between Saddleback on the one side, and Latrigg and the horn of Skiddaw on the other, is one of the loveliest little vales conceivable, with the little mountain river Glenderamakin at its bottom, running into the Greta: we crossed this vale by winding field-paths and cart-roads as we best could, and then struck into a terrace road along the sides of Latrigg, through the wood which covers a great part of that mountain, within hearing, and occasional sight, of the beautiful Greta winding round the hill foot, and returned to Keswick by the most lovely and enjoyable path, perhaps, of which its neighbourhood, delightful as it is, has to boast.
The next morning, I took leave of Southey and his family, and we set off (three of us—for a third companion55 had joined us the evening before) to walk to Ulleswater. We left the Penrith road near the second milestone, and crossing St. John’s Vale, ascended the opposite hill-side, round which a winding road brought us out into an extensive moor, differing little from those in the flat country. The mountains of the range terminating in Helvellyn, were on our right, but their sloping side was turned towards us, and we could see but little of their height: the vale, which opened before us towards Penrith, was terminated in the distance by the Cross Fell range, which is a continuation of the Craven mountains, and the highest elevation of which is formed by the round convex summit of Cross Fell itself. One round ugly little hill stood by itself in the midst of the valley, not far from us. All this was not very interesting; but on the left the beautiful Blencathra, which is to my taste the finest of all the mountains, presented a constantly varying, and perpetually interesting and remarkable front. Our road, or horsepath, followed for some distance the base of a low ridge, then climbed over it, and entered into Matterdale, one of the smaller valleys tributary to the Ulleswater vale. The scenery here began to grow interesting: the brook, a beautiful mountain rivulet, was at the bottom of a deep narrow ravine; the dell and the brook kept company with each other in eternal twistings and turns, and the sides of the brook, sometimes very rocky and precipitous, were clothed all the way with trees and shrubs. We passed the village of Dockray, and rapidly descending, came presently in sight of Ulleswater close beneath us, bathing the feet of the steep mountains beyond: we walked down to its bank through a rich forest-like wood of native oak, ash, and thorn, forming part of what is now called Gowbarrow Park. Here, in the midst of the indigenous woods which still survive about Ulleswater though unhappily extinct in the neighbourhood of the other lakes, the Duke of Norfolk has a hunting box close upon the lake, called Lyulph’s Tower, built in the stile of the gateway of an ancient castle, and adapted with rare felicity to harmonize with the surrounding scene. Close to this place the brook already mentioned forms, not the highest or fullest, but the prettiest waterfall in the country. The spot itself, and the narrow ghyll both above and below it, are so hidden by fine trees that you might seek long for it without finding it; and the waterfall (it is called Airey Force) is one of the spots where one would go in a hot summer-day to conceal oneself from the sun, and refresh oneself by the sight of water and rocks, shut up in a leafy nook, and the feeling of the cool moist air.
It is scarcely possible to describe Ulleswater. No description can give the slightest notion of what it is. The beauty of the other lakes consists in a few grand features, but the charm of this lies in the immense variety of the details. What can be said, is said very shortly. The form of the lake bears some resemblance to the letter Z, or rather, consisting of three distinct reaches; and the first two are imbedded in lofty mountains. On the left, looking towards the head of the lake, the mountains grow at once out of the water: on the right, Helvellyn and its numberless dependant heights, form the boundary of the basin, while the immediate edge of the lake is overhung by wooded hills of every variety of form and steepness; sometimes close to the water, sometimes receding a little, sometimes opening to receive a stream from a tributary vale running up into the recesses of Helvellyn. The margin of the water itself is crowded with trees, among which the fern rises to a height and luxuriance seldom met with; and the headlands are numerous and varied beyond what any description could render conceivable: the bays which they inclose participate in their beauty.56
We passed the remainder of this day, and the whole of the next, on the shores or on the bosom of this delightful lake; wandering at times sufficiently far up the tributary vales, to catch finer views of the main valley, and the water which fills it. These vales (Grisedale, Glenridden Vale, Glencoin, etc.) are wooded in their lower part; in the upper they become more bare, and resemble more the narrow vales of the other lakes. The weather was singularly favourable; the lake, in consequence, was of the most brilliant blue: and though it is narrower than the other large lakes, yet the absence of islands (except three little islets in the upper and narrowest reach) and the bends in the lake itself, allow the spectator when in particular positions to see a large expanse of water, having the effect of an inlet of the sea. The finest view of this sort, I think, is the view down the lake from its first bend, near the outlet of Glencoin. But it is difficult to make a choice amidst such astonishing variety of beauty. Several elegant residences have been pitched on or near this lake, and do not injure the soft and verdant character of its beauty: the most delightful of these is the cottage and grounds of the Rev. Mr. Askew,57 whose shrubbery or rather wood, occupies a very narrow space along the bank of the lake, between it and the road, comprising several of the most beautiful of the headlands and some of the most interesting home-views of the lake: his gates are left open, and nothing hinders any one from walking in, or even through, the grounds.—To see the higher and more rugged mountains which separate this valley from that of Thirlmere, or Legberthwaite, you must either be on the lake itself, or at some of the many delightful stations on the opposite, or steep and bare side of the valley. You then see a wall of uneven height, bounded at the top by a long crooked line—not a curve, but a series of short straight lines, continually varying its direction, and forming, among various obtuse angles, two decided peaks, of which the highest is, I believe, the summit of Helvellyn. These may also be seen from the western side of the lake below Gowbarrow Park, near Halsteads, the beautiful house and grounds of Mr. Marshall,58 occupying a promontory of the lake, from whence you see up the second reach, and from whence, also, the jutting-out point of the mountain which stands between the second and the first reach, has a particularly bold and striking appearance.59
On the third day of our stay at Patterdale (counting the day of our arrival as the first) we made an excursion to Hawes Water, the only one of the lakes which we had not seen. We went up Patterdale (the upper part of the Ulleswater vale, beyond the lake itself) for about two miles: it is much finer than the other broad green valleys, such as Borrowdale and Langdale: yet it would not be easy to say in what its superiority consists: the mountains are not so high; they are hardly even steeper, but there seems to be more among them of what a painter would call, harmony of composition: there are no striking contrasts, or bold reliefs, but one mountain seems to glide naturally into another, every one seems in his place, and you feel at every point, that his shape is just what it should be. The secret, I suspect, is, variety without tameness: in the other valleys, there is either too great a uniformity of character, or the variety is purchased by some sacrifice of the beauty or boldness of the individual features.—At a little lake called Brother’s Water, two miles from the head of Ulleswater, and formed by the same stream which afterwards feeds the larger lake, we turned up a valley to the left, which shortly narrows; and following the bed of one of the most interesting mountain brooks I ever saw, arrived at a large Tarn known by the name of Hays Tarn, surrounded on all sides (except the outlet) by steep ridges without even a pass. We had to scramble over the summit of the ridge, from which, had the day been clearer, we should have enjoyed a very extensive and beautiful view: as it was we saw the mountains at the head of Patterdale, with some of the Ambleside mountains beyond them, and in another direction we looked down Martindale, a tributary valley of Ulleswater, and caught, at its foot, a peep of the lower part of the lake. As we advanced further along the height, we saw the mountains at the head of Kentmere and Troutbeck vales, and below us in the midst of bare ridge-like mountains, the green head of Mardale, the valley containing Hawes Water. The character of these mountains pleases me somewhat less, than that of most of the others. There is little individuality in them; you might almost imagine them to be a long reel of mountain, broken here and there, and thrown about, as chance might direct. While you see but a little of them they are fine; and they are fine, too, when you see much of them, but not so fine, nor does their aspect vary sufficiently, as your own position changes. We did not see the lake till we had descended quite into the valley and turned a corner: it is about three miles long, of unequal but nowhere of great width, and contracted in the middle almost to a strait. As seen from its shore, the mountains are not unlike in their shape to those of Ulleswater; and when you have descended nearly to the foot of the lake, where its banks are a good deal wooded and where it forms numerous headlands and bays, the view upwards really reminds one of Ulleswater, of which it seems the younger and homelier sister. We crossed from the foot of Hawes Water to the foot of Ulleswater through a tame moorland country, quite out of the mountain region: but the first view of Ulleswater from the high ground near Pooley Bridge is singularly fine. A round wooded hill called Dunmallet stands sentinel at the end of the lake; and the country and views grow finer and finer at every step, from this point to the inn at Patterdale.60
We had intended to climb Helvellyn the succeeding day, but the hazy state of the atmosphere prevented it; and we lingered the greater part of the day on the banks of Ulleswater. The haze did not at all diminish the beauty of the home views: this country contains scenery for all weathers, and he who has not seen mountains in the very worst state of the weather is far from knowing what beauty they are capable of. The slightest change in the state of the atmosphere has such an effect on the mountains, that on such days as most of our summer days are, the same mountain scarcely seems the same object for three minutes together. Today we witnessed some of the most interesting of the atmospheric phenomena of mountainous countries: the lake, so blue two days before, was of a deep slate colour which was absolutely unearthly, and as we lost sight of it all at once under the thick haze which hung over its lower end, we might have taken it for the waters of oblivion.—In the evening we left this delightful neighbourhood, and walked up Patterdale to the pass at its head, in the mountain Kirkstone, noticed in a former part of this journal. A carriage road, though a difficult one, ascends this pass, from the higher parts of which, on looking back, nothing is visible but the sky, the wild sides of the pass, and a glimpse of Brother’s Water at its foot. The descent to Ambleside by the side of Stock Ghyll is less striking; but still very fine: the scenery of Ambleside, considered as grand mountain-scenery, will scarcely bear examination after the more striking scenes which I had witnessed since I left it, but the beauty of the home-scenes and of the more rich and graceful Windermere is even more delightful from the contrast.61
[4th to 7th]
We remained four whole days at Ambleside, chiefly for the purpose of seeing Wordsworth, with whom we passed as much of that time as we could, and were amply repaid both in pleasure, intellectual excitement, and instruction. Our walks were chiefly short ones; Wordsworth conducted us to several beautiful spots, and his own grounds contain in a very limited extent, so great a variety of prospects that they are almost a compendium of the whole Westmoreland mountains. We walked again to Troutbeck, and employed a considerable part of one day in going down the west side of Windermere (which we had not seen) to the Station House, built by Mr. Curwen at a point commanding a fine view both up and down the lake; we were then ferried over, and returned by Bowness and Lowood: in this walk, the first part of which was chiefly among wood, we had many new and delightful views of the lake; and in the latter half, we refreshed our recollection of many of the old ones.62
On the fifth day we were forced to quit the neighbourhood; and the delightful afternoon in which we travelled, outside the stage-coach, from Ambleside to Kendal by way of Bowness, made the last farewel look of the lovely Windermere so delightful, that our departure had something of the melancholy character of parting from a beloved friend; and the image of the lake and mountains remained impressed upon the internal eye, long after the physical organs could see them no more.
Walking Tour of Hampshire, West Sussex, and the Isle of Wight
MS, Mount Holyoake College, MS BE.M61ya3. Henry Cole was Mill’s companion on this trip, as he had been for part of the previous one (see No. 31). Cole’s diary provides additional information, given in footnotes. As not published in Mill’s lifetime, not listed in his bibliography.
19th July 1832
Set out with Henry Cole on a tour in Hampshire, West Sussex, and the Isle of Wight. We started outside a Southampton coach, and proceeded through Kingston, Esher, Cobham, and Ripley, to Guildford: thus far the road was familiar to me, and I need not describe it. At Guildford the road turned sharp round to the right, and gradually slanted up the side of the chalk range which here, from the rapid dip of the strata, forms only a very narrow ridge, called the Hog’s Back. When the road has reached the top of this ridge, it runs along the summit for six or seven miles, commanding an equally rapid declivity on both sides, and affording one of the most lovely views in England both to north and south. On the right, the whole of Surrey to Bagshot and Chertsey, with St. Ann’s Hill, Cooper’s Vale and Windsor Forest in the distance, and the long bold range of Chobham Ridges and Romping Downs running north and south at right angles to the direction of the road. These ridges though barren and repulsive when near at hand, have a fine effect from a distance, especially when seen across an intermediate plain, and under a glorious sky, as today. On our left hand were Hindhead and Blackdown, the former in its most picturesque aspect, with its long ascending ridge terminated by its sharp peak-like angles. Beyond these were the South Downs in the distance, and other chalk hills to the west, similar to them in form and character. To the foot of Hindhead a wildish country gradually ascended; leaving along the base of the Hog’s Back a deep valley, diversified by cultivation, wood, and sandy commons, and marked at one point by an irregular and picturesque planted eminence. After a time the ridge gradually descended so as to be almost level with the plain, and the chalk stratum went I know not whither; our road left it, and turned southwest across the green sand formation, among cornfields and hop plantations to the pretty old town of Farnham: which in addition to its reputation as an English town, may boast of classic fame, being at present inhabited by Alexander, Caesar, and Xerxes:1 whether these were the ancient worthies I know not, but Xerxes keeps a hosier’s shop, and the other two appear to be gaining their living at length in an honest way. From Farnham to Alton the road lies through country prettily diversified but not very remarkable: about half way between those places we passed close to the Wey, here a most diminutive stream. At Alton we left the coach, and proceeded on foot to Selborne, a place to which ever since I read White’s delightful book,2 I have had a strong desire to perform a pilgrimage. We worked our way thither by lanes and field paths, sometimes without either, making for a fine hill which we thought was on the way to Selborne but which turned out to be the very Selborne Hanger immortalized by White,3 and we came on the village of Selborne before we were aware that it was the place we were in search of.4 Long before we reached Alton we had again come upon the chalk, and the way from Alton to Selborne lay across flat chalky fields, having nothing beautiful in themselves, and which seemed bounded (at a considerable distance) on three sides, by a round of chalk hills. But when we reached Selborne, we were at once struck with its beauty. It is but a small village with the houses arranged pretty close to each other along the two sides of a rather winding street: the Church stands a little to the left, with an open space before it, (called by White the Plastoe)5 in which stands a handsome sycamore, and one of the few May-poles left in England: hard by is the parsonage, a neat house with a pretty piece of inclosed ground and close to that again the only shop, and a neat and well furnished one it is. Mr. White’s house is not the parsonage house, but larger and apparently older; with the appearance also of older planting about it: he was a native of Selborne, and when he was parson of the parish, continued no doubt to live in his patrimonial house, where Miss White, his sister, still lives.6 It stands on the right side of the little street, and a most cheerful and happy looking residence it is: his laurels and other evergreens of which he speaks in his book7 are still there, at least some such trees are visible in front. A little further, and on the left side of the street, is the neat little inn or public house, where we were very agreeably and comfortably entertained. After tea, we climbed the Hanger:8 it is a long ridge: on the side next Selborne it is covered with wood, chiefly beech, except at the southern extremity: like the village itself, it lies nearly north west and south east. The top is a beautiful chalky and sandy table land; skirted on one side by the irregular forest-like edge of the hanging wood; interspersed with many beautiful trees in other parts, and forming with fern and bushes a most beautiful common, except one wide open place in the highest part where there had been cricketing in the afternoon, which was not yet entirely over. At the extremity of the hill we came unexpectedly upon a lovely meadow of great extent, which it seems is called the Park, at the end of which stands the pretty church and small village of Newton Valence, and an elegant house with a dressed lawn and shrubbery, to which I suppose the park belongs. Beyond this the hill appears to drop down. We returned through the hanging wood which contains some handsome though not very old beech and ash trees: a fine broad winding path is cut through it, and by the taste either of Mr. White or some other person, various openings have been cut which afford beautiful home views of the village and its immediate environs. On this side of the hill the home views are the finest: especially Selborne, surrounded with trees and backed by a pretty retiring green dell which we purpose exploring tomorrow. On the other side of the hill the out-look is much more picturesque, embracing by far the finest part of the outline of the South Downs, another almost equally beautiful line of chalk hills perpendicular to it, the bearings of which we do not yet very clearly understand, and several intermediate insulated hills. From the southern extremity of the Hanger, we see another planted chalk hill, of smaller size, and not so ridge-shaped, at no great distance from it; this is the Nore hill mentioned by White:9 beyond is Woolmer Forest, a tract of waste without a tree, very accurately described by White,10 which extends apparently for many miles in length from north to south, occupying no small portion of the eastern boundary of Hampshire. Beyond the Forest, and nearly due east of us, we saw the long ridge of Hindhead: its sharp points were not visible, it appeared to terminate by dropping down abruptly. South of it lay Blackdown and other hills of which if we execute our plans I shall have occasion to speak more largely hereafter. After surveying almost every part of the Hanger, we strolled in and about the beautiful village. I have seldom seen a scene of more perfect and yet more cheerful seclusion. The people seemed all comfortable, and the place and neighbourhood was full of young men and especially young women, neatly dressed, who were making holiday that evening; they either belonged to the village or had been drawn thither by an archery meeting held on the top of the hill yesterday, or by the cricketing today. The people of the neighbourhood are a peculiar race in appearance; with the darkest eyes and the blackest hair, and a ruddy complexion shining through a transparent dark skin. Many of the women we saw were remarkably handsome, and both men and women seemed overflowing with animal spirits. The cricketing or something else had excited them, and they were full of mirth and a pleasant freedom of manner.11
Before breakfast we sallied out to explore the little dell which, as I mentioned yesterday, runs from Selborne in an opposite direction to that of the Hanger. This (which I conjecture to be what White calls the Lith,)12 abounds in beauty. It is formed by a little rivulet running down through a line of rich green meadows, between two woody slopes of no great elevation. On both slopes the wood, chiefly beech, amounts to timber, and shuts in the valley, excluding all sight or imagination of the tame country beyond. It is on a small scale what Wharfedale, and some of the Cornish valleys, are on a great one. At first the valley is narrow; higher up it widens into a somewhat larger expanse of meadow, and sends out a short arm on each side. There are beautiful sequestered paths through the wood on both sides. A line of trees and bushes marks the course of the rivulet, and great profusion and luxuriance of vegetation distinguishes the whole valley. If I lived at Selborne this dell should be my daily resort; the more striking but less winning beauties of the Hanger should be reserved for occasional visits.—We returned to Selborne, from which we speedily took our final departure, and of which we shall retain many pleasant recollections. The only object of magnitude in the neighbourhood which we had not yet seen being the other chalk hill, (the Nore) which lies south of the Hanger, we resolved to visit this on our way to the place of our destination. We accordingly crossed the corn fields and slopes which separate the two hills and ascended the turfy declivity of the Nore, on which in this place there are few trees; but to our left they began to appear, in a scattered and forest-like distribution, beyond which we could see that they became a regular hanging wood of timber trees. This hill is perhaps not quite so lofty as the Hanger; but commands nearly the same view towards the South. What is not common, it is crowned with a chalk pit on the very summit: if that can be called a crown which is not visible from below. We saw plainly on looking from this eminence at that which we ascended the previous evening, that the latter is not a ridge but a kind of triangular hill; the line from Selborne to Newton Valence, the whole of which was now visible to us, diverging considerably from the line of the hanging wood, which faces the village of Selborne. We afterwards found that we had been as much mistaken at first sight in the form of the second hill. Leaving the open space near the chalk pit, we struck into the hanging wood; the beeches are well-grown trees; and there is a broad path through them, keeping near the top of the hill, from which whenever there is an opening in the wood, you have beautiful glimpses of the country below. After a short time (for the wood is of no great extent), we came out upon a commanding point, where the trees are more thinly scattered; and from which, besides the beauty of the chalky declivity itself, we had the finest and most extensive view of the country we were about to traverse, which had yet offered itself to us. To the north, we must have seen indistinctly almost to Guildford: on the east side, and from north to south, the vast heath called Wolmer-forest, formerly a royal chase, and beyond it, Hindhead and Blackdown. At the southern extremity of the forest, and perhaps forming part of it, was a heathy hill of considerable elevation and extent, with a line of firs along the top, which bounded the prospect. To the south were the South Downs, and all that we could see to the west and south west was the same long line of chalk hills perpendicular to the former, which we had seen from the Hanger, and which are tolerably shaped and well wooded. We had now to determine what should be our subsequent course. We had thoughts of crossing the Forest to Haslemere, and exploring Hindhead and Blackdown; but the Forest, however fine in a distant view, seemed as if it would be dreary to cross; and the country in the direction of Midhurst seemed so much more varied and beautiful, that as Hindhead and Blackdown could be seen from London at any time, we resolved to take the other direction. Our way to Midhurst seemed to lie directly over the fir-clad eminence already mentioned: between which and the place where we stood there also lay, nearly at the foot of the chalk hill, a beautiful little sand hill covered with meadows and woods in the greatest richness of vegetation, which was a temptation we could not resist. We accordingly descended the chalk hill, which is here extremely steep and bare, almost precipitous indeed; but we found a sloping path down; and then we crossed a large corn field to the sand hill, on which is the little village of Empshot.13 Here we had one or two beautiful home views; the little hill and its woods and green meadows in front, the background being alternatively the chalk hill and another rather high hill to the south which projects into the plain, having an ascending ridge which terminates abruptly and presents its steep extremity to the open country. This hill, which is covered with wood, must I think from its general appearance and position as far as we could judge of these from our various points of view, be not one of the chalk hills, but of the sand which accompanies the chalk in its whole line. From the other declivity of Empshot hill we had again a most beautiful view towards the South Downs, and saw the heathy hill topped with the line of firs, directly before us: and plainly in the direction in which we had to travel. We found our way to it as we best could, sometimes by lanes and sometimes through fields and meadows; approximating very near to the foot of the supposed sand hill clothed with woods, and gradually nearing one after another of the chalk hills on the west; for though we were journeying eastward, and therefore away from them, we were also going southward, and therefore facing them one after another. Soon after passing the village of Liss, we reached the foot of the heathy hill; which forms the continuation of Wolmer Forest. It is of a sand like that of Bagshot Heath, but with rather more soil, and therefore a richer growth of fern. The Portsmouth road crosses the very summit, on its way to Petersfield; just on the border which separates Sussex from Hampshire. From this point we had another panoramic view. Behind us, the chalk hill near Selborne seemed to be only a projecting point jutting out from the general line of the western chalk hills. This however we knew it was not: but we could see that it formed part of the circuit of chalk composing the North and South Downs. The fact appears to be that the elevated chalk district of Wiltshire, Hampshire, and Berkshire, including Marlborough Downs and Salisbury Plain, which is the patria of all the chalk hills of England, terminates here: the chalky escarpment running north and south, is its edge; the two hills of Selborne, outliers, connected with it; while north and south the North and South Downs jut out from it in long strait lines, the South already very high, the North at first extremely low. Looking now in the opposite direction, we could see the whole line of the South Downs as far as the point at which the road from Petworth to Chichester crosses them, which is marked by a chalk pit and is the termination of one sweep of hills. We crossed the Portsmouth road at a public house with a brilliant painted new sign-board which we were unable to decypher; and kept along the summit of the heathy hill on which we were; which on this side is one of the most beautiful of fern-clad commons, with a horse-road over it which it would be delightful to canter over. To our right was the range of the South Downs in all the beauty of its varied and wavy lines; between it and our position, a rich and verdant valley, containing the villages of Rogate and Terwick, and various low sandy and heathy hills beyond them. On the other side were various high heathy hills similar to Hindhead; perhaps one of them might be Hindhead but the apparent forms of hills are so deceptious that I would not presume to affirm it: all were more or less fine, but the objects were rather too far apart to produce great beauty of detail. We descended by a gradual slope, and then crossed some rich cornfields to the village of Trotton in the valley of Rogate: this is on the main road from Petersfield to Midhurst, and stands on the clear little river Rother, which rises some miles higher up, and after a course of perhaps four and twenty miles, falls into the Arun. We kept the main road for the remaining three miles of our day’s journey; it passed through a country presenting no great features (except the South Downs; which were generally visible), but prettily varied with undulation and roughness, heath and cornfields, to Midhurst, where we stopped at the Angel (an excellent inn).14
In the evening, we strolled about the town, which has one long rather wide street and one or two other streets; it is neat and rural, with some old houses and a general appearance of not being of very modern date. The Reform Bill15 has made a great change in this town, giving it one member elected by the inhabitants, instead of two chosen in a corner by nobody knows who. The borough will however be still under influence, but under different influence, that of Mr. Poyntz.16 We strolled out in the evening to the north, or London end of the town; the immediate environs are made beautiful by the great number of old trees which are scattered about it. Mr. Poyntz’s park, called Cowdry Park,17 comes down close to the town: it contains fine trees and some inequalities of ground, but the planting has not been so managed as to produce much beauty. At the entrance of the Park close to the town are the remains of a large house, which stood here when the Park belonged to the Montague family.18 It was partly destroyed by fire between thirty and forty years ago, and never repaired, but the walls are mostly still standing, and are so clothed with ivy both inside and out as to be highly ornamental. From a clump of trees in the Park not far from the ruin, the view of the South Downs with the ruin and large trees as a foreground, is highly beautiful.
The road from Midhurst to Petworth passes directly across Cowdry Park, from which it is not separated on either side by a hedge or fence. We therefore had a full view of all that the Park afforded, and it appeared to us a rare example of the degree in which natural advantages may be thrown away. The park is full of fine full grown trees, and gentle inequalities of ground: yet so little judgment and taste have been shewn in planting the trees that very little beauty is produced. They are either in dense masses, regular and yet shapeless, or they are merely scattered in greater or smaller numbers, indiscriminately, neither the trees nor the open spaces having any particular reference to the character of the ground. The inequalities, though sufficient to have produced beauty if duly improved by planting, (for they are as great as those in Betchworth Park, or even Pain’s Hill) were not considerable enough or bold enough to be beautiful in themselves. After leaving the Park, we kept in or near the Petworth road, which runs parallel to the line of the South Downs, affording occasional views of their beautiful outline. On the other side and about us the country was only tolerably pretty; waving corn fields, little eminences, and those hollow shady lanes so frequent in a sandy soil. Before reaching Petworth we turned off to see Lord Egremont’s house. It is a long mansion with tall windows and massive windowframes in the stile of a hundred years ago: the great ornaments of it are the statues and pictures. The old Earl, who is a great patron of sculptors and painters, has collected here many old, and some of the best of the new, productions of those arts: some fine antiques from Rome, along with Flaxman’s St. Michael and some of the best works of Carew and Rossi; many Vandykes, in particular one of his unrivalled children, and a portrait of the Earl of Northumberland in the Tower,19 a perfect model of expression; many excellent Lely’s and Kneller’s: Titian’s Jupiter and Antiope, with two or three portraits by him; two Claudes; a fine Salvator Rosa; some good specimens of Cuyp, Both, and Vander Meulem; two Canaletti’s; several stiff old pictures by Albrecht Durer and his contemporaries; many portraits by Reynolds, and several of his ghastly historical pictures; various pictures by Gainsborough, Northcote, Opie, Romney, West, Phillips, and Turner before and after he adopted his gamboge stile.20 The Park did not strike us as particularly fine, and we had not time to do more than peep into it. The Earl’s house joins the town of Petworth, a pretty little town on a hill, with a street which twists round and round like a worm, and a lofty spire (rebuilt I believe by the present Lord Egremont) modelled after the towers of some of our Gothic cathedrals. On leaving Petworth we took the Chichester road, as that which led most directly to the South Downs: and the remainder of our day’s journey has been described in one of my former tours:21 we crossed some pretty uneven country of heath and woods with the noble wall of the chalk hills directly before us, and then climbed the Downs through a rich wood full of flowers: when we reached the top we left the road and exspatiated like young horses over the turfy slopes and eminences; but the air was so hazy that not only the noble view to the north was greatly obscured, but to the south the sea, which occupied so large a space in the prospect when I formerly crossed these hills, was actually invisible. We however enjoyed extremely our gradual descent through a fine wood, full of even a richer vegetation and more abundant in flowers than the chalk hills near Dorking. We dined at the little inn or public house of a hamlet called Halnaker, at the foot of the hills: in this pretty little place every cottager seems comfortable and every house neat and cheerful—After dinner we walked to Chichester, which is about 3½ miles further on, and where we stopped for the night.
Finding that there was a coach to Portsmouth in the afternoon (on its way from Brighton) we spent the early part of the day in seeing Goodwood, the park of the Duke of Richmond,22 on the slope of the Downs about three miles from Chichester. The ground to the very entrance of the Park is a dead flat, like all the rest of Sussex south of the Downs. But it is now covered with fine corn, and intersected by hedge rows of well-grown unclipt trees, and is on the whole not uninviting. Goodwood occupies several turfy arms, of the chalk range, with the intervening dells; it is full of fine trees, well disposed, singly, in groups, and in considerable woods. The house is built of the common chalk flints: another house as large as itself stands close to it, and there are several other buildings of various kinds in the Park, all of the same material; it has neither the wildness of rusticity nor the elegance of refinement and is on the whole decidedly ugly. The house hardly stands high enough to command any extensive view, and seems placed precisely in that part of the Park where there are fewest fine objects within sight of the windows. It is near the edge of the Park, facing the flat, and there is a sort of opening in the Park trees before it. From the rest of the Park it is cut off by a large but apparently altogether neglected flower garden, studiously walled in, and as if that was not enough, planted round with a thick double or treble row of ilexes, with scarcely any other tree. But from the higher parts of the Park the view is delightful. A kind of garden-house on the slope of the hill marks the finest point: from it we saw the flat of South Sussex looking like a narrow slip of land, the sea beyond it, Chichester spire rising conspicuously and making a figure in the middle ground of the landscape in which were several other villages, and Spithead harbour with the Isle of Wight forming a long line behind, terminated by the heights near St. Helen’s. The single trees and groups of trees in the Park were so placed as to form a delightful foreground and frame to this picture, which my companion sketched on the spot. I cannot give any minute description of the Park. Some of its beauties are at once suggested by the mention of chalk downs planted with wood: the remainder are undescribable. At the summit of the hill beyond the Park, on the side which overlooks the main range of the South Downs, is the stand which the Duke has erected for the convenience of those who visit his Goodwood races.23 After perambulating the greater part of the Park, we returned to Chichester, and took our departure for Portsmouth by the coach. The road lay along the narrow slip of exceedingly flat ground, between the chalk hills and the sea: particularly narrow it was here, as we came immediately upon the first of a series of inlets of the sea, which continue quite to Portsmouth, and we had thus no continued dry land to our left the whole way. On our right the interval was much greater. But after a time the range of the South Downs seemed to terminate: and a woody tract began, which approached very near to our road, and seemed to connect with the Forest of Bere. At last Portsdown Hill, which we had seen before us for a great distance, overlooked us on the right, and we again saw chalk close to us: Portsdown Hill is a very long low chalky ridge, woody towards the eastern extremity, bare and turfy elsewhere, which fronts Portsea Island and is crossed by the road from London immediately before descending to Portsmouth: We were struck with the appearance of population along this road: it was, it is true, Sunday evening, and all the people were out: they are altogether a different race from the people about Selborne, and far from handsome or prepossessing; the women instead of being merely free and lively, as at Selborne, seemed impudent. We passed through several neat pretty towns, of some size, particularly Emsworth and Havant. In and about these towns, and in every part of the road, we were surprized at the great number of villas with little garden shrubberies about them as near London. I suppose these are the country boxes of the Dockyard and Ordnance people. At Cosham, under Portsdown Hill, we turned short to the left, and crossed a bridge into Portsea Island, which bears a striking resemblance to some of the thickly peopled environs of London, such as the country about Queen’s Elm and Brompton. Portsea itself is something like Preston, in Lancashire, from the old red brick houses and the broad streets. Portsmouth is a fortified place, and the ramparts, which are planted with trees, are the public promenade, now covered with people, all well dressed, and all ugly, with broad squat faces. The town is neat, and rather handsome, but the narrow winding streets, which I fancy always accompany fortified towns, give it the character of a continental rather than an English town. We walked out to the sands, if such they can be called, towards Southsea Point: they seem to be one of the public promenades of the place. The beach is shingly, but there is tolerable walking ground at a short distance from it. The narrow seas however are not comparable in point of interest to the open sea; the beauty of the sea is almost solely in its grandeur, and arises from the boundless expanse.
In the morning we went over the dockyard, and saw the storehouses of masts and anchors; the process of converting copper from a thick square plate to the sheathing of a vessel; a man of war rated at 120 guns, on the stocks; and a vast steam engine which supplies the force for a saw mill and for the whole process of making blocks and pullies: all the various operations were performed before us, and most interesting they were. After this we started by the steam packet for Ryde, which we reached in about half an hour. From the channel or Solent as it is called, Ryde has something of the air of an Italian town, or perhaps of Scutari in the Panorama of Constantinople.24 It stands upon the side of a hill directly facing the water; its white houses look at a distance like stone, and are partly built of a loose sandstone; they are intermingled in every part with trees. There is now a pier; previous to its erection the shallow sandy approaches rendered it difficult to land. Ryde has two main streets, both of which run directly up the hill; and two, or more, new streets running parallel to them to right and left, for it is a rapidly increasing town; with the necessary number of cross communications. The town has the cheerful air which a town on a hill always has, especially when mixed with trees; it is neat and clean, and has little of the watering place pretension about it; but almost every house of whatever quality has its little planted garden, and it is encircled by numbers of elegant villas with pleasure-grounds, particularly along the coast on both sides. The country enjoys the rare advantage of being richly wooded down to the water’s edge: the wood is chiefly oak, with some ash, this side of the island being a stiff clay, which, from the dry weather, is now open in cracks into which you might almost put your foot. Overlooking the Solent about a mile east of Ryde is Simeon’s Place, belonging to Sir Richard Simeon,25 one of the chief landholders of the island. We trespassed upon the grounds, and reached a beautiful terrace, parallel to the beach, and overlooking it, the Solent, and the opposite shore. We returned by the beach, where I found various maritime plants: it is sandy, and a common covered with furze joins on to it, very pleasant to look upon and to cross. In the evening I strolled out in the opposite direction towards Binstead, a village close down by the shore: first following the road, which though separated from the sea by a series of beautiful residences, commands at different points delightful views of it; then turning off to the right by a broad field path, which as it slopes down towards the sea, (crossing in its way a hollow dell) shews the Solent directly in front with the northern promontory of the island near Cowes projecting into it, backed by the Lymington and Exbury coast, and beyond that by the clear and ruddy evening sky. Binstead church yard commands no view, but the Parsonage and its views are celebrated: the public are admitted, according to the Guide-book, on Mondays before ten and on Fridays after five;26 but not having the fortune to go there during either of those favoured intervals, we saw it not. An unfrequented path leads down to the sea-side, hard by a pretty, little, gentleman’s cottage, though separated by what, if the tide did not enter it, I should term a ditch. There is no track along the beach, but I nevertheless followed it, threading my way between the water and the oak copse woods which come down to high water mark and almost dip into the sea: the wood flowers which will grow on a clay soil, grew down to the water’s edge in amazing luxuriance and profusion, mixing with the maritime plants. As I walked along the solitary and sequestered beach, shut in by wood and water, I was forcibly reminded of the shores of Ulleswater and Windermere. The Solent was not bluer; it was somewhat wider; the opposite coast was not lofty and mountainous; but the long projecting headlands jutted out into the water much in the same manner. In this respect however the resemblance was still greater to the south coast of Cornwall. In this twilight walk along a part of the beach where few persons resort, I found a still closer resemblance to the Cumberland lakes in one or two quiet landlocked bays. When I got near Ryde I was stopped by the wall of the grounds of one of the marine villas, and was forced to commit a trespass in order to get back to the road.
We walked towards Binstead and to the beach and back before breakfast, as my companion had not seen it and I was desirous to take a second view of what had pleased me so much. We left Ryde well pleased with our accommodation at the Star Inn, which is at the very summit of the town, and though not the most showy of the inns, is very neat and well managed. I here separated from my companion, who being indisposed and unable to walk, proceeded to Newport by the coach.27 For, (laugh who will) there are coaches between Ryde and Newport, and between Newport and Cowes. I made directly for the sea-mark on the top of the range of chalk hills which crosses the middle of the island from east to west. The geological composition of the Isle of Wight has often been remarked as curious and interesting: all the tertiary formations of Great Britain being crowded into this narrow spot. The chalk range which crosses the island through the middle, is part of the circuit of a chalk basin bounded in part by the Downs of Sussex and Hampshire, and broken through by the Solent sea. This basin being exactly similar to the London basin, of course the northern part of the Isle of Wight is composed of the strata ordinarily superincumbent upon the chalk, viz. the plastic clay and the London clay:—On the other side of the chalk hills again, their course is followed by the green sand and the other formations which accompany the English chalk in its whole extent: but on the south coast of the island appears superincumbent upon these, another line of chalk hills still higher than the former; the continuation of the range which crosses the isle of Purbeck; and these form the cliffs of Niton, St. Boniface, Bonchurch, etc. This crowding of all the formations into a small space throws the hills close together, and is therefore very favorable to beauty of scenery. All the inland views near Ryde are backed by the central chalk range, towards which I was now proceeding. Though I was confined between two hedges, and had my back to the Solent, the only part of the sea then visible; yet owing to the elevation of the ground, every gate, or gap in the hedge, on either side afforded a fine sea view at the price of merely turning round to behold it. The finest of these was, I think, the view from the windmill at Aldermoor, the highest point, I suppose, of the clay hills immediately adjoining the coast. This view is the finest solely because it is the most extensive, and comprehends all that is contained in all the others taken together: for a view is fine here nearly in proportion to its extent, the variety of beautiful objects being such that they set off each other’s beauty, and the monotony and sameness which so frequently takes off the effect of extensive views are altogether absent. Even at this distance from Ryde I was astonished at the number of elegant cottage residences with gardens. From the Aldermoor windmill, the ground begins to descend; and I crossed a rather wide, and deepish valley, first keeping the road, and afterwards striking into corn fields, by footpaths which cut off a very great bend of the road. By these footpaths I believe I might have gone straight to the sea-mark, that is, to the foot of the down immediately below it; but I preferred keeping a path which slanted gradually up the hill to the right of the sea-mark, though corn fields (for this upper side of the down is, in this part, cultivated) and so enjoying the view of the Solent channel and the varied and well wooded country between; for I know no prospect from a hill so enjoyable as that obtained by walking along the side of it. I presently reached the road which goes over these downs in their whole length; and turning to the left, came out upon Ashey Down, the top of which I soon reached. It is pointed out by the sea-mark already alluded to, which is the frustum of a triangular pyramid, erected, as an inscription states, in 1735, and formed apparently of no more solid material than chalk; much of which has been cut or has mouldered away, and the remainder as far as arm can reach, is scribbled over with the names of sundry John Browns and Dick Smiths, who with that aspiring desire so general among Englishmen, that something of them though it be but a thumb-nail shall survive them, have taken the trouble of informing posterity of the name of the Norton or Sutton or Greatham or Littleham which they inhabited: This point commands a truly magnificent view. I could now see quite to the east end of the island, and the sea beyond, with the inlet called Brading Harbour;28 then round on the south, Sandown Bay and the immensity of the boundless ocean beyond. Further on, the sea was concealed by the other range of chalk hills, still higher than this, consisting of three great hills connected into a range, Wroxall, Week, and St. Catherine’s. On the two latter were lofty sea-marks. St. Catherine’s, the highest eminence in the island, is called a Hill; the other two like all the other chalk hills in the island (however perfectly insulated,) are called Downs. Other chalk hills less bold in appearance, and more connected together, trended away near the coast on the south-west, out of the reach of sight. These belonged to the central range of chalk hills, not to the southern range. But the immediate continuation of the chalk down on which I stood, consisted westward of Arreton Down, a fine long ridge sloping gradually up to a considerable height, and eastward of Brading Down and Bembridge Down, the last of which terminating in the sea and forming Culver Cliffs, is the boundary of Sandown Bay. All these hills are not part of the same ridge, but are separated from each other; Bembridge Down still more completely than the rest, as a little river runs between it and Brading Down, to disembogue itself into Brading Harbour. An excellent road goes along the summit of Arreton Down, skirts the side of Ashey Down, then crosses Brading Down over the top and descends to the river side to join the road which leads from Ryde and Brading to Sandown and Shanklin. I struck into this road, which crosses the deep hollow between Ashey Down and Brading Down by a kind of isthmus elevated high above the adjoining valleys though depressed considerably below the summit of either hill. The southerly slope of Ashey Down and Arreton Down is mostly in sheepwalk, but Brading Down is mostly cultivated: there is however on the south side of the road at the further point of the hill, a kind of open common. The hedges which previously hid from the pedestrian part of the splendid view below him, enhance his enjoyment when they now disappear all at once. The sweep of Sandown Bay is now immediately below him: bounded at one extremity by the hills about Shanklin, at the other by Bembridge Down: I do not say by Culver Cliffs, for the side of the hill which fronts the sea was not, from the landside, visible. Within the concavity of its gentle curve, this bay embraces boundless space. Here for the first time the eye swept round, and perceived in an ample sector of the horizon nothing of the earth, except one small vessel. The curve was just sufficient to take off the monotonous regularity of a rectilineal shore, while it did not greatly diminish the extent of the watery horizon. Inland this bay is bordered by a greater extent of level or almost level ground, than is often to be found in the southern part of the Isle of Wight; and has no very marked hills to form its boundary, being backed by some wild heathy uneven country but by no elevations of a boldness or height to match those at and near its extremities: this certainly diminishes its beauty, and to some, it might appear less interesting than many other parts of the southern coast; but to me it was consecrated by the touch of genius: it had been the subject of one of the most beautiful sketches in our recent literature, which, though it appeared in a fugitive publication (the Monthly Repository) will, I trust, some time or other be reprinted, and will hold a distinguished place among the works of its author, be he even the person he is suspected to be.29 To the left of Bembridge Down lay Brading Harbour: the tide unluckily was out, and the harbour dry, with scarcely any appearance of water but the course of the river through it to the sea: at other times it must appear an inland lake. The village of Brading, between the Down and the harbour was under my feet, and beyond it, the road of St. Helen’s, with the coast of Hampshire and Sussex behind; Goodwood included, from which we had seen these hills two days before. After surveying this delightful prospect to satiety, dressed out in all the splendour of a sunny sky, I retraced my steps to the beginning of Ashey Down and then by taking the inside of a hedge instead of the outside, enjoyed my favorite walk along the turfy sides of a hill, directly overlooking the valley at its base. The green sand formation, to which the southern counties of England are indebted for so much of their most beautiful scenery, is here not unworthy of its reputation: it fills up the space between the two ranges of chalk hills, with much broken ground of various beauty, the raggedness of which contrasts gracefully with the smooth surface and waving lines of the chalk. The north side of the chalk hills on the coast has also in some degree the character of sand hills, the lower part of them probably consisting of the various sand formations. The inequalities of ground in the broad valley were something like those between the chalk and the Leith hill ranges in Surrey; the valley betwixt is not quite so wide, nor the intervening eminences quite so high, but as the two ranges themselves are also a little inferior in height, the proportions are well preserved. To give any idea of the variety of beauty created by the combinations of these large and small hills with one another and with the sea, would be impossible. I will merely mention one of the finest. I was standing on the steep turfy side of a chalk hill: under my feet was a deep narrow bottom: facing me, the long side of a sand hill completely clothed in copse, with a great number of oaks of larger size and more scanty foliage rising among the copsewood, apparently of great age: over the tops of these the waters of Sandown Bay, but without the shores; with Brading and Bembridge Downs in a continued line to the left, and the chalk hills of the southern coast, higher, but more distant, on the right. It is pleasant to observe the great variety of field paths by which this beautiful scenery is intersected, allowing easy access from all sides to the finest points, and facility of crossing by the most direct route, from one to another. I now traversed the hollow between Ashey and Arreton Down, which are separated rather by the length of slope on both sides of the dell than by its boldness or depth; and ascended Arreton Down in the line of the road, which follows the summit of the hill, open always on the south side and generally on both. The scenery of Sandown Bay is gradually left behind; so are one after another of the high chalk hills which bound the island on the south: and the road gradually nears the more thickly scattered and less boldly marked chalk hills of the south-western part of the isle. These are connected with the range of Arreton Down by St. George’s Down, an insulated chalk hill which stands between Arreton Down and the beginning of the south-western hills, at no great distance from either but nearer to the former. This like most of the other chalk hills of the isle, is considerably more long than broad, forming a kind of ridge. The little village of Arreton with its church stands near the foot of both hills and makes no inelegant figure in the landscape. As we approach the end of Arreton Down a new and fine prospect gradually discloses itself in front and on the right hand. Ryde and Binstead with their woody tract and even Wootton with its creek are left behind. The whole estuary of the Medina shews itself, from Newport down to the sea; with the town of West Cowes glittering with its white houses in the sun, on the left bank, and Cowes harbour, an expansion of the estuary, included between two promontories, the most northern points of the island. Several vessels were entering this harbour or at anchor in it. Directly in front the only object of any considerable size between us and the Solent is an insulated wild hill, of moderate height, all which now remains of the once extensive waste called Parkhurst, which formerly ranked as a royal forest: it is well placed where it is, as it fills up respectably what would otherwise be a blank in the prospect. At its foot or rather (so far as could be judged at a distance) a little way up its slope, is an immense barrack, which at a distance might be taken for a small town or a village: To the left of this, and nearer, in the valley of the Medina river, just where it ceases to be a river and becomes an estuary, lay stretched out the town of Newport, a place of considerable size, and the capital of the island. Directly in a line beyond it, at a considerable distance, I could see the little town of Newtown (one of the contemptible boroughs in Schedule A)30 with its river or harbour and the coast beyond it trending away almost to Yarmouth. The western half of the Solent was all spread out before me, with the opposite Hampshire coast from almost the entrance of the Southampton water, nearly to Hurst castle itself. This magnificent prospect did not all come into view at once; and I am not sure that the whole of it is visible from any part of Arreton Down itself, but from another long hill, along the summit of which, the road passes on leaving Arreton Down. This hill is not of chalk but of the clay which is over the chalk: (I speak only now of the surface, for I did not narrowly inspect it): and lies a very little out of the straight line of the other downs, deviating from it about as much to the north as the neighbouring St. George’s Down does to the south. It is the last of the hills; beyond it there is no other hill in this direction except Parkhurst. On coming to the end of it the road turns round a little to the left, descends through some wild heathy ground, and enters Newport by a bridge over the Medina, which here looks like nothing but what it in fact is, a mill pond. This is probably the only ugly part of it. Above, it is, no doubt, a brook; below, it is an estuary; a large tide river, navigable up to the town.
Newport is a place of some size, having several long streets crossing one another at right angles, and covering a considerable extent of ground. There are many handsome shops, and the streets are broad and tolerably regular, with good foot-pavements. This place is now like all others a focus of electioneering: it retains its two members and Mr. Hawkins is standing on the Reform Interest and Sir Willoughby Gordon on no particular interest nominally, through really on the Conservative.31 Col. Torrens was here with Hawkins, but the reformers of the place have dropt him, because he is as the Irishman said “Bethwixt thwo minds,” is standing for Bolton in Lancashire and does not know how to give up either place: so William Ord is coming, with a strong recommendation from Hawkins.32 The walls and shop windows are full of placards from both parties as well as the electioneering addresses and placards of the two candidates for the new county of the Isle of Wight, Sir Richard Simeon of St. John’s, who is an admirer of the great statesmen to whom we owe the restoration of the ancient principles of our Constitution,33 and Mr. Campbell, of Gatcombe, who is averse to those violent innovations and changes which some call for.34 Our landlord at the Wheatsheaf, who is a radical, shewed us a great quantity of electioneering correspondence.35 A weekly penny paper in the radical interest, has been produced by this contest, and we saw the first two numbers. They are very tolerably written and in a good spirit enough. We had much conversation with our landlord, who is a reading man, and something of an artist, and takes great interest in natural curiosities.
We walked in the afternoon to see Carisbrook castle, which is about a mile S.E. from the town, as nearly as possible in the centre of the island. It is situated on an insulate chalk hill, the first of the south-western chalk hills; looking round upon the other chalk hills, and upon Parkhurst, between which and itself, in rather a deep dell, is the pretty village of Carisbrook. The remains of the castle are more considerable than usual: the portals are complete, the wall is a complete circuit, and the keep towers above the rest to a great height; you ascend it by a long rude flight of steps. There is a habitable house within the inclosure, constructed by the late Governor of the Island: the present, and let us hope the last, Governor, Lord Malmesbury, never inhabits it.36 The late Governor also planted a number of trees within and without the inclosure, which mix well with the ivy which has overgrown the ruin. The panoramic view from the keep is fine, but not equal to that from Arreton Down. The immediate environs struck me much more, and particularly the aspect of the ruin itself from the Newport side, which, aided by a particular state of the atmosphere, appeared of the deepest and richest green. In the interior there is a well which goes quite through the chalk, being 210 feet down to the water and 90 feet below. Its depth was exhibited to us in two ways, by throwing down water, which after about five seconds sent up a thundering noise; and by letting down a bucket containing a lamp. The water is drawn up from it by an ass: and the asses thus employed have usually lived to a great age, but the present incumbent is a youth.
Being for the present disqualified for long walks by the continued indisposition of my companion, we hired a vehicle to carry us to the southern extremity of the island. Our road lay for a considerable space among chalk hills, up the valley of the Medina: St. George’s Down with its chalky sides and fern-clad summit to our left, and a succession of chalk hills on our right, sometimes bare, sometimes wooded, and most elegantly shaped. This early part of our morning’s journey was exceedingly sequestered and beautiful. As we advanced we came first upon the green sand, and next upon the Weald Clay; and though we continued to pass over eminences, it was clear that we had left the central range of chalk hills completely behind us: the question was now settled about the continuity of the south western downs with the central range, for a deep and broad valley, mostly level, separates those downs from the higher hills which we were approaching and which we reached by crossing the strata below the chalk. We soon entered into the valley which separates two of these hills, Week Down and St. Catherine’s Hill: we found it much longer than we expected, the hills stretching far away lengthwise to the south. The range consists mainly of three hills, Wroxall Down, Week Down and St. Catherine’s: the northermost point of Week Down is marked by an obelisk, and there is another and higher one on a smaller chalk hill connected with it which fronts it to the north: on this last and between the two is the celebrated Appuldercombe Park. On St. Catherine’s Hill there are three beacons; that on the highest point is the sea-mark, a truncated pyramid somewhat like that on Ashey Down; it is comparatively little seen from the land side. Near the end of the valley between these two hills, but nearer to St. Catherine’s Hill, is the village of Niton; a common-place rustic village: but beyond this, quite down to the sea, has grown up a village of quite a different character, one of the most elegant cottages of which is the Sandrock Spring Hotel, where we stopped. This is not the least like an inn; it is a long cottage with a long veranda covered with ivy and clematis, standing on a lawn surrounded by a border filled with choice flowers and directly overlooking the sea, across an irregular descent of waste and cultivated ground. It is a cottage very much in the stile, and about the size, of Polvellen, Mr. Buller’s place, near Looe, in Cornwall.37 It derives its name from a spring, impregnated with sulphate of iron-and-alumina, which a medical man has found out here, and recommends as possessing great virtues; I suppose it is neither better nor worse than the Tunbridge-wells water, or any other strong solution of any salt of iron.
This place is near one of the extremities of the Undercliff, one of the curiosities of the island. The range of high hills along the coast, which I have termed chalk hills, are chalk only at the summits: the far greater portion of their height consists of green sand, or sandstone, and Weald Clay. Owing to the softness of the material, and the great number of land-springs, this stuff is constantly falling down, and has been known to fall in landslips of several acres. By this process a quantity of material has accumulated on the beach, forming a cliff below a cliff; and on this houses have been built, gardens laid out, fields sown and reaped. This Undercliff as it is called extends seven or eight miles in length, and is generally of the breadth of several corn fields: it consists of earthy matter from the hills above with large masses of the sandstone, and of the conglomerates of pebbles and various other masses of stone formerly imbedded in the Weald Clay, scattered about and mixed with the softer matter in a manner which defies description. Above is the line of the original cliff, composed of sandstone and whitish clay; the chalky summit not being visible. Below, a beach coloured by an infinite quantity of minute red pebbles; and forming a succession of beautiful little headlands and coves. In general, the Undercliff terminates towards the sea in a sort of low cliff (indeed this is indicated by its name). This cliff is of loose clay. At low water the quantity of seaweed displayed is prodigious; it adheres to the blocks of stone of various degrees of hardness which have fallen not upon the Undercliff but beyond it into the sea.
Immediately after our arrival we found our way down to the shore, not without some difficulties arising from cornfields, hedges, etc., and I searched for maritime plants, of which I succeeded in finding the rare Mentha rotundifolia. We walked for a short distance along the beach, which though better than one formed of larger and sharper stones, is on the whole not very pleasant footing. At a little bay called Puckaster Cove, we reascended the low clay cliff, and looked along the Undercliff to the east, on which were visible two houses with pleasure-gardens; up at the bolder cliff overhanging the lower one; and round at the sea. Here for the first time we felt really on the seashore; half our horizon was of ocean. There is no spot in this vicinity which does not afford a fine view; the differences are all in degree: from every place you can view more or less of the sea, can descry the summit of some lofty hill, or the precipitous side of a cliff; and a greater or less extent of the wild rugged slip of land between the high cliffs and the sea. But the palm must be given to the series of views which we saw in our evening’s walk, along the summit of the high cliff, west from the Sandrock. The Undercliff being here near its termination, is very narrow and is composed chiefly of a considerable landslip which fell in 1799, and which lies in the most grotesque shapes: it consists of two long hillocks of considerable height, though from the summit of the cliff they appear but insignificant. The cliff forms part of St. Catherine’s, the highest hill in the island; and, at its point of greatest elevation, seems not very far below the summit. The sea views from the various points of this cliff are glorious: sea views from a high cliff always are so; but on this occasion we were favoured by the hour (evening) and the state of the atmosphere, which on the west side covered the sea with a dun haze, not so unearthly and Avernus-like as what I once saw on Ulleswater,38 but sufficiently thick to invest the prospect with an indefinite and mysterious gloom; yet with occasional streaks of light: while on the opposite side, far to the east, the clouds were drawn off, leaving the sky clear and serene, and a bright light falling on the sails of the few vessels made them look like dazzling white specks in a field of bright blue. The sea in both directions was as smooth as the surface of an inland lake; and on the bright side presented as calm and seductive a face as it did to the shepherd in the fable, who having ruined himself as a mariner and gone back to tend for wages the flock which had once been his own, looked out upon the smooth glassy surface of the deceitful element, and exclaimed, No, smiling traitress, thou shalt never deceive me again.39 In the front of this cheerful prospect was the Undercliff, coasting away to the east; from our high station we saw it in its larger features, the smaller details not concealing them, as is very much the case when you are on the very spot; we saw it as it really is, a cliff beneath a cliff, backed by a higher precipice, but itself also boldly fronting the ocean. At the top of the cliff along which we walked, were cornfields; but the summit of St. Catherine’s Hill is chalk down. As we advanced to the end of the cliff, we came in view of the whole line of the western half of the central chalk range quite to its junction with the sea, where it forms the celebrated Freshwater Cliffs: these bold white precipices extend in a long promontory far out into the sea, and two insulated masses of chalk surrounded by the waves prolong the line into the ocean itself. All this we could distinctly see from the top of the cliff; and either from thence, or from another point lower down, we saw the entire sweep of the coast; a hollow segment of a circle, of which our own cliff and the extremity of Freshwater Cliffs were the crescent horns; yet varied by a succession of smaller bays, and projecting headlands betwixt; the bays of Chale, Brixton, and Freshwater. The village of Chale, at the foot of St. Catherine’s Hill, we saw directly below us. The descent of our hill at its extremity was gradual, and it had other smaller eminences clustered about it: beyond which was a broad level, quite to the foot of the chalk hills. In the base of one of these smaller eminences is the celebrated Black-gang Chine, which we descended in order to see. What are called Chines in the Isle of Wight are the clefts in the line of hill or cliff, where a spring or rivulet forces its way out: these are very numerous owing to the nature of the hills, which consisting of chalk or sand at the top, allow the rains to filter through and they are stopped by the clay below. We found a little boy on the Downs, who waits there to shew the Chine to persons coming in this direction. He took us round by what seemed rather a circuitous course and struck into the rough path which leads from Chale to the chine, across the broken ground which lies at the foot of the hill, just above the sea: this ground, in some places is clad in fern and the sea with the cliffs shews well from it in the one direction, as the line of coast to Freshwater Cliffs does on the other. At last we reached the Chine, which is a kind of semicircular cavity, scooped out of the perpendicular rock over the middle of which drips a scanty rivulet, which after rains may make a considerable waterfall: if the water were more abundant it would be very fine, as the stream does not run down but falls over the cliff. To this, indeed, it is probably to be ascribed that the cliff is not worn away; composed as all the cliffs hereabouts are of loose earth, which easily yields to the action of running water, and which the landsprings are in fact perpetually washing down; but here the round cavity preserves its regularity, and even looks like hard stone. It is of rather a deep black colour, whether owing to some incrustation, to some vegetable substance, or to the action of the air: if it were liable to be washed away, the fresh white clay would be perpetually uncovered. We returned by the pebbly beach, immediately under the loose cliffs, which are here entirely composed of Weald Clay; thus proving that this is the lowest formation of the island. The guide-book, by a man named Albin, certainly one of the best guide-books I have seen, and which has been of much use to us on various occasions, says that these strata rest on schistus:40 but he has here been misled by a smattering of geology; what he calls schistus is the clay itself, drying into very loose friable blue shale, just as pieces of this same Weald Clay, taken from the roadside at Den Park near Horsham, in Sussex, have hardened into shale of the very same kind in my pocket. Here we saw the clay in lumps of various size and hardness, in all the intermediate stages of drying into this shale, much of which broken into very small fragments lies about the side of the cliffs: it will not hold together in masses of any size. The red pebbly beach, which by the way is a very beautiful object in all the views from the heights above, is here strewed with masses of hard stone which have fallen out of the clay: they are mostly conglomerates of mere pebbles, with fossil impressions. I think this would be the most favorable situation a geologist could have, for studying the Weald Clay; a large vertical surface being exposed, and the beach strewed with the debris of the formation. We arrived at a little shed used by fishermen for keeping their nets and tackle, and from which there was a path over the argillaceous cliff; this we struck into, and crossed the landslip; we were surprised at the height of its more elevated points, which seemed so insignificant from the heights above. We presently reached the plantation which surrounds the aluminous chalybeate spring; the road which passes the Sandrock inn comes down to this point, and we soon reached home, after the most delightful evening stroll we had yet had.
My companion finding himself somewhat recovered and able to venture upon the walk to Shanklin, we set out this morning, and I have now to give an account of the most delightful day we have yet spent. It began as many hot summer days do with a fog, and from our windows we at one time could not see the high cliff at all; but it cleared off, and though it never became a very clear day, so that we could see far seaward, it became perfectly cloudless, and gave us all the beauty of sunny seas. We took the road along the Undercliff, which we saw from one end to the other. I say the road, because we really did keep the road; and in this narrow slip of land, much could not be gained by any deviation from the carriage road: it affords as fine a line of positions as any other direction would, unless we either ascended the downs above the cliff on the left, or descended the Undercliff to the beach below; and had we done either of these we might have seen fine scenery but it would not have been the scenery of the Undercliff, which is of quite peculiar character. The ground is rough and broken in the extreme studded with high points mostly topped with masses of rock or intersected, again, by little dells: the road winds over this, sometimes passing across wild ragged ground, sometimes crossing plantations of trees surrounding the little shrubberies of little pleasant houses overlooking the sea. The lower cliff, and the beach, afford a succession of projecting points and little coves: and these headlands rising into the sea, with woods, plantations, heathy commons, single trees, flag-staff stations, and the cliff above, combine with the sea in an inconceivable variety of harmonious pictures, which change at every step. Among the most delightful parts of the Undercliff is the village of St. Lawrence. The church, which may almost vie with that of Buttermere in its pretensions to being the smallest church in England,41 stands on one of the highest points of the Undercliff; it commands one of the finest sea views as well as fine views of the Undercliff itself, both backward and forward. The little church itself is a pretty object—one side of it which in the character of a belfry, has pretensions to being rather loftier than the rest, is completely covered with ivy. The village of St. Lawrence lies a little further on in a hollow below; it is shrouded in trees; the cottages which compose it, even common labourers’ cottages, are surrounded by greater quantities of flowers than I think I ever saw in similar situations. We saw myrtles growing in the ground up the walls of cottages both here and at Bonchurch; they are known to stand the winter in this part of the island, and indeed if there were any place where one would attempt to naturalize the plants of a better climate, it is on this Undercliff, which is open to the south, and hot with the sun’s rays reflected from the white cliff, while it is sheltered from the northerly and easterly winds. After passing St. Lawrence, and Steephill, where a new house has been built with a strange round tower, the character of the cliff began to change; the chalk down above now immediately overtopped us, forming what is called St. Boniface Down; and at the foot of it the Ventnor inn, standing at the edge of the chalk and above a narrow undercliff composed almost entirely of the sand, overlooked immediately a beautiful little inlet of the sea called Ventnor Cove. The village of Ventnor is further on. Here the Undercliff is more fertile, and more richly cultivated, but less woody, less irregular in its forms, and more open towards the sea. The line of coast is terminated by the beautiful village of Bonchurch, in which the houses are mixed with well-grown trees. Here the abundance of water is still greater than along the other parts of the Undercliff, and the clear limpid springs form a little lake similar to those at Wendover and at Carshalton, though smaller. Here the Undercliff ends and the chalk down slopes down irregularly to the sea, separated from it only by another considerable landslip covered with wood. The road here slants upwards and winds round the chalk hill, which forms a hollow or sinus, round the hamlet of Luccombe, which has, as usual, its rivulet and chine. Here the character of the views at once changes. Sandown Bay bursts upon us, separated only by part of the irregular declivity of the chalk hill: beyond the bay, Culver Cliffs rise boldly out of the sea, to a great height, terminating the shore of Sandown Bay, and with it, the line of coast. The hollow before us, and the opposite side of the hollow, with scattered trees, formed a fine foreground to the bay and cliffs. In winding round the hollow of Luccombe chine, and descending to the other side of the opposite edge of the hollow, towards the village of Shanklin, we found more fine points of view than it is possible to enumerate. The blue sea, the fine sweep of Sandown Bay, the brown cliffs which bound it at the foot of Bembridge Down, terminating in the taller white cliffs of Culver, formed as many beautiful combinations with the foreground of grass, cornfields, trees and cottages, as we had seen formed out of rather different elements on the Undercliff all the morning: and looking back, the chalk down which we had partly ascended, and which points far north towards the centre of the island, afforded home views of a different but still a beautiful character. From some points we could also see the line of the central chalk downs, which I had traversed two days before; including Arreton, Ashey, and Brading Downs with Bembridge Down and its white Culver Cliffs for the termination. The village of Shanklin, one of the prettiest villages in the Isle of Wight, straggles down a part of the gentle declivity almost to the sea side; and joins the extreme boundary of Sandown Bay; which terminates with the very first headland of Wroxall (otherwise called St. Boniface) Down. The village consists of a considerable number of cottages, with every appearance of comfort, intermixed with elms and other trees: it does not seem to be so much inhabited by people of the rank of gentlemen, as the Undercliff; there are however a few gentlemen’s cottages, and apparently several places where people are boarded and lodged. We met with many such places also on the Undercliff, especially at Sandrock, Ventnor and Bonchurch. There is at Shanklin an excellent inn, called the Hotel, where we stopped for the night, my companion not being equal to a longer journey.
In the evening I sallied out alone for an excursion round Sandown bay, partly in the hopes of finding rare botanical specimens, for which the place is celebrated; in this however I had small success: but I was amply rewarded by the beauty of the scene, enhanced as it was to me by the charm which true poetry whether metrical or not gives to all which it has touched, endowing it with beauties not its own. The descent from Shanklin to the beach is wonderfully fine, though it is difficult to say in what its beauty consists, except in having before you a bay of the blue sea with the sun shining on it, and its winding shore backed by tall white cliffs. Culver Cliff seems terminated by a kind of ledge; that is, where the top of the cliff breaks off by an abrupt nearly perpendicular line, the lower half of it seems to prolong itself a little farther towards the sea in the form of a ledge. Perhaps this ledge adjoins the Hermit’s Hole, a small cave in the perpendicular side of the cliff, inaccessible from below and accessible with difficulty from above, by a path in which once engaged you cannot turn round till you have accomplished the perilous descent. This cave, as any one may learn from the sketch of Sandown Bay to which I have already more than once alluded,42 is believed to have been once tenanted by a recluse: and a more suitable abode for one who shuns the face of man cannot be contrived; halfway down the side of a wall rising directly out of the sea, where nothing can be seen but the blue waves, nothing heard but the screaming of seagulls and cormorants; floating in the air about their rocky dwellings suspended like his between ocean and heaven. The curve of Sandown Bay is considerable, much more so than it appeared when I viewed it from Brading Down. The village of Sandown is situated about the middle of it, and is, I think, the least interesting village I have yet seen in the island, though not without some kind of beauty too. From Shanklin to Sandown the shore is skirted by a line of sand cliffs (the green sand formation) which though they look inconsiderable from any of the numerous heights by which they are commanded, seem lofty when you look up at them from the shore. Between these cliffs and the waves is one of the finest and broadest sandy beaches I ever saw. I mean, the broadest at low water; for at high water I suppose the sea everywhere comes up nearly to the foot of the cliffs where there are cliffs: but as the shore slopes less rapidly than in most places, the sea recedes at low water to a considerable distance, and leaves a fine hard beach so ridged by long deep furrows almost close to one another, that I seemed to have never before known the meaning of the lines which Wordsworth lent to Coleridge for the “Ancient Mariner,” “For thou art long, and lank, and brown, As is the ribbed sea-sand.”43 The edge of the moist sand, which was the softest part of it, and not much ribbed was punctured with innumerable little holes by a very small kind of shrimps or prawns, not larger than woodlice, who jumped as if they could fly, and swarmed in such myriads that it was impossible to walk without crushing some of them. I never saw such a lively fish, or one that could jump so high for his size. He may be very common for aught I know, but I never observed him before, and certainly never can have seen him in such numbers.—On the other side of Sandown village the ground is flat, and indeed part of it is marsh, and below the level of the sea, which is shut out by an embankment. To protect this accessible part of the coast, there is a fort about the middle of it, which looks like a small gentleman’s house, surrounded by a rampart and ditch. I should think half a dozen shot from a second-rate man of war would blow it down, but I suppose no ship of any size could get near enough, and it may be a good position for firing at anybody who attempted to effect a landing by means of boats. This flat shore is not of much length; the sand cliff soon rises again, and rapidly attains a considerable height till it joins the white Culver Cliff which is still higher. There is a foot path from the beach quite along the edge of the cliff, affording noble views of the bay, and of St. Boniface Hill which terminates it at the other extremity—as for Culver Cliff it looks much shorter than it is, being44 seen sideways from part of its own line. I ascended this path till I actually set foot upon the chalk, and heard the sea-birds shrieking in the cliff; I did not like to turn back sooner, and it was too late in the evening to go further on towards the extremity of Culver Cliff. The beach at the foot of these cliffs seems much narrower; and under the chalk cliff, though the sea was far from high tide, it was only for a short distance that there was any dry land at all; the shore dwindled into less and less till it disappeared and the white cliff rose majestically out of the very sea. From this eminence the range of chalk downs towards Newport, and of the long side of Wroxall Down stretching out and presenting its northern extremity to face them, formed a beautiful picture under the evening sky, though inferior to the sea views on the left. I returned to Sandown village by the same footpath and along the beach; at the village I turned into the carriage-road to Shanklin, which (after passing a long building which looks like a row of almshouses and which I suppose has something to do with soldiers and Sandown Fort) becomes comparatively tame and uninteresting, or at least seemed so in the dusk of evening. There are fewer trees about Sandown Bay than anywhere between Shanklin and Niton. But one does not miss them. The island altogether is well wooded; wonderfully so, for a maritime district; nor do the trees seem to suffer at all, in any part of it, from the vicinity of the sea.
I went down before breakfast to the beach, and coasted it to the western extremity of the bay, or as nearly so as I could; for it was high water, and the sea came up nearly to the foot of the cliff. Though this cliff is formed by what I have termed a chalk hill, it is composed of the lower strata which are of the green sand formation. By the way, this would never have been called green sand if it had everywhere resembled what it is here; I have not been able to detect anywhere in the island the smallest vestige of that green earth which gives its name to the formation. The sand is intensely ferruginous sometimes red with iron, sometimes black, and colours deeply most of the streams which issue from it; while those which come out immediately under the chalk are, on the contrary, here as everywhere, exquisitely crystalline and limpid. The sand also abounds in those plate-like veins of silicated oxide of iron which is characteristic of this particular formation. I likewise ascended to the top of the low cliffs which bound the bay between Shanklin and Sandown: here also there is a path along the edge of the cliff; and the morning view of the bay and its opposite shore exceeded, if possible, in beauty, the evening view of the preceding day. After breakfast we walked down to Shanklin Chine. This is simply the hollow made in the sand hill and cliff, by a rivulet of some size which has excavated it by lapse of years: the hollow begins at the village and ends at the sea, and being deep, of course makes high walls of sand on both sides, about the majestic character of which the guide-books rave, and quote the descriptions of puffing tourists. The chine certainly winds prettily, and at the top of it next the village there is a waterfall of some height, which, for a cockney cataract, is really not so much unlike a mountain waterfall as might be expected, though the poorest of the Forces in Cumberland and Westmoreland is much superior to it. So much for Shanklin Chine, its fall, and its “tremendious shasm” as Stock-ghyll Force45 or some other waterfall in the Lake District was termed by somebody at the Ambleside Inn,46 who having come into the neighbourhood I suppose with specimens of leather or rope-yarn, had deviated thus far from his route, and familiar habits, in order to be a wondering spectator of the glories of nature, and gave vent in these characteristic and appropriate terms, to the enthusiasm which had been kindled in his breast. For my part, ever since I heard the words, I have inwardly determined to hold them sacred for describing scenes similar to Shanklin Chine.—We then set off to walk back to Sandrock. Under the direction of the guide-book, we returned to Bonchurch by a most beautiful path.47 Instead of winding round the hollow of Luccombe Chine, we crossed it, and walked to Bonchurch under the cliff; through a fine piece of broken ground, covered with oaks and underwood, which is also a landslip, and fell down from the heights about the same time with the landslip formerly noticed: it is covered with fragments of the cliff, of all sizes and forms, and is altogether one of the wildest wood scenes I ever saw,48 being at the same time sufficiently high to command fine views of the sea, both westward, and to the east, including Sandown Bay and Culver Cliffs. The wood is full of the finest flowers of the island, among others the Lathyrus sylvestris, or smaller everlasting pea, which covers the bushes and abounds even on the steepest sides of the cliffs. This, with the Mentha already noticed, and the Rubia peregrina or madder which covers the hedges like the white bedstraw, are the most characteristic and conspicuous of the rare plants which we found on the Undercliff. After conducting us through the wood, the footpath led us across two little but rich meadows immediately overhanging the sea, to the prettily situated little church of the village of Bonchurch, which being at some distance from the road and among trees we had not seen in our walk in the opposite direction. It is said to be as old as the Saxon times, but we saw nothing remarkable in it externally except its situation. We now struck into our former road, near the bright clear pond or lake which I formerly mentioned as being formed here by the water issuing out under the chalk. It swarms with perch, which we could see in perfect shoals sporting in the clear water. We stopped at Ventnor to dine;49 I walked down to the shore of Ventnor Cove, which does not afford a very good beach for walking, and the heaps of seaweed are rather offensive in the bright sun; but it is interesting geologically, as there is here an evident derangement in the strata. The chalk comes quite down to the seaside, which it does not in any other part of the Undercliff, before or after; but at the very foot of the chalk, quite on the beach the Weald Clay just shews itself, with its friable shale, without any intervening green sand. We walked a considerable way up a road which leads first along the side of the chalk hill (St. Boniface Down) and then over it, and which immediately overlooks Ventnor, with its cove, and the Undercliff for a large space east and west: the mixture of the finest scenery of a chalk country with the finest sea views would have rewarded us for a longer stay. In the whole line of the Undercliff we experienced I think still greater pleasure in this second view of it than even in the first: we seemed to discover many fine points of view which we had before overlooked, and the same spots appeared finer than before. The sky was not so cloudless as the preceding day, which in some respects was an improvement: and the air was clearer. In passing the little church of St. Lawrence we this time found an old man who had stationed himself there to shew the church to strangers: its interior was of a simplicity corresponding to its minute dimensions: he told us it was twenty-five feet long. I regret that I contented myself last year with viewing only the outside of the little church at Buttermere, since I should have been better able to compare the size of the two. The old man told us that the proprietor of the whole parish is Lord Yarborough;50 that the population at the late census was 36 males and 42 females; that they had not a single burial in the year 1831, and only eight marriages in the last eleven years. I was surprised to hear him say that even here the population is extremely fluctuating, and that very few of the families which were here in his youth, are here still.
This morning we took our final departure from the Sandrock, and proceeded to Yarmouth to see the western part of the island, having hired a little light vehicle to carry us thither, on account of my companion’s indisposition and the comparatively uninteresting character of the route. The first village that we passed through was Chale; and the road which led us thither, passed over a rather elevated part of St. Catherine’s Hill. We availed ourselves of this circumstance to leave the carriage, and ascend to the summit of the hill, the highest ground in the island. From this we saw clean over the tops of the central chalk hills, to the Solent, which we saw in nearly its whole extent, and the Hampshire coast beyond. Towards the east, our prospect was bounded by the long line of Week Down, which extends from the Undercliff to Appledurcombe: but to the west, besides seeing the line of coast to Freshwater Gate, and the lofty white cliffs of Freshwater Bay beyond, all of which we had seen from the top of the cliff just below our present position, on the evening of our arrival at Sandrock; we saw, rather from the greater clearness of the air than from our higher elevation, not only the entire Hampshire coast from Lymington to Christchurch and far beyond, but the line of the Dorsetshire coast trending away far south and the chalk cliffs of the peninsula of Purbeck, of which the chalk hills on the southern coast of the Isle of Wight are considered by geologists to be the continuation. The view, however, on the whole, is not, I think, superior, scarcely even equal, to that from Ashey sea-mark or Brading Down. The tower on St. Catherine’s Hill is round, tapering a little towards the top, and though now a bare wall, it would appear to have been originally the habitation of man. There is another tower apparently of older date; on another point a little lower down the hill, which looks more like a tall pigeon-house than any other object in heaven or earth. The guide-book says that one of the two is a light-house, and the other “an ancient tower of unknown date” which “appears to have been the tower of a chapel or oratory.”51 —After leaving Chale, we crossed the comparatively level country which lies between the two ranges of chalk hills; and we crossed it in a coasting direction, not far from the sea; but by a very zig zag route, there being no direct road to the place of our destination but various roads connecting the villages with one another. We passed through the pretty and prettily placed village of Shorwell, at the foot of the central chalk hills; and the villages of Brixton or Brightston, and Brook. In this part of the island as in all others, we were struck by the beauty of the cottages. The soil is sandy, the green sand formation; its little elevations allowed us an occasional view of the sea, especially near Brook, but these views made little impression upon us after the Undercliff: the sea is but little in landscape, except where there is a bold coast. At Brook we turned to the right and passed through the chalk hills by one of the cuts or gaps in the range (though not without some climbing) leaving on our left hand a beautiful open road over Compton Downs to Freshwater Gate. We now came again upon the clay above the chalk, and looked out across the north of the island to the Solent. The country was more open, and contained fewer houses, than any part of the Isle of Wight which we had seen. We passed through the village of Thorley, and so came upon the beach, which at low water is muddy, as on the opposite side, this being the shallow part of the Solent. They even suppose that till the sea broke in, it was a lagoon, in the New Forest, from the number of fine oaks which are found buried in it, with their roots firmly fixed in the bottom. The road now turns to the left, and runs for a quarter of a mile parallel to the beach, at a sufficient elevation above it to afford a good view across, and we then entered Yarmouth.
This ancient borough, now happily disfranchised, is a very small place, not larger than a village, but, being so old, it is compacted together like a town, not scattered like a place in the country, and the houses are joined together in streets. It has not therefore the cheerful appearance of a more modern country place. The George Inn, where we put up, (and were, par parenthèse, very well entertained) had evidently been a private house for a long time: the staircase is of old oak, and the walls are wainscotted to the top. The beach about the place is oozy, and there is an inlet of the sea called the Yar river, (for I cannot give that name to the little brook of fresh water which runs into it) which at low water is a mass of mud. This neighbourhood, consequently, is the only place in the island (except it is said, Brading harbour,) where there is any abundance of the plants which grow in salt marshes. Of these I found a great multitude, about the mouth and banks of the Yar,—and in the salt marshes higher up, towards its head. We walked about the town and its immediate neighbourhood, which is far from agreeable on the side next the harbour, and I should think cannot be healthy. I have never understood how people can persuade themselves to come for health among salt marshes and the muddy mouths of tide rivers, merely because they are near the sea. But even from this disagreeable place there are good views of the line of chalk downs which form Freshwater Bay, and which are at a very short distance, this being the narrowest part of the island. And towards the east the road by which we had entered, and a path which continues in the same direction, are very beautiful. The coast is formed by a line of gentle eminences clothed with wood, as at Ryde; and the woods descending the hill to the water’s edge would form a walk between wood and water exactly similar to that between Binstead and Ryde if the different nature of the beach did not render it impossible to walk upon it without wet feet.
We set off this morning to make our last excursion in the island, for the purpose of seeing the curious cliff scenery at this extremity of the island. We reached Freshwater Bay before breakfast, having crossed the entire width of the island, which in this place is not more than an hour’s walk. The country is pretty: we left the village of Freshwater to our right, about half way across, and reached the line of chalk hills, which is not of any very great height, but forms in this place a long nearly straight ridge, with wavy sides and covered with a smooth turf. We stopped to breakfast at a neat inn in the hamlet of Freshwater Gate, which stands in an opening in the range of chalk hills between the long down I have mentioned (called Compton Downs) and the High Down, as it is called, which forms the high cliffs of the bay, visible from so great a distance. There is here almost a perfect level from the one coast to the other, and not much above the level of the sea. Freshwater Bay is a pretty little cove, not a fourth of the size of Sandown Bay, bounded on both sides by chalk cliffs. The beach itself is all shingle, though we were told that it was not so until what they call in the neighbourhood the “November Storm,”52 which they say was all over England five or six years ago, (I wonder if it was that which injured the Plymouth Breakwater) and which among various other changes which it made on this coast, drove the sea up to the inn itself, and on retiring, left the beach covered with shingle. We climbed Compton Down, which is of no great height; and walked along the top of the cliffs for a short distance; the cliff is chalk, but the top of the down is overlaid with a sandy clay like Ranmer common. The opposite cliffs rose with a commanding air from beyond the bay, which glittered with the brightest blue as we looked down at it from between it and the sun. The Dorsetshire coast in the distance, also a chalky coast, was seen sufficiently distinctly to be even beautiful, and St. Catherine’s Hill with its tower bounded the view on the opposite side. In the inaccessible parts of the cliff over the sea grew a great quantity of one of our common garden stocks, apparently the Matthiola incana; but quite impossible to be got at; which I regretted, though I had reaped an abundant harvest of plants in a marsh at Easton between Freshwater Village and Freshwater Gate; a place mentioned with honour in Albin’s Flora of the Island,53 and deservedly, as it contains the Ranunculus lingua, Oenanthe pimpinelloides, Epipactis palustris, Cladium mariscus, Comarum palustre, Menyanthes trifoliata, Scirpus maritimus, various Potamogetons, Genista tinctoria, Eriophorum angustifolium, and various other interesting plants, all of which I collected in a very small space, by about half an hour’s search. I may also mention that I found the Inula helenium by the road side near Freshwater village growing plentifully, and that there is a sandy beach near Yarmouth, on the opposite side of the Yar river, which contains in great plenty the Convolvulus soldanella, Eryngium maritimum, and Asparagus officinalis: near the same place the Statice limonium also grows abundantly, in places occasionally covered by the tide: and the Althaea officinalis, Juncus maritimus, Triglochin maritimum, Plantago maritima, Salicornia herbacea, Aster tripolium, and various kinds of Atriplex and Chenopodium (with that universal tenant of our coasts the Beta maritima) abound in the neighbourhood. I have also found near Yarmouth the Borago officinalis, I think certainly wild, and the Tamarix gallica, apparently so: nor is this improbable, as it is known to grow at Hurst castle on the opposite coast, and Albin has put it down as growing wild in the Isle of Wight.54 While mentioning Albin’s Flora Vectiana, it is but just to say that I found it highly useful, and that it is almost the only local Flora I ever saw, which was really useful to me: when I have gone to the places indicated by him, I have generally found all or most of his plants.55 —Leaving Compton Down, we returned to Freshwater Gate, and hired a boat to take us round the extreme point of the island, as it is hardly to be seen with advantage except from the sea. We coasted the high cliffs of Freshwater Bay, the highest point of which, our boatman told us, is 617 feet perpendicular above the sea. The cliffs are nearly perpendicular, in some places very nearly, and continue of little less height for a considerable distance, than at the point which he told us was the highest. They look surprisingly mauled, as if the waves had been beating about them twice as long as about any of the other cliffs. They are undermined by a multitude of caves, some very long and large, others smaller; into one of these our boat entered, and went a little way in.56 Of course many large pieces of chalk have fallen off the cliff into the sea (there is no beach, the sea washing the foot of the cliffs). One immense solid mass looked as if it had not fallen off, but had been left standing while the cliff farther inland wasted away; and such, the boatman told us, is the fact. I omitted to mention that there also stand in the sea, at many yards distance from Compton Cliff, two tall masses of chalk, nearly as high as that part of the cliff itself, and even retaining on their summits a portion of the turf which had rested on them when perhaps centuries ago, they were part of the continuous mass of Compton Down. One of these masses is curiously perforated and arched, and makes a very picturesque appearance from the cliff. The sides both of Compton Cliffs and Freshwater Cliffs are covered with samphire, and the noise of sea-gulls about Freshwater Cliffs was incessant; though nothing, we were told, to what it is in April, May, and June, the breeding season. We saw many young gulls swimming; they are brown like cygnets: along with some solitary specimens of a bird which the boatman called a shag, who seems quite black at a distance, and swims with his whole body under water except a long erect neck. The old gulls do not seem to swim, but they are perpetually flying, with that beautiful smooth flight, superior to all our common English birds except the swallow tribe, their extended wings seeming to float over the air without the slightest motion. We saw some ravens, who frequently build in these cliffs, and as we reached the extreme point of the cliff, we raised a flight of cormorants. We did not see the puffin, whose eggs are often sought and found in the cliffs by adventurous persons, and are much prized for their beauty, and are also eaten. Notwithstanding the height and steepness of the cliffs it seems that smugglers frequently succeed in landing goods there; they sometimes let down ropes, but sometimes also they manage, God knows how, to scramble up the cliff with a cask of brandy attached to their bodies. Two fishing boats with smuggled goods had been seized the day before, and the revenue cutter which had effected the seizure was towing away the empty boats at the very time we were in the bay;57 we saw her again the same evening at anchor in the Solent with the boats at her stern.—After turning the corner of the cliff, we came in sight of the Needles, from which however we were still separated by another bay of no great size but great beauty, called Scratchell’s Bay. This inlet, which forms a considerable curve, looks about south-west, and is exactly at the turn of the coast. It is entirely bounded by high chalk cliffs, which are curiously marked by lines of flints at a very little distance from one another, looking like the dotted lines on a map; these lines are not quite vertical, but nearly so; the strata of this bay partaking in a great degree of the derangement of those of the neighbouring Alum Bay. In one part of Scratchell’s Bay the cliff is curiously scooped out into a convex recess, with a vaulted roof: it is curious, as the work of nature and accident, though I think not quite so perfect a circular arch as Mr. Brannon has made it in his otherwise accurate and interesting Views.58 We landed on the pebbly beach of this bay, which is inaccessible except from the sea. We then sailed up to the Needles, which are two large masses of chalk which have been left insulated as the sea has broken its way across the long narrow promontory of chalk cliff of which they once formed part. They are in a direct line with the promontory, which is called the Needles Point, and to which they exactly correspond in height; the lines of stratification also exactly tally. There was once in the same line of cliff a high pillar of chalk, which was thrown down sixty-four years ago by a tempest.59 The remaining two needles will some day perish in the same manner, or be worn away by the sea: but other needles may be formed to succeed them, for the line of cliff for some distance, which exactly resembles them, may again give way as it must have done before, at some other point than its extremity. Both it, and they, are of perfectly white chalk, quite free from turf, and bristling with all kinds of sharp points: a flight of cormorants, seated on the points of the furthest Needle, had a very curious effect. The lower strata of the chalk seemed uncommonly hard—and indeed if it were not, it would I suppose have worn away gradually instead of being broken into these curious solid fragments so unlike any thing which is commonly afforded by chalk cliffs. Of its hardness, indeed, there is complete proof, for on the other side of Needles Point, in Alum Bay, the fissures in this very cliff give out water, copiously, in a number of springs, which I have never seen any where else in chalk hills: the porous nature of the chalk commonly allows the water either to be absorbed or to filter through and come out beautifully clear and pure from underneath. Having passed through the Needles, we turned about round, and Alum Bay was before us. This singular bay is familiar to geologists, from the perfectly vertical stratification, which exhibits a great number of strata all at once. The cliffs which bound it form as it were the two sides of a right angle; the one (which is the cliff of Needles Point) faces the north; the other, or coloured cliff, faces the west. The chalk cliff is massive and majestic, and the stratification, as evidenced by the lines of flints, becomes, as it approaches the angle, vertical, or nearly so. But the greatest singularity is that of the other cliff, which is composed of numerous thin beds of variously coloured sand, clay, and marl, standing so perfectly erect as to present a series of perpendicular stripes, of the most gorgeous colours; sometimes a deep pink, sometimes a bright, almost saffron, yellow; sometimes a strong brick colour; sometimes brown, sometimes a kind of blue: with countless slight shades and varieties; altogether the most brilliant specimen of nature’s colouring, except an occasional sunset; more beautiful by much than the rainbow. It comes upon you at once after passing through the Needles, and increases in beauty as you approach it. Of course it is not a uniform surface, but very irregular in its outline when you are near it, from the unequally perishable nature of the strata; and furrowed by various miniature chines and hollows; but in the main it is nearly perpendicular. The continuation of the high ground to the left of it is the common clay of the Isle of Wight basin, and is stratified in the ordinary manner. Our boatman landed us in Alum Bay, and we spent a considerable time on its beach, making a collection of fragments of the different beds, and picking fossil shells and shark’s teeth out of the cliff. Some of the beds are so full of fossils that you cannot take a handful of the soil without finding some small shells, and if you take up a large lump which sticks together, and pull it asunder, you are pretty sure to find a shell of some dimensions in the place where it breaks. At least such was our experience, and we collected a great number of specimens. Native sulphur also effloresces on the side of the cliff, in such quantities as not only to tinge it with many bright yellow spots, which add to the diversity of its colouring, but in one place actually to give an odour of brimstone to the air. As far as respects colour, however, its effect is much aided by a vegetable substance of a colour very like its own, which I never saw anywhere else, and which here adheres to the cliff in great quantities. The cliff is also quite full of little bright acicular crystals of something, probably sulphate of lime: they were not alum, nor did we find any of that substance, though the bay is named from it, and it is said to exude from the cliff.—When we left Alum Bay, we ascended to the adjoining clay eminence, the top of which as well as of the coloured cliff forms an extremely pretty verdant ferny heath, abounding in rabbits. On the border of this, adjoining the chalk down, an inn has been recently established, and must be a very convenient station for those who wish to explore Alum Bay at greater length than we have done. We proceeded to Yarmouth through the hilly country of the coast, which is well wooded, and altogether much prettier than the comparatively level country which we crossed in the morning in our way to Freshwater Gate. It also commands various good views of that level country, of the chalk hills behind, of the Solent and of the opposite coast, with Hurst Castle in the very centre of the picture, nearer to the island than to its own coast, placed at the very extremity of a long line of shore or spit as it is here called, projecting far into the sea and narrowing the channel to not more than a mile in width. On the northern coast of the island there are here two very pretty gentlemen’s seats with wooded pleasure-grounds. We returned to Yarmouth by being ferried across the mouth of the Yar, in a fisherman’s boat. Here we concluded our tour of the island, and having dined, took boat for Lymington. Before leaving Yarmouth, I ought to mention its Castle, which is a tall but little old fortified building immediately overlooking the sea and the entrance of the harbour: the walls are covered with red valerian and wall-flower, growing, according to Albin, spontaneously:60 there is a little garden on the roof, with flowers and culinary vegetables, for the use, I suppose, of a family which resides in the building and takes care of it: on the roof are several small cannon, which look as if they were still intended to be used, though I hardly think an enemy would attempt a landing here, unless as formerly some English nobleman should be crowned king of Wight,61 and the island-monarch should go to war with the continent of England.
In leaving the Isle of Wight I must remark generally that nowhere in so small a space have I seen collected together so great a quantity and variety of all the beauties of scenery of which this part of England is susceptible. The country about Dorking is indeed superior to it in some respects, but is wanting in perpendicular cliffs and sea views. I am not so ardent an admirer of the sea as some are, to whom it compensates for the absence of all other beautiful or striking objects: Such a coast as that of Bognor or even of Yarmouth in Norfolk, has small attractions for me; one straight, monotonous line of low beach, bounding a dead flat, or a marsh below high water mark. But the sea with a bold line of coast, stretching into headlands and receding into bays, clothed with trees down to the water’s edge, or frowning over it in lofty cliffs, is the most striking of all combinations of natural scenery, except lofty mountains: and in this the Isle of Wight is surpassed by nothing, which I have ever seen, except the south coast of Cornwall; if even by that. The beauty of the cottages in the Isle of Wight is as great as in any part of England; they are surrounded by flowers, the people who inhabit them shew no symptoms of poverty, and the children are often extremely beautiful; you constantly see them, as they are always running out to open the gates which cross the roads at short distances all over the island. We found much less neatness in the cottages, in the part of Hampshire to which we next proceeded: they were often of mud, and had but few flowers, though generally some potatoes and other garden produce about them. The children however seemed generally healthy and well fed, though scarcely so handsome as in the island.—The attractions of the Isle of Wight to the geologist are well known; to the botanist they are scarcely less. Besides the plants I have already mentioned, the shores abound with the Cakile maritima, Chelidonium luteum, Arundo arenaria, Salsola Kali, Apium graveolens; Absinthium vulgare; in Alum Bay we found (I think) the Poa bulbosa, and about Sandrock that rare mint, the Mentha rotundifolia. The island abounds with the Linum angustifolium, Eupatorium cannabinum and with an Iris, which was not in flower, but which is said to be the foetidissima. The Chlora perfoliata and Chirinia centaurium grow in all situations and on all soils, in such profusion as I have never seen. At Freshwater Gate the Samolus valerandi, and Hyoscyamus niger, abound. The common trefoil of the island is that elegant species, the Trifolium fragiferum, and on the sandy soils the arvense is not unfrequent. We also saw the Androsaemum officinale, the Cnicus eriophorus, and Erigeron acre. All the fields, hedges, and banks are covered with the Equisetum arvense, growing so luxuriantly and profusely as to be an object in the landscape.
We crossed to Lymington in a wherry, the steamboat going only one day out of three, though on that one day it goes and returns several times. The island, with its backbone of chalk, the cliffs of Needle Point, and the Needles, had a fine appearance from the water, as had also Hurst Castle and the long slip of land at the extremity of which it is situated. This indeed is the only place in the visible part of the Hampshire Coast, where the sea and land come immediately in contact: except at high water, there lies between the sea and the beach, all along this coast, a broad zone of deep mud, partly green with the plants which grow in salt marshes but mostly bare, or with nothing but seaweed adhering to it. As it was about low water when we arrived, we had to journey up a narrow creek between these mud banks; and when we entered into Lymington river we found it precisely similar, a little stream trickling to the sea down the middle of a vale of mud.62 The entrance to the creek is marked by a high post with cross bars or something of that sort on the top, which is known by the name of Jack in the basket, and is so laid down in the maps, and even alluded to by that name in the public notices which are stuck up for the guidance of mariners. The town of Lymington is rather considerable; it is on the top and side of a hill, which hill is, to use a French expression, the côteau of the Bolder, or Lymington river. One broad street runs up the hill, and along it for a considerable distance, and there are some cross streets. It has a cheerful aspect, particularly the part of it which is on the side of the hill; it is clean, and has the appearance of a real country town, looking very little like a watering place. There are some very pretty houses on the side next the sea, with their sides covered with myrtles (which appear to thrive here in the open ground as well as in the Isle of Wight) and other flowers. But there seems no great number of houses of any size. Electioneering is as rife here as elsewhere: there are three candidates; Admiral Sir Harry Burrard Neale, Bart.63 who appears to be sure of his election; I suppose he will have the second votes of both parties; for he appears to stand on local interests, having a large house and park at Walhampton, just on the other side of Lymington river. The contest is between Hyde Villiers and a Mr. Stewart, who hoists the “Independent” flag,64 not having volunteered any declaration of principles, and is therefore supposed to be a Tory at heart, and supported by the Tories; yet he now makes professions of a very popular kind, having been challenged thereunto. The animosity seems very great, and poor Villiers has been abused and calumniated without mercy: but the great bitterness seems to be always against the heads of the local parties; the cry of Nomination is raised against those who have brought forward Villiers, and they are individually nicknamed and collectively reviled in many a placard. It is good to see that the people engage with earnestness in the exercise of their new rights, but all this bitterness of contest if it is to continue for four or five months longer, till the election, will be a little more than enough.
We set out this morning to commence our exploration of the New Forest. We took the course of the Bolder, (that is the name of the Lymington stream) which, as soon as you get out of the reach of the tide, is not much more than a brook. The forest can not properly be said to begin till you reach Brockenhurst, about half way between Lymington and Lyndhurst: and the main road from Lymington to Brockenhurst keeps at a considerable distance from the river: but we, for the sake of a more agreeable walk, quitted the road, struck into a shady lane which keeps the valley of the Bolder, and so found our way by lanes and paths into a wild country, a mixture of heath and wood, which may be considered part of the forest. Through this our walk was very pleasant, and we presently struck into the park of Brockenhurst House, in which there are fine trees, and, from the gentle slope on which the house stands, various good views of the forest beyond. The park joins the road into which we now returned, and passing through the village of Brockenhurst, crossed the Bolder. We were here struck by seeing a prodigious quantity of horned cattle pattering about in the river and in a pond formed by its overflowing: it seemed as if the entire bovine population of the neighbouring forest had been driven down at once to drink at this place: and indeed the result resembled the stories we read in Herodotus of the army of Xerxes, which drank river after river quite dry;65 for on repassing this place the same evening, we found, not indeed the river, but the pond, almost dry. Here also we for the first time saw the breed of forest ponies, mentioned by Gilpin in his description of the New Forest,66 and which run about and graze all over it. The road here enters the Forest, and shoots directly across it for about four miles, to Lyndhurst, in nearly a straight line; making what would be a noble vista, if the trees were closer together and of greater magnitude, and is even now fine. We left the road, and found our way to Lyndhurst chiefly by the paths and green drives among the trees. This part of the forest is certainly fine, but yet, perhaps scarcely so fine as I expected. It did not disappoint me, but it certainly did not astonish me. It is a wild tract covered with furze and fern of most luxuriant growth, and thickly scattered with trees, chiefly oak, with some beech. The trees appeared mostly old, and past the full vigour of their vegetation; yet of no remarkable size; as if all the finest timber had (which is probably the fact) been cut out for shipbuilding long ago. The underwood is chiefly holly, particularly near the road; and many, indeed most, of the hollies seemed to have attained an immense age; the majority were decidedly descending into the vale of years, and falling not indeed into the sere and yellow but into the thin and scanty leaf,67 while the trunks were acquiring that sure sign of decay, a bark covered with the white lichen. We scarcely saw a single tree in the forest this day which could be of any value in shipbuilding except for knee timber: I have no doubt that the forest was much finer formerly than now, and that the last war has made deplorable havoc among the noblest trees. I recollect that even in Gilpin’s time, after describing one piece of forest scenery with great enthusiasm, he mentions that it was marked out for destruction and that in two or three years from that time it would have ceased to exist.68 Still, renovation somewhere must be compensating for this destruction, or there will soon be no timber for shipbuilding. The country here has no very marked feature except the trees; there are no commanding eminences and deep dells; very little inequality of ground at all. So that it will easily be understood why we were not very much struck with this first specimen of forest scenery. Still it was beautiful, though inferior to many woods I have seen, and though the seclusion, and the feeling of indefinite extent, which no woody scenery on a small scale can produce, is greatly injured by the occasional intrusion of enclosures and trumpery fir plantations. As we approached Lyndhurst, which, though in the heart of the forest, has a little circle of open country round it, we passed various houses and gardens of some beauty; but Lyndhurst itself is a little dull-looking place with no beauty at all, unless the situation of its church and churchyard, on a small eminence, commanding however no view of any great interest, be so considered. We dined at Lyndhurst, and returned to Lymington on the top of one of the coaches, by which means we were carried down the vista which I before mentioned, and through some rather pretty country between Brockenhurst and Lymington. On the whole this country is better adapted for riding or driving through than for walking. You require to get over the ground rather quick. In the evening we walked down to the muddy beach, where we found an artificial salt lake scooped out in the land, for the purpose of bathing, and various square ponds cut for salt works. There are among these salt-pits, about the banks of the river, what seem to be the skeletons of windmills, or windmills hanged in chains; but I suppose they are in reality draining-mills, to pump up the water from the marshes, and empty it into the river. I remember draining-mills down the Norwich river as you approach the coast; and very odd it was to be scudding down a river supported by embankments like walls, the drainage of the fens on both sides (which would otherwise stagnate) being forced up by the wind and thrown into the river: but I do not recollect that these mills looked so like the dry bones of a windmill. We here saw the first corn actually cut: it seems generally ripe in this neighbourhood, which being far south, and not so far west as to partake of its humidity, must I should think be the earliest part of England. A proof that notwithstanding the recent hot weather, this is still a backward season.—The botanical results of this walk were the Drosera longifolia, in a heathy bog before we came to Brockenhurst (which also contained in great abundance, the Myrica gale, Abama ossifraga and Rhynchospora alba); that rare and newly discovered thistle, the Cnicus Forsteri in a sandy heath near the same place; the Fumaria capreolata, in a green lane; (this we also found in great abundance the next day, between Lymington and Exbury) and the Atriplex portulacoides, which I gathered in the salt marshes, along with the Atriplex littoralis, Aster tripolium, Plantago maritima, and other plants suited to the situation.
The following day was dedicated to a visit to Beaulieu Abbey (pronounced Bewley) and the river scenery of the neighbourhood. We crossed the river by a causeway and bridge; it was again at low water, neither have we ever seen it otherwise. No part of the road from Lymington to Beaulieu passes through the forest: it winds in and out among houses and parks, and then crosses an extensive and open heath. But as our object was to ascend Beaulieu river from near its mouth, we quitted the road before we reached the beginning of the heath, and took the direction of Exbury. There being no direct road, we wound our way from lane to lane, through a country of fields and hedgerows, on a sandy and gravelly soil; the walk was agreeable, without presenting any very marked features of beauty. We passed an inland lake or pond, mentioned by Gilpin,69 very much resembling one of the Broads (as they are called) in Norfolk: the water and the trees about it gave some considerable beauty to this particular point of our walk. Soon after, we arrived at the ruins of an old priory (St. Leonard’s) which formerly depended upon Beaulieu Abbey; it is now a farm yard, and part of it after having a wooden roof put upon it, is converted into a barn. We presently descended the côteau of the Exe, or as it is more commonly called, the Beaulieu river, and reached its banks at a little village named Buckler’s Hard. This river, which is a very little stream running through a vale of mud, like the other river, when the water is low (except that the mud is more overgrown with green water-plants) is a fine river similar to the Tamar though considerably smaller, at or near high-water; it is hemmed in on both sides by gentle elevations covered with thick copse, which at high water is washed by the stream, so that wood and water are alone visible, and through this the river winds as no rivers do but those which flow through a nearly flat country, making the most beautiful bays, and producing continually the effect of a lake wholly surrounded by land. There is an excellent path through the wood from Buckler’s Hard to Beaulieu, as straight as an arrow, and a stone’s throw from the river, but unhappily the river cannot be seen from it, the view being intercepted by trees. We regretted not having taken a boat at Buckler’s Hard to ascend the river; and made ourselves all the amends we could by going down to the river wherever we found an avenue to it. A little way from Beaulieu the country becomes more open: on the western side, two or three cornfields and beautiful green meadows appear, the copse continuing on the eastern side; till beyond the copse on that same side, the church and ruins appear, and on the other side the village, partly covered with trees: where we stopped at an excellent inn, to dine. Our walk had yielded us two very interesting plants, the Bartsia viscosa in a shady lane early in the day, and the Euphorbia platyphyllos in a corn field near Beaulieu. While dinner was preparing we sallied out to see the Abbey. Out of a part of it there has been formed a large church: there is also an old-looking dwelling-house now inhabited by Lord Montague,70 which must have been built long ago either out of the materials of the Abbey or in imitation of it. There are however still remaining, considerable ruins: what seem to have been the cloisters, have been built up into four walls and now inclose an orchard. Of the outer wall considerable portions are remaining at intervals, and shew how extensive a space was once included in the Abbey inclosure. The situation, like those commonly chosen for monasteries, is extremely fine. It is at the point where the tide ends and fresh water begins, the two being separated by heavy floodgates keeping up a mill-pond. The Abbey immediately adjoins and looks out upon the most beautiful reach of the river, which we had the advantage of seeing at high water, and which forms one of the smoothest and loveliest of lakes, with green fields on one side and wood on the other, the wood growing quite down to the water’s edge, covering the promontories and lining the bays. The wood here too is not all copse; there are some timber trees: through the wood an excellent road leads to a wood-cutting station a little lower down the river, and from this road and various paths there are for so small a distance a great number of fine views of the lake and its banks, all different from each other. After dinner we went out on the river in a boat, which enabled us to see somewhat more of the winding course of the river:71 and the mode I should recommend of seeing Beaulieu is to come to it by water quite from the river’s mouth, attending however to the time of the tide, for there is scarcely any water here when the tide is out, and before we left Beaulieu the lake which we had admired had wholly disappeared. Beaulieu would be a pleasant place to stay two or three days in. We have seen nothing a quarter so fine on this coast. We returned to Lymington by the road, across the long heath I have already mentioned. Its perfect flatness and moistness, with its freedom from trees, assimilate it to the heaths in Norfolk; and it resembles them also in containing a large pond, or Broad. The ground is table land, though not very elevated: it commands a good view of Compton and Freshwater Downs, and the Needles Point; which, in spite of all that Mr. Gilpin may say,72 to my judgment shew well from all points in this part of the country, and close many views which would otherwise be incomplete and tame. As it grew dusk we saw the light-house on the Needles Point blazing away, and the top of the down looking by the imperfect light very much like a wood.
This morning we set out for Christchurch, the extreme point of our journey towards the west. The intervening country not being very interesting, we were not disposed to walk, and as the coach was full, we availed ourselves of the offer of a Christchurch man, a nursery and seedsman, and fruiterer who was returning home from Lymington, to take us in his cart; a taxed cart I cannot call it, as it was without springs.73 With this personage, whose name was Hatchard,74 we had much conversation on the road: we found that he was an enthusiastic reformer, and he told us many particulars about the history of reform at Christchurch, which was a close corporation with no more than eight or ten burgesses in the hands of Sir George Rose75 before the passing of the Reform Bill, but is now an open borough returning one member. The only candidate in the field is Captain Tapps (Captain I think he called him) the son of the Whig proprietor,76 and rival of Sir George Rose, in the neighbourhood: he professes to be a reformer, and our friend says that the Christchurch people would not return anybody who was not: but he seemed to think that the reformers had been too hasty in taking him up; there was somebody, I forget who, that he would have preferred, but who would not stand when he heard that Captain Tapps was in the field. Sir George Rose it seems was applied to, but when he saw the small number of names to the requisition, he would not stand. Sir George he told us was liked as a magistrate but not as a member; his son appears to be liked still less.77 Our friend talked repeatedly of the number of enlightened men there now are, and how much more parliamentary questions are understood: he says he did not know, a twelvemonth ago, what reform was, and a newspaper was scarcely ever read in Christchurch, but now they are very much read, and he says he has often sat up to read the debates as late as his eyes would allow him. He is a great enemy to tithes, and seems to have thought a little both on that subject and the corn laws.78 On the whole he talked very sensibly, and in a manner we were pleased to see nor did he express one objectionable opinion. He was a little puzzled to understand how all these changes had been brought about; he had heard of Cobbett, and supposed that much was to be ascribed to him, but did not seem to know much about the Political Register; though he had read Cobbett’s Sermons and his works on agriculture.79 He seemed to regret Sir James Macdonald’s death very much, but had scarcely heard of Sir Thomas Baring.80 He says that Swing has never been in that district,81 but there were letters written threatening outrages on his part, in consequence of which a great number of special constables were sworn in, and the Preventive Service put in requisition, of which circumstance the smugglers, who were the real authors of the letters, availed themselves to effect the landing of a great quantity of smuggled goods.—The country between Lymington and Christchurch admits of no particular description. We passed the house and grounds of Lord Stuart de Rothesay82 who is building a castle overlooking the sea; making his own bricks and mortar, importing his own lime and Portland stone. We also passed a house and grounds belonging to the lately celebrated Madame de Feuchères,83 of whose history our acquaintance seemed to have some notion, I know not exactly how much. Sir George Rose has his house and grounds close to the sea, at Mudeford or Muddiford, the watering place of Christchurch, which we passed through before entering the latter place: it may indeed be said to be part of the town, as the series of houses between the two is nearly as uninterrupted as in Mudeford itself. During our journey there was some rain; and it rained at intervals during the rest of the day: this was the first rain we had had since we started from town. It was not, however, such as to prevent us from sallying out in the evening, and seeing a great deal of the neighbourhood.
Christchurch is situated about a mile and a half (I should think) from the real sea-shore, but the sea comes in by a narrow inlet or break and spreads out into an ample basin, along the edge of which is Mudeford, and Christchurch is not far from its extreme point. Two rivers of considerable size for this part of the country, the Avon and the Stour, empty themselves into this harbour, very near to one another: Christchurch is upon the Avon, which is divided into two branches over both of which there are bridges: the Stour, a more considerable river, lies beyond. The harbour is bounded on the further side by a long black ridge-like sand-hill, which projects into the sea and forms Christchurch Head. On the other side the coast is for some distance tolerably flat, but soon after turns round towards the south, and rises into a long line of tall loose sand cliffs, continued quite to the slip of land on which Hurst Castle stands. Between this line of cliffs and the cliffs of Christchurch Head, there is included an ample bay: across which the downs of Compton and Freshwater, the Needles Point, and the Needles themselves, look bold and lofty, and almost close at hand. Inland the country is rather flat, with the exception of one bare sand hill called St. Catherine’s Hill, which stands two or three miles to the north. Christchurch is quite beyond the verge of the forest, and several miles from its nearest point. The harbour is mostly bounded by salt marshes, but the true beach when you reach it is a fine sand, sloping so gradually that the moist and hard part of it is very broad and pleasant to walk upon, though not furrowed as in Sandown Bay. I speak particularly of the part between Sir George Rose’s inclosure and the shore. Sir George has planted a quantity of Scotch firs to shelter his grounds from the sea winds, but a part of his house comes down almost to the beach, and is open towards it; looking like a pavilion. When you have quite passed his inclosure the cliffs begin to rise; they are at first low, and insignificant; afterwards, as I have already mentioned, they rise to a respectable height. There has been an extremely good and agreeable path along the edge of the cliffs; the path still remains, but by the obstructions placed across, it is evident that the public have been deprived of it by sentence of magistrates, in order I suppose to enable Lord Stuart de Rothesay to carry his shrubbery to the edge of the cliff. I can with difficulty conceive any greater public injury to a neighbourhood like this; such a walk was quite invaluable; there is not, I am well convinced, any other in the whole surrounding country that can serve as a substitute for it. We, trespassers as we are, defied all notices and overcame all obstructions, and had our walk along the cliff as far as we listed, which was no inconsiderable distance; enjoying the view of the bay and the Needles and the open sea beyond Needle Point and Christchurch Head.
The first business of this morning (before breakfast) was to walk about the town. It is rather a good specimen of a quiet old town in the altenglische stile, not stirred into bustle or activity by manufactures, commerce, or even by being much of a thoroughfare to any other place, though some Weymouth coaches pass through it. The harbour of Poole, the next place on the coast, is so much superior, that vessels resort thither rather than to Christchurch: and the latter place seems to be almost exclusively an agricultural and fishing town. But the great ornament of Christchurch is its very ancient and beautiful church, as large as several of our cathedrals, and built in the cathedral stile, except that, as in the case of Westminster Abbey, the tower is no longer in its proper place, in the centre of the building, but having fallen into ruin has been rebuilt at one extremity, and from that and its comparatively modern date is not in keeping with the rest of the building. I must leave it to those who better understand the subject, to describe this beautiful building in detail.84 I will however say of it, that although it has been much patched at different times, in the stiles of various ages of cathedral architecture, the greater part of it is in the very oldest Saxon stile, with the perfectly round arches, which are also traced on the outside of one part of the building as mere ornaments, intersecting one another and shewing the origin of the pointed or Gothic arch. The ornaments both in the inside and outside are as profuse, yet as perfectly subdued, and kept as completely in subordination to the main design, as in the best specimens of our Gothic buildings: almost the only stile of architecture which by the observance of that simple principle, has been enabled to unite the most barbaric splendour and often the most barbaric quaintness and even grotesqueness in the details, with the greatest purity and chasteness and the most striking grandeur in the general effect. There are here in particular two magnificent screens, one of them much mutilated but having still enough remaining to shew what it once was. This was originally the church of a richly endowed Priory. Close to it there are ruins of what is believed to have been a castle, and also of what is believed to have been the house of the governor of the castle. From the nearer of the bridges these ivy-covered ruins have a fine effect, particularly with the noble church for a background. This church, which is of a magnitude quite out of proportion to the town, is a most conspicuous object from every situation from which Christchurch is visible.—After breakfast, while my companion remained to make a sketch of the church and of the ruins, I took a walk to Christchurch head. After going down to the Stour, which is a little beyond the town, and which is crossed by a ferry, I struck into a path across several corn-fields overlooking the harbour, and at last reached the hill, which though bold, is far from high. My reward was even greater than I expected. It is a long and broad sand-hill, flattish though irregular at the top, and covered with heath now just starting into flower: it is bounded on three sides by the sea, forming the boundary between two bays, Christchurch Bay and Poole Bay. Towards Poole Bay and towards the open sea it forms loose sandy cliffs; and belongs, I have no doubt, to the green sand formation. Landwards the town of Christchurch, backed by St. Catherine’s Hill, (which is seen to greater advantage than from any other point) has a good effect. The line of cliffs drops down very low where the hill ends, but seems still to continue as a low range, round Poole Bay; of which, partly from its extent and partly from a rather hazy state of the atmosphere, I could not see the inmost recesses; but across the mouth of the bay the Purbeck coast, with its chalk cliffs, seemed close at hand, as did also the cliffs about Needles Point, and the Needles themselves. The haze prevented me from distinguishing the coloured cliff of Alum Bay, of a part of which we had a side view from the cliffs on the other side of the harbour the preceding evening.—I gazed my fill, and took my last parting look, as far as this tour is concerned, of the open sea; then returned to Christchurch, and we set off for Lyndhurst, having resolved to shift our quarters to that place, as the central point of the Forest. Our walk, which was of about fourteen miles, consisted of three distinguishable parts: about five miles of rather common-place hedgerows, lanes, and inclosures, before we reached the bounds of the Forest: about five miles more of what is termed the Forest, and is really a part of the royal chase, and full of deer, but is nothing but dreary barren heath; and four miles of real forest, forest of fine trees, far superior to what we had seen between Brockenhurst and Lyndhurst, though not equal to what we saw afterwards. The only defect of it was that it was broken into little bits, intersected by large broad heathy openings, and was rather a rapid alternation of wood and waste, than one continued forest of trees. What there was of it however was exceedingly fine. A large majority indeed of the trees seemed to have past their full health and vigour; and many were actually dying. But most were still extremely fine; they were finely grouped in all degrees of closeness and all varieties of edge: and the stately green fern at their feet, with a multitude of thorns and hollies to fill up the interval between the fern and the forest trees, left little to be regretted except that such scenery was not more continuous, but was so often interrupted as to destroy that character of vast extent which we are accustomed to associate with a forest. The weather all day was hot and clear, with thick massive summer clouds which seemed never to move, though a wind was blowing beneath: reminding us of Wordsworth’s lines,
The rain was entirely gone, and visited us no more. We even found the heat of the sun inconvenient on the bare heath. The ground was sufficiently unequal to add greatly to the beauty of the forest, but not to give any interest to the dreary heath; which derived all the little beauty it had from the tall furze here and there, the herds of deer scattered about, and the numerous little streams which intersect it, all of which, where they spread out into anything like a pond, were filled with forest ponies and horned cattle pattering about in the water for coolness, and ready access to drink. We arrived at Lyndhurst to a late dinner, and went out no more that evening.
We set out this morning to make a circuit of the finest parts of the forest. We turned our course westward in the direction of Boldrewood Lodge; our way lying wholly through the forest; in which we here found still finer, and considerably younger trees, with fine forest glades passing through them and without the large patches of open heath which in our yesterday’s journey had filled as much space as the woody part of the forest. The trees however were chiefly beeches; yesterday there was a larger proportion of oak. After between three and four miles of this fine scenery, we reached Boldrewood Lodge, which stands in the middle of an eminence that divides two vallies; and commands a more extensive view than is common in the forest. The view however is in a great degree barren: the forest lying rather behind than before, and what is visible from the windows being mostly heath, though not of a gloomy or dreary character. Behind, a number of fine park trees, cribbed I suppose originally from the forest (but with the addition of some noble chestnuts) were included within the inclosure. Our road now ran north-west across the heath, till it joined the post road from Ringwood to Southampton; striking into this road we turned into a north-easterly course, and after a mile or two along the top of a heathy eminence, reached a part of the forest far surpassing every thing which we had yet seen. The road went along a ridge commanding on the left a magnificent view of a finely wooded and richly diversified country, towards Salisbury, with the thickest and finest part of the New Forest as a foreground. To the right, again, the view was more interrupted, but from time to time an opening allowed us to look strait down a far deeper and longer valley than is usual in the Forest, thickly clothed with wood on both sides, and having in it a large house, somewhat indistinctly visible, which we supposed to be Castle Malwood. As we proceeded onward, keeping the ridge of the hill, and passing a little hamlet and inn called Stony Cross, the view to the left varied every instant, but it was decidedly the finest at a point where our road began to descend through a long vista of fine trees; where another road goes off to the right, leading to the village of Minsted; and the view to the left, from the brow of the hill, discloses the valley below set as it were in trees, the trees about us forming the boundary on the right, and a part of the forest, much thicker than any we had seen and forming a gradual ascent towards Bramshaw on the road to Salisbury limiting the prospect on the left. We staid here for some time, exploring the different avenues, and enjoying the views: nowhere were the trees finer, or a larger proportion of them young and vigorously healthy. I think the finest oaks that we saw in the Forest are those which are visible from the descent towards Minsted. When we had seen enough of this fine eminence, we descended the long vista, and after crossing somewhat more of the forest, arrived at a place on its borders where five roads meet; the road to Ringwood (the way we came), to Salisbury, Romsey, Southampton and Lyndhurst. Here also we lingered for some time; going some distance up the Bramshaw or Salisbury road, and striking into several of the forest glades, which are finer hereabouts than any where else. We returned to Lyndhurst partly by the grassy drives and paths, partly by the road, which is the finest of all those that cross the forest: one point of it, on a little eminence, commands a fine vista on each side, varied beautifully by ups and downs, and including a fine view of Lyndhurst at the end of one of the avenues. We went out no more this evening except to a yewtree on a little eminence, just out of the town.
The aspect of the New Forest generally is much less forest-like in the popular sense of the word, than I was prepared to expect: and I know not any one spot in it which might not easily be equalled in every respect by wood scenes in the very limited extent of the timber woods and parks of Surrey. In those woods and parks there is even one feature of beauty in a far higher degree than in the New Forest; the trees are much more uniformly healthy and fine. Yet there are many very fine forest landscapes in various parts of the forest, especially in the neighbourhood of Stony Cross and Castle Malwood, where the trees are finest, the inequalities of ground most considerable, and where the wood is least interrupted by those large open spaces which, in many parts, convert the forest into a succession of little woods, deriving from its great extent only monotony, not vastness. The large plantations of fir with which the forest is studded in all directions, are the nurseries for young forest trees: in some of the oldest of them the firs have been partially cut out, and disclose thick groves of thriving young beeches and oaks. In the old parts of the forest the beech is decidedly the predominant tree: among the oaks I suppose great havoc must have been made by the war: there are fewer of them than of beeches, and the fine ones are fewer in a still greater proportion: in the finer parts of the forest there are many noble beeches, equal to almost any I ever saw; but not many first-rate oaks. There are some birches, but not a great many; scarcely any ash: the underwood if it can be called so, is chiefly thorn and holly: the hollies, as I have already remarked, in some parts of the forest, seem to be weighed down with years; but in others they are comparatively youthful, thriving, and vigorous, and attain the greatest beauty of which that tree is susceptible. I saw but one white beam tree. In general the trees are dispersed sufficiently widely to allow the ground to be covered and overgrown with fern of the greatest luxuriance. There are parts of the forest however, especially in the northern portion, where the beeches occasionally grow so close as to admit of no vegetation under their shade. But this never continues for any considerable distance. I should think much more than one half of the legal extent of the Forest is mere heath, with no trees at all, except one here and there, stunted and weather-worn. Over this the deer range freely as over all the rest: and we twice saw a fox cross our path. These wild heaths are covered with forest ponies, horned cattle, and geese, but we saw no sheep; and of course where the deer range there can be no cultivation. Fine as the forest undoubtedly is, I see nothing in it to excite the enthusiasm of a writer on the picturesque; and unless the forest was very much finer in Gilpin’s time (which I suspect it was) I think he has overrated it. Gilpin however was full of crotchets, witness his disparaging estimate of the beech as an ornamental tree,86 and his notion that the line of the Isle of Wight looks tame in the New Forest views, whereas I have not seen a single view in which it was visible, the beauty of which did not seem to me exceedingly increased by it.—I should like to ride over the forest on a forest pony, and immerse myself more completely in its green and grassy glades. It is a sort of scenery to which one could often return, but which if continued for a long time together, would become a little wearisome from its uniformity.
This was the day appointed for our quitting the forest; which we did on foot, our way lying across a part of the forest scenery which we had not yet traversed. It was chiefly over heath, intermixed with bogs covered in the most luxuriant manner with the Hypericum elodes, Alisma ranunculoides and Anagallis tenella; which abound throughout the forest, but especially in this part. The bogs followed the courses of the little streams, and were of no great extent; but this was a peculiarly dry season. In one of them we found the Triglochin palustre; and the Juncus lampocarpus grows in the moist places generally, though in no great profusion. The ground is covered with the two Drosera’s—the longifolia and rotundifolia. We had to find our way by such tracks as we could find; for instead of keeping the Southampton road, we determined to cross the wild country to Hythe, and be ferried over the Southampton Water, either to Southampton itself or to Netley Abbey. Our course lay mostly near the edge of the woody, or true forest, which however is considerably interrupted here, but what we saw of it was extremely fine; the hollies here were more beautiful than anywhere else, and the beeches often not only fine but very closely set. We scrambled over one green fern-clad hill, on which stands a house called Ashurst Lodge; and we were delighted at finding the beautiful Campanula hederacea growing amongst the fern: I had gathered it in the Pyrenees, but never in England till now. After about three hours walk, which was a longer time than we had any occasion to expend if we had known our way, we reached the extreme verge of the forest, and again entered the cultivated country. We crossed some corn fields and presently came in sight of the Southampton Water, with a peep of its richly wooded and cultivated banks, and the town of Southampton, with its three spires, one of them tall and pyramidal like that of a cathedral, fronting the water and appearing at a very small distance from us though the Water alone is reckoned three miles across. Our present route lay in a direction which carried us away from Southampton. Crossing another field we reached the little village of Dibden, prettily situated on an eminence, among trees, overlooking the Water: and from hence we had two miles of carriage road to Hythe, on the banks of the estuary. This little village, which is conspicuous to all who navigate the Water, by its cheerful riant appearance at the foot of the côteau, is the point from which those who come from Fawley, Beaulieu, and that corner of the coast and of the Forest generally, cross to Southampton: there is a regular ferry. Though Hythe is but a small place, it has two rather large inns, which directly overlook the Water. We stopped to dinner at one of them, and were afterwards carried over in a sailing boat to Netley Abbey. After the fine views we had of the open sea, under most favorable circumstances, in the earlier part of our tour, we were not sorry, by way of variety, to see this, the finest river scenery in England, the only scenery which I suppose can be assimilated, however remotely, to that of the great American rivers. A tide river (for such I must term it, though really an arm of the sea) three miles wide, with gentle côteaux rising on both sides of it, covered with numerous and rich trees; in one place (about Netley) with a fine timber-wood: above, the beautiful town of Southampton with its lofty spires and fine position, and to the right of it a broad creek going up from the main stream, like another river discharging itself into this. Below, dimly descried in the distance, the coast of the Isle of Wight, fronted and almost equally divided by Calshot Castle, on a narrow slip of land or spit, resembling on a smaller scale that of Hurst Castle and projecting forward from the Fawley and Exbury coast, almost half closing the mouth of the stream. We landed at the nearest point of the shore to Netley Abbey: and had only about a quarter of a mile to walk when we reached that celebrated ruin; which is finely situated in a little hollow or basin, among beech woods and slopes covered with corn fields. We staid nearly two hours examining the Abbey; which is even finer than Bolton Priory, in Wharfedale, being about double its size, and equally perfect.87 Unlike Bolton, it consists not of one, but of several large apartments. You enter through a square court yard, bounded by a noble row of arches; from this you pass into the largest apartment which is itself larger than all Bolton taken together, and in fine preservation. At each end an immense Gothic window rises to an enormous height: a row of fine arches bounds it on the further side, and on the nearer towards the centre of the building much of the groining of a vaulted passage remains: in the middle of this side is a recess, of which one side is open, the other three are perfect, consisting of two stories of arches of the lightest and most elegant Gothic, with much even of the ornaments remaining: the stone staircase in one of the turrets is still practicable, and you can climb by it up to the first story, and walk round the three sides of the recess and in various directions over the solid wall. In addition to the usual accompaniments of a ruin, the ivy, etc., all parts of the interior of this building have, I presume by the good taste of some former possessor, been planted with noble ash trees: there must be between twenty and thirty of them, the most beautiful I ever saw, and probably the tallest: a glorious sight even independently of the ruin, and which besides the shelter they give to it and receive from it, mix their transparent spreading boughs in the most graceful manner conceivable with the finest parts of the ruin, and contribute greatly to give it that tranquil yet wild and deserted air which harmonizes so well with the other parts of the scene. There are various other apartments besides those I have mentioned, which seem to have been rendered habitable after the great building was in ruins: many of the arches have been bricked up and the walls plastered over: but this barbarizing process has been in part reversed, the plaster and brickwork partially pulled down and the old wall and arches exposed, which in those places has been preserved from decay, and looks as fresh as if it were built yesterday. The old parts of the Abbey are of a loose crumbling sandstone, with here and there a column which appears to have been ornamental, of a shell limestone, resembling Retworth marble; I suppose it is Purbeck stone. There are outlying buildings where the vaulting and groining are still more perfect, perhaps were originally still finer, than in the main building. I have given a most imperfect and lame description of this beautiful ruin, but no description can do it justice: from every point, external or internal, it is a mine of wealth and delight to the artist: it is also a place where (if tourist and sight-seers could be but for so long a time excluded) one might dream and muse for a whole summer day; and a poet might perhaps derive inspiration from time so passed, though to any one else, if in the full vigour of his health and faculties, it would be a scarcely justifiable piece of indolent self-indulgence. The tracing of the windows, and many other of the minute ornaments, are considerably less perfect in their preservation than at Bolton: but the difference is far more than made up by the greater magnitude, the more complicated and artistical plan of the structure, and the noble mixture of so many lovely ash trees, more lofty than the loftiest parts of the building and blending with it in a harmonious mixture which to be completely felt must be seen.—On leaving the ruin, we descended to the water’s edge, along which there is a beautiful path, to the ferry by which you cross the creek already noticed. To our right we had a beautiful verdant côteau, clothed with wood except where it is crowned by the elegant residence of Mr. Chamberlayne,88 in the purest taste, perhaps, of any very recent edifice that I have seen in England. To our left, the magnificent estuary, still nearly at high water: it is one of the disadvantages of Southampton as of the Lymington coast, that except when the water is near its highest a vast extent of mud is discovered, bare, or green only with the Salicornia herbacea, the light and bright verdure of which takes off a little from the deformity. But of this we at present saw nothing. After being ferried across the creek, which considered as a creek, terminates very little higher up, we came almost immediately upon what seems to be the public promenade of the town of Southampton; it lies along the water’s edge, has a raised gravel walk with various seats, and is planted with trees, though of no very great magnitude or beauty. It is however a pleasant place to saunter in the evening. We entered Southampton under the gateway of an old castle which (like that of Norwich) is used as a county gaol: and came at once upon the quay, from which we walked up the High Street, and were much struck with its length, and its prosperous and cheerful appearance. Southampton is certainly one of the largest, and one of the handsomest towns in the South of England; and one of the few large country towns which make one feel a desire to live in them. There seems nothing very remarkable in its public buildings, and except the churches, which are of a size and splendid appearance (I speak only of the outside, not having been in the interior of any of them) reminding one of the churches in the North of England, where the common churches of a country town are not inferior in size, and decidedly superior in architecture, to the cathedrals in the South. A large gate-way, in the Gothic stile but not I should think very old, with some grotesque figures and two strange fresco paintings of knights in armour from the local romance Sir Bevis of Hampton,89 divides the High Street, and the town; which are distinguished into “above-bar,” and “below bar.” Besides the High Street, which is of great length, there are various cross streets of no mean dimensions. The place seems busy, and prosperous; and its many inns look almost splendid.
A rainy Sunday at a country inn. We had many schemes for passing this day, which still remained to us at the expiration of our tour; but they were all knocked on the head by a continued, though light, rain, and we were thrown upon our own resources: fortunate in having not lost an hour by rain in the whole tour up to this time, nor had even one drop of it except the one day when we arrived at Christchurch (and a flying shower the next day before we started) but still not very well pleased with our lot, being in a situation of which those who have never been in it (who I trust are many) may be aided in gaining some conception by Washington Irving’s description in the Sketch-book.90 Southampton would have afforded many resources on any other day, but today every thing was shut up; neither books nor newspapers were to be had: however, we still survive having found various occupations, of which one was that of finishing this journal. We had a short walk in the evening in the immediate environs.
Returned to town by the vulgar road, in the common stage-coach fashion.
Walking Tour of Cornwall
MS, private (photocopy, Mill-Taylor Collection, Add. Mat. II, M511), first notebook; Mill-Taylor Collection, Vol. XXXVII, second notebook. Mill was alone until Falmouth, where he was joined by John and Sarah Austin for the main part of the tour. “Austin was very ill for a time in Cornwall but recovered, and was completely set up in health and spirits by a little tour to the Land’s End in which I accompanied him and Mrs Austin” (EL, XII, 129 [to Carlyle, 22 Oct., 1832]). As not published in Mill’s lifetime, not listed in his bibliography.
3rd October 1832
Set out from Polvellen near Looe in East Cornwall, on a journey to the western extremity of the county. I intended to be taken up at Liskeard, due north of Looe, by a cross mail which goes from Devonport to Falmouth and employs the whole day in that journey. With this view I proceeded up the estuary of the Looe river.
The south coast of Cornwall, of which nothing is known to those who have only travelled the great road through Launceston and Bodmin, is a very peculiar and singularly beautiful part of England. On the one hand, no or almost no part of the English coat presents so remarkable a succession of long bold promontories projecting far into the sea, alternating with capacious and noble bays deeply indenting the rocky main-land. Beginning with the Start near Torbay, the most noted of these headlands are the Ram-head near Plymouth, the Deadman or Dudman near St. Austel and the Lizard, which is the most celebrated of all, and which will receive particular notice in this description. Between these are others of inferior magnitude, intersecting the great bays formed by these magnificent promontories and forming bays within bays; indeed the coast never seems to start out into the sea in order to reach these great projecting points without preceding this great effort by two or three smaller ones: it does not throw out the Deadman nor the Lizard at one bound: these names denote the extreme points of a succession of headland beyond headland, still preserving a singular unity and continuity of direction, not only the principal cape but each successive one pointing almost due south. The whole coast rises abruptly from the seashore to a considerable height; it is not strictly perpendicular, and is even covered with pasture of a rough mountainous character; but from its rocky aspect it wears a wonderfully bold appearance, greatly aided by the long projecting lines which proceed from it directly to meet the sea: and where it touches the water it is worn at all the more prominent points into slate cliffs of rugged and quaint aspect though of no great height, upon which as upon many sunken rocks or insulated masses of the same substance the waves dash and break most imposingly.
Inland, the country when seen from a considerable elevation, has the appearance, not of a level country with hills rising here and there above it, but of tableland with valleys sinking below it. The highest land of the country is an elevated line of granite rock, forming in its higher regions scenery analogous to that of Dartmoor: it connects with Dartmoor itself, and terminates at the Land’s End. From this long and lofty ridge, towards the sea, the country certainly is not level, for it gradually declines till it ends in the rocky elevated coast which I have already described: but on the whole its slope is gradual. It is however intersected at very short distances by glens or chasms, similar to the Baranca’s which divide the great plateau of Mexico. These begin almost from the central ridge, and mostly grow constantly deeper as they descend; so that many of them (paradoxically enough) are deepest where the high ground which encloses them is lowest, namely at the sea. They make no conspicuous figure in the general aspect of the country, seen from above; thus seen, they must strike every one by their number, but each in itself is but a small feature in the landscape. When, however, one of these valleys is observed from within itself, especially by a spectator placed halfway up one of their hilly sides, they are seen to be, as they in fact are, one of the most strikingly beautiful and remarkable objects in this or in any country.
These glens are invariably extremely narrow, and the ascent on both sides of them extremely steep. This brings the two sides of the glen very close together, thus adding not only to their abruptness but to their apparent size: as much as a mountainous country loses if its mountains slope gradually and are far apart, until like Craven it becomes as tame and insipid as any plain; so does a district of greatly inferior elevation assume the character of mountain scenery, when each hill rises from the very base of another and starts so directly up that their summits seem almost as close together as their bases. Nearly the whole of both sides of these mountain-defiles is thickly clothed with wood. If the high parts of Cornwall are commonly naked of trees (though not so utterly bare and destitute of them as exaggerated representations would lead us to believe) the deficiency is well made up by the rare exuberance and richness of the woody clothing which lines every one of the baranca’s. The wood, indeed, seldom rises to the dignity of timber; never, I might say, except where a portion of the hill-side has been subtracted from the general purposes of cultivation and formed into an ornamental park or grounds. These are naturally the most beautiful spots of all. But the thick oak copse covering an entire side or both sides of the glen, is also extremely striking. Here and there a patch is vacant of wood, not, however, oftener (if so often) than conduces to the greater beauty of the scene: these patches if in the narrow valley itself are commonly little pieces of meadow-land watered by the beautifully clear trout-stream or rivulet, which is invariably found at the bottom of these rocky dells: but in the higher part of the dell the copse generally crosses from one hill to the other, filling up the whole valley, and the rivulet gurgles down the rocks in the midst of trees or bushes, less often seen than heard. On the hillside these open spaces are either little districts of cheerful corn-fields and orchards, or if left unravaged by the plough, are covered with the most luxuriant growth of furze. The giant-furze of spring, and the dwarf one of autumn, abound equally; and the latter, in all South Devon and Cornwall, makes the country as yellow and as fragrant as its elder brother does in spring: a property which I have never known it to possess elsewhere. The green of the furze-plant when not in flower is also beautiful and conspicuous in these lovely spots, beyond any I ever saw.
When, in descending these valleys towards the sea we came low enough to meet the tide, our trout-stream or rivulet in every one of the more important valleys is converted into an estuary. The defile then widens, and leaves a broader space for the tide, which fills it entirely up, and at high-water kissing the very foot of the trees, leaves little or actually nothing to be seen except water, wood and sky.
Of these estuaries the finest is said to be that of Fowey, one of the two or three fine places in Cornwall which even after the conclusion of this tour I have not seen. As it is impossible to set any limits to the beauty of scenery, I will not affirm that this cannot possibly be more beautiful than Looe. But Looe is eminently so, and of its general character the following description may convey some idea.
Looe Bay, in the widest sense of the term, is the immense sinus included between the Ram Head1 a little west of Plymouth, and the Deadman or Dudman. These extreme boundaries of the Bay form part of all the extensive views of it: From a few higher spots may be descried at a greater distance, the still more southerly headlands of the Start and the Lizard. At the very inmost point, the best therefore for taking a survey of the entire Bay, is the entrance of the Looe river: which is also the central point of a smaller bay included within the other, and which alone I believe is strictly called Looe Bay. Nearly off the entrance of the harbour is a little green island, at no great distance from the shore, inhabited by a single family, and the shape and position of which led Mr. Austin to compare it not unaptly, to an enormous whale stranded on a shoal. The Looe river issues into the Bay between two high hills, like a mere river; the narrow defile is nearly filled by the river itself the remainder is occupied by the curious old slate-roofed fishing towns of East and West Looe, of boroughmongering notoriety,2 connected by a long narrow ancient stone bridge, and having from some points a most picturesque effect, particularly in twilight, with which time of day the dim grey colour of the slate appears to me to harmonize peculiarly. East Looe in particular, seen from half way up the hill on the West Looe side, is so closely hemmed in between the steep eminence, the river and the sea, that it actually seems as if built in the water. The estuary, strange as it may appear, is not at the mouth of the river, but above; the river itself being the outlet of a larger expanse of water. Almost immediately above Looe Bridge, the channel expands, and not only widens into an arm of the sea in its main direction, north and south, but sends up another of equal magnitude westward; to one who stands at the junction of the two or at any other point except the few which command a direct view of the outlet and of the sea, the whole when the tide is up has the appearance in the greatest perfection, of an inland lake, out of which rise at once and abruptly on all sides, the finely wooded hills already mentioned. The western branch of the estuary is winding and the valley which contains it is one of the finest of all the baranca’s: far beyond the reach of the tide it forms the valley of a little and most beautiful stream, affording scenery which combines with the general and uniform character of which I have attempted to give an idea, the most agreeable variety in the details. In the angle between the two estuaries rise the woods of Trenant Park: these were once fine timber, but are now copse like the rest: the park itself, which is the more beautiful because park scenery is so opposite in character to what I have been describing, looks in the contrary direction. At the angular point there peeps out of the wood, near the top of the hill, a kind of summer-house with a grass slope before it, commanding one of the finest views of the water below and the hills above. At the foot of the hill just underneath, close to the water’s edge, is a neat new old-English cottage inhabited I believe by a gamekeeper or other servant of Mr. Hope,3 the owner of Trenant, and purchaser of East Looe but three years before it was disfranchised. The only time I ever was at the cottage, there was nobody in it but one of the prettiest little girls I ever saw, who though not more than ten years of age (I should think) seems to take occasional charge of the ferry-boat. Just opposite to this point, at the foot of the hill which separates this branch of the estuary from the sea are the house and prettily laid-out grounds of Mr. Charles Buller, which rejoice in the name of Polvellen. From this place I was now setting out to ascend the course of the Looe river towards Liskeard.
There is a road from East Looe along the side of the estuary: this road is covered at high water, when the rocky hill covered with trees and bushes is actually washed by the tide: but except for a few hours every day it is passable, and is by far the shortest road. I followed this road to a fork in the valley, where it sends up a tributary dell to the east, of no great length but exquisitely beautiful: almost entirely occupied by the park, woods and plantations of Morval, the seat of John Buller Esq.4 the head of the Buller family, and late patron of the borough of West Looe. Higher up than this fork in the main valley, the estuary speedily terminates, and Looe river is replaced by the Looe and Liskeard canal; which of course in some degree mars the beauty of the valley by the great number of man’s roughest and least ornamental works which are always connected with a navigable canal; but the windings of the glen, the great height of the hills which enclose it (for the country is already in this place much higher than the coast while the valley does not rise near so rapidly) and the beautiful woods with which many parts of the hill-sides are clothed, render even this extremely fine. The most striking spot is, I think, near the foot of an eminence somewhat higher than the rest of the high ground and which from its superiority of height and the fragments of rock which peep out at the summit is dignified with the name of a Tor. Tregallan Tor is something like the name, but I do not know the exact spelling. The word mamelon which in French is sometimes applied to a particular kind of hill, would exactly suit most of the Tors in Cornwall, particularly those of the granite moors.
I however did not follow the main valley, but the collateral one, and passed through the woods of Morval, perhaps (all things considered) the loveliest spot of ground I have seen in the county: I do not mean the most striking, but the most attaching, and abounding most in delightful home views. After quitting Mr. Buller’s domains I ascended the high ground, and kept it all the way to Liskeard.
It is dull work describing every inch of a country: The only way to be endurable is to select such particulars as will suggest a conception of the rest. The road to Liskeard is through a cultivated country, rather pretty than ugly, but not remarkable, on the high ground of Cornwall, and on the whole gradually rising. Two or three miles beyond Liskeard in the same direction you ascend to the top of the granite range: in an interesting part of it too, near the curious block of granite called the Cheesewring, and the Druidical stones, called the Hurlers. But the road to Falmouth, into which I struck at Liskeard, runs westward along the heights instead of climbing to the top of them. Of this road I can give but a very general description, for I travelled it in a rainy day, and the clouds and mist which hung about the hills rendered it difficult to see more than that we first crossed a rather bare cultivated country and then came upon rocky moors. To the left we occasionally passed the head of one of the woody glens so often mentioned; a beautiful one, in which the wood amounted to timber, lay just beyond Lestwithiel. But there was one point on the road, near St. Blazey, between Lestwithiel and St. Austel,5 which happily a suspension of the rain and mist enabled me to catch a passing view of, and which was so strikingly beautiful as to deserve special mention. A broad inlet of the sea intersected the main land far and wide, bounded on the further side as we came in sight by a double headland one stretching behind and beyond another: the furthest is the Deadman. Off the nearer cape, unless my memory deceives me, is a picturesque insular rock. Inland is a valley the richest in the vicinity, which, I am told in finer weather seems as if it had been brought from another region and dropped here. The most conspicuous object which met my eye in descending into it was a fine timber wood. But the sea-view was the glorious one, and may almost compete with the subsequent glories of Falmouth and Penzance. As a matter of curiosity only, I may mention that the little streams here appear in rainy weather to run milk-white; this I was afterwards told arose from the vicinity of beds of a fine and celebrated porcelain clay.
The towns which we passed through, Liskeard, Lestwithiel or Lostwithiel, and St. Austel have no peculiar features to distinguish them from the Cornish towns. All are slate-roofed and built with rough stones, here and there in a house better than common the stone is hewn; rather more frequently faced and edged with brick, but in general the mark of affluence is stucco. From the nature of the country all the towns are more or less picturesque, being always either on the side of a hill, or in a deep hollow between two hills. Liskeard covers the whole side of a hill; Lestwithiel is in the bottom of a deep valley ascending partly up both hills; St. Austel is on a hill side. The material here is if I may trust my recollection chiefly slate: in the remoter part of the county which we shall presently come to it is rough granite. Everywhere the church steeples both of towns and villages are simple quadrangular towers, but tall, sometimes ornamented on some of their faces, and invariably turreted with sharp points at the four angles. Sometimes though but rarely there are four smaller turret-like points in the middles of the four sides. One of these towers when situate in a high place on the bare moors, where no tree or other object comparable to it in height intercepts the view from any quarter, is a conspicuous object for many a mile, and the resemblance in colour between the edifice and the pale rock on which it is built gives rather a subdued if not a mournful character to some of the scenery of the table-land. All the towns on this road were once boroughs; Liskeard still returns one member, St. Austel none, I forget whether Lestwithiel is completely disfranchised.6 The road also passes through the well known Grampound the most ridiculously small and miserable village that can be conceived, though it is said to have doubled in size since it was disfranchised.7 The other places look thriving enough; Liskeard and Lestwithiel are chiefly or wholly agricultural towns, St. Austel is the shop of a mining district of some extent. Hereabouts therefore the ground began to be perforated, and wherever a shaft was sunk the odd looking wooden machine appeared which serves to raise and lower the baskets of ore; the only visible above-ground part of the machinery of the smaller mines.
Truro is a large thriving busy place, of a very different aspect from most of the others; it is the largest town in Cornwall, well-built with large houses and broad streets, and is a seaport by the aid of one of the branches of Falmouth water. As we entered into the valley of this estuary, we came again among woods and rich scenery. This continued all the way to Falmouth. The finest part was the valley of Perran. Leaving the valley of the Truro estuary and ascending a hill, we kept along the high ground, where looking out to our right over the immensely rich mining district of Gwennap, we saw indeed an otherwise bare moor but studded all over at small distances with single cottages inhabited by miners. Presently looking forward and to the left we saw ourselves about to descend into a deep and narrow valley containing another estuary also a branch of the great Falmouth water, which here by its many arms intersects the country in all directions. On the other side of the estuary on the summit and declivity of the hill lay stretched at length the beautiful park of Sir Charles Lemon, one of the members for the county;8 it is full of fine plantations and timber and is called Cardew. Further on, the valley contracts, and fills with wood; and the pretty little village of Perran-ar-worthal (sometimes basely corrupted into Perran Wharf) shews itself by the roadside. I regret much that the rapidity with which I was whirled past this beautiful spot, prevented me not only from seeing the details of the country but even from being sure that I have seized its general outline with correctness. I have seen few places where it would be so delightful to pass four or five days, for the purpose of exploring the neighbourhood. Mr. Richard Taylor, one of the sons of Mr. John Taylor the miner, and entrusted with the care of one of the greatest mining establishments in England the Consolidated Mines has a pretty little residence in the most beautiful part of this valley.9 His window faces the water, and beyond the water a line of steep wooded hill; and the road, also a fine object in a view, and disagreeable only when too much frequented passes along the valley close to the house. When we emerged from this valley and ascended the hill on the westernside of it we came almost immediately in sight of Falmouth harbour, and soon after saw the peninsula of Pendennis castle almost closing up its mouth; the town of Penryn stretched on the long side of a hill to our right, and descended to its foot to meet the principal arm of Falmouth water, along which we held our course for about two miles further to Falmouth itself, with the water on our left, and the little town of Flushing beyond forming a fringe between the estuary and a high steep hill.
Thus far have I ventured though without much confidence of success, to attempt to convey an idea of what I saw; but here I hardly dare proceed further, so impossible do I feel it to make any one who has not seen Falmouth and its harbour, comprehend what it is that renders them so enchantingly beautiful. Yet having once begun I am ashamed to turn back. Conceive then the bold lofty coast which I have before attempted to describe, but here, though without any diminution of its boldness smoothed down into its softest and gentlest forms. Imagine a break in this line of coast forming not a bay, but a broad spacious harbour of which the opening next the sea would be its longest side, were it not that from the western side, and facing you as you look down the harbour a low isthmus juts out from the main-land and suddenly rises into a tall majestic rock somewhat like Gibraltar in character and crowned by Pendennis Castle, an ancient building still used for purposes of defence. This peninsula covers so much of the harbour that not more I should think than one-third of the natural opening remains, and from many points this outlet being masked, the land-locked harbour appears an inland lake. Behind the peninsula of Pendennis Castle lie securely moored, in water which the most violent storm can do little more than ruffle, twenty or thirty of the lightest and most elegant little vessels in the world, in the shape of Post Office packets lying so gracefully in the water that even a landsman must needs fall in love with them. The harbour-mouth is of extraordinary depth. A long bold promontory juts out from the land-side and divides from one another the two noble estuaries which by their junction form the harbour. One of these estuaries, directly opposite to the harbour mouth, forms a long arm of the sea which extends to Truro, and a fork of it eastward to Tregony. Perran water is also I believe a branch of this. The other properly Falmouth water, extends only two miles inland to Penryn, which with its glittering slate roofs lies stretched on the hill at the water-head. It is almost one town with Falmouth which is a long closely-packed town pressed close between the harbour and the hill-side, beginning at the isthmus and extending far up the estuary; and opposite where Falmouth ends, the still more cheerful little town of Flushing begins, once more frequented by invalids for the sake of a Cornish climate and because it is so sheltered from the east. This nearly fills the space between Penryn and Falmouth. From every eminence you see all three at once. The Truro branch I scarcely saw, not having time to ascend to Pendennis castle from which it is best seen and which Mr. and Mrs. Austin, whom I joined at Falmouth, had seen before I arrived. But I put across the harbour in a boat, with Mr. Austin, to Trefusis Park, near the end of the promontory which separates the two estuaries. From hence we had a fine view of the harbour mouth, and the open sea over and beyond Pendennis Castle. Though the high Castle Rock is bare, the isthmus is finely wooded; Mr. Robert Fox,10 a wealthy Quaker of great influence in Cornwall, has a fine house and grounds there which I should much like to see: the timber we saw probably forms part of his grounds. But across this isthmus we could see finest of all, the coast, high and rocky, still trending away to the south, forming as at St. Blazey, one headland beyond another and a third beyond both, to us invisible, the Lizard. Altogether this scene, though all its features were bold and some even grand—such as the peninsular rock and the sea, which is always so,—had its character of majesty entirely merged in one of overpowering beauty. A more exhilarating scene of mere landscape I never expect to live to see nor one to which I could oftener recur without any diminution of delight.
We started this morning early for Penzance by the mail for there is a mail from Falmouth to Penzance. We followed the Falmouth water to Penryn, and then ascended the hill by the main street of that town. Falmouth is busy, thriving, and neat, though with very narrow streets. Penryn is comparatively shabby, though the streets are wide; and by no means bears out when you are in it, the beauty of its appearance from the river. Its corrupt constituency has been thrown into the new and pure one of Falmouth, and both together are to return two members.11 Falmouth previously had none, though, as I had almost forgotten to mention the paltry village of St. Mawes lying over-against it quite across the harbour had the honour of being a borough.12 Penryn is the chief port for the exportation of Cornish granite. That of which the new London Bridge is built, was quarried close to this place.
On quitting Penryn we emerged upon the granite moors; and saw nothing else in all the West of Cornwall except immediately on the coast. In the general form and features of this moorland country there is nothing very striking. It is not abrupt but undulating, and rises by gentle swells rather than sudden starts. There are however almost always numerous and considerable eminences within sight though wavy and roundish in their shape and aspect. The highest and most conspicuous of these are Carn-math, (very near the Consolidated Mines) and Carn-brek,13 not far distant from the former. Carn (previously the same with Cairn) seems to be exactly synonymous with the Devonshire (and Derbyshire) word Tor. The country generally but the eminences or Carns more particularly, are covered with great projecting masses of the moor-stone (as Cornish people call the granite) sometimes jutting out from the rocky substratum, sometimes lying in vast blocks upon the surface: on these nothing grows, save in the crevices; elsewhere herbage, at least furze and turf both good enough for burning, are found. Here and there an inclosed field produces a greener pasturage; sometimes but rarely the more fertile spots are converted into arable; but the moor whether cultivated or not does not lie open, an indefinite expanse, but is everywhere divided into small patches by inclosures either of loose pieces of granite more or less carefully piled, or of such fragments and sods combined. It is, as I afterwards learned, the practice hereabouts, to assign these patches of moorland to the poorer inhabitants of the parish, so that each may know where he is at liberty to cut turf and furze for fuel and how much there is for him to cut. In almost every inclosed piece of pasture, it is the practice to put up a large thin hump of granite near the middle for the convenience of the cattle, namely that they may rub against it: this is probably found necessary in consequence of the absence of trees: these stones amount almost to a feature in the scenery and have often a grotesque effect. It is very common to find here, and in all the West of Cornwall, upright pieces of granite of various sizes, with crosses or other religious emblems carved on them, but almost effaced by age: the stones are generally rounded at the tip thus and are supposed to have been intended mostly to point out the way to church.
In a hollow about mid-way between Falmouth and Penzance, running north and south like all the other glens and descending to the sea, is the town of Helston or Helleston, one of the boroughs redeemed (I think) from total disfranchisement14 when taxes came to be considered as well as population: we all agreed that it is very nearly the neatest town we ever saw; every thing about it speaks of comfort and cleanliness: it would seem to be a place to which people retire and fix their residence when they have saved a little money. Helston is a place renowned throughout the county for eating: to borrow Arthur Buller’s joke,15 you have sucking pigs for side-dishes, and are helped thrice to goose. There is a week of incessant feasting in every year, which some have likened to the ancient Floralia,16 and have even supposed that the Roman custom may have lingered among the ancient Britons in this remote part of the island where the British population has never diffused. The festival begins with a grand scene of merriment, on I forget what day in May, on which it appears that the whole people of the town, higher classes and all, sally out into the country under the guise of bringing from thence the old woman (who the old woman is I forget, though it was elaborately explained to me) and boughs are gathered and there is dancing and all sorts of antics. The valley of Helston has some trees in it, and some cultivation, and might pass for rich in the midst of these moors.
Beyond Helston there is nothing remarkable until the traveller comes in sight of Mount’s Bay. But this is the most glorious scene of all and must be described not as it at first appears but as it is.
The south-western extremity of Cornwall, as may readily be seen by examining the map, is almost exactly similar in its proportions to the southern extremity of Italy, and may be likened to a foot, of which the Land’s End is the toe, and the Lizard the heel. Mount’s Bay, so named from the remarkable insular rock called St. Michael’s Mount, forms the arch contained between these two extremities, and corresponds to the Bay of Tarentum; to which, in its shape and position, I should imagine it to be a reduced but accurate likeness. It is not landlocked like Falmouth Harbour, but presents a broad open front to the sea. Its form is that of a fine sweeping curve, almost a semi-circle, but that its boundary on the east is the longest and straightest of the promontories of Cornwall, that of the Lizard, which seen across the Bay seems a smooth unvarying wall, never varying from its direction, never altering its height. At the inmost point of the Bay is the little town of Marazion, or Marketjew, from which to St. Ives or Hayle on the northern coast close to the Bristol Channel it is not five miles across. This narrow isthmus, comparatively but little elevated above the sea in any part, incloses the peninsula of St. Just and the Land’s End.
Over against Marazion, about a quarter of a mile from the shore at high water, but connected with it by a causeway passable by carts at low water rises the precipitous rock of St. Michael’s Mount, crowned formerly by a convent, which was an offset from the monastery of Mont Saint Michel, perched on a rock of a similar kind off the coast of Normandy. A chapel and Gothic dwelling house belonging to Sir John St. Aubyn, have now replaced the remains of the convent.17 These buildings cover the entire summit of the rock which is about 250 feet high and with difficulty accessible, except where an access has been made to it on the side next the main-land. On this side, where the rock is somewhat less precipitous than on the others, there is a little space sufficient for two or three houses between the rocky cliff and the water: and on this side also by erecting walls in the sea itself a little harbour has been constructed, sufficient to shelter two or three small ships. The rigging of these little vessels lying off the Mount adds considerably to the picturesque effect.
As we descended the hill towards Marazion on a splendid autumnal morning, the picture which gradually opened to us had the Mount for its foreground; the beautiful bay lighted up by the sun into the most brilliant blue, its waves rolling in long lines upon the shore, and the sweep of the elegantly curved sandy beach were the middle, and the background was formed by the wild-looking ascent of the peninsula of the Land’s End, forming the western boundary of the bay, with no less than three sea port towns, Penzance, Newlyn, and Mousehole, glittering in the sunbeams at its feet. Immediately round the bay the country was no longer moor-land, but pasturage and occasionally arable; in the sheltered hollows there were trees, of no inconsiderable numbers and dimensions for the country. On the heights indeed the violent gales and the vicinity of the sea prevent many trees from growing, and those which do grow make but a pitiful figure. From Marazion to Penzance (about three miles) the road lies along the sandy beach, which abounds in maritime plants.
Penzance is one of the busiest, and one of the liveliest little towns I ever saw: as the shop for a considerable mining district, the place of export for much of its produce and of import for what it consumes, and a considerable fishing place besides, it is the most active little place for its size, perhaps, in the West of England. But of Penzance, more on our return; for as the weather was unsettled, and as this day happened to be extremely fine, we resolved to profit by it, and push on to the Land’s End at once to which end we hired a very convenient car at Pearce’s Hotel. Notice to all travellers who read this: At Penzance, Falmouth, Truro, or Barnstaple, be sure to enquire for Pearce’s Hotel. There are four Pearces,18 near relations I believe all brothers, who keep large inns in these several towns, and as their inns are invariably the best in the place I wish there were a Pearce in every town in England.
The village nearest to the Land’s End is Sennan,19 to which the direct road is through another village named St. Buryan, on the highest point of the peninsula, of which the high square steeple may be seen from every part of the neighbourhood. It was our purpose however not to go straight to the Land’s End itself but to make a circuit by all the more interesting points of the coast. We ascended the long and steep hill above Penzance by an oblique road leaving the fishing town of Newlyn under our feet, and enjoying as often as we turned our heads, a noble view of the Bay, the Mount and the Marazion coast. We emerged upon the heights near the steeple of the little village of Paul, and near the only clump of trees (I believe) on the whole table-land of the peninsula. The trees are tolerably high but quite bare even so early in the autumn, and the branches seemed scanty and stunted. A tree exposed to the sea gales is always a strange abortion; in the struggle between the south-west wind and the powers of vegetation, the former always comes best off. The moorland scenery was here in its greatest purity; not dreary on account of its novelty and singularity, and because the extreme mildness of the climate and the balmy genial feeling of the air even when the wind blew hard, excluded the feeling of coldness and bleakness. The inclosures are here wholly of rough granite; and the monuments of Catholic are mixed with those of Druidical superstition. A Druidical circle of upright stones (nine only, I believe, in number, though the circle is very complete) stands in a field hard by the road: there are called the Merry Maidens, and the tradition is that they were turned into these stones while dancing on a Sunday: a similar superstition exists respecting the great upright stones called the Hurlers near the Cheesewring, on the moors between Liskeard and Launceston. At no great distance from the Merry Maidens are two much larger stones, upright like the others but three or four times higher than the upright stones one of which is placed in every field: these two, which are fantastic and peculiar in their shape, are called the Pipers, a name probably expressive of the relation in which they originally stood to the nine dancing damsels. At about four miles from Penzance, we descended into another of the little valleys running down to the sea, to which we were now so much accustomed. This valley contains two or three farmhouses, and a sufficient number of trees to render it when contrasted with the moors, almost rich. A little stream gurgles down it, making miniature cascades and producing verdure wherever it flows: the stream and the valley terminate in the beautiful Lemorna Cove,20 whose “fair form”21 is worthy of a name so fair. It is a miniature bay, inclosed between two projecting points of the high granite shore, and concealed on the landside by cliffs to the right and left and by the rapid rise of the secluded valley in the middle which also by a slight change of its direction causes the cove to be partly masked by a projecting point of rock. The cliffs are not nearly so bold as those we afterwards saw though the large blocks of granite which cover the hill sides are always striking: but it would be impossible or very difficult to scramble round either of the points, so that the seclusion is complete. The sea was here of a deep blue rare in our climates, and which Mr. Austin said reminded him of the Mediterranean. The scene was not grand but singularly beautiful. The little narrow point where the valley joined the sea—beach I cannot call it—was covered wtih huge lumps of granite, rounded like pebbles by the waves and giving a tremendous notion of the seas which could achieve such a feat. But these cannot be our modern seas, if as we were afterwards told by Mr. Carne,22 the geologist, of Penzance, it be true that wherever these boulders (as they are termed) are found on the coast, a great bed of similar ones is discovered underground in the interior.
After leaving Lemorna Cove we reascended the heights, and after another journey of about four miles more, again descended to the coast at the Logan Rock. In a great part of this interval we were surprised to find the country declining very gently on our left and extensively laid out in arable: there is here also an attempt at even an inclosed and wooded pleasure-ground, belonging to a gentleman of the name (I think) of Paynter.23 But before we reached the Logan Rock, the coast had again become much bolder and more rocky than at any place previous. We descended to the Logan Rock by a footpath across several grass fields, from which nobody would form any expectation of the striking objects to which he is approaching here as well as at the Land’s End; the precipitous rocks are not visible till you are almost close to them and cannot be adequately seen until you are actually among them; nor is the apparent elevation above the sea, such as leads you to expect anything remarkable on the water’s edge. But the cluster of rocks deriving its name from one remarkable stone, the Logan Rock; and also the still finer cluster of rocks at the Land’s End; form each of them a little peninsula, connected with the land by an isthmus much lower than itself; projecting sufficiently to form on each side a Bay, and to command across each of these bays, a direct view of the granite cliffs of the principal coast. By reason of their prominent position in the sea, and of their peninsular form the waves not only break upon them but dash around them, and the long lines of surf which break upon the shore of the bay, may be seen gradually advancing one behind another from a great distance, viewed as they are from this advanced post, or watch-tower. The Land’s End however being still finer than the cluster of rocks about the Logan stone, I shall reserve a more particular description for the former.
The Logan stone itself is only one of the upper blocks of an immense pile of granite, consisting or rather seeming to consist of masses heaped one upon another. The wonder of this stone consists in resting upon a single point, and being so nicely balanced upon it that a man by using his strength may set it slightly rocking: but it stands firm and no hurricane was ever known to blow it down though a foolish Lieutenant of the Navy named Goldsmith in the wantonness of destruction so characteristic of Englishmen in their idle hours set nine men to overthrow it and by their united strength succeeded.24 Government very properly required Lieutenant Goldsmith to replace it, and the Dockyard at Devonport furnished the requisite machinery; the thing was successfully accomplished and the stone now stands as it did before, all but a few chips which were broken off by the fall. The formation of this stone, as well as of the Cheesewring, is no mystery to any one who has ever seen a granite moor. The natural progress of decay in the rock itself, is perpetually producing approaches to Logan stones as well as approaches to Cheesewrings. The fact is, though I know not how to account for it, that the granite invariably wears away in horizontal fissures: so that a pile of solid granite if left to itself seems always to end by assuming the aspect of a series of blocks lying one upon another. As it seems moreover almost always to wear the most rapidly in the lower parts, the case of a larger block resting upon a smaller is decidedly more common than the reverse case. The Cheesewring is but a series of such blocks diminishing downwards. This property of granite gives a very singular effect to granite cliffs: they often bear a striking similarity to piles of ancient masonry: odd resemblances to towers, and antique castles, are perpetually occurring: near Lemorna Cove there is one enormous upright block of granite, with ivy growing out of the clefts, which it is hardly possible not to mistake for part of the wall of some gigantic ruin. Now, these horizontal fissures once formed, have a tendency always to increase: most of the blocks of granite are greatly undermined and some of them already rest on a basis not much greater than the Logan Rock, the superincumbent mass being separated all round from the living granite below, save at a spot in the middle, comparatively little more than a point.
We left the Logan Rock, returned to the road, did not trouble ourselves to deviate from it in order to go down to another point of considerable though inferior interest, called the Old Land’s End, because it was once supposed to be the most westerly point: its local name is Tol-pedn-Penwith. The principal peculiarity of the spot is I believe a funnel-shaped hole in the rock. We proceeded straight to Sennan, from whence we ran down that same night to the Land’s End, about three quarters of a mile distant. But I reserve the description for the next day’s journal.
We passed the night in a little inn at the village of Sennan called the First and Last Inn in England. The sign-board bears on the side next the Land’s End, the words “The First Inn in England”; on the opposite side “The Last Inn in England.” This sounds romantic, but unfortunately it is not now true, whatever it may have been formerly; for there is another inn next door, on the Land’s End side, which belies the sign-board to its face; so that it should resign its sign-board to the other, or alter it to “The Second Inn in England” and “The last but one.” It might also inscribe itself “the best but one”, or the “second best inn in Sennan”, for the other, though more humble in appearance, is cleaner and better kept. It seems that there are almost always persons staying in both these inns, and often more candidates than can easily be accommodated; either for pleasure or health. There is one very neat well-built private house at Sennan; but the village (a church-town as they call the chef lieu of a parish in the west of Cornwall) as well as another village near the Logan Rock which is not a church-town, have by no means the neatness generally found in a Cornish village, but (except in the better construction of the houses and the well-glazed windows) do not differ much from one’s ideal of an Irish village. I notice this not as the rule but as the exception.
This day though not so fine as the preceding, but on the contrary, a rainy day on the whole was yet favorable, as it held up whenever we wanted it, and even afforded gleams of sunshine in almost every spot where there was anything remarkable for them to illuminate.
The Land’s End is as I have already mentioned, a rocky peninsula; to which you descend from a flat heath which until you come to its very edge, appears to overhang the sea. When you think you have reached the sea, you have in reality reached the beginning of a narrow grassy isthmus, to which you descend abruptly and which conducts you to the quaint and at the same time magnificent group of upright granite rocks. The isthmus is bounded on both sides by precipices: it is however broad enough to pass over without an atom of danger, except perhaps in case of a tempest setting exactly across it. But the common wind, the south west, sets not across but along it. Once however a certain General Arbuthnot25 undertook for a wager to ride his hunter along the isthmus into the rocky peninsula and did so, but in returning his horse being frightened or accidentally disturbed, reared on the very edge of the precipice and fell over among the rocks in the sea. The rider was saved by catching hold of a point of rock as he fell. The last prints which the horse’s four feet made on the turf are kept open and the place always shewn by the pilots who volunteer themselves as guides. All this sounds romantically dangerous, but when you see the place, the only thing that surprises you is the accident; the danger nothing at all.
But the peninsula itself when you are on it is so unlike all ordinary scenery, that it is scarcely possible to convey anything like an idea of what it is, except to those who have already seen something (if anything there be) of the same character. Many have seen cliffs; some have seen rocky cliffs; but that is quite a different thing from having seen granite cliffs: a wall of granite worn, (spite of its extraordinary hardness) quite flat by the beating of the sea and of the tempest; and few there are who know the fantastic piles into which granite rocks form themselves, broken into block upon block, big upon little, mass across mass; covered moreover and even abundantly though thinly coated with a long grey lichen, called I believe old man’s beard (at least I will call it so) and in some parts carpeted with another, a closer lichen of the most brilliant yellow-red colour; mixing with huge crystals of felspar projecting out of the granite rock. Then there are many who have seen the sea, but how many have seen such a sea? The whole Atlantic driven onward by the wind meeting and breaking upon one single point; a great projecting angle of the hardest of rocks, surrounded every where by gigantic fragments of the same rock quite out at sea; on every fragment a great wave breaking every moment, diffusing itself through the air and descending again in dazzling clouds of white spray; which in the more confined corners the water getting entangled among the rocks, is actually churned till the surface is either covered with foam of the exact colour of the froth of new milk, or is positively yeasted, and lies in thick glutinous yellow froth, which cannot for some time yet dissolve again into the common water of the sea. Now stand on the extreme verge of one of the rocks, and look down, you will see the mouths of more than one rocky cavern, entirely perforating and undermining the ground on which you stand: look again seaward, and you will see the extreme point of the peninsula, but you will see it different in every different period of the tide; rock descends below rock in perpetual succession almost like a staircase, how far under low water mark no spectator can guess. Look to the left, and you will see within gunshot of the point where you stand, between you and the next turn of the coast, a long jagged rock pointing seaward and called from some fancied resemblance the Armed Knight—against which has he taken arms, the sea or the land? But now look rather to your right, and watch from far at sea the long lines of rolling water, like moving ridges of hills, advancing with their slow measured motion and spending their strength upon the beach of the little cove between you and the shore; which yet moves not, stirs not, though you would deem it must be swept away, and the majestic motion dies like the majestic sound, the most solemn surely in the whole range of creation, that sound which any objects less than the great world-elements on their largest scale would attempt in vain to imitate; a deep hollow bellowing, varied only by occasional thunder-claps when a wave instead of dying away on the shallowing beach, comes at once and suddenly with undiminished strength upon a noble rock worthy to be its antagonist: yet even this gradually expires in a faint murmur, which you are saved from hearing by the groaning of the succeeding waves long series of which are already up and following the first. The first! as if there had been a first! Since there has been a world, these breakers have succeeded one another uninterruptedly; and while there is a world they shall never cease.
Beyond the Land’s End, exactly across its direction, far out at sea though seeming near, is a line of five great rocks at short distances from one another, the first objects which the ocean meets as it rushes upon this shore: and the white foam of the breakers may be seen where you stand: some centuries ago these rocks, we cannot doubt, formed part of the main land. On one, I believe the central one, of these rocks shall we say to welcome the boisterous friendship or to defy the raging enmity of the Atlantic, is placed a lighthouse; the light you may in a dark night see from the inn-window at Sennan. It is called the Long Ship light-house, and this range of insular rocks is called the Long Ship. There is an entire poem or legend lying undiscovered in each of the picturesque names, which the fancy of seamen or of the neighbouring peasantry has given to so many of the local objects. One rock is fancifully termed Dr. Johnson’s Head.26 The Long Ship is decidedly the most striking feature which individualizes the Land’s End, and distinguishes it from all the other promontories. Over and beyond these rocks is to appearance nothing but the wide dark sea: yet reascend the heathy height, look round and on the very edge of the horizon that little gleam of brightness but half intercepted by vapours shall enable you to distinguish from the dark murky lowering clouds which hang over the horizon, the coast of several of the Scilly Isles. The two largest seem like long lines, the others like very short ones. There they lie at the distance of twenty-seven miles in a direct line, just shewing themselves above the surface of the water, as if like the coral islands of the Pacific they stood really but three or four feet above it. That tiny archipelago would be the place for sea-views and solitude! A storm in such a spot must be worth seeing. From the similitude of the strata and the exactness with which these islands conform to the direction of the granite ridge, there can be little doubt that these too originally formed part of it; but by what world-convulsion, at what wonderfully remote period, the ocean broke in and carried away at least fifty square miles of the hardest and most solid of rocks, it passes human imagination even to conceive.
Now look to the northward. Beyond the little cove already mentioned is a smaller headland, and beyond that a larger and more spacious bay called Whitsand Bay, of which hereafter. Of the bay itself little is visible from the Land’s End; but no other place affords so grand a view of the further boundary of the bay, the magnificent Cape Cornwall, which has every just right to be the true Land’s End but that it is neither the extremity of the granite range, nor lies due south west like the county nor is its extremity the most westerly point. But it looks grand from a distance, which the Land’s End does not. It is a promontory, advancing far from the coast, which has much receded to form Whitsand Bay: it is not, I believe, of granite, but a far darker rock, it is long, black, and gloomy, terminates abruptly then rises suddenly into a sharp peninsular rock and drops down as suddenly again, thus:
This being taken from memory is of course extremely inaccurate in respect of proportions, but it is quite correct in the general conception. Thus has this shore two advanced posts, each wearing its peculiar character. Let Cape Cornwall have its honours, yet the Land’s End is the Land’s End, and shall be till the waves wash it away or till its rocks moulder into dust from the quieter attacks of the atmosphere. On the edge of the heathy height at a short distance from the Land’s End, is a small house, appurtenant to one of the little inns at Sennan: from the windows of it you might, being yourself under shelter, enjoy the spectacle of a storm on the coast. The rocks close to this little resting-place are also very fine, though inferior to those of the Land’s End itself. In either place you may vary the sea view as much as you like by merely changing your position from one side to another of the same block of granite, and you may cut the ocean or the rocky coves into as many smaller pictures as you like by looking at them through the rift or crevice between two masses of rock.
After leaving Sennan, we made a circuit by the north-western part of the peninsula. On our way we went down to the beach of Whitsand Bay. This, like all Bays I ever saw, is cheerful and riant, more beautiful than grand; it needed, therefore, a ray of light to illuminate it, and draw out the brilliant colour of the “dark-blue sea”27 an expression of which I never before felt the full force. Accordingly the sun here for a while burst forth and shewed the Bay in its fullest beauty. As the name imports this bay has a beach of the purest and whitest sand I ever saw; sand which however is sharp to the feeling if blown about your face by the brisk gale, and when you examine it you find it to be pulverized granite. No shore in Cornwall or perhaps in England is so renowned for the abundance of elegant shells which may be picked up on it. The coast here is not precipitous, but a rapid grassy slope; as one might expect. It is, of course, chiefly at the projecting points that the attacks of the sea undermine and wash away the coast, which is the sole cause of all cliffs.
From Whitsand Bay we soon arrived at the “church-town” (it is actually something more than a village) of St. Just. This is not so cheerful a place as Sennan; but it is a busy place being the centre of a mining district, the only one in the peninsula of Penzance, and probably the oldest in Cornwall. It is supposed that this is the very place from which the Phenicians obtained their tin in the very earliest recorded period of the history of our island, and being imagined to be a little island like the Scilly Isles, shared with them the name of the Cassiterides or Tin Islands. These mines are now worked both for tin and copper; but it is only within a century or so that the copper works have existed, either in this or any other part of Cornwall. The mines of St. Just are on the decline, being now superseded in some degree by more fertile mines in other parts of the county: but the neighbourhood is still very populous. We went down to Botallock Mine, the celebrated one which is (or was for many years) worked under the sea; in which the miners could hear over their heads the rolling of the waves and the dashing of the pebbles at the bottom. We did not go into the mine itself, but were anxious to see the spot, which is celebrated and which was described to us by our hostess at Sennan as “clever scenery.” The situation is a little narrow cove, environed on three sides by a very steep rocky coast, approaching to cliff. Half way down one side of this are one or two of the principal shafts of the mine; and the bal-maidens (bal in Cornish means a mine) that is, the girls who wash and sort the ore, were at work in a shed immediately over looking the raging sea. These cliffs are not granite, but a trap rock, equally hard, and of the blackest hue; the hornblende predominating in its composition: and it was odd to behold28 the surge lashing over rocks which looked like over-grown lumps of coal.
Leaving Botallock and St. Just, we returned to Penzance over some of the highest ground in the peninsula: seeing, at times, the sea on three sides of us; and seeing it under circumstances eminently favorable to its effect on the imagination. Sunny seas are fine things, for the ocean is beautiful as well as sublime: but there is nothing really awe-striking but a gloomy sea. In a showery and gusty day when clouds dark as night conceal the greater part of the sea and you do not clearly distinguish how much is ocean and how much is cloud; when the sea is covered with dark streaks any one of which seems the horizon—till you perceive another behind it; then you know the grandeur of the sea. It then seems to be indeed the boundary of the earth, boundless itself; for you do not as in a clear day see the apparent verge of it, but look forth into the darkness till you can see no further, and know not what frightful or what perilous thing that darkness may conceal from you. Vagueness is of the essence of the sublime: it is therefore that darkness is sublime, light only beautiful: and hence among other reasons it is that painting so rarely attains the sublime, since it can only act in light, and through light.
A view of a very different description presented itself when, in descending from the high ground, we again came in sight of Mount’s Bay and the Lizard. The evening had now cleared, and this enchanting scene was in its highest beauty. The long line of the Lizard was so clearly defined that we could see even the forms of its cliffs; and the Lizard itself was visible; for what is seen from the Bay is not the real Lizard, which is a short promontory forming the extremity of the long one, and generally hidden by it; being considerably to the east of what seems the termination of the long straight line. We were agreeably surprised at entering Penzance by a valley filled with trees.
We passed the whole of this day in the neighbourhood of Penzance, and a greater part of it in seeing St. Michael’s Mount, to which we went with Mr. Carne, the geologist of Penzance, and his daughter; both of them remarkable people, and the latter in particular such a person as it is highly pleasing, and a little surprising, to find in this remote district.29 Of the Mount itself I have already given a general idea: and from the description I have attempted to give of the Bay, it may be conjectured what a splendid sight it is when seen from the Mount. We had the advantage of a bright sunny day, and the clearest of horizons. From this elevation we could see quite across the isthmus of Marazion to the bay or inlet of St. Ives and Hayle: at least if we could not, I am confounding this with some other view in the neighbourhood. The little fishing vessels lying in great numbers off Newlyn, reminded us of Agamemnon’s fleet.30
Marazion is but a poor place, but like almost all towns, looks well when seen from the sea. Most plausible etymological theories have been framed to explain its two names, Marazion and Marketjew. The Jews, it is said, were at an early period the principal speculators in tin, as they were the principal traders in all other exportable commodities. There is evidence that this was the principal port for the exportation of tin, and that the foreigners who traded here had a mart at this place for their meeting with those who brought down the tin from the interior. The place therefore was called Marketjew; and “Marazion” had also, through the medium of “Zion”, something to do with Jerusalem and Jews. Very good: but it unluckily happens that in an old charter, the town is spoken of by a Cornish word, which I at present forget, but which signifies neither more nor less than “Thursday-market” and which, according as the accent is laid on one syllable or another admits of an easy corruption into either of the names by which the place is now known.
This is the place at which the granite and the slate join: and the mountain-rock forming St. Michael’s Mount is composed of both. Mr. Carne pointed out to me the granite veins piercing the solid slate, and sometimes seeming to alternate with it, being themselves joined at their commencement to the main body of the granite. This is one of the facts on which the now prevailing school of geologists have founded their strongest arguments to shew that the granite was protruded in a fluid condition through the slate, making in consequence breaks in it, into which breaks the liquid granite flowed, and there solidified. The opposite school have endeavoured, but I think rather lamely, to account for the same fact on Neptunian principles.
I have formerly mentioned that the entire summit of the Mount is now occupied by a modern house belonging to Sir John St. Aubyn and erected on the site of the ancient convent. But the most recent part of the erection is, externally at least, in the gewgaw stile of the modern Gothic, and neither harmonizes with the historic associations connected with the place, nor with the feelings naturally suggested by such a scene. The architect however has done one excellent thing, he has made a glorious terrace from which to look down upon the sea and round upon the coast would be a delightful employment of an autumn day. It depended upon something like the cast of a die that I had not the option of such employment for a whole fortnight together, for Sir John St. Aubyn (who having quarrelled with his Cornish neighbours because some of them will not countenance the lady who was his mistress and is his wife,31 prefers living in the flats of Cambridgeshire or Essex, I forget which, to enjoying this noble prospect and delightful climate) never lives in this house himself, but lends it to his friends; many of whom occasionally stay there for whole weeks; and the Bullers of Polvellen had almost made up their minds to do so this autumn, in which case I should certainly have been there with them. However, it is as well or better as it is.
There is a very old tower, a part which still remains of the ancient building; it stands much higher than the rest and you ascend to it from the chapel by a long narrow winding staircase which you cannot ascend or descend but by twisting your body into a spiral like the staircase itself. When you have thus made a corkscrew of yourself quite as long as is agreeable, you with some difficulty emerge upon the summit, a little square area of leads with a sort of ditch round it, and battlements surrounding all. From this as being the highest point you can take in the whole view at once, there being nothing to intercept any part of it. At one of the corners there is what was once probably a little turret or pinnacle, intended as some say to contain a lamp: but the exterior bars (if that name can be given to stone) have long disappeared, and it is now a trial of courage to sit in it with your feet hanging down externally, where if you slip you are thrown from the top of the tower to the bottom of the precipice. This is called sitting in St. Michael’s Chair. The only difficulty is that you cannot get into the chair from the inside, and must therefore perform at that height a complicated process of turning round both in getting in and out. Whether any legend is connected with this I do not know, but the singular saying is that whoever sits in the chair ensures the prerogative of rule during the married state. I know not whether this be an ancient superstition, or a joke founded on the very probable supposition that a woman who has boldness enough to brave so much apparent danger (it is chiefly apparent) will by the exercise of the same boldness obtain (as it is ten chances to one she will deserve) the government of her husband. At the hazard of passing for cowards, and at the sacrifice of our prospects of conjugal preeminence, we unanimously forbore to fill St. Michael’s Chair. We saw no particular use in doing gratis what any one of us would readily have done for the purpose of picking up half-a-crown if we had dropped it.
The new part of the building notwithstanding its meretricious taste, is beautiful when you see it close, for nothing can destroy the beauty of walls of the purest and finest-grained granite, sparkling in the sun as if spangled with diamonds.
The interior is very tastefully laid out with oak floors and furniture in the old English stile, and some very old carvings. We were enabled to compare the Mount with some drawings of the Mont St. Michel in Normandy. In the latter the rock itself seems to be much lower, but the building much grander, being two hundred feet high, while this, rock and all, is only two hundred and fifty. The Mont St. Michel it seems is still kept up as a strong fortress, and is used as a state prison.
Our own Mount has stood a siege as it well might. A crevice in the rock was shewn us, through which the garrison were accustomed to draw up provisions and water during the siege. When the floor of the Chapel was taken up in order to restore it (which has been done with considerable taste) there was found under it a dungeon, in which was discovered a skeleton, with a pitcher beside it.
They have planted various parts of the Mount with Tamarisks, the beautiful shrub which is indigenous on the promontory of the Lizard.
There is some little mining hereabouts: Mr. Carne says that the veins are generally richest near the junction of the granite with some other rock: but this spot hardly seems to be a case in point. A shaft has been sunk considerably below high-water mark, so that when the tide is up it is surrounded by the sea, which is kept out by a coffer-dam. We were told however that this speculation had not prospered.
We were more and more pleased with the busy, but perfectly rural and cheerful look of Penzance, and the verdant and exhilarating aspect of some of the neighbouring slopes and dells, which being seen immediately after the base moors of the Land’s End, doubtless appeared richer than they would to a person fresh from the meadows and woods of the inland country. Yet wherever there is shelter there are trees, and though bare in the general and distant views, the country is by no means equally so when you examine the details. In the immediate neighbourhood of Penzance there are a considerable number of villas with inclosed and ornamented grounds, some of them as well planted and wooded as you would desire. The climate must for some constitutions be invaluable. Snow scarcely ever lies at Penzance at all, and even on the heights above the Land’s End rarely for more than three or four hours.
In the evening we walked to drink tea with Mr. Carne at his country-house (for he has a house in Penzance besides) at the “church-town” of Madron on the heights above Penzance and about two miles from it. Mr. Carne is one of the few remaining examples of the old English commercial men, who never dreamed of assuming aristocratic habits; he is understood to be very wealthy, yet lives in the simplest and most unostentatious stile. I walked out with him to the finest point of view in the whole neighbourhood, at least in what I have seen of it: a carn, or tor, or little rocky eminence surpassing the rest of the high ground; it is beautiful in itself from the furze which grows about it, and the fir plantations of Sir Rose Price32 which border on it: even fir plantations are an ornament to a country which would otherwise be bare. But the real beauty of this spot is its view of the Bay, the Mount and the promontory of the Lizard. The view on the landside is not without beauty, the forms of the eminence being here bolder than common: if that can be called the land-side which lies towards the other sea, for the Hayle coast is almost as near to this spot as the Bay is.
We had intended to complete our examination of the West of Cornwall by going this day to the Lizard, where there are several remarkable things to be seen. The long tongue of flat table land which composes the promontory is indeed in itself, according to all descriptions, somewhat tame: but the further part of it is remarkable, being composed of the curious and rare rock called serpentine, and being covered with the beautiful Erica vagans or Cornish heath which grows on no spot in England except this serpentine formation. Tamarisks, and other curious and beautiful plants, are also found here. But the great object of interest near the Lizard, is Kynance Cove, with its serpentine rocks. This has been described to us by several persons as the most striking thing in Cornwall. The serpentine instead of cleaving like the granite, stands upright, it seems, in solid pillars, variegated of red and green. But petty obstacles of various kinds connected with time, space, and conveyance, rendered this journey impracticable. We therefore passed the forenoon at Penzance, revisited the Carn of yesterday evening, and returned to Falmouth in the afternoon by the mail as we had come.
We started this morning by a day coach from Falmouth to Exeter, which leaves Falmouth very early in the morning and arrives at Exeter about half past nine in the evening. The road between Falmouth and Truro has been already described. Beyond Truro it continues pretty as far as the fork where the Bodmin road separates from that to St. Austel. From this place to Bodmin it is extremely ugly. It gradually mounts higher and higher nearly to the top of the granite ridge; the country it passes over is wet dreary sloppy moor, of the tamest character, having nothing of the singularity and interesting wildness of the moors about the Cheesewring. The wind blows so hard on these bare shelterless wastes, that if the climate were not so mild no one could possibly inhabit them. This character holds good as far as Bodmin; itself also a poor, uninteresting town, neither curious nor neat and cheerful. But on leaving Bodmin the country becomes interesting. Mere bleakness and dreariness give way to picturesque wildness; we are in the midst of high Tors like those of Dartmoor; each of these Tors with its masses of granite projecting from its sides looks like a mountain in miniature; and when you look back upon the moorland hills from the low country near Launceston the summits have a sharp abrupt outline like a range of mountains. Launceston, though a place of some size, has nothing striking about it except the one view which Turner has very successfully seized:33 this is the view up to it from the valley of the Tamar, whence it is seen on the very edge of a table land, overlooking a hollow, with the extensive ruins of the ancient castle brought into very prominent relief. From Launceston to Okehampton the country is strikingly beautiful. We first crossed the Tamar, which is here but a small river, though a large mountain stream; and whose valley, by which alone the granite hills of Cornwall are separated from those of Dartmoor, already begins to exhibit that mingled wildness and richness which characterizes it in its whole course. After ascending the opposite hill, the road for the next twenty miles lay wholly along the side of a côteau, overlooking to the right a rich valley, and beyond it, first the green, but steep and lofty hills which follow the base of the granite moors, and finally the high and noble range of Dartmoor itself. From this side, Dartmoor presents a rapid succession of Tors, bold in their outline, rising at once and abruptly from the low country, though descending beyond only to a table land. It is really a mountain range; for there may be mountains of a thousand feet high, as there may be hills of three thousand. But this country deserves, and shall one day have, a more particular examination and description. It would be unjust to attempt to characterize it from a passing view.
Okehampton is not unworthy of Turner’s fine view.34 The old ivy-covered castle-ruin, on a knoll standing upright in the midst of a deep and narrow dell, is unlike anything I ever saw. Here however it grew dark, and between this place and Exeter I could see little, except that there was much to see had there been light. The road actually touches a corner of Dartmoor, and turns round it, but does not ascend any part of the height.
This day I returned from Exeter to London by the day-coach; and from the comparative bareness of the country through which I had recently passed, thought the rich green hills of Somersetshire, and the forests of hedgerow elms, much more beautiful than I ever thought them before. So I remember being in extacy at the beauty of the Southampton road immediately after landing from Normandy.
[1 ]Commonly Chobham.
[2 ]This sentence is interlined.
[3 ]Charles II (1630-85) reigned 1660-85; Elizabeth I (1538-1603) reigned 1558-1603.
[4 ]George O’Brien Wyndham (1751-1837), 3rd Earl of Egremont, a patron of the arts, had estates in Cumberland as well as Sussex.
[5 ]The preventive service, or preventive water guard, was a coastguard service established in 1815 to prevent smuggling. Men and boats under the command of half-pay naval lieutenants were stationed on the coast of Sussex and Kent.
[6 ]The Fitzalan title, which began with Richard Fitzalan (1267-1302), 1st Earl, passed by marriage to the Howard family with Philip Howard (1557-95), 13th Earl, and then was annexed in 1660 to the Dukedom of Norfolk (held by the Howard family). As leading Roman Catholics, the Howards were enemies of the Commonwealth forces under Oliver Cromwell (1599-1658). The current head of the house was Bernard Edward Howard, 12th Duke.
[7 ]Probably John Abel Smith (1801-71), a banker and magistrate for Sussex and Middlesex, who later was M.P. for Midhurst (1830) and Chichester (1831-59).
[8 ]Elsewhere and correctly Adur.
[* ]N.B. This hill and copse are visible from Box hill, and form an excellent landmark. [Mill’s note at the foot of the page.]
[9 ]The 64 ft. viewing tower, built in 1766 by Richard Hull (ca. 1689-1772) on the highest point (965 ft.) in the county, had been rebuilt after wanton damage and raised some twenty feet in height; the top was not accessible, however, at this time.
[10 ]Mill uses both this and the more common spelling, Surrey.
[11 ]The Lordship of Lewes and its Castle date from the eleventh century, Lewes being the barony seat of the Earls of Surrey until the end of the fourteenth century. Early in the fifteenth century the Lordship was divided in three, held at the time of Mill’s visit by the Earl of Abergavenny (currently Henry Neville [1755-1843], 2nd Earl), the Duke of Norfolk (currently Bernard Edward Howard), and the Duke of Dorset (currently Charles Sackville Germain [1767-1843], 5th Duke). The site and ruins, leased in 1774 for 99 years, were at this time held by Thomas Read Kemp (ca. 1781-1844), M.P. for Lewes, 1811-16 and again 1826-37, who built Kemp Town, a suburb of Brighton.
[12 ]Kemp and John Shelley (1771-1852), who was a sitting member, were elected in 1826, defeating Alexander Donovan (1775/6-1846).
[13 ]These masonry towers, containing vaulted rooms and capped with a gun platform, were built during the Napoleonic wars at short intervals along the coast, especially in the South and East, as a defensive measure. The name comes from a tower on Cape Mortella in Corsica, which surprisingly resisted British assault in 1794.
[14 ]The guide misled the visitors: the name Herstmonceux (derived from Old English hyrst, a wooded hill, plus Monceux, the name of the lords of the manor from the twelfth century) existed before the building of the castle during the reign, 1422-61, of Henry VI (1421-71).
[15 ]Commonly Battle.
[16 ]The owner was George Ashburnham (1760-1830), 3rd Earl, the descendant of John Ashburnham (1603-71), M.P. for Hastings, made Groom of the Bedchamber in 1628 by Charles I, to whom he reported Parliament’s proceedings.
[17 ]John Jeffreys Pratt (1759-1840), 2nd Earl and 1st Marquis of Camden.
[18 ]Mill may have been using The Directory; or, The Ancient and Present State of Tunbridge Wells (Tunbridge Wells: Sprange, 1816), which mentions several details he comments on, including the rocks (p. 11), but does not make the comparison with the caverns of the robbers in Alain René Lesage (1668-1747), L’histoire de Gil Blas de Santillane, 4 vols. (Paris: Ribou, 1715-35), Vol. I, pp. 27-8 (Bk. I, Chap. iv).
[19 ]In The Directory, pp. 10-12.
[20 ]Thomas Furly Forster, Flora Tonbrigensis; or, A Catalogue of Plants Growing Wild in the Neighbourhood of Tonbridge Wells (London: Arch; Tunbridge Wells: Sprange, 1816), p. 30n.
[21 ]James Edward Smith, Flora Britannica, 3 vols. (London: White, 1800-04), Vol. I, p. 368.
[22 ]Mentioned in The Directory, pp. iv-v, though the term “showplace” is not used.
[23 ]Commonly Tonbridge.
[24 ]Thomas Sackville (1536-1608), 1st Earl of Dorset, was the first owner of Knole Castle; on the death of George John Frederick Sackville (1794-1815), 4th Duke of Dorset, it passed for life to his widow, Arabella Diana Cope, and then on her death to their daughter Mary, who was the current owner.
[25 ]The traditional account concerning James I (1566-1625), who reigned 1603-25, for which there is no firm evidence, was evidently maintained by a guide, who may have independently and improbably added James II (1633-1701), who reigned 1685-88, to the tale.
[1 ]For the basis of the comparison, see No. 1 above, entry for 12 October, 1820.
[2 ]The Mills had been at Bagshot in the autumn of 1818.
[3 ]Alexander Pope, Windsor Forest (1713), in Works, Vol. I, p. 175-7 (ll. 171-218).
[4 ]Gustave d’Eichthal (not d’Eichtal) (1804-86), at this time a Saint-Simonian apostle propagandizing in England. In his diary d’Eichthal records for 3 July: “Diner à Reading avec M. Mill et ses amis.” William Eyton Tooke (1808-30), another close friend of Mill’s at this time, committed suicide two years later.
[5 ]Later in this journal Mill uses the more common spelling, Pangbourne.
[6 ]As noted in No. 29, Mill uses both this and the more common spelling, Surrey.
[7 ]Mill appears to have written “Chakesden.”
[8 ]Usually Beaconsfield.
[9 ]See, e.g., early accounts in Robert Plot (1640-96), The Natural History of Oxfordshire (Oxford: n.p., 1677), pp. 146-8, and John Ray (1627-1705), Synopsis methodica stirpium Britannicarum (London: Smith, 1690), pp. 174-5; a nearly contemporary reference is in James Norris Brewer (fl. 1799-1829), A Topographical and Historical Description of the County of Oxford (London: Sherwood, et al., 1819), p. 308.
[10 ]The owner was in fact Robert Greenhill-Russell (ca. 1763-1836), M.P. for Thirsk 1806-32, not his cousin, William Russell (1798-1850), M.P. for Saltash 1822-26, and then for Bletchingly 1826-27. Chequers came into the Russell family when John Russell, son of Frances, the daughter of Oliver Cromwell, married Joanna Thurbarne Rivett, whose father had acquired it by marriage.
[11 ]The house had been owned by John Hampden-Trevor (1749-1824), 3rd Viscount Hampden, who had died without issue, and who was the great-great grandson of the John Hampden famed for his opposition to Charles I. When Mill saw the estate, it was in the hands of George Robert Hobart (1789-1849), the Earl of Buckinghamshire, who took the name of Hampden on inheriting the Hampden estates in Buckinghamshire.
[12 ]Robert Smith (1752-1838), Baron Carrington.
[13 ]Normally Cliveden, though Mill consistently writes Clifden.
[14 ]Now Wooburn.
[15 ]George Nugent (1757-1849), who had been Commander-in-Chief in India 1811-13, was M.P. for Buckingham 1819-32.
[16 ]George Vansittart (1745-1825), M.P. for Berkshire 1784-1812, was uncle of Nicholas Vansittart (1766-1851), Baron Bexley, who had been Chancellor of the Exchequer from 1812 to 1823, when he entered the Lords but remained in the Cabinet.
[17 ]Owen Williams (1764-1832), actually M.P. for Marlow 1796-1832, a member of the family which was joined by Pascoe Grenfell (1761-1838), M.P. for Great Marlow 1802-20 and for Penryn 1820-26, in developing the mining industry in Cornwall and Anglesey.
[18 ]William Robert Clayton (1786-1866).
[19 ]The inscription mentioned by Mill below indicates that John Lovelace (ca. 1638-93), then owner of Lady Place, held private meetings in the vault, including “several consultations for calling in the Prince of Orange,” later William III (1650-1702), who replaced James II on the throne in 1688.
[20 ]John Wilkes (1727-97), the demagogic politician, had been inducted in 1762 into the notorious “Franciscans of Medmenham,” or “Hell-Fire Club” by its founder, Francis Dashwood (1709-81), Chancellor of the Exchequer. Wilkes joined fully in the “orgies,” being expelled after releasing a baboon in Satanic insignia during a black mass.
[21 ]E.g. in James Smith, Flora Britannica, Vol. II, p. 659.
[22 ]As Mill notes earlier, also (and more commonly) Wokingham.
[23 ]At this time the Governor was Edward Paget (1775-1849).
[24 ]Elsewhere Mill writes correctly Chobham.
[25 ]One assumes an ironical reference to Shakespeare, As You Like It, II, vii, 164; in The Riverside Shakespeare, p. 382.
[1 ]See No. 29, entry of 27 July, 1827.
[2 ]John Scarlett Davis (1804-45), Fourteen Views in Lithography of Bolton Abbey, 2nd ed. (London: Cock, 1829); Mill is referring to the 6th plate, a view of the interior of the nave, and the 7th, a view of the choir.
[3 ]William George Spencer Cavendish.
[4 ]Both Wordsworth, “The Force of Prayer or the Founding of Bolton Abbey: A Tradition” (1815), in Poetical Works, Vol. IV, pp. 265-8, and Samuel Rogers (1763-1855), “The Boy of Egremond,” in Poems, new ed. (London: Cadell, 1827), pp. 202-4, draw upon Thomas Dunham Whitaker (1759-1821), The History and Antiquities of the Deanery of Craven, in the County of York (London: Nichols, 1805), p. 324, for the traditional tale of the drowning of William Romilly (ca. 1154) and the founding of the Abbey.
[5 ]First published, 1815; in Poetical Works, Vol. IV, p. 17 (ll. 229-38).
[6 ]Anne Clifford (1590-1676), Countess of Dorset, Pembroke and Montgomery, who inherited the northern estates of the Earls of Cumberland and was a great restorer of churches and castles (including Barden Tower and Skipton Castle), had married first Richard Sackville, 3rd Earl of Dorset, and second Philip Herbert, 4th Earl of Pembroke and Montgomery.
[7 ]Mill had strong personal memories of Forde Abbey, near Chard in Somerset, where the Mill family had spent many months from 1814 to 1818 as guests of Jeremy Bentham, who rented it as a summer and fall residence.
[8 ]Dorothy Wordsworth (1771-1855), sister of William.
[9 ]Not identified.
[10 ]John Christian Curwen (1756-1828), author, M.P. for Carlisle 1786-1812 and 1816-20, and for Cumberland 1820-28.
[11 ]Thomas Madge (1786-1870), formerly co-pastor of the Octagon Chapel, Norwich, 1811-25, whom Mill had met in 1822 when studying with the Austins (CW, Vol. XII, p. 13), and who then became minister of the Essex Street Chapel, Strand, London, 1825-60.
[12 ]Commonly Esthwaite.
[13 ]Commonly Nab Scar.
[14 ]Commonly Rothay.
[15 ]Diana Le Fleming (née Howard), widow of Michael Le Fleming (1748-1806).
[16 ]Sara Hutchinson (1775-1835), sister of Mary Wordsworth (1770-1859).
[17 ]Dorothy Wordsworth, “Address to a Child, during a Boisterous Winter Evening,” “The Mother’s Return,” and “The Cottager to Her Infant” (all 1815), in William Wordsworth, Poetical Works, Vol. I, pp. 9-11, 12-14, and 200.
[18 ]E.g., in “To a Butterfly” and “The Sparrow’s Nest” (both 1807), ibid., pp. 4 and 156.
[19 ]Dorothy Wordsworth (1804-47).
[20 ]Commonly Ullswater.
[21 ]Poetical Works, Vol. V, pp. 61-2.
[22 ]Ibid., Vol. I, p. 247.
[23 ]Richard Fleming (1791-1857) was Rector of Grasmere and Windermere, and ofBowness.
[24 ]The first edition of The Booke of the Common Prayer and Administracion of the Sacramentes, and Other Rites and Ceremonies of the Churche: after the Use of the Churche of England appeared in 1549 (London: Whitchurche). That of the “King James Bible,” to which Mill is obviously referring, appeared in 1611 (London: Barber); the edition of 1617 is a reissue of the 1st edition.
[25 ]Thomas (1806-12) and Catherine (1808-12).
[26 ]Sarah Trimmer (1741-1810), An Abridgement of the New Testament, an extremely popular work that appeared in many editions, e.g., in 1805 as “A new ed.” (London: Rivington).
[27 ]Jonathan Otley (1766-1856), A Concise Description of the English Lakes, the Mountains in Their Vicinity, and the Roads by Which They May Be Visited (Keswick: Otley, 1823), pp. 109-10. The quotations are from Thomas Gray (1716-71), “Letter to Dr. Wharton” (1769), in Works, ed. Thomas James Mathias, 2 vols. (London: Porter, 1814), Vol. I, p. 459; Thomas West (1720-79), A Guide to the Lakes (London: Richardson and Urquhart; Kendal: Pennington, 1778), p. 84;William Green (1761-1823), A Description of Sixty Studies from Nature (London: Longman, et al.; Ambleside: Green, 1810), p. 51; and Wordsworth, “The Waggoner” (1819), in Poetical Works, Vol. I, pp. 280-1.
[28 ]Wordsworth had lived in the “neat little house” (Allan Bank) from 1808 to 1810, after living in his “cottage” (Dove Cottage, not then so named) from 1799 to 1806; he was at the time of Mill’s visit in Rydal Mount, as indicated above.
[29 ]According to some traditions, Dunmail was apprehended by Edmund I (ca. 922-46 ) in 946.
[30 ]A Description of the Scenery of the Lakes in the North of England (1810), 3rd ed. (London: Longman, et al., 1822), pp. 3-7.
[31 ]Mill’s usual spelling for Blencathra.
[32 ]“Rural Architecture” (1800), in Poetical Works, Vol. I, pp. 27-8.
[33 ]From its mention in “The Waggoner,” iv, 17.
[34 ]Daniel Crosthwaite (ca. 1776-1847), the owner at that time, was the son of Peter Crosthwaite, who founded the museum in 1780. A manuscript catalogue of the “Cabinet of Curiosities” is in the Wordsworth Trust.
[35 ]Southey, Sir Thomas More; or, Colloquies on the Progress and Prospects of Society, 2 vols. (London: Murray, 1829), frontispiece to Vol. II.
[36 ]William Gordon (1744-1823) had been deputy ranger of St. James’s Park and Hyde Park.
[37 ]William Peachey (ca. 1763-1838) was M.P. for Taunton 1826-30.
[38 ]Adam Sedgwick (1785-1873), Professor of Geology at Cambridge.
[39 ]“Letter to Dr. Wharton,” p. 450.
[40 ]Usually Portinscale.
[41 ]Frances Gordon (née Ingram) (d. 1841), whose main residence was in Piccadilly.
[42 ]Henry Taylor (1800-86), man of letters as well as civil servant, son of George Taylor (1771-1851), a farmer of literary and reclusive tastes.
[43 ]“Yew Trees,” in Poetical Works, Vol. II, pp. 53-4.
[44 ]Otley, A Concise Description of the English Lakes, pp. 36-7.
[45 ]The Ordnance Survey, originally called the Trigonometrical Survey, aiming at a mapping of the whole of England, was founded in 1791, and issued its first sheet in 1801.
[46 ]Wordsworth’s image; see n30 above.
[47 ]Wordsworth cites this judgment (probably delivered in conversation) by William Mudge (1762-1820), a leading member of the Ordnance Survey, Description, pp. 143-4.
[48 ]Usually Hindscarth.
[49 ]Actually Taylor’s step-mother (née Mills), his mother having died in his infancy, and his father having remarried in 1818. Isabella Fenwick (d. 1856) is almost certainly the cousin in question.
[50 ]Joseph Pocklington (1804-74), who took in 1842 the additional surname Senhouse.
[51 ]Elsewhere and correctly, Lodore or Lowdore.
[52 ]Usually Mellbreak.
[53 ]Thomas Westmorland (1774-1845), Vicar of Great Sandal, Yorkshire, from 1818, and perpetual curate of Buttermere.
[54 ]Southey, Sir Thomas More; or, Colloquies, Vol. II, pp. 153-4 (facing p. 153 is an engraving of the Tarn).
[55 ]I.e., Henry Cole, whose diary entry for the previous day, Saturday, 30th July, indicates that after starting early in the morning, he joined Mill and Grant at the Queen’s Head Inn at Keswick.
[56 ]Cole’s diary for 31st July mentions the first part of the walk, to Castle Head, where they saw a “Collection of Minerals and Musical Stones,” refers to the “Beauty of the girl waiting at the Ale House,” and indicates that the inn in Patterdale was satisfactory.
[57 ]Henry Askew (d. 1850), Rector of Greystoke, Cumberland.
[58 ]John Marshall (1765-1845), of the cotton manufacturing family, an intimate of the Benthamite circle.
[59 ]Cole’s diary for 1st August indicates that, as Mill implies, they went in a boat on Ullswater, from which they saw Helvellyn.
[60 ]Cole’s diary for 2nd August contains detail lacking in Mill’s account: “we lost our way to Pooley Bridge which a Country man would not tell Mill thinking he was in jest—after a very long walk we at length reached Paterdale [sic] at 11 at night after much fatigue and proportionally weary.”
[61 ]Again Cole’s diary (for 3rd August) adds colour to Mill’s tale: “Patterdale Inn must be remembered for its Ale, Trout and Marmalade”; and the change from it to the Salutation Inn in Ambleside “was by no means for the better—Very Civil but very tardy—and their Cookery not to be mentioned in the same breath—”
[62 ]Mill’s account of these four days, being much compressed, is given further perspective by the entries in Cole’s diary: “Thursday 4 [August]. Mill went to see Wordsworth and Grant and I to Rydal Lake where the rain kept us for two hours under the protection of of [sic] the umbrage of some very fine Sycamores—The neighbourhood of Ambleside is of remarkable variety—The Meadows—Lakes and Mountains each offer its attractions—and I should have liked the place much better if some silly young men from the University who would be sailors had not been perpetually intruding themselves before—[sic]
[1 ]Directories list William Alexander, a maltster, John Caesar (or Caeser), a baker and confectioner, and Xerxes Charles, a draper, milliner, and dressmaker. (Cole mentions Caesar as a grocer, and Xerxes as a hosier.)
[2 ]Gilbert White (1720-93), The Natural History and Antiquities of Selborne (London: White, 1789).
[3 ]Ibid., p. 2.
[4 ]As Cole indicates, they mistook the village for Hartley, and were “rectified by a bright eyed girl’s bursting with laughter in Mill’s face for his misconception, which to her seemed to have all the design of wilfulness of error in order to serve as a prelude to conversation.”
[5 ]Ibid., p. 5 (in fact the Plestor).
[6 ]Mary White (1767-1839) was actually Gilbert’s niece, fifth daughter of his brother Benjamin. Mill had originally written, and then revised, “I suppose his daughter.”
[7 ]Natural History, p. 288.
[8 ]After mentioning “darkeyed damsels skipping downwards with a life evidencing their animal spirits,” Cole says: “An old man, who had been gathering furze, in descent, held some colloquy with Mill upon the state of singleness in which the damsels aforesaid, had hitherto passed their existence, and he regretted that age and infirmities prevented his rendering himself so gallant as his capacity once permitted—and inclination still prompted him.”
[9 ]Natural History, p. 3.
[10 ]Ibid., pp. 14-16. Mill later uses the spelling Wolmer.
[11 ]Or, in Cole’s words, “amidst the rude flat Honkings . . . expressive of glee and boisterous joy from the Villagers, we retired for the night.”
[12 ]Natural History, pp. 3, 31.
[13 ]Commonly Empshott.
[14 ]There, Cole says, they “solaced themselves with the delights of a change of linen, and revelled in the dinner of Lamb and Currant tart. . . .”
[15 ]The Bill had been enacted the previous month as 2 & 3 William IV, c. 45.
[16 ]William Stephen Poyntz (1770-1840), then M.P. for Ashburton.
[17 ]Commonly Cowdray.
[18 ]Elizabeth Mary Browne, the sister of George Samuel Browne (1769-93), 6th Viscount Montagu, inherited Cowdray Park on his death, which extinguished the title; she married Poyntz in 1794.
[19 ]Henry Percy (1564-1632), 9th Earl of Northumberland, suspected of complicity in the gunpowder plot, when imprisoned in the Tower of London for sixteen years, spent his time studying and writing.
[20 ]Mill’s catalogue refers to the great panoply of painters and sculptors represented in the Wyndham collection: John Flaxman (1755-1826), John Edward Carew (ca. 1785-1868), John Charles Felix Rossi (1762-1839), Anthony Van Dyck (1599-1641), Peter Lely (1618-80), Godfrey Kneller (1646-1723), Titian (Titiano Vecellio) (ca. 1488-1576), Claude Gelée, called Lorrain (1600-82), Salvator Rosa (1615-73), Aelbert Jacobsz Cuyp (1620-91), Jan Both (1618-52), Antoine François Van der Meulen (1634-90), Giovanni Antonio Canaletto (or Canal) (1697-1768), Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528), Joshua Reynolds (1723-92), Thomas Gainsborough (1727-88), James Northcote (1746-1831), John Opie (1761-1807), George Romney (1734-1802), Benjamin West (1738-1820), Thomas Phillips (1770-1845), and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851).
[21 ]See No. 29, entry for 20th July, 1827.
[22 ]Charles Gordon Lennox (1791-1860), 5th Duke of Richmond.
[23 ]Held in July, these races date from 1802.
[24 ]John Pitman (fl. 1820-32), Panorama of Constantinople and Its Environs from Scutari (London: Leigh, 1831).
[25 ]Richard Godin Simeon (1784-1854), M.P. for the Isle of Wight 1832-37.
[26 ]John Albin, A Companion to the Isle of Wight, 12th ed. (London: Albin, 1831), p. 52. (Mill identifies this guidebook below.)
[27 ]Not to Cole’s advantage, who reports: “Of the Road from Ride to Newport I am scarcely able to speak, partly in consequence of being poked inside the Coach, partly from an indisposition to examine on account of ill health and partly from being asleep.”
[28 ]Now Bembridge Harbour.
[29 ]William Johnson Fox (1786-1864), “Sandown Bay,” Monthly Repository, VI (Apr. 1832), 271-80. It is hard to believe that Mill was not certain about the authorship, for he had been increasingly close to Fox, through whom he met Harriet Taylor, for two years. Fox was the editor of the Monthly Repository, for which Mill began to write a few months later.
[30 ]That is, listed with those disfranchised by the Reform Act, 2 & 3 William IV, c. 45.
[31 ]John Heywood Hawkins (1802-77), who had been M.P. for St. Michael 1830-31 and for Tavistock 1831-32, was elected and sat for Newport until 1841. James Willoughby Gordon (1773-1851), who had served in the army with distinction, was defeated.
[32 ]Robert Torrens (1780-1864), the political economist and journal proprietor who had published Mill’s first two letters to the newspapers in 1822, M.P. for Ashburton 1831-32, was elected for Bolton, which he represented until 1835. William Henry Ord (1803-38) was elected with Hawkins, and sat for Newport until 1837.
[33 ]Simeon was reported as strongly supporting the Reform Bill (The Times, 3 Oct., 1831, p. 5), and so by inference the Whig leaders such as Lord John Russell and Charles Grey.
[34 ]Alexander Glynn-Campbell (1796-1836), who had been M.P. for Fowey 1819-20, and was defeated by Simeon in the election.
[35 ]Cole says: “Our Landlord was a Radical politician, taking his creed from the Examiner Newspaper—and from him we obtained a complete list of the Electioneering pamphlets and Correspondence.”
[36 ]Thomas Orde, later Orde-Powlett (1746-1807), Baron Bolton, had been Governor until his death; he was succeeded by James Harris, Earl of Malmesbury.
[37 ]This cottage, which Mill visited during his next walking tour, was obviously already known to him; Charles Buller (1774-1848), who had been M.P. for West Looe 1812-16 and 1826-30, was the father of Mill’s friend Charles Buller (1806-48), who succeeded his father at West Looe in 1830, and was elected for Liskeard in 1832.
[38 ]See No. 31, entry for 3rd August, 1831.
[39 ]Cf. “The Shepherd Turned Merchant,” in Roger L’Estrange (1616-1704), Fables of Aesop and Other Eminent Mythologists (London: Sare, et al., 1692), pp. 93-4, where the final comment of the merchant, who had lost a cargo of figs, is more extravagant: “Yes, yes, says he, When the Devil’s Blind. You’d ha’ some more Figs, with a Vengeance, Wou’d ye?”
[40 ]Albin, Companion, p. 13.
[41 ]See No. 31, entry for 25th July.
[42 ]I.e., W.J. Fox, “Sandown Bay.”
[43 ]Coleridge, “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” in Sibylline Leaves (London: Rest Fenner, 1817), p. 17n (where the acknowledgment to Wordsworth is given).
[44 ]The first manuscript notebook ends here.
[45 ]Cf. No. 31, conclusion of the entry for 14th July.
[46 ]I.e., the Salutation Inn, Ambleside, where Mill had stayed during his tour of the Lakes from 13th to 17th July and 3rd to 8th August, 1831. See the relevant entries in No. 31.
[47 ]Albin, Companion, pp. 72-3.
[48 ]Here Cole was reminded of “the mountain side walks near Ulleswater,” where he had been with Mill in the previous year.
[49 ]In Cole’s view, they dined “very moderately in respect of treatment, very dearly in respect of cost.”
[50 ]Charles Anderson-Pelham (1781-1846), Earl of Yarborough.
[51 ]Albin, Companion, p. 66.
[52 ]Probably that reported in The Times on 9 Nov., 1827, p. 2.
[53 ]Actually in a work after 1823 sold and sometimes bound with Albin, William Drew Snooke (1787-1857), Flora Vectiana, Being an Arrangement of the More Rare and Interesting Plants Indigenous to the Isle of Wight (London: [Albin,] 1823), p. 23.
[54 ]Snooke, p. 16.
[55 ]Cole comments: “In respect of Scenery this part of the island is very inferior to the Opposite part but my companion Mill found a great harvest for plants hereabouts and his remark was a just one, that objects of beauty were furnished by the Eastern half whilst those of curiosity were to be found here.”
[56 ]Mentioning that the cave was more than 200 ft. deep, Cole adds: “I confess that the great pleasure of going into a Cave, seems to [me], as to Mr. Peacock, to arise chiefly in coming out again Safely.” Thomas Love Peacock (1785-1866), the novelist, lived in and owned the house in which Cole resided, and was Mill’s superior in the Examiner’s Office of the East India Company.
[57 ]Cole comments: “the sight evidently moved our Watermen to indignation, at the punishment which their unfortunate owners would receive,—viewing as they must have done the punishment as one quite disproportioned to the offence. Thus is it that our boasted Laws alienate the people from obedience to them—Here is a needy man for the crime of defrauding the Revenue of a few Shillings, seized, from his wife and Children (who thereby become thrown upon the parish) and cast into Prison for 5 years.—This punishment is quite ineffective upon others by instilling terror or acting as a preventive and such was indicated plainly by the man who rowed us to the needles, and who by his manner, it was evident was ready for any such job, if offered to him.”
[58 ]George Brannon, in his work of engravings of the Isle of Wight, Vectis Scenery: Being a Series of Original and Select Views, new ed., corrected (Southampton: Brannon, 1825), does not have an engraving of Scratchell Bay and its cave; however, he has one of a cave in Freshwater Bay, which is contiguous to Scratchell Bay, with a “rugged arch” (p. 35). Perhaps the unlikeness reflects a mistake by Mill.
[59 ]The storm that undermined the pillar actually occurred in 1764 (sixty-eight years before Mill’s observation). In 1832, according to standard accounts, there were three Needles; however, perspectivecould suggest that one was part of the shore, and Cole, who also says there were two, notes that they were cut “into five apparent pieces and hence their number as stated in the books of the Island.”
[60 ]Snooke, p. 3.
[61 ]Henry de Beauchamp (1425-45), Duke of Warwick, was said to have been crowned King of the Isle of Wight by Henry VI in 1445.
[62 ]Cole is more vivid: “The stream up to Lymington is confined within a very narrow space in consequence of the prodigious masses of this sediment—adhesive thereto, are complete fields of sea weeds and other vile vegetable substances. It is difficult to imagine a less attractive entrance to a place than such as is here afforded to Lymington—Malaria is suggested to the imagination in its greatest malignity and as these beds of mud, are left in a state of evaporation during half the day when not overflowed by the tide—the effect of them I conjecture must be highly pernicious to the health of the Town.”
[63 ]Harry Burrard-Neale (1765-1840), who had first been elected for Lymington in 1818, was again returned in the Conservative interest in 1832.
[64 ]Thomas Hyde Villiers (1801-32), a friend of Mill’s and his associate in the London Debating Society, M.P. for Hedon 1826-30, for Wootton Bassett 1830-31, and for Bletchingley 1831-32, died during this campaign; he had voted for the Reform Bill in all its stages, and consequently had in fact helped disfranchise the “nomination” borough for which he had sat. John Stewart (1805-60), a Conservative, though a free trader, was elected, and sat for Lymington until 1847.
[65 ]The account by Herodotus (traditionally 484-420 ) is in Herodotus (Greek and English), trans. A.D. Godley, 4 vols. (London: Heinemann; New York: Putnam’s Sons, 1921), Vol. III, pp. 334 and 356-8 (VII, 21 and 43).
[66 ]William Gilpin (1724-1804), Remarks on Forest Scenery, and Other Woodland Views, (Relative Chiefly to Picturesque Beauty) Illustrated by the Scenes of New-Forest in Hampshire, 2 vols. (London: Blamire, 1791), Vol. II, pp. 250-5.
[67 ]Shakespeare, Macbeth, V, iii, 23; in the Riverside Shakespeare, p. 1336.
[68 ]Gilpin, p. 153.
[69 ]Ibid., pp. 134-5 (Souley Pond).
[70 ]Henry James Montagu-Scott (1776-1845), Baron Montagu of Boughton.
[71 ]Cole’s version is less reticent: “The clear transparency of the water, together with its smoothness enticed us, into a boat, which in our wisdom, or rather I in my wisdom for J.M. tacitly assented thereto, supposed we could easily navigate. The stream was just beginning to flow down and we proceeded glibly enough—and much further than I deemed right, but my companion who seemed to have no just notions of the probable difficulty of our return continued expressing his desire to descend lower. From our boat we certainly obtained many points of view which somewhat repaid us for our trouble and it is a matter incumbent on all who wish to estimate the beauties of Beaulieu to get into a boat for that purpose, but it must be recollected that a waterman should form one of the party. We in our boat floated down, nearly within view of Buckler’s Hard before we deemed it meet to return and then we essayed our ascent up the stream. Difficult indeed was our task and slow, most slow was our progress. Mill was but a tyro in rowing and in addition to the inequality with which he applied his force he so frequently just but skimmed the surface of the water, whereby the pulling on my part, shoved the boat first on one side then on the other of the River. The Man of whom we had engaged the boat inferring from our absence that nothing less than a casting-away, upon a mud bank could have been our fate, came down in a small boat and found us tugging away with great vigour in the very midst of the current making way perhaps at a rate sufficient to have enabled us to reach Beaulieu in about three hours, if the water had continued sufficiently deep but this would not have been the case. We were extracted from our difficulty by engaging the Man to row us back, which he did as far as the state of the tide would allow, and then having landed us we walked back to the place of starting. . . . We returned home to Lymington by the high road . . . well animated with our water adventure.”
[72 ]For Gilpin’s disparaging comments on the tameness of the view of the Isle of Wight from the New Forest, see, e.g., Remarks, Vol. II, pp. 78, 89, 131, 158-9, and 185.
[73 ]By 23 George III, c. 66 (1783), vehicles for human beings (and therefore with springs) were taxed, while agricultural carts were not. Mill is also playing with words, as two-wheeled carts were known as “tax” or “taxed” carts. Cole refers to it as “an untaxed, unspringing cart.”
[74 ]Not otherwise identified; Cole, who calls him a greengrocer, says he was modestly proud of “his newly acquired rights as an elector.”
[75 ]George Henry Rose (1771-1855), Lord of the Manor of Christchurch, who had been M.P. for Southampton and Christchurch, and sat again for the latter 1837-44.
[76 ]George William Tapps-Gervis (1795-1842), who had been M.P. for New Romney and was elected for Christchurch in 1832, was the son of George Ivison Tapps (1753-1835).
[77 ]George Pitt Rose (1797-1851) had been the second member for Christchurch 1826-32.
[78 ]The statutes controlling the import of grain included 55 George III, c. 26 (1815), 3 George IV, c. 60 (1822), 7 & 8 George IV, c. 57 (1827), and the most recent one, 9 George IV, c. 60 (1828).
[79 ]Cobbett propagated widely his Tory Radical views through Cobbett’s Weekly Political Register, which with slightly different titles ran from 1803 to 1835. The other works referred to include Cobbett’s Sermons on 1. Hypocrisy and Cruelty. 2. Drunkenness. 3. Bribery. 4. Oppression. 5. Unjust Judges. 6. The Sluggard. 7. Murder. 8. Gaming. 9. Public Robbery. 10. The Unnatural Mother. 11. Forbidding Marriage. 12. Parsons and Tithes (London: Clement, 1822); and, on agriculture, Cottage Economy (London: Clement, 1822), and A Treatise on Cobbett’s Corn (London: Cobbett, 1828).
[80 ]James Macdonald (1784-1832), M.P. for Hampshire 1831-32, had just been appointed Governor of the Ionian Islands but had died in June; he was succeeded in the seat by Thomas Baring (1772-1848), head of the great financial firm of Baring, who had been M.P. for Wycombe 1806-32.
[81 ]“Captain Swing” was the name used to personify the rick-burning and other current disturbances in the agricultural areas mostly of the south.
[82 ]Charles Stuart (1779-1845), Baron Stuart de Rothesay.
[83 ]Sophia Dawes (1790-1840), baronne de Feuchères, daughter of an Isle of Wight fisherman, who had had an astonishing career in France, had just bought a Hampshire property, having moved back to England after her failure in attempts to secure an inheritance from the estate of Louis Henri Joseph, duc de Bourbon (1756-1830), whose mistress she had been, and who, apparently distraught at his inability to escape her, had committed suicide. Mill had commented on the affair several times in the Examiner, beginning on 18 December, 1831 (see CW, Vol. XXII, p. 372).
[84 ]Mill is perhaps alluding to Cole, who gives a full description in his account of 1st August.
[85 ]“Resolution and Independence,” in Poetical Works, Vol. II, p. 128.
[86 ]Remarks, e.g., Vol. I, p. 44, and Vol. II, p. 74.
[87 ]See No. 31, entry for 10th July, 1831.
[88 ]Thomas Chamberlayne (1805-76), whose estate included Netley Abbey.
[89 ]This romance, which derives from a French chanson de geste, Beuve d’Homstone, probably is ultimately based on a legend originating with the Danish invaders of Britain.
[90 ]Mill would seem to be referring not to The Sketch-Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent., 7 pts. (New York: n.p., 1819-20), but to such scenes as that in “The Stout Gentleman: A Tale of Mystery,” in Bracebridge Hall; or, The Humourists, 2 vols. (New York: Van Winkle, 1822), Vol. I, pp. 124-44, also by Washington Irving (1782-1859).
[1 ]Usually Rame Head.
[2 ]See, e.g., the derogatory remarks on these constituencies by Daniel O’Connell (1775-1847), Irish leader and M.P. for various Irish constituencies following Catholic Emancipation, Speech on the Parliamentary Reform Bill (22 July, 1831), PD, 3rd ser., Vol. 5, col. 214.
[3 ]Henry Thomas Hope (1808-62), M.P. for East Looe 1830-32.
[4 ]John Buller (1771-1849), M.P. for West Looe 1796 and 1826-27, brother of Charles Buller, Sr., and uncle to Mill’s friend, Charles Buller, Jr.
[5 ]Usually St. Austell. Mill notes the alternative spelling of Lostwithiel below.
[6 ]Liskeard (on Schedule B of the Reform Bill) had one member; St. Austell had never been a borough; Lostwithiel was on Schedule A and so was disfranchised.
[7 ]Grampound had been disfranchised as almost devoid of electors by a separate act, 1 & 2 George IV, c. 47 (1821).
[8 ]Charles Lemon (1784-1868), M.P. for Cornwall 1831-32 and for West Cornwall 1832-41 and 1842-57.
[9 ]Richard Taylor (1810-83), a mining engineer, was manager of the Consolidated Mines at Gwennap, founded in 1819 by his father John Taylor (1779-1863); they were relatives of Sarah Austin.
[10 ]Robert Were Fox (1789-1877).
[11 ]The uniting of Penryn with Falmouth was covered in Sect. 6 of the Reform Act.
[12 ]St. Mawes was in Schedule A of the Reform Act, and so disfranchised.
[13 ]Properly, Carn-brea; Mill may have written “Carn-breh.”
[14 ]Helston was in Schedule B of the Reform Act.
[15 ]Arthur William Buller (1808-69) was the younger brother of Charles Buller, Jr.
[16 ]See Richard Warner (1763-1857), A Tour through Cornwall, in the Autumn of 1808 (London: Wilkie and Robinson, 1809), p. 216.
[17 ]St. Michael’s Mount was granted to Mont Saint Michel by charter in 1070. It passed into the St. Aubyn family in 1657, and was at this time the property of John St. Aubyn (1758-1839), who had represented various Cornwall constituencies 1784-90 and 1807-12.
[18 ]William Pearce, who took over the King’s Head, Truro, in 1806, had four sons to whom Mill is undoubtedly referring. Henry ran the Royal Hotel in Truro; John (d. 1837), the Royal Hotel, Falmouth, and later the Union Hotel, Penzance; William the younger (ca. 1792-1847) followed John at the Royal, Falmouth; Joseph may have been proprietor of the hotel in Barnstaple.
[19 ]Properly Sennen.
[20 ]Properly Lamorna.
[21 ]Byron, Don Juan, Vol. II, p. 10 (Canto 6, Stanza 37).
[22 ]Joseph Carne (1782-1858).
[23 ]John Paynter (1791-1847).
[24 ]Hugh Colvill Goldsmith (1789-1841); the well-publicized episode occurred in 1824.
[25 ]Probably Thomas Arbuthnot (1776-1849), who had become a Major-General in 1825.
[26 ]After the well-known irregular features of Samuel Johnson (1709-84), the man of letters.
[27 ]Byron, Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage, Vol. I, p. 47 (Canto I, sect. lxxi, l. 2).
[28 ]The first notebook ends here; the continuation is in the Mill-Taylor Collection.
[29 ]Joseph Carne’s most eminent daughter was his fourth, Elizabeth Catherine Thomas Carne (1817-73), who later wrote popular works and contributed papers to the Royal Cornwall Geological Society; she was only fifteen years old at this time, but Mill at fifteen was himself a “remarkable person.”
[30 ]Homer, The Iliad (Greek and English), trans. A.T. Murray, 2 vols. (London: Heinemann; New York: Putnam’s Sons, 1924), Vol. I, pp. 86-106 (II, 494-759).
[31 ]Juliana St. Aubyn (née Vinicombe) (ca. 1769-1856).
[33 ]Mill may have seen the original watercolour by Turner, Launceston, Cornwall, shown in the Exhibition Hall, Piccadilly, in June 1829 (catalogue No. 20); it was also available in engravings.
[34 ]Okehampton was also shown at the exhibition in 1829 (catalogue No. 10), and was available as an engraving.