THERE can be little doubt but that England is slowly awaking to the fact that she has only a limited domain of beautiful scenery, to give rest and refreshment to her wearied hand-workers, and thought and inspiration to her brain-workers. She is now fully aroused to the fact that, unless most jealously watched, the Railway Companies will in the next few years rob her of that limited domain. What need for such constant vigilance there is, can best be known by a visit to that old-time metropolis of the south, Winchester. You will hear bitter things from every one's mouth there agaitist the latest railway engineering in the Valley of the lichen. And if you care to stroll out along the most favourite of the Winchester walks, you will find those bitter things against Railway Companies justified. For as one walks by the Nun's Walk, along the Itchen side, or passes out by ancient Hyde along the road towards Kings- worthy, one is soon sensible of the fact that the one-time loveli- ness of the valley prospect in the direction of wooded Kings- worthy has ceased to be. And in its place a great white wall has been built up, that stretches in a barrier of un- broken ugliness from one side of the vale to the other. This white wall is the chalk embankment that is to carry the latest addition of unnecessary branch lines of rail, for miles along the Itchen Vale. One wonders how old Izaak Walton would have enjoyed the sight of it; and when one asks whether in Winchester no hand or voice stirred against this robbery of Winchester's fairest bit of valley prospect, one hears,—" Oh! no one thought for a moment that the railway engineers were going to bisect the view up the vale with their hideous chalk embankment. We all thought the train would run along the level of the valley meadows, and be unseen." And plaintively enough, one also hears some one add :—" There is one gentleman who says he could have entirely prevented the mischief, if he had chosen, only he did not choose." This is a sad enough story, but it is worth telling, as a sample of the way in which the guileless public is year by year deceived by the uncompromising and audacious railway engineer.
Luckily for England, in some quarters men are more on the alert to challenge the intention of railway enterprise. Thus, we have a Permanent Lake District Defence Society, with his Royal Highness the Duke of Albany at its head, and a backing of the most influential names in the State and in literature and science of to-day. Encouraged by their successful combinations and vigilance, a similar Defence Society has been formed in Yorkshire, under the title of the Aysgarth and Wensleydale Defence Society. As emergencies arise, similar societies will arise also ; and it is to be hoped that before long a powerful combination of these into a single body will be effected, which shall be so fully represented in the Legislature, as to prevent the possibility of such attacks upon national scenery and the cherished haunts of holiday-seekers, as' have occurred at Aysgarth, and have been repeated in lonely Ennerdale.
It is not, however, only from bogus mining exploit or quarry speculation that English Lakeland has to fear destruction. She has enemies even of her own children, and from among the restless tribe of men who cater for the Lakeland tourist's wants. These men, stirring hotel proprietors, have round their necks the heavy burdens of large hotels, that can only be filled for three months in the year ; and in consequence, they will adopt any shift that shall conduce to their trade during those three months. The last bit of mischief that these worthy hotel-keepers have planned will, we expect, be frustrated by the Lake residents, but it is so audacious as to be worth recounting. There has existed for some few years past a little society of hotel-keepers, who call themselves the Lake District Association. They have distinguished themselves chiefly by a very specious programme, to the effect that they exist for the purpose of rendering Lakeland desirable for Lake visitors and Lake residents, by looking after the roads, mountain paths, &c., and they act as general advisers as to which hotel is best to put up- at, and as special advisers by advertisement and station placards, &c., to all about to travel who as yet have not sufficiently appreciated Westmoreland and Cumberland. This Lake District Association has signalised its usefulness to the public on more than one occasion. It refused to move when Manchester threatened to drink up Thirlmere ; it refused to move when Stockghyll Force was about to become the private property of a tea garden speculator ; it refused to move when the lessees of Lord Lecoufield's quarry, at Honister, had deter- mined to run their railway by Derwentwater up Borrowdale. Perhaps this is not to be wondered at, for notwithstanding the fact that it has a real, live Earl as its President, it consists of hotel-keepers and tradesmen, whose object in life is to please all parties and retain all customers, and whose public-houses may be full of any spirit but public spirit. But the last move in the way to more grist for the mill will, in all probability, be the death-blow of the Association, for, as we hear at the last meeting of this estimable body of hotel- keepers, who have elected themselves custodians of English Lakeland, it was proeosed to run a road on the western side of Rydal Lake, right round Loughrigg, and convert into a busy highway the Terrace walk on Loughrigg, above Grasmere. It happened that neither the noble lord, non-resident in the English Lakeland, nor the committee of taste, knew any of the literary traditions connected with that Terrace Walk and the path on the western side of Rydal Lake; did not remember that it was the favourite stroll of De Qnincey, Hartley Coleridge, the daily round of Wordsworth and his sister Dorothy, the beloved of all the retired walks of those who for the past sixty years have studied the English Lake• poets ; and little dreamed that the residents would rise up in a mass and call them not blessed. Indeed, to read the account of the Lakes Destruction Association's meeting, we should imagine that their noble Chairman would be surprised at the stupidity of the English Lakes' residents in resisting the latest bit of scenic improvement suggested, under his presidency, by this Loughrigg road. But their resistance to this last intended act of vulgarity will perhaps enlighten him on one point. Lord Bective "thought that the facts of the past year's work should induce the public to give a much more handsome support to the Association than they did at the present time, and it showed that the general public were very much behind the trading members in the Lake District, in opening out the beauties and developing the interests of the Dish-jet." Lord Bective will now know why it is that the educated public refuse to support trading members in the Lake District in efforts to vulgarise it. When a man in his position is found at the head of a band of Lake improvers of this sort, we are not surprised to find him obliged to talk about opening out the beauties and developing the interests of Lakeland; but all men of culture and sense throughout England will answer:—" The interests and the beau- ties of Lakeland depend entirely, for us, upon the fact that they are neither opened ont,,nor developed. A little more Lake District Association, and the hotel-keepers who own his Lord- ship as President may have Lakeland all to themselves, for neither residents will stay nor tourists come 'to an opened-out, developed' Lakeland." It is devoutly to be hoped, however, that this latest intended bit of vandalism will be nipped in the bud. Artists do not want to see Rydal Water ringed round with a white highway. Foot-passengers who wish to avoid the dust, and the noisy coach-road on a "trippers' day," between White Moss and Rydal, will probably not relish the ,idea of having the path by the western shore of Rydal turned into a paying postchaise road. It is not very likely that the in- habitants of the district will undertake to make or keep in order such an additional burden upon the township rates, to please the hotel-keepers. The Permanent Lake District Defence Society must not forget Ennerdale, but will surely remember Rydal.