button to main menu   West's Guide to the Lakes, 1778/1821

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Page 128:-
As you come out of the wood, at the gate leading to the open space, there is a magnificent bird's-eye view of Keswick, in the centre of a grand amphitheatre of mountains. Proceeding along the banks of the lake, the road leads through Thornthwaite and Portinscale to Keswick [1].
[1] On taking leave of Bassenthwaite-water we may observe, that it was the first lake that was honoured with one of those amusements called Regattas; this was on the 24th of August, 1780. Another was exhibited on the 1st of August, 1781, (when the swimming sweepstakes were introduced); and the last on the 4th of September, 1782. This species of entertainment was begun on Derwent-water, on the 28th of August, 1781, and continued there once in every year till 1791.
That the reader who has not been present at one of these rural fetes may form some idea of their nature and effects, we subjoin from the Cumberland Pacquet, the following description of the Regatta exhibited on Derwent-water, the 6th of September, 1782. But it will be allowed, by all who have had an opportunity of seeing it, that every representation, in the absence of the beauties that surround the scene, must fall infinitely short of the romantic grandeur it labours to hold up to the imagination.
'At eight o'clock in the morning, a vast concourse of ladies and gentlemen appeared on the side of the Derwent lake, where a number of marquees, extending about four hundred yards, wereerected (sic) for their accommodation. At twelve, such of the company as were invited by Mr. Pocklington, passed over in boats to the island which bears his name; and, on their landing, were saluted by a discharge of his artillery.- This might properly be called the opening of the Regatta; for as soon as the echo of this discharge had ceased, a signal gun was fired, and five boats, which lay upon their oars (on that part of the water which runs nearest the town of Keswick) instantly pushed off the shore, and begun (sic) the race.
'A view from any of the attendant boats (of which there were several) presented a scene which exceeds all description. The sides of the hoary mountains were clad with spectators, and the glassy surface of the lake was variegated with a number of pleasure barges; which, tricked out in all the gayest colors, and glittering in the rays of a meridian sun, gave a new appearance to the celebrated beauties of this matchless vale.
'The contending boats passed Pocklington's island, and rounding St. Herbert's and Ramps-holme, edged down by the outside of Lord's-island, describing in the race almost a perfect circle, and, during the greater part of it, in full view of the company.
'About three o'clock, preparations were made for the sham-attack on Pocklington's island. The fleet (consisting of several barges, armed with small cannon and musquets) retired out of view, behind Friar-crag, to prepare for action: previous to which, a flag of truce was sent to the governor, with a summons to surrender upon honorable terms. A defiance was returned; soon after which, the fleet was seen advancing, with great spirit, before the batteries, and instantly forming in a curved line, a terrible cannonade began on both sides, accompanied with a dreadful discharge of musquetry. This continued for some time, and being echoed from hill to hill, in an amazing variety of sounds, filled the ear with whatever could produce astonishment and awe. All nature seemed to be in an uproar, which impressed on the awakened imagination, the most lively ideas of the 'war of elements,' and 'crush of worlds.'
'After a severe conflict, the enemies were driven from the attack, in great disorder. A feu-de-joye was then fired in the fort, and oft repeated by the responsive echoes. The fleet after a little delay, formed again, and, practising a variety of beautiful manoeuvres, renewed the attack. Uproar again sprang up, and the deep-toned echoes of the mountains again joined in the solemn chorus, which was heard to the distance of ten leagues to leeward, through the eastern opening of the vast amphitheatre, as far as Appleby.
The garrison at length capitulated, and the entertainments of the water being finished, (towards the evening) the company moved to Keswick; to which place, from the water's edge, a range of lamps were fixed, very happily disposed, and a number of fire-works were played off.
'An assembly room (which has been built for the purpose) next received the ladies and gentlemen, and a dance concluded this annual festivity;- a chain of amusement which we may venture to assert, no other spot can possibly furnish, and which want only to be more universally known, to render this a place of more general resort than any other in the kingdom.
'To those whom nature's works alone can charm, this spot will, at all times, be viewed with rapture and astonishment; but no breast, however unsusceptible of pleasure, can be indifferent to that display of every beauty which decks the ancient vale of Keswick on a Regatta-day.'
As the permanent beauties of this matchless vale became more known and frequented, this amusement was laid aside: it resembled too much the busy scenes from which the opulent wish to retire to the enjoyment of rural delight: nor could it long be thought necessary to employ the assistance of art, in that way, to heighten the most exalted charms of nature.
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