'Agree With Everything - Deny Nothing - Embellish All

Friday, July 22, 2005

The Hills Were Much Steeper Then

I spent the morning searching through an old bound volume of The Illustrated London News for an out-of-copyright image to use in an article. But progress was slowed by the sheer richness of the material I found when I opened the book. It's from the mid 1850s, the absolute zenith of the Victorian summer, and is suffuse with unquestioned imperial confidence. Images of the Crystal Palace sit next to lavish engravings of the 'new' Houses Of Parliament. But there's darker stuff too - the Crimean War is in full swing, and reports from Sebastopol, Inkerman and Cronstadt fill its pages.
One column-filler caught my attention more than the war-stories: an image of the Cumbrian Mountains. And Swirrel Edge, holiday destination of choice for the intrepid Victorian paterfamilias -

Swirrel Edge is one of the two high paths from Pattadale to Helvellyn-top. The ascent of Helvellyn from Wythburn is easy enough - long grassy slopes and shoulders up which the most timid father might take his little family.
But towards Ullswater, Helvellyn presents a fine precipice, with Red Tarn lying below it; and on either side of Red Tarn the two great buttresses of Swirrel Edge and Striding Edge: concerning the former of which and its dangerous character, so many letters have of late appeared in The Times. It is perhaps not very dangerous to anyone with good nerves and sure feet: but certainly it is very steep and rugged, and the path narrow - in one part so narrow that you look down a precipice of some hundreds of feet on each side of you, and could drop a stone down from each side at once. When the clouds are rolling over the Edge the place looks sufficiently awful: and the traveller might almost think he had but to climb the sharp edge to some high point, standing up like a needle in the mist. Very little mist will hide the mountain. Let no tourist with courage miss these edges, there is nothing finer in the whole mountain district.


Post a Comment

<< Home