image: A view of the Yorkshire countryside.
A view of the Yorkshire countryside.

Photograph © Annie Griffiths Belt/CORBIS

Lake District
By Frank Delaney

Place is memory. All our lives tell us so. Why is it we remember forever not what we were wearing or doing or feeling, but where we were at the most crucial moments? There is a wider sense of place—planted in our memories by people we have never known or met. The Lake District of northwest England was immortalized by mighty poets. Their verses fill the universe's memory bank with crags and gray satin waters, and hills of trees down to the lakeshores. Ullswater, Buttermere, Derwentwater—these places with their placid names stretched my heart even before I saw them. Wordsworth's sister, Dorothy, believed that Grasmere "calls home the heart to quietness." Keats, that doomed diamond, said that Windermere "makes one forget the divisions of life: age, youth, poverty, and riches." Generations of travelers have shared those opinions without knowing they were doing so.

The tourists, it is said, turn the Lakes in summer to madness itself, every narrow road crowded and the streets of the little solid towns impassable. Well, it has been my experience that there are always opportunities to be alone in the Lake District and once again in the company of the poets. In my own card deck of memories, a man in tweeds walks across a stone bridge outside Apple-thwaite, and a stream pours its black-silver ribbon straight down the heights of High Stile. And I'll always remember a visit to the farmhouse of Beatrix Potter. Her stories were world famous when she went to live there. In the Lakes she met a local lawyer, a tall and decent man called William Heelis, and he cared for her and married her and gave her the freedom to be as she wished.

She wished to live unnoticed and to be of the countryside. Here she knew her greatest pride. It came not from Peter Rabbit or Jemima Puddleduck (whose descendants still waddle round Hill Top Farm) but from the prizes she won for the sheep she bred.

That, too, defines the Lake District—a natural celebration of nature's sober excellence, which never leaves your spirit. And which your spirit never leaves.

The information in this story was accurate at the time it was published, but we suggest you confirm all details before making travel plans.



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