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up the Avon Warwickwards. Far over its clear waters the graceful willows bent, kissing the sparkling stream as it flowed along. Large beds of fine and richly-fragrant water-lilies spread their yellow blossoms, and the blue forget-me-nots, " the flowers for happy lovers," edged the banks with their fine adornment. Islands covered with withies and thick beds of rushes frequently broke the stream into two currents, where gurgling waters made sweet responses to the waving of the trees, which the mildest of breezes wakened into the sweetest melodies. Long after we had left the town, and were labouring at the somewhat arduous rowing, the windings of the river brought the fine spire of the church full in view; and, resting on the oars, we took another and another look at the glorious symbol of aspiration, ever pointing skywards, and thought of him whose honoured bones repose under its sanctifying and hallowed roof; and wondered if he who had written such solemn and fearful descriptions of death, now beheld the pilgrimages of men to his honoured birth-place and tomb. Happy in our day's wanderings, and feeling the poet's benedicite upon us, we left the Avon, gained the Warwick turnpike-road, refreshed at the “Windmill," and turned our faces homeward; which we reached with a remembrance that will never fade, with a sense of peace and joy that will never pass away. May all who make a pilgrimage to Stratford-on-Avon be so rewarded !
It is a
We again confess, as we have confessed before, to a strong love for rambling in quiet out-of-the-way places. The little rural villages, which for ramblers generally have but small attractions, and never cause them to turn out of the proposed route for a moment, have for us charms of no ordinary character. delight to adopt what the noisy world heeds not or
When watching the more ambitious tourist taking an opposite direction, and leaving us alone to pursue our own course, and to follow the windings of our lane as it meanders along at its own sweet will, we pity his want of taste, and lament his loss. Let all that will, visit only the lions of a country; we prefer as a rule, to pick the less intrusive, but not the less worthy places, which everywhere await the earnest lover with unexpected charms that are easily wooed and won. Something of the excitement which warms the heart of the explorer animates us in these village rambles which we so much love.
And then what a joy it is to have, as it were, the first view of hidden beauty! We like to hunt out
“ The violet 'neath a mossy stone,
Half hidden from the eye," and to gaze alone upon its loveliness. So we delight in sauntering along unfrequented lanes, or by the side of rarely-visited streamlets, buried in overhanging foliage, and hidden from the eye of the irreverent intruder, but ever graciously welcoming him who knows what treasures are there concealed. It was of some such streamlet that Burns was thinking when
“The Muse nae poet ever fand her,
Till by himsel' he learn’d to wander
And na’ think lang." Adown such trotting burns it is a special joy to wander; and none the less is the joy because of the solitude.
We love not man the less, but Nature more,
In these communings.” And on one of the brightest of June's days we pursued the winding upward course of such a “trotting burn,” until it led us into a beautiful grassy circle, surrounded and overcanopied by trees; and lying there upon the grass we recalled the exquisite things which poets have sung of such places; and first came Wordsworth's appropriate Sonnet, and we involuntarily repeated,
“Sole listener, Duddon, to the breeze that play'd
And birch trees risen in silver colonnade."
pleasantly along; not a sign of footsteps along its banks; and then the silver birch, the whistling alder, the lowering ash hung over its waters with delight; and there the
“ Patriarcbal tree,
With one continuous sound.”
And there we listened to the many-voiced concert of nature, in which all voices accord in sweet harmony, without one discord to mar the glorious requiem of praise she is ever singing.
Full of such remembrances of former out-of-the way and solitary rambles, we set out to pay a visit to the fair little village, with the opprobrious name of “Drunken Bidford.” Railways are not of much avail for reaching this quiet, secluded place. You can, if you please, go by rail to Evesham, from
, which a pleasant six-mile walk will bring you to Bidford; or you can coach it to Alcester, whence you have about the same distance to walk before getting to your journey's end. We preferred driving ourselves over, and a fine drive it was; passing through Alcester, Studley, and other English villages, with the rich bloom of a late spring-day surrounding us, filling the fields with beauty and the air with fragrance.
Bidford is prettily situated on the banks of the Avon, and, with its adjoining parishes, numbers some sixteen hundred people. It is very clean and neat,
the houses being for the most part built of stone found in the neighbourhood. The place is well known to architects and builders: in the specifications of the former, the words “Bidford Stone" often occur. The quarries, from which the stone is obtained, are rather extensive; and the manufacturing of it into chimney-pieces, and other objects of use, is the chief source of employment to its inhabitants. A large proportion of the population, both men and women, are employed in this labour. The wages earned are about the same as those got in our best agricultural districts; and we were told that with steadiness and industry, there would not be a more prosperous well-to-do population than the Bidfordians. The former virtue, however, according to report and tradition, they do not possess. Sad accounts were given us of the drunkenness of the work-people. This vice has long been so characteristic of the place, that for some centuries it has had to bear the not honourable title placed at the head of this paper. A
Α. story is still current that Shakspere once came over to "spend a night in mirth and glee” with these jolly old topers. In this bout the poet got so far beyond the mark that he failed to reach home, and spent the night under the sheltering branches of a crab-tree, which, of course, has since, and therefore, become famous. The tree no longer exists, but boxes made of its wood are still preserved as precious relics; and our informant prided himself not a little in the possession of one of these mementoes of the inebriating adventure of the great dramatist.