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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.

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.’

We’ve been flooded – again

9 Dec

Wordsworth House 5 Dec flood by Cath Tyrrell

On Saturday, 5 December, the rivers Cocker and Derwent, which flow through Cockermouth, burst their banks and flooded the town centre, including Wordsworth House and Garden.

By Monday morning, most of the water – which had been up to five-feet deep – was gone, leaving behind a sea of mud and silt.

As in 2009, the last time Cockermouth was badly flooded, the house itself was largely unscathed. However, our shop, reception area and cellars were inundated, and we have a great deal of cleaning up, drying out and refitting to do.

My beautiful heritage garden, where William learned his love of nature, has been particularly badly hit.

Gardener Amanda told me the damage looks to be worse than in 2009, even though the water level was lower.

She said: “Although, this time, it didn’t bring down any walls or the terrace where William and his sister Dorothy loved to play, we’re expecting to lose more of our heritage plants.

“This is because the mud left behind is much thicker than it was six years ago, meaning many more plants are likely to die from suffocation. We’re also expecting a lot more rain, which will stress them further when they’re vulnerable.”

Wordsworth House garden 6

Amanda added: “As in 2009, our insurance won’t cover the loss of our heritage plants, so we’ll face a substantial bill for replanting. It’ll be a while before we know just how much this will be, as we can’t begin the process of trying to save them until a cleaning company has been in to hose down the paths and shed to remove contamination and make it safe for the staff and volunteer team to work.

“There will be a delay before this can happen, as the professional cleaners’ priority obviously has to be sanitising the many homes that have been flooded, so the people who’ve been affected can start their own clean-up operations.”

Despite the hard work ahead, we aim to reopen for 2016 as planned on 12 March.

In the meantime, we’ve had offers of help and donations from as far away as China. If you’d like to help us by donating towards the cost of replacement plants, please email Ross.mackintosh@nationaltrust.org.uk

Thank you – we look forward to welcoming you to a restored Wordsworth House and Garden in 2016.

Our staff are a talented lot

22 Sep
Beau Bruce and his dandy horse

Beau Bruce and his dandy horse

We’ve had a busy time recently with the Tour of Britain cycle race coming to Cockermouth – and it’s given the staff team a real chance to show off their talents.

Bike builder Rachel

Bike builder Rachel

Bridget's fabulous Wordsworth House cake

Bridget’s fabulous Wordsworth House cake

Over the past few weeks, house steward Rachel has made a dandy horse (Georgian bicycle) for retail supervisor Bruce to demonstrate, housekeeping assistant Bridget has decorated a cake to look like Wordsworth House in its special temporary ‘king of the mountains’ livery, and cafe assistant Hilarie even baked a load of bicycle shaped scones!

Hilarie's bonkers bike scones

Hilarie’s bonkers bike scones

Gareth, our outdoor and sports programme manager, got into the Tour of Britain spirit on his mini penny-farthing – and the rest of the team were looking pretty splendid too, on their bikes and off.

Gareth on his penny-farthing

Gareth on his penny-farthing

Rachel gets on her (very small) bike

Rachel gets on her (very small) bike

Kirsty tries the penny-farthing

Kirsty tries the penny-farthing

Amanda has a go

Amanda has a go

The team enjoy a well-deserved drink

The team enjoy a well-deserved drink

Meanwhile, costumed servant Rowan has created a stick family of 18th-century historical characters plus ‘stage sets’ for them to live in.

Rowan's stick figures

Rowan’s stick figures

Her stick pirate - with his tiny parrot

Her stick pirate – with his tiny parrot

Rowan's version of Wordsworth House

Rowan’s version of Wordsworth House

Aren’t they all amazing?

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.

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!

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