Calling all budding poets – and house detectives

17 Jul
Fluttering: Leaves of literature

Fluttering: Leaves of literature

The school holidays are upon us and that means Wordsworth House’s poetry tree is in full bloom once more!

Last year, Head Gardener Amanda had the brainwave of hanging one of our apple trees with poems – and encouraging visitors of all ages to add verses of their own.

Before long, the branches were groaning with leaves of literature – even TV presenter Michael Buerk, who was visiting to film for TV series Inside the National Trust, contributed a rhyme.

We’re open from Saturday to Thursday from 11am to 5pm (last entry 4pm) throughout the holidays – and there are special events and activities every day.

As well as flexing their literary muscles, visitors can meet the Wordsworths’ servants and help with their chores, explore the hands-on rooms, write with a quill pen and ink, dress up in replica 18th-century costume and play with reproduction toys.

On Mondays, grown ups can take in a short talk about the bizarre ways the Georgians used herbs and foraged plants, and on Wednesdays, they can learn about William’s poetic influences (talks at 11.30am and 2.30pm both days).

On Tuesdays, children can get busy in the kitchen making clapbread, and on Thursdays, they can turn out a pastry fish (drop in either day between 11.30am and 3.30pm).

On Saturdays and Sundays, the whole family can turn house detective, delving into the nooks and crannies of this amazing home and garden with a family explorer bag.

Entry to Wordsworth House and Garden is £7.40 for adults, £3.70 for children and £18.50 for families. National Trust members enter free.

Visit our website or call us on 01900 820884 for more details.

PS If you enjoyed watching Amanda and my other friends on Inside the National Trust – or if you missed them – DVDs of the entire series are now on sale in Wordsworth House’s shop.

 

Cockermouth’s wedding of the year (1790 that is)

10 Jul
Our Georgian bride and groom, Suzi and Nick

Our Georgian bride and groom: Suzi and Nick

Wordsworth House and Garden hosted the most splendid wedding ever seen last week – and that’s saying something, as we’ve had some wonderful ones.

Bride Suzi and groom Nick – who are old friends of mine – plus several of their guests and even Richard, the registrar – another of my good friends – were dressed in perfectly reproduced Georgian outfits.

Suzi used to be our visitor services manager and Nick was one of our costumed servants. They moved south a few years ago and changed careers – Suzi now works as an archaeologist and Nick as a food historian specialising in the Georgian, Tudor and Medieval periods (have a look at his website) – but when they decided to get married, they knew there was only one possible venue.

There wasn’t a dry eye in the house during the lovely drawing room ceremony, which was interspersed with music on our harpsichord and traditional songs.

Afterwards, everyone drank champagne and ate delicious canapés based on 18th-century recipes, before adjourning to the historic Dunthwaite Barn, at nearby Setmurthy, for a full-scale Tudor feast complete with minstrels and dancing.

What a splendid way to start married life together – we wish you every happiness, Suzi and Nick!

Dressed for the occasion: Suzi and Nick with costumed guests

Dressed for the occasion: Suzi and Nick with some of their costumed guests

Meet my rodent-friendly rival

30 Jun
Fred the perchcrow

Paying court: Fred the perchcrow with his maker Hester

You may remember a few weeks ago that I introduced my new “lady admirer” Flora, who lives at Caversham Court Gardens in Reading. I had hoped we could be more than just friends, but she insisted we take things slowly.

Sadly, I may have discovered why she was so reticent. She already has a companion. His name is Fred, and he’s the under-gardener at Caversham Court.

Although I am, to put it mildly, quite devastated, my mouse friends, Bubble and Squeak, were rather excited to see a photo of Fred, because he too has mice living on him.

Please don’t be too upset for me, though, as I have a cunning plan to woo the fair Flora – watch this space for details over the coming weeks.

Fred with his rodent friend

Mouse friendly: Fred with his rodent companion

Wordsworth House and Garden in 250-property National Trust marathon

19 Jun
Blogger Cathy Boyle

Blogger Cathy Boyle: Writing about her visits to over 250 National Trust properties

I’ve just had a message from a fellow blogger who’s on a really impressive mission. Cathy Boyle has set herself the goal of visiting more than 250 National Trust properties, and she’s sharing her experiences via a blog called National Trust Challenge.

She wanted us to know how much she’d enjoyed her recent visit to Wordsworth House and Garden, after seeing us on ITV reality series Inside the National Trust.

In her post about the visit, Cathy wrote: “I bumped into Head Gardener Amanda (or ‘her off the telly’), who felt like an old friend! We had a nice chat about the garden and the other NT gardens I am due to visit over the next few days.”

She and Amanda talked about the 2009 floods which swamped the centre of Cockermouth. Cathy said: “The flood came just five years after the garden had been given a facelift and replanted with more authentically Georgian plants, so the poor lady and her team had to start again almost from scratch.

“Mind you, it actually sounds like she quite enjoyed the challenge, and her passion for the garden is infectious. I would recommend that you sign up to spend some time with Amanda’s enthusiasm if you get the opportunity on your own visit.”

Cathy also mentioned me: “Another fixture in the garden is Fletch the Perchcrow, so called because he’s not very scary! He actually has his very own blog so it was nice to meet a fellow scribe.”

I hope after completing her challenge, she’ll come back and visit us again.

Make Alex’s Tandem your literary “hidden gem”

10 Jun
Alex reads from Tandem at Wordsworth House

Book launch: Alex Morgan reads from Tandem at Wordsworth House

My friend Alex Morgan needs your votes! Her wonderful book Tandem, which won the 2013 Hookline Novel Competition, has been long-listed in the Reading Agency’s search for a literary “hidden gem”.

Voting is open until June 18 and the winner will be announced ten days later on National Reading Group Day.

Tandem is a quirky tale about love, loss, a celebrity penguin – and riding a bicycle built for two. Read my review here. I really think it deserves to win, so I’m hoping that lots of you will visit the Reading Agency’s website and cast your vote for it!

If you haven’t read it yet, why not pop down to our shop at Wordsworth House and Garden and pick up a copy? All the money you spend there helps to keep me in stuffing!

I’ve found my soulmate, but she’s playing hard to get

26 May
Flora from Caversham Court Gardens, Fletch's lady love

Old-fashioned girl: Flora, from Caversham Court Gardens, the object of my affections

A chance encounter with a visitor to my garden at Wordsworth House has transformed my life. I think I’m in love!

The lady introduced herself as Hester and said she wanted to know why I was a perchcrow, rather than a scarecrow. I explained that I’ve never been any good at scaring birds, or anything else for that matter, and they like to perch on me.

Hester said she was asking because she’s friends with a rather lovely lady called Flora, who lives at Caversham Court Gardens in Reading. When Hester returned to the south, she visited Flora and told her all about me.

Flora obviously liked what she heard because she emailed me. This is what she said…

To: Wordsworth House
Subject: For the attention of Fletch the Perchcrow

Dear Fletch,

I am Flora and until my guardian met you last week in Cockermouth, I thought I was a scarecrow. But now I know I am a Perchcrow like you and I feel so much happier now I have found my true identity. I too love the birds and even let them sit on my shoulder and share my cake.

I would love to make friends with you as we have a lot in common. I live in Caversham Court Gardens, which is a historic garden by the river in Reading. Sadly, my guardians think I am too delicate to be outdoors all the time, as they worry about the damp and fungal infections, even though I wear a plastic vest and plastic petticoat under my clothes, so a lot of the time I have to live in a dark store room and can only come out on special occasions.

Kind regards, Flora

Well, I was smitten and my feelings only deepened when I saw the photograph she’d attached to her message. So I replied to ask if she might like to be my girlfriend.

Disappointingly, although I think she does like me, she’s less impetuous than me and wants to take things slowly. She replied…

To: Wordsworth House
Subject: For the attention of Fletch the Perchcrow

Dear Fletch,

I am very flattered that you ask if I can be your girlfriend, but at the moment it is very early days. Could I be your Lady Admirer and you can be my Gentleman Friend? I am rather old fashioned, you see, and have not been out in the world as long as you.

Kind regards, Flora

Being a romantic soul, like the poet William Wordsworth, a previous resident of my garden, I’m hopeful that I can eventually win her over with my charm – and maybe some poetry. I’ll keep you posted.

Say what? Wordsworth House and Garden didn’t win?

19 May
Wordsworth House hears the results at the Museum and Heritage Awards

After party: “I say old chap, what a jolly spiffing event!”

Our wonderful staff and volunteer team at Wordsworth House and Garden was shortlisted in the customer service category of the Museum and Heritage Awards for Excellence presented in London.

Sad to say, we didn’t win, but I had to share this photo with you of our manager Zoe Gilbert and her dashing escort at the after party.

They were just as disappointed as me, but being shortlisted was in itself an amazing achievement, as there were entrants from all over Europe.

We really do pride ourselves on everything we offer, but you don’t have to take my word for it. The great and the good of the museum and heritage world were there to hear awards compère comedian Sue Perkins heap praise on our “smiley staff and volunteers” and “delicious humongous scones”.

And while I’m sharing the plaudits, here’s what one happy visitor had to say in our annual survey: “By far the best National Trust experience I’ve had in over 40 years.

“The harpsichord player was just a delight and a privilege to listen to. Friendly, knowledgeable staff who were not toffee-nosed or intrusive or sullen. Fascinating view of Georgian life. Fantastic to see a working kitchen with a smoke jack operating in a real fire. Hens in the garden added life.

“I cannot praise this site enough – and I’m not easily pleased!”

You can’t do better than that, can you?

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