7 must-see Wordsworth localities in the Lake District (part 1)
Experience the natural world with Britain's best loved poet
William Wordsworth (1770 – 1850) is one of Britain’s best loved poets. He developed a love of nature as a young man, often spending holidays on walking tours, visiting places famous for the beauty of their landscapes, including the Lake District, and this is reflected in much of his writing.
After reading ‘Daffodils’, which was written while he lived in the Lakes, I began to wonder about the man behind the poetry. What was he like, how did he live, how did the Lake District influence him? As a man who loved and was inspired by the nature and landscape of the Lake District I just had to find out more. He sounds a bit like me!
So, on my latest Lakeland trip:
· I explored several Wordsworth localities, and
· I trekked into the countryside to find the daffodils.
Read on to discover more - here's the first four places:
1. Wordsworth House, Cockermouth: Georgian splendour and a quirky garden
This Georgian townhouse, was William Wordsworth’s childhood home. Born on 7th April 1770, he and his four siblings lived here with their parents. It must have been a busy and noisy place.
The kitchen was certainly a hive of activity as the servants went about their business preparing the meal of the day and there were yummy food samples to try.
Then, the servants read some spooky stories by firelight. Ooer!
However, my favourite bit was the garden. This is a quirky place where you never know what you might find. Will it be a creature hanging from a tree? Perhaps you’ll find a delightful verse to nourish your soul? Or maybe you’d like to compose your own poem from some pebbles. Just make sure you behave or you’ll end up in the compost heap!
2. Dove Cottage, Grasmere: ‘The loveliest spot that man hath ever found’
In 1799, Wordsworth and his family moved to Dove Cottage, a former Inn, in the Lake District. For eight years the family lived at this adorable little cottage at the heart of the remote landscape in the village of Grasmere – ‘the loveliest spot that man hath ever found’.
The garden was as important to the Wordsworths as the house itself. He and his sister Dorothy took much pleasure in making things grow in its charming garden, often sourcing their materials from the surrounding fells. And William often composed out of doors on the terrace pacing up and down in his ‘sweet garden-orchard, eminently fair’.
The Wordsworth’s time at Dove Cottage was joyful and creative. It was here that William wrote some of the greatest poetry in the English language, including ‘Daffodils’, and his sister Dorothy kept her famous ‘Grasmere Journal’. Along with their good friend and fellow poet, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, they immersed themselves in the landscape, dedicated their time to writing and felt an incredible sense of inspiration. Many a happy day was spent out on the fells observing and discussing the wonders of creation.
At Dove Cottage and the Wordsworth Museum, you can discover what life was like for the Wordsworths and browse the world’s greatest collection of their letters, journals, poems and possessions. Why not take a stroll in the tranquil garden or sit a while and soak up a bit of nature as the Wordsworths undoubtedly did many times. Perhaps you’ll be inspired to create your own poem…
3. Allan Bank, Grasmere: The house of fun!
In 1808 The Wordsworths moved to Allan Bank despite William condemning it “as a temple of abomination” while it was being built. He thought it spoiled the landscape. It was also uncomfortable to live in because the chimneys smoked and the cellars were wet, yet it was large enough for his growing family.
Well, it’s certainly not a temple of abomination any more! I thoroughly enjoyed my visit to Allan Bank and would highly recommend it to anyone.
It’s a fun place with things to do in every room: you can get creative in the art room with its stonking view over Grasmere (see photo at top of post); there’s a huge Lake District map where you can share your favourite Lake District views; if you wish, you can peruse the mountaineering library at leisure; and you can let the kids be themselves in the playroom.
But my favourite place is the comfortable lounge where you can sit and watch the wildlife, including red squirrels, from the big window. Binoculars and information on the wildlife are provided.
Talking of squirrels…
There is a sculpture trail, including a huge red squirrel, that you can follow around the grounds. The playing can most definitely continue outside. Venture through the Victorian viewing tunnel, go 'horse riding' or swing among the trees.
4. Rydal Hall Grot and Waterfall: A ‘Very Surprising View’
Well, I was certainly surprised by this view! I don’t know how many times I must have walked through the grounds of Rydal Hall, straight past this gem and not noticed it. To be fair, since the 1800's visitors have taken to it by such a route that they’d only see it once the door was opened. Surpri-ise!
Built in 1668, it’s one of the earliest known viewing stations in Britain. By the second half of the 18th century the Grot had become a very popular attraction and was visited by many artists and writers. William Wordsworth, who in 1813 had settled at the nearby Rydal Mount with his family, described the view in ‘An Evening Walk’.
Wordsworth: Inspiring millions to visit the Lake District
Wordsworth’s words attracted people to the landscape that inspired them. One of his books, “Guide to the Lakes”, published in 1820, is one of the earliest travellers' guide books to the area. This sparked the beginning of mass tourism in the Lake District.
The Lake District became so identified with Wordsworth that it was sometimes renamed in guide books and on maps as ‘Wordsworthshire’ or ‘Wordsworth County’!
By the end of the 19th century tourists wanted to stand where he had stood and experience the scenery which inspired his poetry. Me included - hence this and my next post!
Wordsworth's words have inspired millions of people to visit the Lake District.
Will you be the next?
Undecided? Then perhaps the rest of my must-see Wordsworth localities will persuade you.
Watch out for my next blog post:
'7 must-see Wordsworth localities in the Lake District (part 2): The Great Daffodil Hunt'.
· Wordsworth house: https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/wordsworth-house
· Dove cottage and museum: https://wordsworth.org.uk/home.html
· Allan Bank: https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/allan-bank-and-grasmere
· Rydal Hall: http://www.rydalhall.org/
· Rydal Mount: http://www.rydalmount.co.uk/
Don't forget, '7 must-see Wordsworth localities in the Lake District (part 2): The Great Daffodil Hunt'.