At dusk it takes on a life of its own

Keswick at dusk
Photo by David Iliff; License: CC BY-SA 3.0; Larger version

Born in Keswick in 1905, Enid J. Wilson grew up surrounded by the majestic beauty of the Lake District. As the daughter of both a climber and a botanist, Enid developed a deep understanding and appreciation for the natural world. Her love for the environment, combined with her innate talent for observation and prose, led her to become a revered Country Diarist for the Guardian newspaper, and for 38 years she captivated readers with her vivid descriptions of the landscapes, flora, and fauna she encountered in her beloved hometown and its surroundings. In this diary entry from April 22, 1960, she shares her experience of an enchanting evening in Keswick, as night falls and the wildlife comes alive.

The Diary Entry


22 April, 1960

The hours after sunset seem to belong to the badgers and the white owls, but last night when the radiance of the sunset was fading in crimson and grey behind the western hills the owls were out and about, calling to one another, long before the badgers had wakened on the sett beside the water. This is a strange place even by daylight: a crescent of deep water left where the river ran long ago, its edge is sheltered by ash trees and a wooded half-island stands at its centre. At dusk it takes on a life of its own, and although it is still and quiet it is far from silent; the night seems to stir with a variety of small sounds. There was the slight passage of air through the trees, the breathy voices of peewits out on the lake-marsh, and the running river only a field away. Wood anemones glimmered white in the dusk, a bat wavered in and out of the ash branches whose knobbly flowers looked oddly ornate against the sky and, as the light died, four mallards came flying down the valley with outstretched necks and whistling wings. They circled the island twice and one pair landed on the lagoon in a swish of sound, breaking the reflections and sending lines of silver running into the reeds. The waking silence settled again, but only a few minutes later a fox barked-once- near at hand, and again the ducks were up and away, quacking, to seek the safety of the open lake; and still the badgers did not come.

Further Reading

Enid Wilson’s Country Diary was published in 1988 by Hodder and Stoughton, with a foreword by Melvyn Bragg. However, three years earlier a selection of entries were collated in an edition titled A Lakeland Diary, which was limited to a few hundred copies and featured wood engravings by Kathleen Lindsley and Edward Stamp—second-hand copies can be bought, at a hefty price. You can also still find some of Wilson’s entries on the website of the Guardian, where it all began.

Diary entry excerpted from Enid Wilson’s Country Diary, published by Hodder and Stoughton in 1988.

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