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The Pleasures and Advantages of Driving Tours-An Ideal Holiday
Untravelled England-Speed, the Curse of our Century-Rural Inns – The Country as seen from the Road and the Rail—' The Highlands of Essex'-A little-visited Land-A Country of Old-time Buildings and Historic Spots-Our Programme-Highways and Byways—The Langdon Hills-How Guide-books are sometimes compiled-A Grand Prospect—The Opinion of an Experienced Traveller.
Of all the various ways of spending a summer holiday, of all the many modes of travel, where pleasure, not speed, is the chief consideration, commend to me a driving tour, with all its charming independence and the exceptional opportunities it affords of leisurely seeing and thoroughly comprehending the rare charms of our beautiful English scenery-scenery of its kind unequalled in the world.
The fortunate traveller by road, how enviable is his lot! He is delivered from the bondage of timetables, the pleasure of his outing is never marred
by weary waiting at dismal junctions, or hurried rushing to catch certain trains--or miss them, as the case may be. Haste and bustle form no part or parcel of his programme : his is rather a quiet, restful progress; being master of his own time, he can rise and breakfast when he likes, can start on his day's journey just when he chooses ; he knows nothing of the
worry of luggage, for his belongings always go with him, he leaves his hotel door in his own carriage and arrives at his night's destination in like manner. Having full control over his conveyance, he can stop at any spot by the way that may take his fancy, he can loiter or make haste, just as his inclination at the time may dictate-in fine, he travels in the truest sense of the word, he is not simply conveyed from place to place, as is a passenger by railway. An ideal way of spending a summer holiday this surely? Storing one's mind with a gallery of lovely landscapes and beauty-spots, never to be forgotten ; acquiring at the same time an intimate knowledge of the rare charms of rural England ; gathering pleasant experiences each day, and gaining health and strength besides. What a happy combination of good things!
One of the most attractive features of such a journey is its perfect freedom. The driving tourist, if he be wise, will be careful not to bind himself by any precise or pre-arranged plans, but will hold himself untrammelled to wander whither he will ; thus may he explore by-country lanes leading to out-ofthe-way unfrequented spots, and perchance discover for himself many an odd nook and corner undreamed
THE CHARM OF THE UNKNOWN.
of by the guide-book compiler, and never visited by the genus 'tripper.' All the more delightful these for being unknown and unfamed, for is there not a kind of fascination about a quaint or a picturesque spot that we discover for ourselves ? and, moreover, does not such a spot, come upon unawares, charm us the more by its very freshness ? No small matter this, in these days of personally conducted tours, when scenery is catalogued auction fashion, and all things described, even as to the best point of view, so that the ordinary tourist, armed with his faithful handbook, is fully posted up in, and duly prepared for, all he has to see, and often by anticipating too much he experiences disappointment, instead of having a pleasant surprise. Indeed, one of the special charms of road travel is the constant coming upon the unknown, the delightful state of expectancy in which the mind is ever kept, the continual wondering what new beauty the next bend in the way
will reveal. Not the least of the pleasures of a driving tour are the unexpected ones.
Though so thoroughly enjoyable, I do not consider that our form of outing is by any means an expensive one. The fortunate possessors of horses must keep them somewhere, and they do not cost so very much more on the road than eating their heads off' doing nothing in their stables at home, whilst perchance their owners are absent at some fashionable watering-place, repeating their life in London second-hand by the sea, or it may be rushing about restlessly here and there, as fast as railway and steamer will carry them, spending much, travel
ling far and seeing little. *La rapidité, voilà le rêve de notre siècle,' says Théophile Gautier. We cannot travel fast enough, we must get quickly through the country-comprehend nothing, admire nothing, only arrive quickly. Or as our own countryman, Matthew Arnold, has it :
We see all sights from pole to pole,
And glance and nod, and bustle by,
Before we die.
Even if, to take such a charming holiday as the one we took, it be necessary to hire a horse and conveyance, it must be remembered that the cost of hiring would include all travelling expenses; one gets, too, such a continuous enjoyment from an outing of this kind, such a constant change of scene is brought before one, the mind is always so pleasantly occupied with the many varying and interesting experiences, that ennui is a thing impossible ; then the exhilarating effect of being out so long in the fresh bracing country air is a pleasure in itself and as health-giving as delightful, and, having so much to see and do, there is no further expenditure needful for amusement or for fashionable dress. Still again, the charges at the country inns, where the tourist proper is unknown, are, as a rule, most reasonable ; indeed oftentimes so well have we fared, such willing attention have we received, so moderate has been our bill, that I have even frequently felt a compunction in paying so little for so much. I presume that the rent, rates, and taxes of these rural inns are trifling compared with what the landlords of the grander
though less comfortable hotels of fashionable watering-places have to pay, who have besides only a limited season in which to make their profit; this may account for the difference in the charges; probably also‘mine host’ in the country places does his marketing to better advantage.
It was in the pleasant month of June that we took the journey herein related ; a month, speaking generally, of blue skies, of fleecy summer clouds and softened sunshine, for then there is no disagreeable glare of light, nor is the heat too great for outdoor enjoyment. A time it is when the country is at its fairest and freshest, a time when the trees are looking their leafiest, the grass its greenest ; wild flowers then, too, everywhere abound, brightening the land with their glowing colours and making gay the hedgerows with their many tints ; nor is the eye alone delighted, for the sweet breath of the summer air is laden with countless perfumes—it may be that the scent of new-mown hay is borne upon the breeze, or of a bean-field, or of lime trees, or of the hawthorn in blossom ; then the delicate odour of the honeysuckle and the rose is as frequent as it is welcome; or again perchance it is the resinous fragrance of pine trees, or the more powerful perfume of clover or of the gorse that greets the wanderer. In June, too, the birds seem to sing their sweetest and gladdest songs, and, no slight consideration for the holidaymaker, the days are delightfully long.
Why, just when the country is in the prime of its purity and beauty, a veritable Arcadia, bursting into bud and blossom-why it is that just then every