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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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Go wild this summer like Beatrix and William

20 Jul
SONY DSC

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.

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.

Help us celebrate reopening

8 Mar
Wordsworth House artist in residence Sarah Kate Smith

Wordsworth House and Garden artist-in-residence Sarah Kate Smith

William Wordsworth’s childhood home reopens on Saturday 12 March with a bright new look – and free entry for locals all weekend to celebrate.

Like much of central Cockermouth, the historic house and garden were badly hit by December’s flooding, and our staff and contractors have worked non-stop over the winter to repair the damage and make some exciting alterations.

There are new Discovery and Exhibition rooms, containing displays and family activities, and a specially made 10-minute film playing in the cellar. The shop is now an attractive visitor welcome area, including a refreshed retail section, and even the toilets are getting a stylish 19th-century makeover!

We want local people to be among the first to experience the transformation, so anyone with a CA postcode can visit free this weekend. All you need to do is show proof of address.

The Discovery Room has a family area, including a giant magnetic storytelling game, and a permanent exhibition about William’s Lakeland legacy and key role in the creation of the National Trust, while our new film explains how he and his sister, Dorothy, changed the world.

2016 is the 150th anniversary of the birth of children’s author and Lakeland farmer Beatrix Potter. To mark this, our first temporary exhibition, which will open for Easter and run until 30 June, includes almost 30 of her original drawings.

Two Bad Mice: Mischief in Beatrix Potter’s Tales, the first of two major exhibitions about her this year at Wordsworth’s birthplace, revisits the magic of childhood through her beautifully observed illustrations.

On Wednesdays and Saturdays in term time, at 11.30am, our costumed servants will be giving a special ten-minute talk entitled Two Wild Children, about how the natural world shaped both Beatrix and William.

Meanwhile, a series of Friday morning art classes for all abilities, run by artist-in-residence Sarah Kate Smith, offer anyone who enjoys sketching the opportunity to draw the type of domestic objects and garden scenes Beatrix loved.

The classes, which are on 18 March, 15 April, 20 May, 17 June, 23 September and 21 October, include morning coffee and a light lunch. They cost £35 each, or £30 if attending three or more, and all materials are kindly provided by the Derwent Cumberland Pencil Company. To book, email wordsworthhouse@nationaltrust.org.uk or call 01900 824805.

We’re open Saturday to Thursday, 11am-5pm (last entry 4pm). Entry to the exhibition, which closes at 4pm, is free with admission to the house and garden.

 

An inspiring way to learn

30 Sep
Head Gardener Amanda and Fletch the Perchcrow

Discussing poetry: Me with Head Gardener Amanda

I’m proud to say the garden that inspired some of William Wordsworth’s best-loved nature poems is firing the imagination of today’s young poets too.

The selection below are the work of year 5 and 6 pupils from nearby Eaglesfield Paddle School, who came to visit recently. School groups are among my favourite visitors because they always come to say hello and are so enthusiastic about everything they see and do – in other words, they learn without realising it!

I love reading the thank you letters they send, as the things they pick as highlights are so delightful. Kate wrote: “The flint was so fascinating – it must have been hard to set the candle alight.”

And Emily said: “My favourite thing that I learned was about the horrible medicines that they had eg a live frog being strapped to your neck, crushed snails and hare’s brains.” Wonderful! Emily also wrote me a lovely poem:

The Scarecrow
A smiling face with the most perfect grace
With a hat of flowers, most beautiful powers
He stands still over the days.
Flowers surround going round and round,
In the different blustering ways.
Flowers of blue, white and pink – all those colours
Help me think.
On the days path, he has a woolly scarf
His jacket grey and tall, it makes him
The boldest scarecrow of them all.

Pretty Pink Flowers by Sophie
Pretty pink flowers,
How you glisten in the sunlight.
Your pink, light petals are so so
Bright and beautiful.
Oh pretty pink flowers.

Me as a Bee by Caitlin
Thin strands of yellow placed aside an endless well
Sweet sour emerald tears that sop down its twisty stalk
I sit in the flower with my big stripey body
Buzz, buzz, buzz!

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

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