Archive | March, 2017

A love letter to our lost language

7 Mar
Sunlight on the surface of a lake

Sun-scald is an old Sussex term for a patch of bright sunlight on the surface of water

My home, Wordsworth House and Garden, in the lovely Lake District, reopens on Saturday with a breathtaking new photographic exhibition – and a free entry weekend for locals.

The Word-Hoard: Love letters to our land celebrates the beauty of our landscape and the evocative language once used to describe it, and is a particularly appropriate exhibition for poet William’s childhood home.

Guest-curated by award-winning author Robert Macfarlane, the exhibition builds on themes he explored in his best-selling book Landmarks. It features images by his parents, Cumbrian-based photographers Rosamund and John, alongside some of the endangered words for our landscape, weather and nature that Robert has collected.

Zoe Gilbert, the house’s visitor experience manager, says: “The Word-Hoard goes to the very heart of William and his sister Dorothy’s twin passions – nature and the words we use to talk about it – and we’re thrilled to be showcasing Rosamund and John Macfarlane’s beautiful photographs.”

Robert explains: “The natural world is steadily disappearing from our language, knowledge and stories, and especially those of our children. ‘Hashtag’ was declared the UK Children’s Word for 2015, and a 2016 survey of primary school children found eight-year-olds were more able to identify species of Pokémon than common UK wildlife.

“Technology is wondrous – but so is nature, and I wanted to recover some of that wonder. So I spent two years gathering as many of our place-terms and nature-words as possible, from more than thirty languages and dialects around Britain and Ireland, and then releasing them back into imaginative circulation.”

Mist hanging over Loweswater

Shreep is an old East Anglian word for mist clearing slowly

Robert continues: “Once you know the word smeuse, for instance, an old Sussex term for the ‘hole in the base of a hedge made by the regular passage of a small animal’, you begin to spot smeuses everywhere. Without words, the landscape can easily become a blandscape: generalised, indifferent, unobserved.”

Other words in his hoard include foggit, a Scots term for “covered in moss or lichen”; shuckle, Cumbrian for icicle, and pirr, Shetlandic for a “light breath of wind that ruffles the surface of the water”.

The Word-Hoard will be open daily, except Friday, until 3 September, and admission is included in entry to the house and garden.

Locals can enjoy a free visit to the house, exhibition and garden for the whole family on Saturday 11 or Sunday 12 March if they bring along proof of their CA postcode. For those who can’t make it then, we’re open Saturday to Thursday, from 11am to 5pm (last entry 4pm), until 29 October.

On Monday and Thursday in term-time, there are free half-hour guided tours at 11.30am and 2.30pm. On Wednesday and Saturday, the costumed servants are hard at work in the kitchen, and on Tuesday afternoons, you can listen to the harpsichord being played, and if you’re musical, even play a tune yourself. For more information visit our website.

Hope to see you soon!

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