Thursday, 25 February 2016

The English Lake District - Virtually

The Lake District is intimately associated with English literature of the 18th and 19th centuries and WilliamWordsworth's poem "I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud", inspired by the sight of daffodils on the shores of Ullswater, remains one of the most famous in the English language. Out of his long life of eighty years, sixty were spent amid its lakes and mountains. Along with his companion Romantic writers, Wordsworth, Coleridge and Southey became known as the Lake Poets.

At Telrunya - Forest of Dreams
Romanticism, the leading literary movement in England for more than half a century, was caused by the unprecedented social and economic changes of the 18th century Industrial Revolution, which visited a cataclysmic change from simple home manufacturing and farming to enforced wage slavery on the people. The 'Enclosure' of common lands spread all over Britain in the 18th century and deprived the people of  their subsistence, they were subsequently forced to work in the new factories.

However mechanization without a thought for peoples wellbeing, brought new social evils. The diseases of industrial towns flourished, along with the misery of child labour, underpaid workers and loss of freedom. Life for many became a hollow parody of its earlier pastoral peasantry as the people were imprisoned in the new industrial towns. Their suffering led to the first organised strikes. Inspired by the French Revolution, Irish peasants plotted a rebellion against English landlordism in 1798, which was cruelly downed in blood. The British government also took the lead in the counter-revolutionary wars against France.

At this time, the belief of progressive-minded people in the ideal nature of the new economic system, was broken - people with a conscience for their fellow man looked about for solutions. A new humanist movement arose among artists, authors and musicians to voice this view.

As they saw it, the cold application of reason had led to the dehumanisation of man with its heartless persuit of profit for the wealthy by exploiting and disenfranchising the poor. The new humanist writers therefore made emotion the driving force of their works. Some among them, poets, seized with a panic to escape the modern world of an industrialised slavery, wanted a return to the bucolic earlier times when people lived on and by the land. These poets became known as the Romanticists. They spoke for the English farmers and Scottish peasants who were ruined by the Industrial Revolution. They idealized the patriarchal way of life during the Middle Ages, a period that seemed to them harmonious and peaceful. Their motto was "Close to Nature and from Nature to God", because they believed that nature put man at peace with the world and in communion with god. (source)

The poets William Wordsworth (1770-1850), Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834), Robert Southey (1774-1843) belonged to that group. They were also called the Lake Poets after the Lake District where they lived and where they found inspiration to fuel their poetic calls for a more harmonious world in touch with nature and through nature with god.

At Netherwood virtual Lake District
A variety of other poets and writers also made visits to the Lake District or were bound by ties of friendship with those mentioned above. These include Percy Bysshe Shelley, Sir Walter Scott, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Arthur Hugh Clough, Henry Crabb Robinson, Thomas Carlyle, John Keats & Lord Tennyson among others. The Lake District is mentioned in Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice; Elizabeth Bennet looks forward to a holiday there with her aunt and uncle and is "excessively disappointed" upon learning they cannot travel that far.

At Netherwood virtual Lake District
At Netherwood virtual Lake District
During the early 20th century, the children's author Beatrix Potter was in residence at Hill Top Farm, setting many of her famous illustrated books in the Lake District. Potter loved animals from an early age and had various pets that she made drawings of. Her parents rented Wray Castle near Ambleside and this is where Potter fell in love with the Lake District. As an adult, she lived most of her life in the Lake District, which inspired her to write her books, in particular The Tale of Peter Rabbit. She also painted and sketched the Lake District’s landscapes. After her death in 1943, she left her 14 farms and 4000 acres of land to the National Trust, on the proviso that her favourite home, Hill Top at Sawrey, was opened to the public and left unchanged.

At Netherwood virtual Lake District

At Netherwood virtual Lake District
The Lakes has also been an inspirations for many notable artists. Some of the most famous artists to depict the region in their work have been Alfred Heaton Cooper and William Heaton Cooper.

At Netherwood virtual Lake District
The Lake District town of Ambleside was home of influential German artist, Kurt Schwitters who has been credited with influencing modern-day artists such as Damien Hirst and Anthony Gormley. Schwitters worked in several genres and media, including Dada, Constructivism, Surrealism, poetry, sound, painting, sculpture, graphic design, typography, and what came to be known as installation art. He is most famous for his collages, called Merz Pictures.

Recently Tate Britain hosted Schwitters in Britain, the first major exhibition of his late work. This show focused on the period after Schwitters’ arrival in Edinburgh as a refugee on the run from Nazi Germany in 1940 where he had been persecuted as one of the so-called "degenerate artists" until he died in Kendal in 1948, and it referenced the Merzbarn, a work that the Tate now acknowledges as “one of the key lost works of European Modernism”.
Landowner Harry Pierce, offered Schwitters the use of an empty shed on a small estate in Elterwater. Ian Hunter, from the Littoral Arts Trust, which now owns the site, describes it as "at the epi-centre of British modernist movement'' - "I'd say to those down south, you have the Tate Modern, we have the original." And it is not the area's only claim to fame. "One valley away from here you've got Wordsworth, with his early support of the French revolution," Ian Hunter said. "Two valleys away there's Ruskin [who championed the cause of Victorian "modern painters"]. It's an extraordinary alignment of revolutionary cultural thinking. "From high romanticism to modernism in three valleys."

At Netherwood virtual Lake District
Alfred Wainwright was born in 1907, and at 23 went to the Lake District for a holiday and immediately fell in love with the natural beauty of the Lakelands. He is well-known for his seven Pictorial Guides to the Lakeland Fells, which he made while working in the Borough Treasurers Office in Kendal in 1941. His handwritten and hand-drawn works of art have inspired all fell walkers for the last 40 years. A recreation of the Borough Treasurers Office in Kendal where he worked is exhibited in The Kendal Museum of Natural History.

At Netherwood virtual Lake District
At Netherwood virtual Lake District
There is nothing quite like the Lake District in the rest of England. The Pennines foreboding and austere, the Peak District is too small in scale to astound. By contrast with these The Lake District is the one place where nature seems truly awesome. Artists, poets, walkers and nature conservationists alike continue to find that the landscape here provokes the specific ‘way of feeling’ that Baudelaire considered crucial in 'romanticism'. It is the way the trees and rocks frame views down majestic valleys, the play of light on distant crests, the squat stone buildings that seem to have tumbled from  rock faces to assemble themselves deep embeded in the verdant rich turf.

At Netherwood virtual Lake District
At Telrunya - Forest of Dreams
The Lake District is rich in folklore, legends and superstitions shaped by the local landscape and centuries of colonisation by Teutonic, Scandinavian and Norman settlers with the traditional legends accompanied their cultures. Its large, imposing landscapes have nurtured stories of giants, while more hidden corners are a breeding ground for sightings of elves and fairies too.

Once part of the ancient kingdom of Rheged, the southern province of a realm of Brithonic Celts which stretched from the English Lake District to the river Clyde in Scotland, the modern county of Cumbria lies on England's north western border. Uther Pendragon, father of the legendary Arthur, is said to have ruled here in the 5th Century, and few areas of Cumbria lack some association, however tenuous, with Arthurian legend. However, while the wind-blasted fells appear to have held particular spiritual importance for these post-Roman Celts, the stone monuments that dot the bleak landscape are of far older origins, with a long history of probable ritual or religious use.

The stone circles in Cumbria in general are of such antiquity, being the earliest stone circles in the whole of Europe. There is a vast range of types, from the vast monumental circles at Castlerigg, Swinside and Long Meg, to the standard early bronze age circles of about 100 ft in diameter as at Casterton and Elva Plain, to diminutive rings associated with alignments and burials. Some are associated with henge monuments such as Mayburgh.

Wherever you hail from or may be going to, The Lake District has been and will  continue to be a source of inspiration for all that is best in our world. Living in harmony and cooperation with the spiritual immanence of nature in her most beautiful, remembering to care for the well being of our fellow man as well as our priceless and irreplacable natural heritage of wildlife and creatures.

If there is a heaven on Earth, i'd say it is to be found here....

Daffodils by William Wordsworth (1804)

I wander'd lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.
Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the Milky Way,
They stretch'd in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.
The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed - and gazed - but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:
For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.

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