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it has the appearance of a small market-town of no great antiquity and of little beauty. Some writers, as we have seen, make Lechlade derive its name from the Latin scholars who once dwelt in it; but others give it a different origin. Time was, say they, when the College of Physicians (leeches), instead of, as now, rearing its head in the neighbourhood of the court, was relegated into this obscure municipality, and the town was in consequence called Leechlade — originally Leeches-lake. It really owes its name to ils position by the mouth of the river Lech, which here falls into the Thames.
As high as Lechlade the river is navigable for barges of seventy tons burden; and the navigation is continued through the western counties to the Severn by means of the Thames and Severn Canal, which unites with the Thames at Lechlade, and the Stroudwater Canal near Stioud. This canal, which is thirty miles long, was completed in 1789, previous to which the Thames used to be navigattd up to Cricklade by barges of light draught constructed for the purpose. Now the upper course of the river is left to the undisturbed use of the miller and the fisherman.
Thus far our river has led us through enclosed meadows and private grounds. For the remainder of the way—at least nearly to London—there is a public path provided for us alongside the river. The path, however, is not a very smooth nor a very regularone—and he who follows it ought to have a pair of Odcombiau shoes to walk in. The pleasantest way to travel down the Thames from Lechlade, unquestionably, is in a boat. Then you can row briskly where there is little to be seen, and rest where there is much; lie at ease and let the fancy play with the varying thoughts that are suggested Vol. i. c
by the moving scenery as you glide idly along with the current; or moor the boat and handle rod or pencil as taste or whim may dictate; or run it ashore to take a stroll over the meadows, or climb a hill, or survey an old church or ruin, or choose some quiet village inn not far from the river wherein to take rest for the night. But this will not do for the rambler.
The rambler will of course take the path.
But as this path is to accompany him—or more properly, as he is to accompany it—or more properly still, as both are to be together all the rest of the journey, it is desirable that he should know what sort of a path it is; and—as I do not intend to take any further notice of it after setting out upon it, but shall go from one side of the river to the other just as if there were no path in the way— why this seems the proper place to give some little information about it. For it would not accord witli my plan to mislead the rambler who turns to me for guidance by any want of explicitness. Well, then, it is not, as he may suppose, a narrow winding path, worn out of the soft green grass by the foot of the pensive angler or patient pilgrim, with daisies and celandines and other field-flowers on either side of it, but, on the contrary, it is a broad towing-path for horses, formed of flint-stones and flanked by a ditch^at least that is its general character. At times the rough flints give place to sand, at others to mud. He must make the best of it.
Before starting upon it, however, there is one thing he should provide himself with, and that is—this is entirely between ourselves, he might iiot think of it without this private hint—a store of copper coins. And for this reason :—the path is not only hard and flinty, but capricious withal. Whilst you are treading soberly along it, admiring the beauty of the landscape, it may be, or thinking of your dinner, or your debts, or—of anything else that is equally pleasant or pressing—all at once you find yourself at the end of the path, and discover that it recommences on the other side of the river. To continue on the side you now are is impossible, or at least not easy, for there is a brook in front, or perhaps a weir. Now, as you begin to perceive, there is, or ought to be, a ferry here. And there is a ferry—sometimes too a ferryman; but if not, the miller's man, or the miller's maid, will ferry you over. Now it is against these occurrences (and they happen half a dozen times at least in a day's walk) that you need the pennies. Thames boatmen, from Cricklade to the Nore, are always "short of change." When a pretty demure damsel takes the trouble to push the boat across the river for you, you will of course not care to search for coppers; but when a clumsy clown does it—it is another matter. But this is only a hint (aside) to the rambler—he may please himself about attending to it. I have done my duty as guide, and my conscience is at ease on the subject.
Beyond Lechlade the river is much more pleasant than it has yet been. The banks are low, but they are considerably diversified, and there is a background of hills on each hand. The little village of Buscot, on the Berkshire side, is one of the very prettiest, in its way, all along the Thames. There is in it almost everything you would look for in a genuine English village, and each is excellent of its sort. The little inn has flowers and grapes growing all over the front, and a clean and cheerful aspect that speaks of decent, homely comfortableness inside. The church is a plain, old-fashioned, and
thoroughly rural one, such as it is a pleasure to meet with; it stands too in a quiet, out-of-the-way spot, and there is an entrance to it through a flowergarden. Close by the church are a mill and weir that a painter would rejoice to put into his sketchbook. Then there is, standing alone in its dignity on the other side of the road, a stately mansion with a spacious park. There are also some substantial farm-houses nestling among lofty elms, and having goodly barns annexed, wherein to store the rich crops that in the autumn adorn the neighbouring fields. And, finally, there are a dozen or two neat cottages, with several dozen children making a clatter about them.
The villages we next pass on the right and left are Eaton Hastings and Kelmscot; both pretty places, though not so pretty as Buscot. A little further is Radcot Bridge, which has a place in English history. Here, in 1387, Henry Bolingbroke, Earl of Derby, afterwards Henry IV., defeated the troops of Richard II., which were commanded by the King's favourite, Robert Vere, Duke of Ireland. Vere saved his life by swimming across the river on his horse, and succeeded in escaping to Holland, where he died about four years afterwards. Radcot Bridge was also the scene of a skirmish during the Civil War, when the Parliament troops under Cromwell captured two hundred prisoners. The bridge is an old one, but of a more recent date than the first battle.
The road from Radcot Bridge leads to Faringdon, which will be a very convenient halting-place: it is about two miles and a half from the bridge. Though Faringdon is a livelier town than either Cricklade or Lechlade, there is but little in it to amuse a casual visitor,—at best it is a wearisome place to spend a wet day in. The town stands on irregular ground, and the houses offer some picturesque combinations, and the neighbourhood is agreeable, but still it is difficult to conceive how the inhabitants endure the monotony of it. On the 18th of October, indeed, it looks a little cheerful. Gentle rambler, did you ever see a hiring " Statty "? if not, and you are near Faringdon on that day, or any other Berkshire town on the day marked in the county calendar, you cannot do better than visit it. It is really a very pretty sight to see the lads and maidens ranged along in their best dresses; the maids with a knot of ribbon in their waists, the lads with a piece of whipcord or some straw in their hats. And—but I have not time now to describe the sight; if I can make room, perhaps 1 may hereafter say something of this, along with several other of these rustic festivals.
Faringdon is a place of considerable local importance; in olden times its importance was greater, though of a different kind. There was a royal palace here in the Saxon days, and Edward the Elder died in it. A castle was built at Faringdon in the reign of Stephen; but it was destroyed by that monarch, who, however, made amends by erecting a priory instead of it. No trace of either remains now. The town has several times been honoured by royal visits; and the inhabitants remember, with some pride, that this was one of the very few places which successfully resisted the prowess of Cromwell. Faringdon House was garrisoned by the royal troops, and its capture was attempted in vain by Cromwell, and afterwards by some other of the Parliamentary generals. In one of the skirmishes the church steeple was battered down. The old house has given place to a modern one, built by one