Grasmere

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On the occasion of the birthday of William Wordsworth I am reblogging this post from a couple of years ago. I’ve just watched a feature on the local news about the poet and his great  love for his Lake District home turf, a spot I am also fond of. Wordsworth fiercely disapproved of the ‘uneducated masses’ descending on the area to enjoy its beauty and inspirational power as he and his privileged contemporaries did.  The emptiness of pretty Grasmere village today would have been very much to Wordsworth’s liking, a paradise for any lonely cloud-wanderer. News footage showed deserted streets and empty cafes as social distancing keeps us all close to home. Hopefully, it won’t be too long before the danger abates and allows us once more to enjoy scenes like these.

 

I was recently given an intriguing book: a paperback version of a travel guide of the Lake District written by the celebrated poet William Wordsworth who was born and resided most of his life in that beautiful part of England. A Guide Through the District of the Lakes was first published in 1810 and revised and reprinted several times before the final version was written in 1835. Wordsworth was strapped for cash and with a growing family, hence the artistic compromise. Wordsworth himself expressed some degree of contempt for this work, admitting that the need for funds had been the incentive behind its publication.

Wordsworth
William Wordsworth

Whilst it’s obviously not in the same league as his poetry, I quite like this book; it’s like a Lonely Planet guide of its time and reminds me of the later Wainwright guides which laid out walking routes across the mountainous pastoral terrain of the north of England, routes still followed to this day. I find it very interesting to compare Wordsworth’s poetry with his – albeit highly descriptive in parts – functional writing.

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Wordsworth made his home close to Grasmere Lake to the south of the Lake District region. Its name is from the old English gress and mere – the lake flanked by grass. Wordsworth first stayed at Dove Cottage, and his final home was at Rydal Mount where he died in 1850. At only a mile long and half a mile wide, Grasmere was not particularly impressive in size, but was Wordsworth’s favourite. The river Rothay feeds the lake, from where it flows on into Rydal Water and then to Lake Windermere.

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Canoes heading across Grasmere and then onto the Rothay on route to Rydal Water. You can’t see it here but one of the passengers was a dog in a life jacket.

A footpath along the west shore of the Lake leads to Penny Rock Woods, another route to Rydal Water

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I really like Grasmere, not because it is spectacularly atmospheric like my favourite of the lakes, Ullswater, or as grand as the better-known Windermere, but because it is relatively quiet, is easily accessible for most people and because the south shore is like a pebble beach from where it’s easy to paddle or swim.

What better descriptions could I use than those of Wordsworth himself?

‘In preparing this Manual, it was the Author’s principal wish to furnish a Guide or Companion for the Minds of Persons of taste, and feeling for Landscape, who might be inclined to explore the District of the Lakes with that degree of attention to which its beauty may fairly lay claim’ – William Wordsworth, A Guide Through the District of the Lakes.

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‘I do not know of any tract of country in which, within so narrow a compass, may be found an equal variety in the influences of light and shadow upon the sublime or beautiful features of the landscape’

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‘…at the outlet of the lake, the stream pushing its way among the rocks in lively contrast with the stillness from which it has escaped.’

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‘The presence of a lake is indispensable to exhibit in perfection the beauty of one of these days.’

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‘the smallest rivulet – one whose silent flow is scarcely noticeable in a season of dry weather – so faint is the dimple made by it on the surface of the smooth lake.’

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‘… the lover of Nature might linger for hours’

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‘All else speaks of tranquillity … the clouds gliding in the depths of the Lake.’

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‘It has been said that in human life there are moments worth ages’

… never has a truer word been written.

 

 

13 thoughts on “Grasmere

  1. Donnalee of Kingston NY April 7, 2020 / 7:03 pm

    I haven’t been to the Lakes in decades–thank you for the lovely photos. That last quote is great and I hadn’t remembered it, so thanks for that too. I recall that in Regency times (1811-1820), there was a fad for the Lake District, and some of the guides, some even written by famous people, had this silly suggestion to bring a large mirror, like would be hanging in the house of the wealthy, and to position it so that it showed a lovely view, and to look at the mirror instead of looking at the view itself! It was believed to be more ‘sublime’ or civilised to see it in a sort of rame instead of in the raw.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Welcome to the Beautiful North April 7, 2020 / 7:53 pm

      Wow! I hadn’t heard that before, Donalee. That’s so ridiculous to our modern minds, yet although it’s shocking it is perhaps typical of the time, when nature was there to be enjoyed ( by those with the luxury of time to do so) but often in a contrived and formal way. I’m glad you like the pictures. Thanks for reading.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Donnalee of Kingston NY April 7, 2020 / 8:04 pm

        It featured in a Regency romance that I read recently, and pointed out the difference between the nature-appreciating free-spirited young man and the silly city-based woman whom he used to flirt with and her degree of artificiality, which really covered her greed for his money. He winds up with someone much more appropriate for him.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Eunice April 7, 2020 / 7:30 pm

    Lovely photos 🙂 I like to keep away from the more touristy parts of the Lakes so I’ve never been to Grasmere, maybe I should give it look next time I’m up that way 🙂

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    • Welcome to the Beautiful North April 7, 2020 / 7:58 pm

      Although it’s a bit touristy it’s far less so than nearby Windermere and is very easily accessible by bus from Windermere station, which has to inform my choices of places to visit. It’s quite a small village but you can easily wander around without encountering crowds. I’ve never had any problem finding a table for lunch. The only very long queues I have encountered have been outside the famous gingerbread shop whose gorgeous aroma pulls you towards it. I have never yet been tempted to join the queue though. Maybe one day.

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  3. gimpywalker April 8, 2020 / 12:23 am

    I joined the cue for gingerbread and it was certainly well worth it. A Camino friend and I had a saunter around the lake and it was very pretty. Beautiful photos!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Welcome to the Beautiful North April 8, 2020 / 9:04 am

      Thank you. I have been told the gingerbread is well worth the wait. I will get some next time as a special ‘release from lockdown’ celebratory treat.

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  4. theyearwithoutwimbledon May 20, 2020 / 8:31 am

    Thank you for sharing. Due to the wretched virus, this is the first time for years I haven’t been able to go to Grasmere in daffodil season – hoping to go later in the year. The gingerbread is amazing, as gimpywalker said!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Welcome to the Beautiful North May 20, 2020 / 8:39 am

      Thank you. I’m glad you liked the photographs. With restrictions easing gradually, there will hopefully still be time to enjoy the Lakes , even if it’s to see the blooms of late summer or autumn leaves instead of spring daffodils. The gingerbread will be there, no matter the season. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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