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.

Go wild at Wordsworth House this half-term

28 May
Come and make a wild animal mask

Come and make a wild animal mask on Thursday or Friday this half-term

Come rain or shine this half-term holiday, there are lots of fun things for families to do at poet William Wordsworth’s Cockermouth birthplace.

You can dress up as a Georgian, play with toys like William had, make up a story with our giant magnetic quilt game, follow a trail round the house, or simply let off steam in the lovely heritage garden that inspired him.

On Saturday and Sunday, 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.

Monday is 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 Tuesday, it’s time to get cosy by the fire – or, if it’s sunny, head out to the garden – as our modern-day ‘Miss Potter’ celebrates the 150th anniversary of Beatrix’s birth by reading some of her little books. Take a seat for The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin at 11.30am, or The Tale of Mrs Tiggy-Winkle at 2.30pm.

Find out about the strange art of 18th-century letter writing on Wednesday, pen one yourself with quill and ink, then seal it with wax.

On Thursday and Friday the theme is wild art: we supply the materials – all you need to bring is your imagination. But if you’re planning to visit us on Friday 3 June, please note that last entry to the house, garden and café will be at 2pm, because of a staff funeral.

We look forward to seeing you!

Bring the family this Easter

20 Mar
WWH Easter by Stuart Cox

Complete our Easter trail and win a delicious chocolate prize

Easter is the perfect time to bring the whole family to Wordsworth House and Garden. We’re running a very special egg hunt, with delicious Cadbury chocolate prizes, from Friday 25 March to Monday 28 March, and there’s a full programme of fun activities over the rest of the school holidays.

On Mondays, children can join the costumed servants in the kitchen, roll up their sleeves and have a go at making clapbread. Just drop in any time between 11.30am and 3.30pm.

Tuesdays are the day to get cosy by the fire as our modern-day Beatrix Potter shares her little books. Take a seat at 11.30am for The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin or at 2.30pm for The Tale of Mrs Tiggy-winkle – and discover how both stories were inspired by Beatrix’s time in this part of the Lakes.

On Wednesdays, drop in between 11.30am and 3.30pm to find out about the strange art of 18th-century letter writing. Pen one yourself with a quill and ink, then seal it with wax.

Thursdays offer another chance to gather round the fire for some stories, but this time they’re taking a spooky turn. Settle down with the servants at 11.30am or 2.30pm to hear some of the ghostly tales William and Dorothy might have enjoyed.

The house is closed on Fridays – apart from Good Friday – but at the weekends, you can become a house detective or bug hunter with the help of a family activity bag full of trails and toys.

Whatever day you visit, there are reproduction toys and dressing up clothes – in all sizes – in the children’s bedroom. There’s a giant magnetic storytelling game in our new Discovery Room, and, if it’s dry, there will be skittles and poetry stones to play with in the back courtyard.

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.

 

Drop in and find out about volunteering

14 Jan

Volunteering at Wordsworth HouseIf you’re looking for an interesting way to spend a few spare hours each week or fortnight this year, volunteering for the National Trust could be the answer.

Volunteers play a crucial part in helping visitors get the most out of their time here at Wordsworth House and Garden and in the countryside around Derwentwater, and we need more people of all ages to join the team.

If you’re retired or recently moved to the area, volunteering is a great way to widen your horizons. And if you’re keen to return to paid employment, to transfer into the heritage sector or get some broad-based work experience, it’ll be an invaluable addition to your CV.

You don’t need any special skills or knowledge to get involved at poet William’s childhood home. We provide full training and support – all you require is a friendly, chatty manner and to like meeting people.

If you enjoy spending time outdoors in beautiful places, and you’re a dab hand with an open fire, we also also need more helpers to take turns staffing the former Bark House Mountain Base in Borrowdale as a pop-up visitor centre.

Volunteers have spent the last year opening the stone bothy at Ashness Bridge, lighting the fire, saying “muddy boots welcome” and answering people’s queries about directions and walks in the area.

We’re holding events in Cockermouth and Keswick for anyone who’d like to find out more.

Drop into Cockermouth Library, on Main Street, on Tuesday 2 or Saturday 6 February between 9.30am and 12.30pm for a chat.

Or you can meet the National Trust team at Keswick’s Theatre by the Lake on Thursday 11 or Saturday 13 February any time between 10am and 1pm.

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.

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