Beyond the great red viaduct, whose central piers are washed by the river far below, the road plunges into the golden shade of the woods near Cock Mill, and then comes out by the river’s bank down below, with the little village of Ruswarp on the opposite shore. The railway goes over the Esk just below the dam, and does its very best to spoil every view of the great mill built in 1752 by Mr. Nathaniel Cholmley. However, from the road towards Sleights the huge building looks picturesque enough, with the river flowing smoothly over the broad dam fringed by the delicate faded greens and browns of the trees. The mill, with its massive roof and projecting eaves, suggests in a most remarkable fashion one of the huge gate-houses of the Chinese Imperial Palace at Peking.
The road follows close beside the winding river, and all the way to Sleights there are lovely glimpses of the shimmering waters, reflecting the overhanging masses of foliage. The golden yellow of a bush growing at the water’s edge will be backed by masses of brown woods that here and there have retained suggestions of green, contrasted with the deep purple tones of their shadowy recesses. These lovely phases of Eskdale scenery are denied to the summer visitor, but there are few who would wish to have the riverside solitudes rudely broken into by the passing of boatloads of holiday-makers. Just before reaching Sleights Bridge we leave the tree-embowered road, and, going through a gate, find a stone-flagged pathway that climbs up the side of the valley with great deliberation, so that we are soon at a great height, with a magnificent sweep of landscape towards the south-west, and the keen air blowing freshly from the great table-land of Egton High Moor.
A little higher, and we are on the road in Aislaby village. The steep climb from the river and railway has kept off those modern influences which have made Sleights and Grosmont architecturally depressing, and thus we find a simple village on the edge of the heather, with picturesque stone cottages and pretty gardens, free from companionship with the painfully ugly modern stone house, with its thin slate roof. The big house of the village stands on the very edge of the descent, surrounded by high trees now swept bare of leaves.
The first time I visited Aislaby I reached the little hamlet when it was nearly dark. Sufficient light, however, remained in the west to show up the large house standing in the midst of the swaying branches. One dim light appeared in the blue-gray mass, and the dead leaves were blown fiercely by the strong gusts of wind. On the other side of the road stood an old gray house, whose appearance that gloomy evening well supported the statement that it was haunted. The classic front appeared behind an imposing gateway approached by a curious flat bridge across a circular pond which had a solid stone edging. The low parapets of the bridge were cut into a strange serpentine form. I gazed at the front of the house, backed by the dim outline of the moor beyond; but, though the place was silent enough, I could hear no strange sounds, and the windows remained black and impassive.