“A WILD SCENE OF CRAG AND MOUNTAIN,” THE ROUGHLY THOUSAND SQUARE MILES THAT COMPRISE ENGLAND’S LAKE DISTRICT INSPIRED THE IDEALS OF THE ROMANTIC ERA AND FORMED THE ROOTS OF THE ENVIRONMENTAL MOVEMENT.
by bruce stutz
With Dorothy Wordsworth’s journal in hand, I set out from Grasmere village toward Easedale Tarn along the trail that begins not far from the stone cottage in the English Lake District that she shared with her brother, William. I cross a swift, stony stream named Sour Milk Ghyll and emerge from a small stand of trees into open and rain-soaked meadows. I find it as she described it, a “valley of streams and islands”: lone old oaks secure the hillocks and embankments, and a labyrinth of dry-stone walls frames the low pasturelands.
The winding path steepens, levels, and then steepens again. As I summit its final rise a picture-book panorama opens up: a spectacular hanging valley, a sprawling lake bordered by boggy treeless plain, a glacial amphitheater surrounded by high, sharp peaks. It’s been more than 200 years since the Wordsworths visited, and it’s still a “wild scene of crag and mountain.”