Monday, 3 March 2014

I Wandered Lonely As A Tourist. . .

So yesterday our walking group headed up to Grasmere and the planned walk was a circular route I'd not done before, taking in Easedale Tarn.  However, the weather intervened (again) and the leader decided on a lower and safer route going around Grasmere lake, along Loughrigg and back to the village via the so called "Coffin Route".  Now this is a lovely walk and if the weather had been nice, I'd not have hesitated to go along, but it's a route that I know quite well and have done many times before, and I always like to go/do something new on these excursions.  And did I mention, it was absolutely raining cats and dogs.  So I wimped out and decided to go and visit Dove Cottage instead, the home of William Wordsworth, his family, and his sister Dorothy from 1799 to 1808.

It was quite extraordinary to see how small, cramped and dark all the rooms were (the building had previously been a pub so there was lots of dark panelling and low ceilings). When we got to the end of the rooms, I asked the guide where Dorothy slept and the reply was essentially, wherever she could.  Fortunately she got a room of her own in the next house they moved to!

I wasn't allowed to take any photos indoors but despite its tiny size, it's well worth a visit as there are lots of fascinating objects on display and most of the furniture was owned and used by the Wordsworths if not actually at the time they lived in the cottage.  Samuel Coleridge and Thomas de Quincey were regular visitors and the "guest" bedroom is one of the nicest in the house (de Quincey's opium scales are on display too).  My favourite item was a needlepoint cushion in a plaid pattern made by Dorothy. For an item that is over two hundred years old, I was shocked to see how vibrant the colours still were and how little wear there was on the fabric; it looked as if it could have been made yesterday. There were also lovely contemporary rag rugs scattered in every room which makes me want to learn the craft. The guide mentioned how durable they were (you can imagine the number of tourists that trod on them annually); one of them was more than thirty years old.

In the neighbouring Wordsworth museum, another item of Dorothy's caught my eye.  Again, I couldn't take photos but here is a picture of the postcard that I bought.

It's the front of a leather postbag that Dorothy used to carry with her when she walked to Ambleside to get the mail.  There was no indication as to whether or not Dorothy did the needlework herself, but some of those colours were in the plaid cushion so I like to think that the joy of receiving letters inspired her to embellish her bag.

Both Dorothy and her brother were keen gardeners and created a hilltop garden behind the house (not looking its best at this time of year).

Here's the view of the Dove Cottage from the garden.

I then took a short walk around the town.   Here are the daffodils out in the Wordsworth Garden, not far from where William and Dorothy are buried.

There were snowdrops too.

I then went to get dry in a cafe and spent a pleasant hour knitting away on something sort of daffodil-coloured.

And then I felt guilty about having eschewed the walk. After all, I came up here for the views and fresh air, weather be damned.  Knowing that our group was coming back via the Coffin Walk (probably the only route in the Lake District I feel confident walking on without a map), I set out to meet up with them.  This was the route that Dorothy would have taken to get to Ambleside, although it's hard to imagine people carrying coffins along its ragged and stony path.  

But even in the rain, the views and colours are still lovely.

I probably didn't deserve my half-pint of shandy at the pub, having done only about two miles instead of nine but one has to be sociable.  All in all, a very satisfactory, well-rounded day out.

No comments: