Grasmere - On the trail of Wordsworth

PUBLISHED: 10:37 27 August 2014 | UPDATED: 10:37 27 August 2014




The great poet had a string of homes in Grasmere and it’s easy to see why he liked the place so much

River RothayRiver Rothay

He was one of the greatest writers of all time and although his grammar’s not up to much, it’s hard to argue with the sentiment of William Wordsworth’s claim that Grasmere is ‘the most loveliest spot that man hath ever found’.

Even at this time of year when coach parties of tourists make it impossible to wander lonely as a cloud there’s plenty to admire, and Wordsworth is at the heart of much of it.

Once you’ve taken the tour of Dove Cottage where he lived for nine years, follow his footsteps to Allan Bank where he moved with his family, and friend Coleridge, in 1808. The house is now owned by the National Trust and opened to the public for the first time in 2012 and is unlike any of their other properties in the area. Only partially restored after a fire in 2011, the building – which was once owned by Canon Hardwicke Drummond Rawnsley, one of the Trust’s co-founders – has plenty of hands-on ways of exploring its history.

Wordsworth was prolific as a writer and almost equally so when it came to moving house. He left Allan Bank for The Old Rectory before moving again to Rydal Mount on the road down to Ambleside.

Allan BankAllan Bank

He is buried in a humble plot in the churchyard at St Oswald’s and there is almost always a crowd shuffling past.

But while the great man’s legacy looms large over much of the village, there is more to Grasmere than Wordsworth. Many of the thousands of tourists who make their way there every summer find the shops and cafes a major draw and plenty more are attracted by the stunning scenery and superb walking country in the hills which surround the village, which Wordsworth was quite an authority on.

And then there’s gingerbread which is still produced to Sarah Nelson’s 19th century recipe in the old schoolroom (where Wordsworth, his wife and his sister all taught – there really is no escaping him). Sarah was poor and uneducated but not daft and she realised the potential of her best-selling gingerbread and had the recipe locked away in a bank vault, ensuring that when she died in 1904, her secret lived on.

The shop – where it’s a rare thing not to find a queue out of the door – is next door to St Oswald’s Church, where people have been worshipping for well over 1000 years, although not always in the present pebble-dashed building.

Grasmere 2Grasmere 2

The church was founded by King Oswald who, according to a notice by the heavy oak door, was a nice chap who gave food to the poor and had his hand blessed for doing so by his friend Bishop Aidan – not to be confused with Irish comedian Aidan Bishop. As a result, after Oswald was killed in battle, his hand remained untainted by death, which probably came as little consolation to the king whose body was dismembered and his head and limbs displayed on stakes.

Gras roots

Where it is: Grasmere is in the central Lake District on the A591.

Where to park: If you’re early enough, head for the few spaces opposite the church where it costs £5 a day, otherwise head for the larger but more expensive pay and display car parks around the village.

Where to eat: As with most popular tourist villages in the Lake District, there’s a selection of cafes and hotels to choose from and some lovely picnic spots a short stroll from the village.

What to do: Pay homage to Wordsworth, eat gingerbread, and take a stroll in the poet’s footsteps down to the lake.

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