We went to England in late June expecting fogs and rain, but it was cool and clear most days, seldom getting above 70 degrees.
We had not considered how deep into the evening the light would persist. Northern England, where we stayed in the tiny village of Newby in the beautiful Lake District, is farther north than all of the U.S. except Alaska, and the light comes early and stays late.
We wore long pants and layers and carried umbrellas that were seldom used. The narrow country lanes were largely empty of traffic, and we walked between hedgerows and used public footpaths across neat fields of sheep and cows.
Sometimes we would see a farmer far away on a red tractor or mowing his field of hay. There were wooden steps to climb over gates and we walked between villages, each one with its ancient church and historic pub. Albion, the original name for the British Isles, was all around us in the lingering daylight.
If there was an unintentional theme to our stay in England, it must have been those ancient churches. We think of our own little church at home being old because it was built in the late 19th century, but these churches keep the record of their succession of pastors and their years of service that date back to the Middle Ages.
One morning, we walked to the tiny village of Morland, a mile or two away from the cottage where we were staying, and visited the chapel with its Saxon tower and walked among the cemetery stones for an hour. Then we took the long, long way home through the beautiful Eden Valley, lost for a few hours between Great and Little Strickland west of the River Leith, and looked down upon by the Cumbrian mountains.
Then there was Dove Cottage, where Wordsworth lived with his wife, Mary, and their children and sister Dorothy, all of whom are buried in the graveyard of St. Alban’s Church in Grasmere.
We visited the cottage and the graveyard, and walked the shoreline of the lake that Wordsworth could view as he sat by his window composing the poems I once knew by heart.
Then on our way to London, we stopped at Haworth, a small town on the Yorkshire moors, where the Bronte sisters, Charlotte and Emily, are buried in the church next to the family pew. This burying of people below the church floor was common across England, though it seems strange to us here.
In the great church of Westminster Abbey in London, I got a shiver as I looked at the floor where I was standing and saw that the bones of Sir Isaac Newton were buried beneath me.
We toured St Paul’s Cathedral on Ludgate Hill with its splendid views of the City of London, if you are willing to climb hundreds of narrow steps to its dome.
We stood at the windswept railing and looked at a thousand years of history spread out like a postcard and never wanted to leave.