Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Learning "were" is as good as "have been"

But I had never seen the Solway.
And then, resting on a rocky
ledge above Crag Lough, I sudden-
ly realized, what I had long con-
cealed from myself, that I was ill
.. and so home, and spent a week
in bed, and read Guy Mannering again.

But after I had been up two days
(for I was determined to go), I was
taken to Blindburn in the Cheviots,
north-west of Alwinton, and after
lunch I walked, over the old Roman
Dere Street, down the Cottonhope
Burn to Byrness, over the fells by
the Blackhope Nick to Kielder ..
on again next morning up the Lewis-
burn valley, and over to Becastle
Fells, a killing struggle, over peat-
hags and bogs and clefts, making ev-
ery mile as two; and at last, from
Sighty Crag, I saw it, a sheet of
twinkling water and a long reach of
desolate sand, the Solway Firth;

and at the same time I heard the
bubbling of a spring nearby among
the moss, and slaked my thirst
with its cool dark water; for my
throat was parched with the long
weary climb. After which I felt 
as I daresay the Israelites felt
when, from a hilltop, they viewed
the Promised Land, that it wasn't
very different from anywhere else;
still, it was something to be out 
of the wilderness.

                  .. and dropping lightly down the
                  fells I met a shepherd, the first 
                  human face I had seen for eighteen 
                  miles, and so to Bewcastle, where 
                  I found, against all probability
                  (for it is a lonely steading) an-
                  other man, in the middle of a field,
                  delivering lime from a lorry. So I
                  asked him for a lift, and he took 
                  me to Brampton, whence I gradually
                  found my way home. He drove a lime-
                  lorry now, he said, but he had once
                  lived far away in Northumberland,
                  and had spent his childhood in the
                  village of Powburn, where his uncle
                  was the policeman. So I told him
                  that I had been born in the parish
                  of Powburn, in Glanton, and from
                  that time we were intimate friends.

Lord Dacre of Glanton
The Solway Firth
June, 1945
The Wartime Journals
Richard Davenport-Hines
op. cit.


  1. I have taken that walk or, at least, something similar and as healing. Walking on the moors, over dry-stone walls hundreds of years old, up and down the fells, and at the end of the walk feeling as bent by the wind as the trees one shelters under.

    A lovely piece of writing on the part of Hugh Trevor-Roper and very moving to find it's for me. Thank you, Laurent.

    1. Thank you for sustaining our memory of important, beautiful ways, and 'though strenuous, I hope it will long give you pleasure, as it does for us.