Archive | August, 2012

We’ve been yarn bombed!

31 Aug
Garden of delights: Some of the results of our "yarn boming"

Walled garden of delights: Some of the results of our “yarn bombing”

Magical: Woolly toadstools have appeared in the small walled garden

Magical: Woolly toadstools have appeared in the small walled garden

Something very strange – and rather wonderful – has happened in my garden. It has been victim of a “guerrilla crochet” attack – or “yarn bombing”. If you’ve not heard of this phenomenon, I promise you it’s a lot less painful than it sounds. In fact, it’s very beautiful!

All sorts of fabulous, gorgeously coloured crocheted “creations” have appeared around the garden: crocheted toadstools covered with ladybirds and butterflies under the trees, crocheted bunting hanging from the summerhouse and Amanda’s shed, crocheted balloons in the trees, crocheted flowers looped around benches and railings.

I even woke up to find I’d acquired a crocheted garland round my hat – for a picture see my last post (about my new friend Natalie’s wedding).

It turns out the masterminds behind the attack come from among our volunteers. They’ve asked me to protect their anonymity – but they did agree to us taking their picture as long as they were allowed to wear woolly disguises!

If you’d like to see their wonderful handiwork for yourself, come and visit soon – it may not be here for long!

The mysterious Wordsworth House "yarn bombers" want to preserve their anonymity

Mysterious: The Wordsworth House “yarn bombers” want to preserve their anonymity

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Wedding bells ring out at Wordsworth House

30 Aug
Natalie and Ian, our first bride and groom

Special day: Natalie and Ian, our first bride and groom, showered with confetti

We’ve just made a bit of history! Last Friday, we hosted the first-ever wedding at Wordsworth House since it was built in 1690 – 322 years ago.

Natalie, the bride, is the step-daughter of my friend Alex, the house’s Interpretation and Communications Manager.

The day went beautifully and Natalie and her new husband Ian tell me it was everything they had hoped it would be. The ceremony was in our elegant dining room, where the Wordsworth family once ate, and the happy couple had their photos taken in my lovely garden.

It was made extra special by the fact that Natalie and Ian were married by our retail assistant Richard, who has just qualified as a registrar, and the bride and bridesmaids’ make-up was the handiwork of my special friend, costumed servant Sophia, who also works as a make-up artist.

To find out about how you too could get married at Wordsworth House, call us on 01900 824805 or visit our website.

Retail assistant Richard marries Natalie and Ian

Ceremony: Natalie and Ian were married by retail assistant Richard

Bride Natalie the morning after her big day

Special visitor: Bride Natalie came to see me the morning after her big day

Corrie comes to Wordsworth House

21 Aug
Sean Wilson, Corrie's Martin Platt, hard at work in Wordsworth House kitchen

New career: Sean Wilson, Corrie’s Martin Platt, hard at work in Wordsworth House kitchen

Wordsworth House is going to be on TV this autumn! And the star of the show – apart from our unique working 18th-century kitchen – is Martin Platt from Coronation Street!

Sean Wilson, who played Martin for more than 20 years, is now a celebrated chef and award-wining cheese maker. His new TV series, called the Great Northern Cookbook, will be on Channel 5 in November.

Each episode includes a cookery challenge. The one posed at Wordsworth House was to cook a complete Georgian dinner party in our period kitchen, with only the equipment, recipes and materials available at the time.

My friend Sophia, one of our costumed servants, was on hand to advise and help, and Amanda, other staff and volunteers were there in all their finery to eat – and score – Sean’s efforts.

If you want to find out how he did, you’ll just have to watch the programme!

The Wordsworth House team dine 18th-century style

All dressed up: The Wordsworth House team dine 18th-century style

The value of volunteers

21 Aug
Volunteer Hilary raking the "plat", or lawn, in the small walled garden

The rake and the lady: Volunteer Hilary tidying the “plat”, or lawn, in the small walled garden

The garden volunteers have been busy looking after everything while Amanda has swanned off for a fortnight (she says it’s a well-deserved break with her family). They’ve been weeding, watering and spending lots of time chatting to our lovely visitors.

You may already have noticed when the garden volunteers have appeared in my blog, they all wear rather fetching bright red polo shirts while they’re working, so it’s easy for visitors to see who they are.

They are an important – but small part – of the overall Wordsworth House volunteer team. Volunteers also help as room guides, playing our harpsichord, welcoming and orientating visitors in reception, selling raffle tickets, doing admin, and serving in the café and shop. Without them, we simply couldn’t operate.

If you live within easy travelling distance of Cockermouth, have time to spare and would enjoy meeting and working with some really great people, why not come and join us?

To find out more about volunteering at Wordsworth House and Garden, email us at wordsworthhouse@nationaltrust.org.uk or call 01900 824805.

Or if you live further afield, get in touch with your local National Trust property and see what opportunities they have. It’s a brilliant way to use your skills, learn fresh ones, make new friends and do something really worthwhile.

Volunteer Kat among the runner beans

Happy at work: Volunteer Kat among the runner beans

Volunteer raffle ticket seller Robert

Selling in the cellar: Volunteer raffle ticket seller Robert

Recycling Georgian-style

16 Aug
The mortar at the back door of Wordsworth House

Pre 2004: The mortar at the back door of Wordsworth House

The mortar back in the kitchen

After 2004: The mortar back in the kitchen with a pestle

Amanda was looking through our photo archive the other day and spotted something intriguing. In an old image of the back door of Wordsworth House, there was the mortar from our 18th-century kitchen doing duty as a plant pot!

We knew it was found in the garden by food historian Peter Brears and brought indoors, as part of our 2004 renovation, to return to its original purpose, but we didn’t realise we had a picture of it in its ‘other’ life.

The Georgians were very keen on recycling – they reused everything from tea leaves to hair, teeth and the contents of their chamber pots – so the Wordsworths would probably have approved of the fact that our mortar has had more than one career.

Well-to-do Georgians also filled their kitchens with early labour saving devices, such as the amazing smoke jack that used convection currents to turn meats roasting in front of the fire.

The giant pestle that goes with our huge mortar was another of these – it’s attached to the wall by a metal loop, so rather than using lots of energy to pound your oats for making clapbread and other recipes, you merely had to roll the handle between your thumb and first finger to grind them down to the required size.

Our fabulous working kitchen is hands-on, so if you come to visit have a go and see for yourself how easy it is! And ask the costumed servants about 18th-century recycling – they’ll tell you stories to make your toes curl.

Oh and don’t forget to look in your own garden and see if you have any historic artefacts masquerading as planters.

Hands on: Our working 18th-century kitchen

Hands on: Our working 18th-century kitchen

Stinky as well as scary

13 Aug
Wordsworth House garden by Chris Smith

Spot Fletch: Wordsworth House garden by visitor Chris Smith

Amanda’s been telling me so many interesting things over the past few months, I’ve decided it’s time to return the favour. The subject I know more about than anyone else is my fierce cousins – the scarecrows, who have a long and distinguished history.

The first scarecrows were in ancient Egypt, where they were used on the banks of the Nile to protect the wheat fields from marauding flocks of quail. The farmers then herded the birds into nets and took them home for dinner – I think my Georgian predecessors would have approved of that!

The ancient Greeks, Romans and Japanese all had scarecrows at about the same time. The Japanese made theirs out of old rags and meat or fish bones hung from burning bamboo poles – the terrible smell kept birds and animals away from their precious rice crops. They called them kakashis, which means things that stink!

In early medieval Britain, they employed live boys as scarecrows. They patrolled the fields carrying bags of stones to throw at the birds. After the Black Death in the middle of the 14th century, there weren’t enough boys left, so people stuffed sacks of straw and gave them faces carved out of turnips or gourds.

The children who survived the plague had to patrol larger areas, so they carried scarers made out of wood. We’ve got a replica Georgian version in the children’s bedroom – why not come and give it a try!

Meanwhile, see if you can spot me in the lovely picture above, which was taken by a gentleman called Chris Smith, who came to visit recently.

Pictures of loveliness

3 Aug

Here are some lovely pictures of what’s in bloom in the garden at Wordsworth House just now. Gorgeous, aren’t they?

A riot of sweet peas

Traditional favourite: A riot of sweet peas

Splash of sunshine: Pot marigold

Splash of sunshine: A pot marigold

Fluffy: A cloud of meadowsweet

Fluffy: A cloud of meadowsweet

Spikey: A tangle of teasels

Spikey: A tangle of teasels

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