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.

Unleash your inner poet – like my friend Chloe did

28 Jul
Old friends: Chloe and Fletch

Reunited: Chloe and Fletch

An old friend of mine came to visit Wordsworth House and Garden for work experience last week and thoroughly enjoyed taking part in one of our “unleash your inner poet” workshops led by my pal Dave Cryer, the storyteller. (See note at end for details of upcoming sessions!)

The last time I saw Chloe was when she came to the launch of her grandma Alex’s novel Tandem, which was held in the house a few months ago. Before that, I hadn’t seen her since a couple of years ago, when her dad and step-mum became the first couple ever to get married in the house.

Chloe spent her week with us helping in the house, reception, café and shop. I’m going to hand you over to her, so she can tell you about the highlights herself…

Even though I was 150 miles away from my home town, I felt just as at home in Wordsworth House. Meeting my friend Fletch again kind of sparked my imagination, and I made up millions of things that he could have seen or heard – for example, the birds in the sky migrating or the adults’ laughter if they were hit on the head by an apple off one of the trees!

On my second day, I got to dress up and become a costumed maid. At first I was not looking forward to it – I felt that I’d look like a right numpty – but the visitors enjoy the atmosphere in the kitchen (and the tasters on the side) so they make you feel appreciated and you fit straight in.

Gwen (who was dressed as Amy, the maid-of-all-work) taught me how to decorate the food for the table, even the chocolate tart that looked like it had a sausage hidden in it (not sure how that happened – it really was all chocolate).

Keith (the manservant) taught me how to make clap bread. I enjoyed it so much that I forgot to keep an eye on the time and ran over into lunch. Whoops!

Later in the week I was in costume again. This time Julia (the other maid) decorated the food and I got to place it on the dining room table as the Wordsworths would have eaten it, while also helping Gwen make yummy celery fritters.

Then, still dressed as a maid, I headed for the garden, where I met Fletch’s new girlfriend Little Bo Peep and her sheep. Dave, one of the volunteers, was leading a poetry workshop all about where William Wordsworth got his inspiration from. Dave read out a lovely poem and asked us about our inspiration, then we wrote one of our own. If my evil grandma Alex has her way, my poem will be put on the poetry tree.

Note from the evil grandma (who also works as Fletch’s typist): Dave will be leading sessions on Wednesday, July 30 and August 6, 13 and 20 at 11.30am and 2.30pm. They are free with entry to the house – so why not come along and join in? Your poem could end up on our poetry tree too!

Leaves of literature: The Wordsworth House poetry tree

Leaves of literature: Our poetry tree

If you go down to Great Wood today…

28 Jul
Walk in Great Wood

Outing: A walk in the woods. Picture: Robert Bellett

When my best friend Head Gardener Amanda visited the enchanting Great Wood in Borrowdale recently, she paid attention to the words of The Teddy Bear’s Picnic and didn’t go alone.

As well as several other members of the Wordsworth House and Garden team, she took National Trust woodlands ranger Maurice Pankhurst. Amanda thought she was knowledgeable, but when it comes to trees and the great outdoors, no one knows more than Maurice.

Amanda told me: “I’d never been before, so I didn’t know what to expect, but it was the most magical place. We had a fascinating and informative walk with Maurice, and I’m looking forward to taking my daughters there soon to share the magic.”

If you’d like to visit – and Amanda recommends that you do – the wood has its very own car park off the Borrowdale Road. National Trust members can park free. If you’ve not yet joined, just have a chat with the recruitment ranger when you get there – you won’t regret it!

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.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 137 other followers

%d bloggers like this: