A visit to Allan Bank, Grasmere

In an earlier post I wrote about the bus ride from Keswick to Grasmere and back.  It was good to have an indefinite amount of time to explore Grasmere.  The previous visit we made was spoiled by being unable to park for long enough to make a relaxed visit to Allan Bank.  This time we had a choice of (hourly) buses to return to Keswick, where we had parked.

The path to Allan Bank
The path to Allan Bank

Allan Bank makes an unusual visitor experience.  There are not many items of value there, unlike  many National Trust houses with their treasures. Visitors are invited to make themselves at home.  There are puzzles and games, books, places to read, write or draw, a record-player and vinyl, tea and coffee making facilities and an elderly piano, which may be unlocked for careful pianists.

Room with a view
Room with a view

Refreshments are available or picnics can be eaten outside.  The tea room offers light lunches and we enjoyed soup and a roll, while listening to music by Satie.

The house suffered a fire, which caused major damage.  Once it had been restored, it was opened to the public rather than being rented out.  We were looking around one of the rooms, when someone told us how he had stood in that room and been able to see the sky.  He mentioned how pleased he was with what he had done there. His name is Paul Lewis and he oversaw the renovation of the house.  It was a coincidence that we were visiting at the same time as he was there.  He told us the story of how the blaze had taken hold, the tenant thinking the noise in the night was made by deer eating.  She went out to scare the deer away, turned round and saw the flames.  I asked about the glass for the windows, which seem to let in a lot of light.  They were sourced from Poland.  He also told us about the biomass boiler and the government finance available for the scheme.

Paul Lewis mentioned the famous former residents. He was not very sympathetic to the Wordsworths, who had not appreciated the house’s charms! Canon Rawnsley, a founder of the National Trust, had earned his respect. We later found an exhibition with videos, which was very informative.

Surprise view
Surprise view

Outside in the grounds (where there is only disabled parking) there is plenty to explore.  A circular route gives surprise views and has some unusual features.  This is a place to visit come rain, come shine.  The dry sunny weather we enjoyed was ideal for exploring outside.  Rocks can become slippery in wet weather.  The puzzles would keep many families happy on wet days. The walk from the village to the house is about a quarter of a mile.

Allan Bank
Allan Bank

After we had explored, we returned to Grasmere and had a look around St Oswald’s Church and the area immediately around it.  The graveyard has the graves of several members of the Wordsworth family.  There is also a daffodil garden, although it was a bit late for daffodils.

A Go Herdwick sheep
A Go Herdwick sheep

Blossoming trees made everywhere pretty in pink and white, with the fresh greens of new leaves.  Grasmere (which relies on tourism) has been rather cut off from visitors from the west since the collapse of the A591.  Now the road has reopened visitors can arrive from both directions.  Coach tours can take their traditional routes and hopefully life will return to normal.

The first Go Herdwick sheep we saw
The first Go Herdwick sheep we saw

Go Herdwick is an art project to raise money for the Calvert Trust.

 

Visiting Wordsworth House in disguise

The Tour of Britain cycle race came to Cumbria in September.  Much was made of this event in all the towns and villages on the route of the race.  There were bright yellow bicycles in many places around the county.  The one at Wordsworth House featured in a post by my blogging friend, Fletch the Perchcrow.

Hubby and I did not go to Wordsworth House and Garden in disguise.  The house was wearing its temporary livery of white with green spots in honour of the cycle race.  I had seen pictures on Twitter and thought it looked dreadful.  Full scale it was not quite as bad as I thought.  I am happy to relate that passing through the town a few days later We saw it had been restored to its usual shade of terracotta (which can just be seen on one wall above and to the left of the shop).

Wordsworth House in disguise
Wordsworth House in disguise

I really have mixed feelings about the recent trend to change things for the duration of a local event.  Penrith station was in disguise in late July and early August while a music festival was taking place nearby.  Kendal Calling is an annual festival, which began outside Kendal.  Having moved to a location some distance from Kendal, its name is unchanged.  So they changed all the signs at Penrith station!  My photo was taken the day after the festival ended.

Penrith Station in disguise
Penrith Station in disguise

A charming young festival-goer sat next to me on the train south from “Kenrith” to Lancaster.  It was obvious from his appearance that Glastonbury does not have a monopoly on mud!

Our reason for visiting Wordsworth House and Garden rather than any other location on this particular day was that a guided tour had been advertised on Twitter.  The weather was unsettled so a tour of a house was more attractive than a walk by a lake.

Our guide was Gillian Powell.  Quite a large group of people listened attentively to her talks in four rooms of the house.  We learned much about the early life of the poet, William Wordsworth.  The house might have been demolished.  How it had been saved unfurnished was an interesting story.

The expression, “If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen!” took on a new meaning for me.  There were four separate fires along one wall of the kitchen.

At the end of the tour Gillian Powell recommended a book about the Wordsworths.  The author is Hunter Davies and I am currently part way through his book, William Wordsworth, which I later found in the local library.

I also took her up on the invitation to play the modern harpsichord.  This time I found a piece of music, which I really enjoy playing.  Another volunteer, whose name badge I failed to read, showed us the workings under the lid of the instrument.  Hubby was fascinated, not having seen this before.  (I have seen and played a spinet, which is another keyboard instrument with plucked strings.)

It was good to see Alex Morgan, who helps Fletch with his blog.  (She is the author of a very readable novel, Tandem.)

The weather improved and it was fine for our quick visit to the garden.   There was still plenty of colour, but the lady scarecrow had vanished.  Wordsworth House is a place, which becomes more interesting, the more one learns about its background.  The guided tours and short talks, such as I mentioned in an earlier post, really help to bring history to life.

It is also family-friendly with clothes for children (and adults) to disguise themselves as time-travellers.

A visit to William Wordsworth’s childhood home

My loyal readers may remember that I made friends with another short-listed entrant for the 1st UK Blog Awards.  He is Fletch the Perchcrow, who lives in the garden at Wordsworth’s House, Cockermouth.

On a beautiful sunny day hubby and I went to see him again.  His garden is a riot of colour as you can see from the photos.  We were surprised to find that he seemed totally unaware of a very pretty scarecrow the other side of a wall.  I wonder what she is called.

Selection of photos
Selection of photos
Fletch's garden
Fletch’s garden
Different views
Different views

There were more bees than I have seen anywhere else this summer.  They particularly liked a low plant with yellow leaves and white flowers, which has been planted around the edge of many of the flower beds.

Yarn-bombers had been at work.  This time some of the woolly items included sticks, making a framework.  There were woolly insects too.

Inside the house we were treated to a talk by one of the costumed servants.  Fletch had mentioned the various activities on offer in the summer holidays.  Life in Georgian England was very different from today.

The staff and volunteers were friendly and helpful.  It was interesting to consider how different some nearby places were in the past.