7 must-see Wordsworth localities in the Lake District (Part 2): The Great Daffodil Hunt

“ALL AT ONCE I SAW A CROWD, A HOST OF DANCING DAFFODILS”

 

 

'Wordsworth' and 'daffodils'. I can’t think of one of these words with out also thinking of the other. Can you?

And I totally get why the Wordsworth’s were so taken with these flowers. They're so joyful, brightening up the spring landscape after a colourless, barren winter. I like to think of daffodils as blowing their glorious golden trumpets, praising God and welcoming the new season with happy music as they dance in the breeze.

Wordsworth didn’t put it quite like that though. Here’s an excerpt from his first version (or read the whole poem here):

I wandered lonely as a Cloud
That floats on high o’er Vales and Hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd
A host of dancing Daffodils;
Along the Lake, beneath the trees,
Ten thousand dancing in the breeze.
— William Wordsworth, 1804

Having already explored several Wordsworth localities in the Lake District (see last post) it was time to hunt down those daffodils!

Read on for more.

 

5. Ullswater: Glencoyne Bay, Aira Force and Gowbarrow Park

In 1802 when William and his sister Dorothy were on a walking trip they idled along the shore of Ullswater. This walk resulted in Dorothy’s most famous journal entry, the inspiration for Wordsworth’s ‘Daffodils’:

The wind was furious... the Lake was rough... When we were in the woods beyond Gowbarrow park we saw a few daffodils close to the water side, we fancied that the lake had floated the seeds ashore & that the little colony had so sprung up — But as we went along there were more & yet more & at last under the boughs of the trees, we saw that there was a long belt of them along the shore, about the breadth of a country turnpike road. I never saw daffodils so beautiful they grew among the mossy stones about & about them, some rested their heads upon these stones as on a pillow for weariness & the rest tossed & reeled & danced & seemed as if they verily laughed with the wind that blew upon them over the Lake, they looked so gay ever glancing ever changing. This wind blew directly over the lake to them. There was here & there a little knot & a few stragglers a few yards higher up but they were so few as not to disturb the simplicity & unity & life of that one busy highway... — Rain came on, we were wet.
— Dorothy Wordsworth – Thursday 15th April 1802

On the western shore of Ullswater lies Glencoyne Bay, also known as ‘Wordsworth Point’. This small pebbly beach with grassy woodland behind is close to the village of Glenridding, and certainly boasts a 'host of golden daffodils' in the right season. Unfortunately I’d just missed them and official guided daffodil walk!

Here you can amble in several directions from the National Trust car park. The bay itself is beautiful or you can walk off-road to Glenridding where there are fabulous ice creams for sale at the corner shop (mmm… blackcurrant flavour…). There are options for walks to the high fells from the village including the iconic Helvellyn and Striding Edge. But if you prefer a gentler stroll there’s also a 2 km walk from the bay towards Aira Force; this takes in Glencoyne Deer Park and has breathtaking views over Ullswater.

Moody Ullswater looking west towards the high fells

Aira Force was another of Wordsworth’s favourite places and he wrote three poems about it. I could just hear his words from ‘The Somnambulist’ playing in my mind as I wondered past ‘the wild stream of Aira’.

This 65ft waterfall thunders down from a stone footbridge and is part of a Victorian ‘pleasure garden’ estate surrounding the lakeside Lyulphs Tower. Look out for the rainbow that appears when the conditions are right on a sunny morning. As well as the waterfalls, with bridges for admirers to observe the spectacle, there is an arboretum and many paths from which to enjoy the rocky landscape. So we did!

Mind you, the only daffodils we spotted were these on a signpost! But, it’s always good to discover a new long distance route – The Ullswater Way is a 20 mile walk around ‘England’s most beautiful Lake’ which can easily be split into shorter sections. One to aim for me thinks…

Although our walk was fairly short there are plenty of longer options some taking in Gowbarrow Park where Dorothy Wordsworth first spied those famous daffodils including this National Trust trail. Originally a medieval hunting park, the deer have now been replaced with Herdwick sheep - yay, my favourite - but you can still see evidence of old shooting boxes and stalkers huts.

Whether you are looking for daffodils or not, Ullswater is a lovely part of the Lake District to explore at any time of year. Here’s a few pictures of the area I’ve taken over the years:

6. Grasmere: St Oswalds Church and the Daffodil Walk

Grasmere is well known as Wordsworth's home for much of his life and is now probably the most popular Cumbrian village. As such you would expect to find some daffodils here.

And you do (or you would at the right time of year…).

In the centre of the village is St Oswalds Church where the Wordsworths are buried with a delightful little Daffodil Walk next to it. The Wordsworth Daffodil Garden was created as a tribute to the Poet Laureate and its tranquil location by the river makes it a lovely spot in which to sit and ponder. Around 3000 memorial stones and countless daffodils contribute to the magic of this evocative place.

Gorgeous banks of daffodils at the right time of year

Daffodils or not, Grasmere is a delightful place. Nestling at the foot of some spectacular fells and with its own lake there are many shops pubs and cafes. You can also visit the legendary gingerbread shop where for some reason they have a spoon garden outside! The shop building was the village school for more than 220 years and William Wordsworth, his wife and his sister all taught here in the early 19th century.

It’s a popular place for walking and I can testify to its beauty. One of my favourite walks from Grasmere takes in Helm Crag and Easdale. Affectionately known as ‘The Lion and the Lamb’ due to the shape of its summit rocks (or ‘The Lady and Her Piano), Helm Crag is often one of the first fells to be recognised by Lakeland tourists on the road descent into Grasmere.

But if you prefer lower level walks the Red Bank Road and footpath on the west side of the Lake towards Rydal Water is also gorgeous. The National Trust provide some great walk ideas

7. Rydal: Dora's Field and Rydal Hall Gardens

Just down the road from Grasmere is Rydal where Wordsworth settled for nearly 40 years at Rydal Mount. Sadly, his daughter, Dora, went to an early grave in 1847 so Wordsworth, his wife, sister and gardener planted hundreds of daffodils in a field as a memorial. Dora’s field, next to St Mary’s Church, is a lovely spot to relax with the sun glancing through the trees creating dappled patterns in the semi-open woodland glade. On my visit a few daffodils still bravely stood proud but it was easy to imagine this once golden carpet being transformed to a tranquil sea of bluebells over the next few weeks.

Whatever time of year you find yourself at Rydal it’s well worth going for a wander by the lake – a scenic place with numerous options for walking. A path I love is Loughrigg Terrace which has a wonderful view over Grasmere. A great way to get to it is from the Badger Bar on the main road at Rydal (nice fire here to dry wet socks by...) and follow the path by Rydal Water. Here's a great pdf you can download with family walks including Loughrigg Terrace and Loughrigg Fell.

Rydal Hall Garden, just up the road from Dora’s field, is fascinating. As well as being home to the picturesque Grot and Waterfall (see last post) it is a peaceful garden in which to take a stroll. And you can do a bit of sculpture spotting.

WordsWorth's Lake District - A Stunning place in Any Season

So, the Great Daffodil Hunt. Disappointment or success?

Clearly mid-April is not the best time to see Lake District daffodils! The locals tell me there’s normally only one or two days where they are at their best any way and that’s usually end March/early April.

So if you want to experience what the Wordsworths experienced, go then!

That said, the Lake District really is worth exploring at any time of year. Don’t let a host of dead daffs spoil your fun!

And just for a laugh, why not take a look at the Wordsworth Rap and enjoy some chocolate on me!

I finally found Wordsworth's Daffodils!