At last the clocks have changed and the nights will be getting lighter. Summer is on it’s way and the signs are all around in Grasmere.
When I looked out at the Sports Field the other day I had seen crowds of people hanging over the wall looking at something. Curiosity got the better of me so I went to investigate what this new spectator sport could be.
Well Grasmere Sports might draw the crowds every year but the sight of lambs being born on the field was coming a close second!
Young and old were standing patiently watching the arrival of lambs right there in front of them, and I make no apologies for the number of lamb photos as they were just so cute.
The sun was shining too, which was a welcome sight after the long winter.
The National Trust Regional Headquarters are based in Grasmere and I had to make a visit there, so decided to carry on and come back round by the path that runs from just opposite, across the field and back into Grasmere.
Everything was waking from the long Winter, the birds sounded happy and splashes of colour were appearing.
When I came to the Millennium Bridge I decided to go round by Grasmere Daffodil Garden to see how the Daffs were progressing. Perfect timing!
The daffodils were in full bloom and I noticed some new slabs had been laid on the path, so I went to take a look as several people had asked me to let them know when theirs were laid.
I had also seen another sign of Spring on my walk, some more new arrivals will be coming soon.
Hard to believe this will produce frogs swimming about, but strangely fascinating!
Just time to give William Wordsworth a nod on the way past, and nice to see he had his own Daffodils to enjoy.
Grasmere is perfect at any time of year but Spring has to be one of the best times to visit as the village awakes for the tourist season about to begin. Ok you know i’m going to do it! One last lamb photo.
Not a particularly inspiring day for a walk, a bit grey and gloomy, however as you will see I did manage to find a bit of colour in Grasmere.
Just a quick walk on Silver Howe today as rain wasn’t far away. I headed up towards Allan Bank.
Owned by the National Trust, it is now a private residence, however it has had a few notable tenants. Built by Liverpool Attorney Mr Crump this new and large house dominated the view up the Easdale Valley. Wordsworth had seen Allan Bank being built when he lived in Dove Cottage and had called it “a temple of abomination”. He had to eat his words a few years later as his family had outgrown Dove Cottage and it was to Allan Bank that they moved. They were not happy there, it was draughty with smoky chimneys which blew back into the house.
Dorothy Wordsworth however did have a few good words to say about the view from inside Allan Bank looking out “Wherever we turn there is nothing more beautiful than we see from our windows, while the treasures of Easdale lie as it were at our door”.
And Coleridge liked it so much he stayed for 8 months. Two of Wordsworth’s children were born here, Catherine in 1808 and William in 1810. As you walk past, see if you can spot the open ended tunnel hidden in the grounds.
The weather was still fairly miserable so I headed up the lane towards Wray Gill on the slopes of Silver Howe.
After climbing carefully over the slippery rocks, I turned to head down back to Grasmere.
On a clear day the views from here are spectacular with Grasmere, Rydal and the surrounding fells stretched out before you, a lovely place to sit and have a picnic.
If you head down and over the stile and veer to your right you hit the path down off the fellside. As I was getting chilly now I was looking forward to seeing if Faeryland Tea Garden was open for the season, as the path comes out directly opposite.
Result! Not only was it open, but was thoughtfully selling hot mulled apple juice. Deliciously warming apple and cinnamon, what could be better. As I thawed out I sat and looked at the one bit of colour I had seen all day, the rowing boats bobbing on the lake.
Faeryland sells the most amazing range of teas. Who would think somewhere in Grasmere would be selling such delights as, Russian Caravan tea, Nonsuch Nilgirin black tea, Organic Khartoum Hibiscus tea, Lovers Leap Estate ceylon tea, Pai Mu tan white tea, or indeed, Kama Sutra chai! Even better if you can’t manage a visit to Grasmere in person, they are all available on Ebay.
I love this time of year in Grasmere, everything is getting spruced up for the season. Just think how many people will enjoy a row on the lake in these boats this year.
Although another mulled apple juice was tempting, it was time to head for home, with a quick nod to the faeries on the way past.
Postscript. Today 23rd March 2011. Fire broke out in Allan Bank last night in the roof and first floor. At the height of the fire there were five appliances in attendance. No one was injured. The damage has still to be assessed. It is thought to have been started by an electrical fault.
This is a nice little circular walk round the village and takes you away from the traffic heading through the village. Suitable for wheelchairs and prams too, although it can get a bit muddy after heavy rain. It can be accessed from various places in the village.
I started at the Stock Lane car park and walked along Stock Lane into the village past the village school, there used to be access through the school yard but this has been stopped as it wasn’t great when the children were out playing having random walkers crossing the playground. You can still connect to it this way at School holidays and weekends. Handy to know you can also park in the school yard during these times for a small donation through the school letter box for school funds.
Crossing the river at church bridge you come to St. Oswalds church.
Dedicated to St Oswald, a 7th Century king of Northumbria. The oldest parts of the present church date back to Medieval times. Take the path through the churchyard which comes out at the Grasmere Gingerbread shop.
The aroma will reach you before you get there. Hard to believe this tiny building was once the village school. You can also take a slight detour to your right to the Grasmere Daffodil Garden. Across from the gingerbread shop is Church Stile.
A row of 17th century cottages which house the Storytellers Garden. Always worth a visit if Taffy Thomas Storyteller Laureate is at home.
You can go down to the right of the gingerbread shop beside the Wordsworth Hotel to join the riverside walk but we are carrying on through the village. Keep straight on and walk up College Street. On your right is the village green with Heaton Cooper Art Studios in front of you.
Sam Read’s bookshop is to your left. Grasmere has a wonderful selection of independent and individual shops you won’t find anywhere else.
Turn left at Sam Read’s and you are now on Broadgate. The whitewashed cottage across the open field to your left is a listed building called Dockwray. Dorothy Wordsworth recorded in her Grasmere Journal a visit to the cottage on May 28th 1800 to see her friend Jenny Dockewray.
Walk along Broadgate until you reach the village Hall just beyond the row of shops. This is where the annual Lakes Artists Exhibition takes place in the summer. Turn down the side signposted car park while looking to your left over Broadgate meadow. You will see Grasmere’s war memorial located on a grassy bank. Close by is the “Peace oak” planted by Canon Rawnsley founder of the National Trust. It was planted on the 19th July 1919 to commemorate the fifth anniversary of the start of the Great War.
At the far side of the car park is a footbridge over the River Rothay, this is where we are going. From here there are great views of the Fells to the East especially Stone Arthur, with it’s rocky summit, and Heron Pike the fell further to the right. The rest of the walk is along the riverside back in the direction we started from. There are several good opportunities to take photos along the way.
You can cut up to the main road at one point or head across the fields to the Swan Hotel. In the summer months red campion flowers along the riverbank, and if you are very lucky you may see a flash of blue as a Kingfisher darts by.
After crossing a wooden bridge, carry on until you come to a metal bridge. This is the Millennium Bridge,
Built, yes you guessed it, to celebrate the Millennium.
Cross over and head to the right with Grasmere Sports field on your left,past the workingmans club and along the little lane to your left.
This brings you back to the main carpark where we started. There are toilets situated here but be aware they are not open in the winter months. That’s the Riverside walk finished but perhaps visit Dove Cottage which is out of the car park to your left, and rounds off the day nicely. Nice tea rooms there too.
The first snow of the winter arrived, and as I was early for work I decided to walk round the lake. What footwear, was my first thought, however as the snow was really thick I just put my snow boots on as they are warm, waterproof and have a good grip and it is just a low level stroll.
Starting off at the Garden Centre opposite the Church, the road to the side is called Red Bank Road.
I knew there wouldn’t be much traffic as the snow was so thick, but I wasn’t prepared for such a wonderful walk. Off up Red Bank I went, stopping to look at Faeryland Tea Gardens.
You can hire rowing boats here during the summer, but these boats were not going anywhere in a hurry!
Further up the lane it was almost like being in Switzerland the snow was so deep.
After passing this house you carry on up the lane past a house with a letterbox in the wall on the left, then the views become more open before you come to a stile to cut down to the lakeside.
The morning light was gorgeous with the sunshine reflecting on the snow.
When you get down to the lake there is a little boathouse and a bench to sit on, bit chilly for hanging about at this time of year, but lovely in the summer.
The rest of the walk is straightforward with a path running along the side of the lake, it can be very busy in Summer but I only met one other person, and this little chap!
Now there is a story behind this, as I approached the other person all I could see were several robins all flying at her repeatedly. I couldn’t work out what was going on. Turns out she always takes a handful of bird food out on her walks and these greedy birds were looking for more. It was like a scene out of Mary Poppins!.
Although the sun was coming up, the far end of the lake was in shadow and it was bitterly cold, the ducks had found some unfrozen water to swim in though.
Through the woods and back on to the main road at Penny Rock. Penny Rock, so called because a penny was added on to the rates to cover the cost of blasting through the rock to build the Turnpike road to Grasmere. Although the Rydal sections of the road were made about 1770, this section was not made until about 1831. As you leave Grasmere going up Dunmail Raise towards Keswick look to the left and you will see The Toll Bar Cottage, a reminder of the direct tax which used to be levied on all road users.
To be honest, it was this bit of the road that was the worst to walk on, while the snow on the other side had been crisp and untouched, this side of the lake is on the main road and obviously the snow ploughs had shoved all snow from the road to the pavement.
It was also in the shadow, so much colder.
Now I know the purists are going to contact me saying “There is no such thing as Grasmere Lake, it’s a Mere” well just to put the record straight. Obviously I know that but sometimes it is difficult to distinguish Grasmere as in Village, from Grasmere Lake. Hence my use of the word lake.
Just time to cut round by Dove Cottage and then back into the village.
More snow is forecast later this week, so looking forward to more wintery walks.
As we seem to be experiencing an Indian Summer in Grasmere at the moment, the temptation is to get up and out as early as possible for a walk before the crowds descend. That was my plan this morning, however it seemed I was not alone in that idea.
As I came round Penny Rock to walk round the Lake there on the shore were a literal row of photographers (what do you call a collection of photographers? In this case a negative seems appropriate).
Now if anything is going to make me self concious its a row of tripods with high tech cameras while I “point and shoot” with my little Cannon Ixus 850.
Plenty of room for all of us though so decided to head up Loughrigg Terrace for a higher view point, and you know I never saw another soul from then on.
Looking to the left, Rydal came into view. Every valley has it’s own little micro climate and Rydal had it’s own little cloud above it.
The sun was up now and I had reached the top of the terrace. What a view, glad I had my flask with me. Can’t beat the first coffee of the day on top of a hill!.
Now I am going to get a bit poetic here. I love to read “The Grasmere Journals” written by Dorothy Wordsworth when she lived at Dove Cottage in Grasmere. Today’s entry for 11th October 1800 says “The colours of the mountains soft and rich, with orange fern”. And that describes the scene perfectly.
A final look at the view and time to head downhill, still thinking about Dorothy Wordsworth and her Journals.
On 12th October 1800 she wrote ” Beautiful Day. We walked before tea to observe the many coloured foliage the oaks dark green with yellow leaves – The birches generally still green, some near the water yellowish. The sycamore crimson & crimson tufted – the mountain ash a deep orange – the common ash Lemon colour but many ashes still fresh in their summer green”.
It was still only 8am and when I got back down to the shore there wasn’t a soul about, the lake was all mine again.
Peace perfect Peace.
I quite often get asked “which way to the Lake”. The answer depends on whether people want to walk round it or just have a look at it. The lake is clearly seen from the main road for a quick photo stop however, walking down the side of the Garden Centre opposite the Church and up Red Bank Road takes you to the far shore and some great views.
The weather forecast is notoriously wrong in this area, after a forecast of rain I woke to beautiful blue sky. I had left it a bit late to go round the lake before work, however had time for a short walk. Heading up Red Bank you pass the Gold Rill hotel before reaching Faeryland, the first glimpse of the lake.
Faeryland is where you can hire rowing boats and enjoy a well earned cup of tea after your exertions!. And not just any old tea either. Who’d have thought you could sit on the shores of Grasmere enjoying a pot of Organic Tibetan Wild Lavender Tea or Organic Kyoto Cherry green tea?.
Carrying on up Red Bank road with Silver Howe on your left you pass Nicholas Wood and come to the stile down to the lake shore.
You reach the lake beside a little boat house and to the right of this is a handy seat to contemplate the view from. And what a view!.
A few minutes sitting here sets you up for the rest of the working day.
From here you can walk along the shore of the lake past Deerbolts Wood to continue round the lake or carry on to Rydal Water. Unfortunately work was calling so I had to head back with one last look over my shoulder.
If you do decide to hire a rowing boat, you can get a Fishing permit in the village and pass some time trying to catch pike, perch and trout. Now about that cup of tea….
One of the highlights of the Grasmere calendar is the world famous Grasmere Sports.
Set in a natural amphitheatre the surroundings for Grasmere sports are awe inspiring and the fells provide an ideal setting for fell racing and hound trails.
Earliest photos of the sports are by William Baldry who was also the village schoolmaster. He became the official photographer for the sports committee in 1872 and remained so for 20years. This is all the more amazing when you realise the first known photograph of the Lake District was taken by a customs officer, John Marsden in 1852 only 20 years before.
Apart from records of horse racing in the early 17th Century first records of sports in Grasmere occur in 1852. These took place on the Moss. Next records are 1865 where in conjunction with the annual sheep fair they were held on Hudson’s Field which is near the Wordsworth Hotel (formerly the Rothay Hotel). The sports then moved to Pavement End to a field still known as “the old sports field”. Next Broadgate meadow was used and finally in 1919 the “shed field” which is the current home of the sports was used for the first time.
The arrival of “Lordy” the late Earl of Lonsdale, a great sportsman and keen wrestler was a real spectacle. The Earl’s house party would travel from Lowther Estate in a fleet of bright yellow and black Rolls Royce across to Ullswater, over Kirkstone Pass and on to the sports field parking near the grandstand. It was a great social occasion as well as a sporting event. Nowadays it is not just Westmorland folk who come to enjoy the event but people from all over the world, some to watch, some to compete.
Grasmere folk optimistically say the weather is “allus fine for sports” however come rain or shine it still carries on.
The highlight of Grasmere Sports has to be the Senior Guide Race. This is an event that has to be seen to be believed. From the sports field across the road, up Brackenfell to the summit of Butter Crags and back down in 12mins. 21.6 seconds. No wonder Joss Naylor tried to urge the organisers of the 2012 Olympics to include it. When the first runner appears back in the field the band play “Hail the conquering hero”, well deserved.
The Guide race was first introduced in 1868. The current record was set by Fred Reeves in 1978 and Rob Jebb came very close in 2008 missing it by 10 seconds. The atmosphere in the sports field was electric. Anyone who beats the record will get £500 pounds from Pete Bland but so far his money is safe.
One can only have total respect for these athletes. I have never been able to make my mind up whether it is best to watch from the field where a swarm of little ants thunder up the fell, or at the top to cheer everyone on.
Another popular event is the Cumberland and Westmorland Wrestling. From time immemorial Grasmere lads had “wrestling bouts” annually after the Rushbearing.
To start the competitors must “tek hod” by linking their fingers together behind the back of their opponent. The match is decided by the best of three falls.
In former times the winners were awarded leather belts which were greatly prized possessions. Now the prizes are cups and cash payments. One condition of entry as a wrestler is the correct “fit-up” – “a plush seat-piece” and a white vest. Some of the costumes are highly embroidered and one of the most amusing things are seeing the judges inspecting embroidered bottoms to award the prize for neatest costume!.
More recently called Grasmere Sports and Show to appeal to a wider audience, the sporting events will always be at the heart of it.This year children’s races for 5-10year olds are being re-introduced after a lapse of nearly 10 years and the organisers are always looking for something new to thrill the crowds with. Mountain Biking was introduced in 1995 and is a popular event. Hound Trails, Dog shows, Paragliding, have all been seen at the show. This year there is to be (weather permitting) a display by the RAF Falcon’s Team and Mountain Rescue demonstration with a Sea King Helicopter. Stalls with all manner of goods, Craft tents, Grasmere Sports has it all. And of course you can get a hand stamp and leave the field anytime to explore Grasmere Village.
My father in law is now well into his 90’s however he was telling me the other day about travelling to Grasmere Sports from Barrow in Furness when he was a toddler. It is his earliest memory, he describes travelling in a pearly white coach with a canvas roof. It had been raining heavily and with a childs curiousity he poked the roof and water flooded over the sides soaking everyone!. And yes he will be visiting the show again this year, probably one of the few who can remember seeing so many.
Grasmere Sports 2011 will be on Sunday 28th August