ST. THOMAS IN THE VALE, FROM MOUNT DIABLO.
The road over Mount Diablo, to open a more easy communication between the South and North side of the Island, was formed about fifty years since. The elevation is gradual and easy to its summit, and the toil of mounting it is amply repaid by the varied and extensive prospect which it commands; the whole parish of St. Thomas in the Vale backed by the high grounds of St. David’s, and the more distant blue mountains being spread before the eye. In the wood beneath us are the buildings of the Ivy Sugar Estate, now thrown up, and lately purchased by George Barriffe, Esq.: beyond is Charlemont Penn, the property of Sir Alexander Grant, Bart, and more distant, the works on Treadways, the property of Henry Dawkins, Esq. The immense height and consequent distance renders the markings of other estates too indistinct for the pencil. The greater part of the parish is comprized within the Vale called Sixteen Mile Walk. This Vale is about eleven miles in length, and eight in width. It is neither flat nor swampy, but diversified throughout with gentle risings and slopes: the soil is fertile; for the most part a red coarse earth, mixed with clay, or a dark mould, with a whitish marl. The Vale is almost daily throughout the year overcast with a thick fog, which begins to rise slowly on the approach of evening, grows denser as the night advances, becomes gradually diffused into all the contiguous vales or inlets among the surrounding mountains, is heaviest about the dawn of day, and remains settled until the sun has warmed and agitated the air: then it rises higher, expanding in the atmosphere; and between the hours of eight and nine in the forenoon, it begins to flow away in two principal streams, the one westward among the mountains on that side; and the other southward following the course of the river. The air of this parish is in general reported healthy, and the habitations throughout the Vale, being for the most part built upon rising grounds, are not liable to damps. This tract was among the first settled with sugar plantations, and what it produces now of that commodity is of an excellent quality, but the land is thought to be much worn. The road itself cannot be better described than in the words of Beckford; and not having the English work at hand, we must quote from the French translation, which is fortunately in our possession. “Il est peu de routes que je préfère à celles que l’on voit dans la plus grande partie de l’isle entre de hautes hayes de campêche; elles sont loin d’une régularité monotone; souvent elles forment de magnifiques berceaux du plus beau verd; ici, elles sont découvertes et laissent distinguer vingt arbustes différens; là elles se resserrent, c’est plus un sentier qu’un grand chemin, et des tilleuls en fleurs y répandent leurs parfums dans les airs; tout auprès s’élève le cocotier; ses rameaux forment le dais le plus magnifique, et ses fruits suspendus à la portée du voyageur l’invitent à y chercher une fraîcheur salutaire et des sues parfumés et exquis. Les prairies sont peuplées de troupeaux; le bambou y étale la délicatesse de ses plumes et la richesse de ses ombres; le cédre bâtard y balance ses larges ombelles, et l’arbre du cachou y attire les yeux par la couleur dorée de ses fruits.”