Tuesday 15 March 2016

Wordsworth House and Garden

"I wandered lonely as a cloud" is the only thing I knew about William Wordsworth until my visit to Wordsworth House and Garden today.

And when I say the only thing - I mean it. I didn't know the second line of that poem, nor the third line, nor any other lines. I knew the word 'daffodils' was in there somewhere but that was it.

This is BAD. I studied English Literature at university. I even did a WHOLE TERM on the Romantic Poets. It's embarrassing.

Wordsworth House

Anyway. I tried to make up for my failings by reading a very good book about Wordsworth by Hunter Davies before I set off for the Lake District - I can recommend it.

I also did a bit of research and discovered three things about Wordsworth House that greatly appealed to me: 

1. Wordsworth House was badly flooded in December - here's a video about it. The water was three feet deep and yet the staff still managed to open last week as planned.

2. They have a scarecrow called Fletch, who is a spectacular failure at keeping the birds away, but he does have his own blog

3. When the Tour of Britain cycle race started in Cumbria, the baker at Wordsworth House made these bike-shaped scones, which are the greatest thing I have ever seen:

And I'm happy to report that Wordsworth House did not disappoint. Here are some factoids:
  • The house was built between 1670 and 1690
  • John Wordsworth, dad of William, moved there in 1765 - it came rent-free as part of his job as agent for Sir James Lowther
  • William was the third child born to John and his wife Ann - he arrived in 1770, followed by his sister Dorothy in 1771
  • Ann Wordsworth died in 1778 - this had a big impact on the family, with Dorothy being packed off to relatives in Halifax
  • John died just five years later in 1783 when William was 13. The house was given back to John's employer and the boys were sent to live with relatives
  • In his great autobiographical poem, The Prelude, William talks about his happy childhood growing up by the River Derwent, which runs behind the house:
Wordsworth House river

I must admit: I expected Wordsworth to have grown up in a tiny cottage somewhere, and not in a sizeable house on a main street in Cockermouth. But the house is great: you get a real sense of what life would have been like.

The Wordsworth House scone
February was not a good month for this blog. First, I discovered that all National Trust properties now follow the same recipe to bake their scones. I'm not one to overreact but when I heard this news, I threw myself face down onto my bed like Scarlett O'Hara and announced "THE BLOG IS DEAD!" - the Scone Sidekick had to talk me round. 

And then the day after that shocking news, I travelled miles and miles for two subpar scones and went into a bit of a sulk.

Luckily, I had already booked the Scone Blogger's Spring Tour 2016, and so I was forced back onto the road in March.

And thank the Lord for that, because the Wordsworth House scone was DIVINE. Every single constituent part of the cream tea was perfect - fresh scone, delicious jam, great cream, fantastic tea. 

Wordsworth House scone

It was so good, that I decided to compose this poem in its honour:

Golden scone! With your curranty treasure,
How happy you make me is beyond measure
With jam and cream and tea in a cup
You really cheered the Scone Blogger up

On the off-chance that you're now muttering "that's rubbish" to yourself, I'm going to leave you with a poem by Wordsworth himself. I read it in Hunter Davies' book and was astonished; "I recognise the first line of this one as well! And it's a REALLY GOOD POEM! How can I not have understood this at university? I must have been a real div."

It's not about the Lake District, or scones for that matter, but I'm a city girl at heart:

Upon Westminster Bridge

Earth has not anything to show more fair:
Dull would he be of soul who could pass by
A sight so touching in its majesty:
This City now doth, like a garment, wear

The beauty of the morning: silent, bare,
Ships, towers, domes, theatres, and temples lie
Open unto the fields, and to the sky;
All bright and glittering in the smokeless air.

Never did sun more beautifully steep
In his first splendour, valley, rock, or hill;
Ne'er saw I, never felt, a calm so deep!

The river glideth at his own sweet will:
Dear God! the very houses seem asleep;

And all that mighty heart is lying still!

Wordsworth House and Garden: 5 out of 5
Scone: 5 out of 5
Ability to take all that Mother Nature can throw at you and still manage to open on time: 5 out of 5

Other National Trust properties we've visited in the Lake District: Acorn BankAllan BankFell FootHill TopSizergh CastleSticklebarnWray Castle


  1. Sounds wonderful in every way.. and I should be following in your footsteps in July.. I may even feel an ode coming on in due course.

    And I'm so happy that you're back in happy scone land :) .. Welcome home....