Wordsworth and the Western Fells

Wordsworth and the Western Fells

Wordsworth and the Lake District are inseparable. Add the names of Coleridge, Beatrix Potter and Alfred Wainwright and it’s no surprise that today’s visitors flock here in their thousands. But not in more remote Eskdale and its dramatic neighbour Wasdale (above).

Wordsworth’s Beloved Lake District

Wordsworth was born in Cockermouth just NW of here. In his autobiographical poem The Prelude Part 1 he tells how these Lakeland fells moulded and inspired him as a youth.

My daughter and son-in-law and family visited Eskdale and Wasdale in August. Their photos bring back my own happy memories of days out climbing these lovely fells. It’s always a matter of ‘once visited never forgotten’ with the Lake District. The above view is one of the grandest in England.

Lane leading to distant hills

Wordsworth did not like tourism, yet, ironically, his writings have created today’s crowds, but not in Wasdale. Because of its remoteness few make it here and, unlike Grasmere, it remains a quiet and lonely place, ‘full of ‘mountain solitudes and sights sublime…and the wild mountain air’.

Wastwater screes below rocky cliffs

Lakeland’s Dramatic scenery

Wastwater is perhaps the most awe-inspiring of all the lakes – the deepest in England. It is surrounded by Great Gable, Scafell and Scafell Pike – England’s highest mountain. Here these dramatic screes, rise from the floor of the lake to a height of almost 2000 feet. This is a place to sit and wonder at the raw power of nature in a scene like this with the mountains ahead shrouded in brooding mist.

Fell walkers on sloping scree path

Wordsworth wrote that:

Wasdale is well worth the notice of the traveller, who is not afraid of fatigue; no part of the country is more distinguished by sublimity.’ He described it as “long, stern and desolate‘.

In his Prelude Part 1 he tells how, as a youth, he took a small rowing boat and at dead of night rowed out on one of the lakes. As he rowed he saw a threatening dark crag rising up in the moonlight over the nearby hills. Deeply scared he swiftly returned to the shore and returned home a wiser youth. This meeting with awesome scenery was never forgotten. His visit to Wastwater must have reminded him of that scary moment those years earlier.

small lane surrounded by mountains

Fell Walking

There is a stillness when walking in these fells. As we watch the cloud shadows caress the hillside the silence is broken only by the sound of the many trickling becks, making their music as the water cascades down the hillsides, always accompanied by gentle bleating of sheep. Then, after the morning’s effort comes the reward of glorious Lakeland views from the hard-gained summit. Returning home after a satisfying day out in these fells we feel we have been in the company of Wordsworth.

I have happy memories of days climbing Great Gable, via the ‘Climbers’ Traverse‘ (here topped in mist at the head of the valley) and also Scafell Pike and Scafell via Micheldore ridge. This is a mecca for fell walkers and I’m glad that the head of this dale still seems the quiet place I remember.

“The fleeting hour of life of those who love the hills is quickly spent, but the hills are eternal. Always there will be the lonely ridge, the dancing beck, the silent forest; always there will be the exhilaration of the summits. These are for the seeking, and those who seek and find while there is still time will be blessed both in mind and body.”

Alfred Wainwright writing in his guide ‘The Western Fells’
Path through woodland in Eskdale
After a strenuous day up on these dramatic hills it’s a relief to return home to the quiet of nearby Eskdale. Lakeland seems to offer everything. Wordsworth’s immortal poetry comes alive here.

Wordsworth’s ‘Prelude’ – the growth of a listening heart

After first reading The Prelude, Wordsworth’s great friend Samuel Coleridge, recognized in the poem a kindred spirit to his own:

‘vital breathings secret as the soul
Of vernal growth, oft quickens in the heart
Thoughts all too deep for words !

….for Peace is nigh
Where Wisdom’s voice has found a listening heart.

From Coleridge’s poem ‘To William Wordsworth

You discover more of yourself in a grand place like this – the grandeur of creation and your own very small part in it. Yet, like Coleridge and Wordsworth, you will feel ‘thoughts too deep for words’. For ‘Peace is nigh where Wisdom’s voice has found a listening heart’.

— Thank you for visiting.

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