i Editor's Letter: Joys of the Countryside


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The Independent Online


Stuck for something to do this bank holiday weekend? The weather forecast is reasonable. Head for Britain’s wilds - the Lakes, Peak District, Snowdonia, the Cairngorms, Dartmoor, or one of our 10 other national parks. Or pick a spot along the 9,000 miles of beaches. A favourite of mine is Rhossili Bay, the invigoratingly remote tip of the Gower Peninsula described by Dylan Thomas as “the wildest, bleakest and barrenest I know”.

Living in our busy cities, suburbs or towns, one easily becomes caught in the traffic of everyday life and forgets the stunning natural bounty no more than a two or three-hour drive away.

I am full of the joys of the countryside having spent last weekend in the Lake District, where thousands of  wobbly-legged lambs dot the hillsides.  We climbed England’s second highest mountain, Scafell, which at 3,162ft (964 metres) is just 48ft shorter than its neighbour, Scafell Pike.

Alfred Wainwright, in his tome on the Southern Fells, wrote of how a man may stand on the ridge between these two peaks “and witness the sublime architecture of buttresses and pinnacles soaring into the sky, silhouetted against raging clouds or, often, tormented by writhing mists, and, as in a great cathedral, lose all his conceit”.

It was easier going up, scaling waterfalls and scree slopes, than back down, when we closely acquainted ourselves with thousands of rocks. There were no scrapes and bruises so big, though, that they couldn’t be soothed with a pint of Gold at the valley’s Wasdale Head Inn – famous for hosting the annual World’s Biggest Liar contest. Glass in hand, feet dangling in the river that runs through the pub garden, one can look up at the escarpments and think of Wainwright’s aside: “It does a man good to realise his own insignificance in the general scheme of things.”


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