|The forecast for today was windy with showers this morning, turning into heavy rain this afternoon so I was looking for some indoor activities. For those of you who don’t know the area, the Lake District is probably the most outdoors place in the country. Its main attractions are beautiful scenery, walking, cycling, boating, etc so not a great location for a rainy day but it worked out OK.
The scenery is magnificent, even on a cloudy day & there were lots of people out walking everywhere – I’m sure they were a lot keener than me & also had better gear. I drove straight up the M6 to Lancaster then had a beautiful drive through Kendal, Windermere & Ambleside to Grassmere because I was heading for Dove Cottage, William Wordsworth’s home.
Entry to the cottage is by guided tour & I just missed one but they also have a Wordsworth museum were it was easy to fill in the hour. In fact, I think you could spend days there & still not see everything. The guided tour was good but it’s a tiny cottage & just after I arrived a very large walking group turned up an hour before their appointed time. They tried to fit them in between the regular tours so it made for a very crowded situation.
Wordsworth & his sister Dorothy moved into the cottage in 1799 & by the time they left 8 years later he’d acquired a wife who was expecting their 4th child so they must have been bursting at the seams. According to Dorothy’s journal they had beds in every room except one. Not really the ideal environment for writing poetry but apparently Wordsworth composed a lot of his stuff outdoors when he was hiking around this district.
I studied the Romantic poets at university & was never very excited about Wordsworth but it was interesting to get a feel for him on his home turf because he lived & wrote in this area pretty much all his life.
After my dose of Wordsworth, I went back to Ambleside & had lunch. It’s a busy little town, made busier today with lots of young people with clipboards who seemed to be doing some kind of survey. They didn’t seem to be interviewing anyone so I couldn’t quite figure out what they were up to.
From Ambleside I took some tiny back roads down the other side of Lake Windermere to a village called Near Sawrey (as opposed to Far Sawrey which is just down the road). This is where Beatrix Potter lived in her house called Hill Top.
When she died she left very explicit instructions in her will that she wanted the house to be open to the public but she wanted everything left exactly as it was so that it looked like she’s “just popped out to post a letter”. It’s been run by the National Trust since 1946 & they’ve abided by her wishes although the girl I was talking to said it’s probably a lot cleaner now.
After she married, Beatrix lived with her husband on the other side of the village but she came to Hill Top every day & did all her writing there. Throughout the house, they have some of her books open at pages where you can see how she’s used scenes in the room for her illustrations. There’s a particularly lovely one at the top of the stairs in the Tale of Mrs Tittlemouse where you have to get right down at floor level because she drew it from the mouse’s perspective.
Of course, photos were prohibited at both Dove Cottage & Hill Top which these days means they have to make everyone turn off their mobile phones. I really can’t understand their reasons & have decided they do it because they can. At least some of the cathedrals are honest & let you take photos if you pay an extra fee. I take photos to help me remember places & annoys me greatly to have these gaps.
The car park is about 200 yards along the road from Hill Top & it was just starting to rain when I got to my car so time to head home. It was about 60 miles & some of it in very heavy rain so quite difficult driving, especially with all the spray from the trucks when I got onto the M6.
I detoured via McDonald’s at Fleetwood & sent off yesterday’s story then home & watched a couple of episodes of Downton Abbey Series 2 which I bought yesterday in Lancaster. Good stuff.