Tag Archives: Wordsworth House

Roll up for a surprising new exhibition!

26 Sep
Bowder_stone_near_Keswick,_USE THIS

A group of intrepid 19th-century tourists scale the Bowder Stone

Take a walk or drive down Borrowdale past the Bowder Stone today and you could be forgiven for missing it. But, as Wordsworth House and Garden’s new exhibition reveals, this tree-shrouded boulder hasn’t always enjoyed such a low profile.

In the 18th century, only the most intrepid thrill-seekers ventured into the rarely explored Vale of Derwentwater to marvel at what naturalist George Smith described as “much the largest stone in England”.

However, by the 19th century, thanks to the promotional efforts of eccentric local landowner Joseph Pocklington, a visit to the precariously balanced Bowder Stone had become an essential part of the Lake District tourist’s itinerary.

To celebrate the area’s recent elevation to a World Heritage Site, Objects of Celebrity #1 The Bowder Stone explores the rise and fall of this iconic rock through the eyes of those early travellers, including the artists, poets, novelists and diarists who helped spread its fame.

Alongside their drawings, photographs and writings, the exhibition includes an oil painting by the celebrated Victorian landscape artist John Atkinson Grimshaw, on loan from the Tate Britain gallery in London.

There’s also a replica of the stone made out of cake, modern stereographic images visitors can view with 3D glasses – and the chance to see how the Bowder Stone might look today if the National Trust hadn’t taken it into its care in 1910.

After taking in this intriguing exhibition, why not head into Borrowdale to see for yourself? Step inside the Time Machine temporary installation at the old climbers’ hut and view the past centuries from the stone’s perspective.

If you’re feeling particularly brave, you can even hunker down and shake hands beneath it for luck in the traditional way.

Objects of Celebrity #1 The Bowder Stone is open from 11am to 4pm every day except Friday, until Sunday 29 October, and entry is free with admission to the house and garden.

The Time Machine at the Bowder Stone also runs to Sunday 29 October, and entry is free.

Get closer to nature this half-term

29 May
WWH three boys by Val Corbett

Hunting for bugs in William’s childhood garden. Picture: Val Corbett

Come rain or shine, there’s plenty to enjoy over the school holiday week at William’s childhood home. We’re open every day from Saturday 27 May to Sunday 4 June.

On Saturday and Sunday, go wild like William and Dorothy with a Dumbledore and Horniegoggle explorer bag. Hunt for surprising creatures and weird words in the house and garden, and get tips on how to turn your own backyard into a nature haven.

On Monday, join the costumed servants in the kitchen, roll up your sleeves and have a go at making traditional Cumberland clapbread. The theme on Tuesday is wild art: materials are supplied – all you need to bring is your imagination.

Drop in on Wednesday to write a letter with a quill and ink then seal it with wax. On Thursday and Friday, join the servants at 11.30am or 2.30pm for an informal family garden tour to taste flowers and search for bugs!

Whatever day you visit, there’s also a choice of indoor and outdoor children’s trails to follow. You’ll find reproduction toys and dressing up clothes – in all sizes – in the children’s bedroom, a giant magnetic storytelling game and drawing materials in the Discovery Room, and, if the rain stays off, there are skittles and poetry stones to play with in the back courtyard.

Meanwhile, grown-ups can enjoy our stunning Word-Hoard photographic exhibition, chat to the costumed servants or explore our award-winning heritage garden. When the sun shines, there’s no lovelier place to be!

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!

We need your help!

25 Jan

Join us for a cuppa and find out more about volunteering

The National Trust is looking for people to donate their time and skills at Wordsworth House and Garden, in Cockermouth, where I live, and in the North Lakes countryside.

The Trust cares for over 20 per cent of the Lake District National Park together with many beautiful houses and gardens. As well as helping a fantastic cause, volunteering is a great way to make new friends or broaden a CV.

Zoe Gilbert, Visitor Experience Manager at poet William Wordsworth’s childhood home, said: “As a charity, we’re entirely dependent on the generosity of our members and supporters for everything we do.

“We wouldn’t be able to open the doors each day without our wonderful volunteers to welcome and chat to visitors, lead tours, assist in the café and garden, and ensure everyone has the best possible visit.”

No special knowledge or abilities are needed. Zoe explained: “We’re looking for people with a warm, friendly manner. You don’t have to be a history buff or poetry expert, although either would be a bonus. If you’re a pianist and would like to play our harpsichord, that would be great too.”

Meanwhile, the North Lakes outdoors team is seeking people to meet visitors from all over the world and share their love of the Lake District at Bark House Mountain Base at Ashness Bridge, near Keswick.

Helpers are also needed to welcome people and chauffeur them by Land Rover on the off-road track to Force Crag Mine on five open days each year, and to walk high-use paths in Borrowdale, noting any large repair or maintenance jobs and fixing small problems with a bit of DIY.

There are vacancies for people with research experience to work on plans for commemorating the end of the First World War and the Great Gable war memorial, and there is a three-month internship for someone keen to build a career in heritage management, arts and tourism.

Anyone who can spare a few hours on a weekly or even monthly basis can call into Wordsworth House for coffee and a chat on Saturday 4 February between 9am and 1pm or on Tuesday 7 February any time from 1pm to 4pm. Alternatively, email wordsworthhouse@nationaltrust.org.uk.

For more details of countryside volunteering, drop into Keswick’s Theatre by the Lake on Saturday 11 or Thursday 16 February between 10am and 1pm, or apply at http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/volunteer.

Wordsworth House and Garden is is open Saturday to Thursday, 11am to 5pm (last entry 4pm), from 11 March to 29 October. Find out more at http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/wordsworth-house.

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.”

Work at Wordsworth’s childhood home

8 Nov

The Reception at Wordsworth House, Cockermouth, Cumbria.

Would you like to work at Wordsworth House next year – or do you know someone who might?

We have a range of part-time staff vacancies for 2017, so please spread the word! If you have great people skills and bags of enthusiasm, we’d love to hear from you.

We’re looking for membership and visitor welcome assistants, costumed servants (customer service assistants), duty managers (visitor experience assistants), cafe and cleaning staff.

But hurry – applications close on 21 November. To find out more and apply, go to www.nationaltrustjobs.org.uk

William’s childhood garden is looking glorious again

19 Sep

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.

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