The Lake District in Cumbria, England is famous for writing and walking. While holidaying here, I have walked for hours each day so time for a stab at writing. Throughout history many writers have been inspired by the beauty of this area. These include the children’s author Beatrix Potter (1866 – 1943) and 19th century poet William Wordsworth (1770 – 1850). To my surprise, both of these writers have links with science.
‘The Tale of Peter Rabbit’ is Potter’s best known book. Areas of the Lake District were the setting for many of her colourful illustrations. Prior to writing children’s books, Potter had a keen interest in science. She studied, dissected and drew lichens which lead to her writing a paper on their ‘dual nature’. Lichens at that time were considered single organisms but Potter and others correctly proposed that they are made up of interacting fungi and algae.
Potter submitted her paper on lichens to the Linnaean Society of London in 1897. Women were unwelcome at their meetings so her uncle presented the paper on her behalf. Poor treatment by these members of the science community led her to abandoning her work as a botanist. It is disappointing to discover that Potter was so badly treated as a woman in science.
Wordsworth’s famous words ‘I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud’ are inscribed in stone at the entrance to his local church in Grasmere. He gave tourism in the Lake District a kick-start with his ‘Guide through the District of the Lakes’. Wordsworth’s interest in nature is evident in his poems but his link to science occurred after his death. The science journal Nature was first published on 11 November 1869 and a quote by Wordsworth was adopted as their mission statement. It was printed on the front cover of every Nature journal for over a hundred years:
“To the solid ground of Nature trusts the mind that builds for aye”
My holiday in the Lake District has been one of discovery! Today I will be exploring Potter’s farm and tomorrow will walk along Rydal Water in Wordsworth’s footsteps. The past week has made me appreciate why so many writers have been inspired by this small part of England. The photos in this post are a mere snapshot of the abundance of nature I have experienced here. Time to throw on some hiking boots!