Vote, work or volunteer for us

17 Nov
Wordsworth House cafe

Hands-on: Helen, one of our lovely cafe volunteers

If you’d like to do your bit for Wordsworth House and Garden, I’ve got three options for you. It only takes a minute to vote for me in the UK Blog Awards, or if you have more time to spare, why not apply to work or volunteer here?

Last year, this blog was shortlisted in the Most Innovative category. This time, I’ve been nominated for that and for Arts and Culture. Please click the links below to vote in both!

Vote for me for Most Innovative blog of the year here.

Vote for me in the Arts and Culture category here.

One of the regular staff’s winter tasks is to recruit new seasonal members of the friendly and enthusiastic team who look after this special place and provide our visitors with unforgettable experiences.

There are a wide range of paid roles on offer, including visitor services, café and admin assistants, duty managers, conservation cleaners and costumed servants. All our seasonal jobs are part-time, and contracts run from mid-February next year to early November.

Click here to find out more using the search term “North West”. But hurry – applications close on November 30.

There are also vacancies on the volunteer team for people of all ages and interests to greet and chat to visitors, lead house tours and help in the café, garden and shop.

Volunteers don’t require any particular skills as full training is given. They just need a friendly manner, to enjoy meeting new people – and have a few hours to spare every week or fortnight.

For more information about joining the house or garden volunteer team, email us at wordsworthhouse@nationaltrust.org.uk or call 01900 824805.

Let’s keep in touch…

3 Nov
Hannah with Fletch

Hand in hand: Me and my new friend Hannah

Elizabeth dressed as Dorothy Wordsworth

In character: Elizabeth dressed as Dorothy Wordsworth

Elizabeth with the dolls' house

Feeling at home: Elizabeth with the dolls’ house

The last of the visitors may have left Wordsworth House and Garden for the year, but I’m in no danger of getting lonely.

There’s lots of winter work scheduled for the coming weeks both indoors and out. As well as routine maintenance and cleaning, I have everything from a wedding tea party to a tree pruning workshop to look forward to.

And who could be lonely when you are sent wonderful fan mail? I was thrilled to receive the photograph above from Hannah, who visited recently with her family to enjoy the late autumn colour in my garden.

Elizabeth has also been in touch after coming to the house to listen to the costumed servants’ ghostly traditional tales during the October holiday week.

Her mum emailed: “She loved the spooky stories and retold them to her brothers in detail. And I just loved the poetry room.”

As the picture on the right shows, Elizabeth also had fun playing with our dolls’ house.

We reopen for 2015 on Saturday, March 7. I hope you’ll come to see us then, take a picture, send a copy – and let me know the highlights of your visit.

Get spooked this autumn!

13 Oct
Costumed servants hard at work in Wordsworth House kitchen

Hard at work: My friends the costumed servants in Wordsworth House kitchen

There’s so much going at on Wordsworth House and Garden this October holiday that I hardly know where to begin. There are family trails, spooky storytelling sessions or kitchen activities every day.

On Monday October 27, Wednesday 29 and Friday 31, you can get cosy by the kitchen fire as my friends the costumed servants tell some of the traditional Cumbrian ghostly tales young William and Dorothy Wordsworth might have enjoyed. Sessions are at 11.30am and 2.30pm and last about 20 minutes. They’re free with entry and suitable for children aged seven and above.

Children can roll up their sleeves and have a go at making clapbread on Tuesday 28 or Sunday 2 November, while on Thursday 30, they can fashion a pastry pumpkin, dinosaur, Tardis – or anything else they fancy. Drop-in sessions run from 11.30am to 3.30pm.

There’s even a chance to listen to the servants’ stories after dark – and explore the whole of William and Dorothy’s childhood home by lamplight – on Saturday 1 November from 6pm to 9pm. Spooky storytelling sessions are at 6.30pm and 7.30pm.

Meanwhile, a host of ghostly characters, including 13-year-old William and Bill, the grumpy manservant, have taken up permanent residence in the cellar, where they’re waiting to share their own haunting and often heartbreaking tales of life in this late 18th-century household.

Every day during the holiday week, families can borrow an Explorer Bag full of trails, toys and tools to help them delve into the nooks and crannies of the house and garden. There are also lots of reproduction toys and dressing up clothes in the children’s bedroom.

In the clerk’s office, you can write with a quill and ink. In the kitchen, there’s always a Georgian recipe to taste, and anyone with a musical bent can play the reproduction harpsichord in the drawing room.

We’re open, in the centre of Cockermouth, from 11am to 5pm with last entry at 4pm, so why not come and visit us?

Normal admission price applies to all activities. Entry is free to National Trust members. Call 01900 820884 for more information.

An inspiring way to learn

30 Sep
Head Gardener Amanda and Fletch the Perchcrow

Discussing poetry: Me with Head Gardener Amanda

I’m proud to say the garden that inspired some of William Wordsworth’s best-loved nature poems is firing the imagination of today’s young poets too.

The selection below are the work of year 5 and 6 pupils from nearby Eaglesfield Paddle School, who came to visit recently. School groups are among my favourite visitors because they always come to say hello and are so enthusiastic about everything they see and do – in other words, they learn without realising it!

I love reading the thank you letters they send, as the things they pick as highlights are so delightful. Kate wrote: “The flint was so fascinating – it must have been hard to set the candle alight.”

And Emily said: “My favourite thing that I learned was about the horrible medicines that they had eg a live frog being strapped to your neck, crushed snails and hare’s brains.” Wonderful! Emily also wrote me a lovely poem:

The Scarecrow
A smiling face with the most perfect grace
With a hat of flowers, most beautiful powers
He stands still over the days.
Flowers surround going round and round,
In the different blustering ways.
Flowers of blue, white and pink – all those colours
Help me think.
On the days path, he has a woolly scarf
His jacket grey and tall, it makes him
The boldest scarecrow of them all.

Pretty Pink Flowers by Sophie
Pretty pink flowers,
How you glisten in the sunlight.
Your pink, light petals are so so
Bright and beautiful.
Oh pretty pink flowers.

Me as a Bee by Caitlin
Thin strands of yellow placed aside an endless well
Sweet sour emerald tears that sop down its twisty stalk
I sit in the flower with my big stripey body
Buzz, buzz, buzz!

Season of mellow fruitfulness

4 Sep
Harvest time: Apple picking in William's beloved garden

Harvest time: Apple picking in William Wordsworth’s beloved garden

I think we can all agree that summer is finally over, but there’s still plenty to enjoy in my wonderful heritage garden. The trees are laden with apples, and the terrace – where William and Dorothy Wordsworth loved to play – is dense with orange and black hips.

If you would like to find out more about the fruits of this abundant season, why not join my friend Amanda, the Head Gardener, for a special tour?

She will be exploring the highlights of William’s childhood garden, which inspired many of his best-loved nature poems.

The tours are on Wednesday 10, 17 and 24 September and 1 October at 11.30am, and they’re free with the price of a ticket to the house and garden.

If you don’t want to pay anything at all to come in, why not take out membership of the National Trust? You can visit my garden any time you want (from mid-March until the end of October) as well as hundreds of others that are in the care of the Trust!

PS The glamorous apple picker in the picture is my other good friend Alex, who despite now working mainly as a duty manager and in our office, can occasionally be persuaded to frock up in 18th-century costume.

Autumn colour: Sweet briar hips on the terrace

Autumn colour: Sweet briar hips on the terrace

Why Felix the perchcrow needs your love

25 Aug

Felix the unloved perchcrow

New friend: Felix, the unloved perchcrow

I’m thrilled to tell you that I’ve got a new penfriend. Felix the perchcrow has written to me from Caversham Court Gardens in Reading, home of my lady admirer Flora.

I was very touched by his letter because he explained that he lives in the shadow of my love rival, Fred the under-gardener. Felix wrote:

Dear Fletch,

This is to introduce myself as Felix the Perchcrow. I was built using beanpoles at a beanpole day in May at Caversham Court Gardens. Sadly, I am not allowed to go back there on display as I am not considered to be good enough.

Flora and Fred are regularly put on display there but I have been consigned to the back garden. I have asked my maker Mike to send you my photograph.

I am a much troubled perchcrow and I know I am not good looking, but I feel I deserve more public acclaim. Look at my attributes. I am made from wholly recycled materials, and my hazel beanpole structure is sourced from sustainable environmentally friendly coppicing.

I feel you and I have much in common. We understand what it is like to live out in the wind and the rain. Perhaps a sympathetic reply would make life more bearable.

Yours truly, Felix

I’m so pleased to have heard from a fellow perchcrow who isn’t as sartorially perfect as Fred.

We perchcrows are by nature very sensitive creatures and we all want to be loved, so I’m delighted to have this chance to introduce Felix to a wider world, where I’m sure he’ll find the recognition he deserves to boost his confidence.

Wordsworth’s haunted house

11 Aug
One of Wordsworth House's current maids encounters her ghostly 18th-century counterpart

Face-to-face: One of our current maids encounters her ghostly 18th-century predecessor

Do you believe in ghosts? I didn’t until I heard from my friends Amanda and Alex about the spooky goings on in the cellar of the house.

It seems that a group of spirits from Wordsworth House’s past have taken up residence.

A host of characters, including 13-year-old William; Bill, the grumpy manservant, and Amy, the maid, have moved in to share haunting and often heartbreaking tales of life in this late-18th-century household.

Cockermouth was William and Dorothy Wordsworth’s home until the death of their mother Ann. The cellar ghosts tell the story of their childhood, their traumatic separation and their eventual reunion as adults.

Amanda says if you think you might encounter them, make sure you have a tissue in your pocket, as you’re bound to shed a tear or two.

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