Grasmere Lake, Cumbria

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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.

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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 spectacular as Ullswater is, or grand like the better-known Windermere, but because it’s mostly quiet, is easily accessible for most people and because the south shore is like a pebble beach and it’s easy to paddle or swim in the water.

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 a truer word has been written 🙂

 

 

Grasmere village, Cumbria – Wordsworth country

I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;

The opening verse of arguably the best Known of William Wordsworth’s poems gives an insight into the way in which the natural world inspired Wordsworth’s romantic and metaphysical poetry. A visit to Grasmere, the tiny village where Wordsworth (1770 – 1850) was born, provides an opportunity to experience how he was moved to put pen (or quill) to paper, and share his joy in his surroundings.

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The Wordsworth connection was not the reason behind my little expedition to lovely Grasmere, though it was an added point of interest. The village is named after Grasmere Lake, which lies about a mile to the south and is one of my favourite spots in the south lakes area. This quaint and quintessentially English location is small and charming. Basically, it’s built on a loop road off which shoots a lattice of small streets. Grasmere boasts some pretty little independent shops and some quality hotels, guest houses and restaurants. It is exactly what any visitor to this region would come to expect. Husbandry and its subsidiary trades are no longer the way the locals earn a crust; it’s mostly catering to the needs of tourists.

There are certainly plenty of those -tourists, that is – though not in the numbers to be found just a few miles away at Lake Windermere. It’s less than 40 minutes away by bus with Ambleside being the half way point. The main attraction is definitely Wordsworth, more specifically his final resting place in the Wordsworth family section of the parish church yard, and also the daffodil garden, centred on the title of arguably his most famous poem. The path which meanders through this delightful little garden is made up of paving stones engraved in dedication to Wordsworth appreciators who have paid for the privilege of being part of it.

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Another popular Grasmere pull is the world renowned gingerbread shop. This establishment is to Grasmere’s visitors like the witch’s gingerbread house was to Hansel and Gretel. The first clue to the delicious treats inside this tiny place is the intoxicating aroma of ginger, cinnamon and sugar which is carried along the street on an inviting breeze. Its popularity is such that it can be impossible to enter the shop, which holds about 6 customers at any one time, without a considerable wait. On the day of my visit back in August the queue was winding around the building, and somebody was advising that the wait was about 20 minutes. Expansion could be a solution, but that would spoil the whole point. I hope that a visit at a quieter time of year might result in some tasty treats for my own delectation

Greens organic restaurant on the main street offers an excellent menu of both veggie and non-veggie fayre and the service is with a smile. Coffee shops and tea rooms all seem to be very pleasant and offer beautiful views and space to relax.

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