Tag Archives: heritage garden

Time to put Wordsworth House to bed

21 Nov
Making a bed in the children's room

The costumed servants make the children’s bed at Wordsworth House

Wordsworth House and Garden may be closed for the winter, but behind the Grade I listed walls and lime-washed façade, the work continues.

Almost as soon as poet William’s childhood home shut at the end of October, the housekeeping team began packing small and fragile items in tissue, swathing larger ones in bespoke dust covers, and rolling rugs onto lengths of drainpipe to let the fibres relax.

House steward Rachel Painter says: “The house has a very different feel without the bustle and noise of visitors and a full staff and volunteer team. It’s still and quiet and I’m much more aware of the creaks and groans associated with an old building.

“I enjoy this period and the opportunity to get some things done which aren’t possible at other times. It’s like carrying out a giant stock take of the house and the collection.

“The dressing up clothes are sorted for repairs, the beds are stripped and the blankets put in the freezer to kill any potential bugs, and tissue hats made for smaller items like candlesticks. The worst job has to be scrubbing the blackened pots the costumed servants use for cooking over the open fire.”

Out in the award-winning garden, head gardener Amanda Thackeray and her volunteers are just as busy.

She explains: “We have lots of heritage apple trees, and this is the ideal time to prune them to control their shape and encourage next year’s crop. Bubble wrap becomes a real ally – we put it round plant pots as, just like us humans, they like an extra blanket in winter.

“We’re also cutting down our tall herbaceous perennials, but where we can, we leave parts of the garden uncleared to act as a snug winter home for beneficial insects.”

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.’

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.

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.

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

The Pied Piper of Wordsworth House

18 Feb

Cuddly rats at Wordsworth House

Invasion: Here come the rats!

I’ve got some wonderful new friends at Wordsworth House – and I don’t just mean all the lovely staff joining us when we reopen on March 9. (I’ll be introducing them to you over the next few weeks.)

I’m talking about an invasion of rats! I know that doesn’t sound good, but bear with me, as I’m not referring to the living, breathing, pestilent kind.

Ours are cuddly toys that my friend visitor services manager Kirsty, henceforth to be know as the Pied Piper of Wordsworth House, bought in bulk at a certain well-known Swedish home furnishing store.

If you want to know why she bought them, all I’m authorised to say is that they will be playing an important part in our new visitor offer. To find out more, you’ll have to visit us on a Sunday and bring along at least one child!

We’ve got lots of new things happening his season, including a daily audio tour, offering fresh insights into the people who made this lovely house their home.

On Mondays and Thursdays, we’ll also have volunteer-led guided tours. On Tuesdays and Saturdays, the servants will be cooking in the kitchen and giving special 20-minute talks, and on selected Wednesdays, there will be conservation cleaning demos or garden tours.

Visitors to the cellar may recognise the ghostly presence of Ruth, one of the stars of ITV1 reality series Inside the National Trust, who helped put presenter Michael Buerk through his paces as a (not very successful) Georgian manservant. Ruth, in her role as Amy, the maid-of-all-work, has been turned into a hologram!

If you live locally, why not pop along on Sunday, March 9 or Monday, March 10 to see her. There’s free entry on both days for anyone with a CA13 postcode.

Whenever you visit, be sure to come out into the garden and say hello to me!

Costumed servant Ruth oversees Michael in the kitchen

Cookery lesson: Costumed servant Ruth oversees Michael in the kitchen

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