New Light on the Lakes

We had been dreaming about Andalusia.  But plans sometimes must be altered, and so one August evening we found ourselves instead entering into Ulverston, 1,300 miles from Andalusia, and even more distant climatically, culturally, and historically.  The Lake District—“England’s Switzerland,” Manchester’s playground, stamping grounds of Wordsworth and Beatrix Potter—is a magnet to millions of tourists, subject of a billion photos, noted for traffic jams, tea shops, lake cruises, mint cake, and hikers in fluorescent cagoules.  These images were unappealing, especially when juxtaposed with thoughts of Spain.  Our prior experiences had been gray days around Ambleside, trooping in everyone else’s damp wake, reading the same rain-spotted information boards, and taking the same photos.  I had also come here on a coaster, coming alongside at Silloth on Christmas morning, and had vague remembrances of cold, empty streets, flour mills, and the smell of fertilizer.  The effect of such impressions had hitherto been to make us defer exploration when there were so many other places, and so little time.  But as I plundered my bookshelves, the District soon loomed into shape—and by the time we were climbing to our cottage through lanes of bruised bracken, the great glitter of Morecambe Bay below and sheep-smelling hills rising up all round, any lingering regrets were vanquished.


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