Saturday, 22 August 2009

Snapshots of Grasmere

Even in August, the Lake District is smothered in clouds.
It rained; we got wet; we stopped for a nice cuppa.
I know that those beautiful green hills
draw legions of walkers
But for me, this was the quintessence
of our visit to Grasmere.
Apparently, Dorothy Wordsworth managed to spend
24 pounds on tea in one year.
The rent on Dove Cottage was only 8 pounds,
just to put it into perspective.
Sticky Toffee Pudding
is on every menu.
Do try it if you get the chance.
For such a tiny village, there is a
dense concentration of cafes and tea-shops.
There is plenty of daffodil kitsch, too.
around Grasmere,
but I doubt you will manage it.
Dove Cottage
was once a public house.
Perhaps the conviviality lived on
in the walls and slate floor and buttery?
I wonder what Dorothy and William drank
with their many illustrious guests:
Coleridge (who lived with them, off and on)
and Charles and Mary Lamb (another famous sister)
and Thomas De Quincey, the infamous opium-eater
who later took over the lease.
So much poetry in those walls,
but no desk.
William Wordsworth wrote in a cutlass chair,
so-called because you could sit in it
without removing your sword.
I'm fairly sure
despite his Revolutionary and Romantic reputation
he subscribed to the
"pen is mightier than the sword" philosophy.
Anyway, his sister tended to act
as his amanuensis.
The house was incredibly dark
with a coal-burning stove
and not much ventilation.
No wonder the Wordsworths
spent most of their time
in Nature.
Dove Cottage was "acquired for the nation" in 1890.
(Wordsworth's Lakeland.)
Such a plain gravestone for Dorothy.
Ernest de Selincourt described her literary contributions:
"probably the most remarkable and the most distinguished
of English prose writers
who never wrote a line for the general public."
Her Grasmere Journals,
just four small notebooks,
were written for William's pleasure.
Her observances inspired some of his
most memorable poems.
while we were in Grasmere,
but I kept getting distracted by other things,
found in a bookshop in Bowness.
Gray and green
are the colours of Grasmere.
If we had stayed longer,
I might have grown a layer of moss, too.
This pond is just outside of Grasmere
in some woods familiar to William and Dorothy.
William liked to declaim as he walked,
and Dorothy collected his words like
so many drops of rain.
I tried to get Sigmund to compose some poetry
on the spot
but he declined.
He still feels bitter about studying
The Prelude when he was a schoolboy.
This is the most charming
of the many, many sheep pictures
that I felt compelled to snap.
Sheep are a common sight in the Lake District.
Although the Wordsworth industry dominates Grasmere
it isn't terribly touristy.
This circus tent was an incongruous sight.

42 comments:

Tracy Golightly-Garcia said...

Bee What a beautiful place Grasmere is-it's a place I would like visit oneday--seems to be so rich in history. Thanks for sharing your wondeful pictures!! I love the picture of the two sweet older women.

flowrgirl1 said...

oh how i would love to visit!

Maggie May said...

The beauty there is making my heart ache.

The Bug said...

Very lovely - I would love to visit there someday...

steven said...

oh bee nice to see you again! this is such a beautiful post and brings back some good memories of walking in england. i passed to the east of the lake district on the pennine way and once actually went there but didn't get to stay for long. gotta book ahead!!!
the stone wall covered in moss - yes, stand still long enough and you'll grow moss - and the pond. "dorothy collected his words like so many drops of rain". nice! thanks for this - it was gorgeous bee!! steven

Margaret Gosden said...

A wonderful essay about your Grasmere trip, and photos, too. (I enjoyed Stonehenge as well). Loved the first photo, teapot 'an all, and reading the very homely menu behind the ladies. A very satisfying post to read.

Elizabeth said...

Claudia collects old ladies so you first shot would delight her (if she wasn't in Vegas!)
Dove Cottage looks quite a lot like Merlin Cottage
where I spent many wet adolescent Augusts.
I had forgotten quite how sodden one can get.
Yes, tell S. the Prelude goes on FAR TOO LONG,
Tintern Abbey has the whole thing sewn up a great deal quicker......
You know how I hate things that go on and on and on...........

Meri said...

Sad that a voice is never heard because it is female and thought by herself to be insignificant.

Alaine said...

What a delightful post, thank you so much Bee. I'm going back to read it again!

Pamela Terry and Edward said...

Oh, I adore Grasmere. In fact, I do believe I have sat right where those two old dears are sitting. We usually visit the Lakes in autumn, so the crowds are a bit thinner. I remember thinking, like you, that Dorothy's contributions might have warranted a bit more distinquished looking headstone.

In an area of such remarkable beauty, one would think everyone would be a poet!

Delwyn said...

Hi Bee

this is a lovely post, but I did begin to feel a little damp by the end of it...No wonder they did not live to an old age, they must have had lungs full of mould spores...

But the landscape is so lush and fresh. I linked to the background views too thanks...

The pic on the river bank is so like the stroll I took on the river Avon in CHCH last week, when visiting my parents, hunting early daffodils...

did I find some...

keep watching...

thanks for showing us Grasmere. There is a lake Grasmere just out of CHCH I wonder if it is named after Wordsworth - quite probable...

Happy days

ArtSparker said...

I have seen this in the film "Pandemonium", about Coleridge and Wordsworth, that is, the cottage and this stunning moody countryside. I hope to see it some day.

♥ Boomer ♥ said...

Wonderful to see these photos!!!! Just beautiful!

A Thousand Clapping Hands said...

I was so excited to see this house and this area. Thank you so much. I laughed at your comment about the moss. I am wild about moss and am always saying I'm going to go away and become a moss farmer. Thanks for your comments Bee - You have a way of making me feel as though you are right there chatting with me.
Catherine

spudballoo said...

It's all SO English isn't it, the grey, the gloom, those white skies, the clouds, the tea and cake. Ooof that circus tent bothered me though..nasty! x

rachel said...

What a lovely post! Reminded me of my visit to Dove Cottage, on a day that might even have been darker and wetter, encouraging thoughts most unpoetical of how damp and mud-stained everyone's heavy outdoor clothes must have been in Dorothy's day.

I seem to recall her Journals reveal a great deal of fussing over William. (I'm with Sigmund, I'm afraid! School has a way of destroying certain authors and poets!)

JaneyV said...

When Hubby and I got married we literally went to the Lakes for the weekend, got married on the Saturday in Kendal and we stayed at the Wordsworth Hotel in Grasmere. We had Big Son with us who was 16 months old. His favourite thing to do was to run around in circles like a mad thing. You literally couldn't take your eyes off him for a second or he'd be off. Consequently I saw none of the more interesting sights like Dove Cottage. Big Son in a confined space full of historical meaning? AAARGH! So we filled our time taking boat trips and looking at scenery. I loved the velvety mossiness of the place. It's wonderful to see it again after all these years (it was 1996) especially through your eyes as you miss nothing when you visit a place. It would be lovely to go again with just Hubby and have a less frantic look around.

I love to look around graveyards. Whether it is just to see the same name come up through the generations, to learn their stories or to read the way the living remember the dead, I find them to be places filled with love. The fact that I love the look of lichen-covered rock probably helps. There is something sad yet perfect about Dorothy Wordsworth's gravestone. Perfect because it's plain and unobtrusive and made from local rock reflecting the life of a woman who was happy to write her journals and never seeking fame but equally sad because it tells us nothing about her for the later generations to understand - no "writer, beloved sister, muse".

As for the circus...what could be more Victorian when you think about it?

Yet again a beautiful post from the desk of Bee Drunken....

Lynne said...

oh! My heart is aching with longing for the soft beauty of the Lake District! You've revived some beautiful memories... thank you!

David Cranmer said...

Wonderful scenic country. I love the cottages and the stone fences covered in moss. I can see myself getting a lot of writing done there.

Phoenix said...

What a beautiful narrative in words and pics.. I traveled there along with you! :)

Lucy said...

I don't believe I've ever been. Poor old Dotty, violet by a mossy stone and all that. 'Lives of the English Rakes' sounds interesting.

Lovely sheep!

Bee said...

Tracy - Yes, it is amazing to think how many famous writers converged on that spot! If you double-click on the photo of the elderly women you can easily read the menu at the cafe.

Flowrgirl1 - It had been on "my list" for years. I hope you can go someday.

Maggie May - Yes; it is a palette so very different from southern California. The soft gray light is very restful for the eyes.

The Bug - I hope that you will make it!

Steven - We were amazed that we could get a room, as we booked very last-minute. It seemed busy in the town, but if you went walking you were (nearly) alone.

Margaret - Beatrix Potter next! (Isn't it fun? Being able to read the menu? I'm glad that you double-clicked on the photo.)

Elizabeth - There was a copy of The Prelude in the Museum, and the cleric who had owned it had crossed out autobiographical and substituted some word (wish that I could remember it), that basically meant navel-gazing.

I like pics of old ladies, too. I very much regret not getting a picture of a red-headed man and his two red-headed boys jogging past Hill Top. It's very hard to capture people without being too conspicuous about it!

Meri - YES.

Alaine - Thank you. I've always been horrible about doing photo albums . . . it's funny how blogging fills that gap.

Pamela - I have a picture of a tree that is turning orange already; I'd love to go back in the fall. That seems the most appropriate season for the Lake District's beautiful melancholy.

Delwyn - I can never quite grasp the flipped seasons. Daffodils? I really enjoyed your magnolia blossoms.

ArtSparker - I don't know about that film. I will have to look into it. And I very much hope that you get to visit! The Wordsworth Museum has 90% of everything he wrote -- a LOT.

Boomer - Oh, thank you. A visual antidote to the heavy heat of August.

A Thousand Clapping Hands - I'm sending you green, mossy thoughts! Poor parched you.

Spudballoo - The circus was Dutch. Weird, huh?

Rachel - Yes, I always fret over things like how they ever got the sheets to dry out properly. The house is so terribly dark! I would have suffered from S.A.D., I'm sure.

JaneyV - You must go back, without children I think. There were lots of small ones around, with their walking sticks and rock candy, but I thought that it was really a grown-up place. I think you've convinced me that Dorothy's gravestone was actually perfect. And the circus? I did love the billowy clouds surrounding it.

Lynne - Thank you! I'm so glad.

Bee said...

David - Yes, it is perfect for writers . . . you would feel right at home.

Phoenix - Oh good!

Lucy - Many of the sheep were shorn and had streaks of orange on their backs. Do you know anything about that? We only saw one herd of these black sheep with their interesting faces.

Beth said...

So wish my visit to England had been longer - I would love to have spent time at such a place! And to have met you.
Love the picture of the sheep. More to come? ;)

Emm said...

What a wonderful post! I just love your poetic and romantic text and the beautiful photos. I don't know if I have ever been to the Lake District. If I have, it was before I was 6.

Celeste Maia said...

How much I enjoyed this posting! Your photographs of Grasmere portray the quintessencial English village, and the two old ladies could be Miss Marple and her friend enjoying a cup of tea. William Wordswoth and his sister Dorothy are two important figures in my firmament. "Come forth into the light of things, Let Nature be your teacher"."Yes indeed.

Lisa said...

It's simply gorgeous - grey and green and all. I am part envious for your ability to be right there among the historic literary places.

It appears that Sigmund's reluctance to compose poetry for you didn't damper your spirits or you delightful way with words.

Bee said...

Beth - Would you like more sheep? I will send you one from Beatrix Potter's house. (And someday you will come back to England and we can have Adventures!)

Emm - Thank you for your kind words. It is a different world from London, that's for sure.

Celeste Maia - That would make an interesting blog post: The Stars in my Firmament.

Lisa - Yes, I long ago gave up on the notion of poetry from Sig (and must just write it for myself).

rxBambi said...

Great photos. It looks just like I would have imagined. Very beautiful!

as an aside... is there a place called Ellsmere in the lake district?

Sarah Laurence said...

I love those ladies having tea in the rain and Dorothy’s tea tab. Sorry to hear about your rainy hols. Perhaps they should rename it the lake and puddle district. Sweet sheep!

That blank tombstone says so much with what it left out. I was reading an article in today NYT magazine about the millions of lost girls, mostly in India and in China. The loss of life is tragic but so to is the past generations’ silencing of the female voice. I read so many books written by talented women. I mourn all those lost thoughts that never made it to paper.

julochka said...

look at you, developing your photographic eye...you're gonna need a nikon soon. ;-)

i sincerely doubt you could ever gather moss. :-) even if you stayed in grasmere.

i want to see the cutlass chair with room for a sword. it's somehow so romantic.

Reya Mellicker said...

Fabulous images! I can smell the air.

Love the two ladies in the top pic, the reflections and that stony, mossy wall. I love England even though there are no thunderstorms.

Thanks for the tour.

CashmereLibrarian said...

Wow. Love.

Anne said...

Heading into the home stretch of a typically dry California summer, I can't help longing for the misty, mossy green-and-grey of the scenery in your pictures. Sun is nice, but interminable sun makes me wish for a bit of gloom. Thanks for sharing your lovely visit.

Nimble said...

I enjoyed the centering of your post. Just finished P&P -- did you remember that Elizabeth is very disappointed not to go visit the Lake District? Her aunt and uncle change their itinerary and they all end up visiting the Pemberly estate instead.

It would be hard to be stuck in a dark cottage with endless rainy days to look forward to.

Dick said...

A delightful account, beautifully illustrated. I wish I'd been a bit busier with the camera during our roaming around.

Nancy said...

Bee, thank you for taking us along. Wow! I love the little town and the history of the Wordworths. I must visit this place - it's calling to me.

Merisi said...

Thank you for this delightful excursion into the Lake District, Bee! I enjoyed it thoroughly.

Merisi said...

Oopsie, pushed the wrong button!

So, here:
The first picture, the image of the two ladies enjoying a respite, captured such oldfashioned spirit and gentleness, congratulations! The circus tent looks as if had just landed there, from some faraway lands.

Just a Plane Ride Away said...

This post made me miss the smmmmmeeellll of England. I miss the country rambles. Grasmere looks so quaint. And mmmmm. Sticky toffee puds. Mmmmm.

Alyson (New England Living) said...

I love the lake district. So stunning. Your pictures are perfect, Bee!

Isabel said...

I have read Dorothy's "The Grasmere and the Alfoxden Journals" and seeing this photos now makes really WANT to visit.