Time to put Wordsworth House to bed

21 Nov
Making a bed in the children's room

The costumed servants make the children’s bed at Wordsworth House

Wordsworth House and Garden may be closed for the winter, but behind the Grade I listed walls and lime-washed façade, the work continues.

Almost as soon as poet William’s childhood home shut at the end of October, the housekeeping team began packing small and fragile items in tissue, swathing larger ones in bespoke dust covers, and rolling rugs onto lengths of drainpipe to let the fibres relax.

House steward Rachel Painter says: “The house has a very different feel without the bustle and noise of visitors and a full staff and volunteer team. It’s still and quiet and I’m much more aware of the creaks and groans associated with an old building.

“I enjoy this period and the opportunity to get some things done which aren’t possible at other times. It’s like carrying out a giant stock take of the house and the collection.

“The dressing up clothes are sorted for repairs, the beds are stripped and the blankets put in the freezer to kill any potential bugs, and tissue hats made for smaller items like candlesticks. The worst job has to be scrubbing the blackened pots the costumed servants use for cooking over the open fire.”

Out in the award-winning garden, head gardener Amanda Thackeray and her volunteers are just as busy.

She explains: “We have lots of heritage apple trees, and this is the ideal time to prune them to control their shape and encourage next year’s crop. Bubble wrap becomes a real ally – we put it round plant pots as, just like us humans, they like an extra blanket in winter.

“We’re also cutting down our tall herbaceous perennials, but where we can, we leave parts of the garden uncleared to act as a snug winter home for beneficial insects.”

Work at Wordsworth’s childhood home

8 Nov

The Reception at Wordsworth House, Cockermouth, Cumbria.

Would you like to work at Wordsworth House next year – or do you know someone who might?

We have a range of part-time staff vacancies for 2017, so please spread the word! If you have great people skills and bags of enthusiasm, we’d love to hear from you.

We’re looking for membership and visitor welcome assistants, costumed servants (customer service assistants), duty managers (visitor experience assistants), cafe and cleaning staff.

But hurry – applications close on 21 November. To find out more and apply, go to www.nationaltrustjobs.org.uk

William’s childhood garden is looking glorious again

19 Sep
amanda-cumbria-in-bloom

Our head gardener, Amanda Thackeray, with her Cumbria in Bloom certificate.

September is a lovely month to enjoy the heritage walled garden that provided William Wordsworth with life-long inspiration. Stroll among the ripening apple trees, admire the changing colours and breathe in the fresh riverside air.

The garden was severely flooded last December courtesy of Storm Desmond, but – thanks to a great deal of hard work by our head gardener Amanda and her team – it’s looking fabulous once more. As a result, we’ve just been awarded Cumbria in Bloom’s prestigious County Chairman’s Rose Bowl for 2016.

Listen to some poetry on the summerhouse audio player as you watch the Derwent, Wordsworth’s ‘fairest of all rivers’, flow by. If it’s sunny, relax on a bench or we can lend you a rug. You might even like to bring a picnic – or you could get a takeaway from our café.

On Tuesday 20 and 27 September, Amanda will lead special tours at 11.30am. These are always popular and places are limited, so if you’d like to join her, please arrive in plenty of time.

Go wild this summer like Beatrix and William

20 Jul
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Dressing up Georgian-style at Wordsworth House

Beatrix Potter, William Wordsworth’s fellow Lakeland wild child, was born 150 years ago this summer, and we’re celebrating with a packed programme of family events and activities she and William would have loved.

Come rain or shine, there’s something exciting going on every day at Wordsworth House and Garden (except Friday, when we’re closed) from Sunday 24 July to Sunday 4 September.

On Thursday 28 July, from 11.30am to 3.30pm, we’re holding a special party in the garden to mark the day Beatrix was born – if it rains, we’ll move everything inside. There’ll be storytelling, lots of fun things to do and free birthday cake. Children bringing a picnic lunch or tea plus a favourite toy can get the whole family in free to enjoy the festivities.

Do something different…

Whatever day you visit, you can dress up as a Georgian, play with toys like William’s, make up a story with our giant magnetic quilt game, follow a trail round the house based on Beatrix’s characters, or simply let off steam in our lovely heritage garden.

On Saturdays and Sundays, children can delve into the nooks and crannies of this amazing house or hunt for bugs in the garden with the help of a family explorer bag.

Mondays are the day to join the costumed servants in the kitchen, roll up your sleeves and have a go at making clapbread. Just drop in any time between 11.30am and 3.30pm.

On Tuesdays, if it’s sunny, our modern-day ‘Miss Potter’ will be in the garden reading some of her little books. Take a seat on our rugs – or if it’s wet, get cosy by the kitchen fire – for The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin at 11.30am, or The Tale of Mrs Tiggy-Winkle at 2.30pm.

On Tuesday 2 and 16 August, our artist-in-residence, Sarah Kate Smith, will be drawing the kind of domestic and garden scenes Beatrix loved, so why not join her for some sketching? We’ll supply the materials, and all ages and abilities are welcome to drop in between 11.30am and 3.30pm.

Kate drawing

Sarah Kate Smith sketching in the garden

Find out about the weird world of Georgian leisure on Wednesdays with a special 10-minute talk by one of the servants, then have a game of skittles in the courtyard or play with traditional toys in the children’s bedroom. Talks are at 11.30am and 2.30pm.

On Thursdays the theme is wild art: join us in the cellar to make stick figures, crazy pinecone creatures or colourful animal masks – all you need to bring is your imagination.

Meanwhile, grown-ups can enjoy our new exhibition, Beatrix Potter and a Love of the Northern Lakes, which reveals the local places that inspired her.

Whatever the weather, we look forward to seeing you at Wordsworth House and Garden this summer!

Why Squirrel Nutkin owes his life to the North Lakes

14 Jul
The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin1903 SN14 7.7.14

Nutkin and friends fishing on Derwentwater. © Frederick Warne & Co. 1903, 2002

Our new exhibition at Wordsworth House and Garden, in Cockermouth, reveals how some of Beatrix Potter’s best-loved characters own their existence to the northern Lake District.

Beatrix, who was born 150 years ago this month, is more usually associated with the area around Hill Top Farm, Near Sawrey, close to Windermere, where she wrote several of her children’s books and devoted her later life farming and breeding Herdwick sheep.

But, without the early family holidays she spent in the north Lakes, around Keswick and Derwentwater, she might never have written the world-famous tales of Squirrel Nutkin, Benjamin Bunny and Mrs Tiggy-winkle, the hedgehog.

The stories behind their creation are told in Beatrix Potter and a Love of the Northern Lakes, which opens here, at poet William Wordsworth’s childhood home, on Saturday. The exhibition includes several of her original illustrations together with a selection of photographs taken in the area by her father, Rupert.

Beatrix sketching on Derwentwater 1903 by Rupert Potter. © The Cotsen Collection

Beatrix sketching on Derwentwater 1903 by Rupert Potter. © The Cotsen Collection

Zoe Gilbert, our Visitor Experience Manager, said: “Although Beatrix was born almost 100 years after William and wrote children’s stories rather than poetry, they had more in common, as writers and early conservationists, than many people realise.

“Like William, Beatrix was profoundly influenced by the time she spent in this beautiful part of the Lake District, so we’re delighted to be marking her anniversary with this very special exhibition. The local places she visited, the views she admired and the wildlife she observed inspired some of her most popular books.”

Admission to the exhibition, which runs until the end of October, is free with entry to the house and garden.

We’re also holding Beatrix-themed talks, art classes, storytelling sessions and family events throughout the summer.

On Thursday 28 July – the 150th anniversary of the day she was born – we’re hosting a birthday picnic for families, from 11.30am to 3.30pm. There will be storytelling, activities and free birthday cake, and children bringing a picnic lunch or tea plus a favourite toy will get the whole family in free.

For more information on our full programme of Beatrix Potter events and activities for adults and children, visit our website.

William’s garden is blooming lovely

23 Jun

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High summer has always been a glorious time in the heritage garden that helped inspire William Wordsworth to become a poet, and, despite suffering severe flooding last December, this year is no different.

Thanks to the tireless work of head gardener Amanda Thackeray and her team, every corner is once again filled with heady scents and vibrant colours.

The profusion of old-fashioned shrub roses has to be seen – and smelt – to be believed. The large pink, white and crimson blooms of Rosa Mundi, which dates back to the 12th century, jostle for space alongside the crimson rose of Lancaster, also known as the apothecary’s rose, and Quatre Saisons, one of the oldest roses, which has an unusual second flush of flowers in late summer.

Amanda says: ‘It’s taken a tremendous amount of effort, but I’m thrilled to say the garden is looking lovely. And with the roses in bloom, it’s the perfect time to visit. It’s difficult to imagine now that on 5 December the whole thing was engulfed by several feet of muddy, silty water.

‘The flood cost us a lot of plants and left us with a huge amount of cleaning up and replanting. A few areas are still awaiting replanting with herbs, but the bulk of the work is done now and the rest will happen shortly.’

Wordsworth House’s flood ravaged back garden last December

The flood ravaged back garden at Wordsworth House

Amanda continues: ‘One of my favourite sights at the moment is the shrub rose Burnet bursting into bloom along the terrace walk where William and his sister Dorothy loved to play. It really is beautiful with its masses of creamy-white flowers, and once the flowers are finished they’re followed by sumptuous black hips.’

Our head gardener Amanda Thackeray

Wordsworth House head gardener Amanda Thackeray smelling a rose

Amanda is very proud of her colourful geraniums too. She says: ‘We have everything from subtle white to cool shades of blue and a whole array of pinks. Geraniums are an amazing genus as they flower for a long period. My particular favourite is the shocking pink Geranium Patricia.

‘I also love Valeriana officinalis, or common valerian, which has heads of sweetly scented pinkish-white flowers and pops up throughout the garden.’

Seven brilliant reasons to visit Wordsworth House

8 Jun

June is a wonderful time to be out and about in the Lake District, and there are few better ways to spend a day than to visit Wordsworth House and Garden, birthplace and childhood home of one of the world’s favourite poets.

Here are seven very good reasons why…

  1. It’s your last chance to see Beatrix’s drawings

William Wordsworth isn’t the only Lakeland literary legend we’re celebrating this year. 2016 is the 150th anniversary of the birth of Beatrix Potter. Without her foresight in buying and protecting large areas of the Lake Disctict and, later, gifting them to the National Trust, this beautiful part of the country wouldn’t be the place of respite and refreshment it is today.

This month is the last chance to see Two Bad Mice: Mischief in Beatrix Potter’s Tales, a major exhibition of her artwork at Wordsworth House. If you haven’t been yet, make sure you visit before 30 June, to revisit the magic of childhood through more than 20 of her beautifully observed original illustrations.

  1. William’s garden is looking glorious

June is also one of the very best months to enjoy the lovely heritage walled garden that provided Wordsworth with life-long inspiration.

Head gardener Amanda Thackeray will be leading tours on Tuesday 14 and 21 June at 11.30am. These are free with entry to the house and garden, but groups are small and places are allocated on a first come, first served basis, so please arrive in plenty of time.

  1. You deserve a special treat

Our shop is packed with lovely gifts and souvenirs – you’ll be spoilt for choice when it comes to treating yourself or a loved one.

When you’ve finished browsing, our cosy café serves indulgent cream teas, so why not join us for a cuppa and a homemade scone topped with clotted cream and jam? Independent blog National Trust Scones says ours are ‘divine’! We also offer light lunches – including local delicacy Morecambe Bay potted shrimps – and lots of lovely cake.

  1. You can hear about Two Wild Children

Every Wednesday and Saturday in June, at 11.30am, the costumed servants will be giving a special ten-minute talk entitled Two Wild Children, about how the natural world shaped both Beatrix and William.

  1. Our artist is in residence

On Friday 17 June, there’s a chance to join our artist-in-residence, Sarah Kate Smith, to try your hand at sketching or painting the kind of kitchen and garden objects Beatrix delighted in. To book your place in this friendly art class for all abilities, email wordsworthhouse@nationaltrust.org.uk or call 01900 824805.

  1. Even the toilets have had a makeover

This year we unveiled a new visitor welcome area and Discovery Room, with a permanent exhibition about William’s Lakeland legacy and his key role in the founding of the National Trust.

There’s a new 10-minute film playing in the cellar about how William and his sister Dorothy changed the world, and – following last December’s devastating flooding – even the toilets have had a dramatic makeover.

  1. The drive is Britain’s best

If you’re travelling from the central or southern Lakes, Cockermouth is around 45 minutes from Ambleside – and the drive on the A591, through the fells and along the side of Thirlmere, is officially Britain’s best!

We look forward to welcoming you to Wordsworth House and Garden very soon.

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