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one should elect to remain in town and leave all this wonderful loveliness, these glorious fresh and spreading landscapes, these leafy woods, rippling streams, flower-strewn meadows, unseen, uncared for, passes my comprehension. Who would gaze upon crowds, dusty streets, and smoke-stained houses, when he could refresh his eyes with the soft verdure of the fields and the luxuriant foliage of the young summer full of grace and tender beauty ? Certainly not I. And here let me remark that he who has never travelled through rural England by road or footpath in the green and sunny month of June, knows little of the supreme loveliness of his own land.
Having decided to take our holiday, and having determined, as on previous occasions, that a driving tour through some portion of Great Britain would be the most enjoyable manner of spending it, the only further matter necessary to be considered was, what portion it should be. A map was consulted, and after some discussion we selected the three counties of Norfolk, Suffolk, and Essex, as the scene of our perambulations.
Unless I am greatly mistaken, the majority of Englishmen are under the impression that this corner of their land is wholly flat and mostly uninteresting. How it may appear from the railway I cannot say, never having so traversed it, but driving along the old high roads and rural lanes we found the scenery to be exceedingly beautiful, the country pleasantly undulating, hilly even in places; indeed, during portions of our journey the brake was not only needful, but in constant requisition-so much for preconceived
THE HIGHLANDS OF ESSEX.'
ideas. The reality was certainly different from our expectations. Considering that Essex has been termed the flattest of English counties, we were agreeably surprised by its diversity of surface; though level and doubtless monotonously uninteresting in parts, it is not fair to judge of the whole by a portion. The tourist whose knowledge of this county is confined to a rush by rail through it, or what may be seen from on board a Thames steamer, would assuredly change his notions if he followed on our track. Our first day's stage, I may here remark, took us to the Langdon Hills, the ‘Highlands of Essex' (of which more anon), and we left that county by a steep hill
top of which was a prominent notice board with the following warning ·To bicyclists.—This hill is DANGEROUS.'
The scenery of the eastern counties is strangely neglected, possibly because it has been so much and unjustly maligned; at any rate, it is out of fashion for the time, with the exception of the Broad district and the fringe of tripper-haunted watering-places round the coast (if these can be fairly classed as scenery). The regular tourist is therefore a stranger in the land, for he only goes where his guide-books direct him, and these are wonderfully slow to discover “fresh woods and pastures new,' and perhaps it is a very good thing that it should be so. On no previous journey have we come upon more charming wayside pictures and pastoral peeps than on the present one, our sketch-book has never been in more frequent requisition, and as Lord Beaconsfield justly remarks “pastoral scenery never palls. The eye may become weary of mountains and the more stupendous effects of nature ; but meadow and woodland never lose their charm.' I think that perhaps we were the more delighted by the picturesque 'bits' we came ever and again upon, because we were hardly prepared for so much sylvan beauty in a land generally presumed to be devoid of scenic attractions.
Nor must the human aspect of the landscape be forgotten, for man has studded it with the works of his hands. You cannot travel far in Eastern England without coming upon some historic spot; some ancient building suggestive of old romance around whose walls bygone memories linger, fraught with interest for the antiquary as well as delightful to the eye of the artist. The country abounds in human associations, in relics of the picturesque and neverreturning past, with all the added charm they give to even the most beautiful scenery. Taking full advantage of our free and independent mode of travel, the only thing definite that we decided upon before starting was to drive to Yarmouth on the east coast, thence northward on to Cromer through the district of the Broads, returning home somehow through the centre of the three counties, the exact route to be decided upon each day as we proceeded.
The weather was kindly disposed; we were favoured with a fine sunshiny morning on which to commence our wanderings, so we started in the best of spirits, for was not our holiday all unspent before us ? and what pleasing previsions we indulged in as we drove along, of the many good things that we knew were in store for us!
THE REAL COUNTRY.
How delightful is the first day in the country to those just escaped from the din of dusty streets, from the smoky and unbeautiful surroundings of our overgrown cities ! Doubly enchanting the country seemed to us after our long entanglement amongst the mean and straggling outskirts of Eastern London. What a relief it was to exchange the noise of the thronged thoroughfares for the quiet peacefulness of the rural roads, where green hedges and shady trees take the place of houses, and pleasant footpaths that of pavements, and where cabs, 'buses, and tramways are unknown! How light and pure the air seemed after the close smoke-laden atmosphere of town! Well do I remember the little thrill of pleasure that went through us when, after reaching the real country, we came upon the first genuine old-fashioned farmstead with its high-pitched gables, its great red-tiled roof, bent with age, and splashed as with gold and silver where the lichens had made their home. An ancient homestead it was, with great elms behind and quite a colony of out-buildings scattered around, a grand bit of building though only a farmhouse.
I verily believe that our hearts beat just a trifle faster when, as we journeyed on, we came upon an old wooden windmill, weather-stained and time-toned, repaired here and there in a happy makeshift manner, old, strained and battered, still bravely working on, its sails slowly revolving round and round, and to complete the picture the white-headed miller himself, looking out at us from an odd slit of a window in the side of his rickety but picturesque structure.
Then the first half-timbered cottage we came upon, how charming it seemed, with its tiny garden full of homely flowers, gay of colour and sweet of perfume, its leaden lattice windows (all religiously closed, by the way) and its plastered front, painted every imaginable hue by the sun and rain of forgotten years!
Perhaps, however, the greatest charm to the town-tired Londoner of his first day in the country is the sylvan quietude, so peace-bestowing and restgiving, a quietude deepened rather than broken by the gladsome songs of birds, the distant lowing of cattle, the slumberous rustling of leaves stirred by the breeze, or the chime of some far-away church clock, softened and mellowed by distance. Then, as we progressed, our journey became in truth one never-ending picture : we drove on in a delicious day-dream, drinking in the sweetness and beauty of the sunny landscape, made fairer still by the happy homes of men, telling as they did of human occupancy.
How light-hearted we felt that day: how we rejoiced within ourselves that we had for a time escaped from the monotonous routine and conventionalities of town life! How we congratulated ourselves that we were not slaves to fashion, bound to remain in town just when the country was in the height of its summer glory!
To us, devoted lovers of the country as we are, what attractions could crowded London possibly offer in exchange for our free roving existence, our healthy out-of-door Bohemian sort of life, with the