Grasmere St Oswald’s Church with the door closed. Grass growing long in the churchyard. No snaking line of tourists queuing up outside the gingerbread shop. Easter and Bank holidays with no visitors.
The Coop did an amazing job keeping the village supplied with essentials and were very proactive in keeping the shopping experience safe. Thank you Tom and staff.
Wouldn’t you just know it. The sun blazed down day after day. Going for fresh air and exercise was a pleasure but one couldn’t help feeling it was such a shame not to be able to share with visitors.
After a very wet start to the year we watched as the river practically dried up.
Spare time was spent making masks to keep family and friends safe.
The traditional Grasmere Sports and Rushbearing cancelled. Then, suddenly little shoots of hope.
No the circus hadn’t come to town, however due to the ingenuity of staff, children were at last able to attend school in a socially distanced way.
Herdwick sheep real and otherwise raised a cheer when non essential shops were allowed to open this week.
Hopefully Hotels, and other accommodation providers will follow soon, along with restaurants and pubs.
Visitors we have missed you. It’s been very quiet which although nice sometimes isn’t always a good thing. Let’s all respect each other, follow the safety guidelines and hopefully the sun will keep shining when you come back.
Could hardly not blog about our latest visitor to Grasmere, Prince Charles the Prince of Wales.
After a very quiet village for several months it was wonderful to see such large crowds lining the streets as Prince Charles came to Grasmere to show his support for the Lake District after the December floods.
The local schoolchildren were very excited as they were led to the front.
Next to arrive was a painted sheep! Throughout the summer you can spot these individually designed sheep in various places. Raising funds for Calvert Trust http://www.goherdwick.co.uk Pick up a Trail map from various outlets and see how many you can spot.
And finally a car appeared round the corner
Flags were waving and there was an air of great excitement.
The Prince of Wales took his time and chatted to locals and visitors alike. Most amazing thing of all, till that point there had been a grey sky and drizzle all day, he arrived and the sun came out.
Prince Charles was accompanied on his visit by Claire Hensman who is the Lord Lieutenant of Cumbria.
By this time the schoolchildren were getting really excited. Prince Charles headed over to them and he spoke to every single one. I was very impressed by how relaxed he was taking his time after a very busy itinerary all day.
The Prince also noticed a lady holding a large England flag and headed over to her to chat.
The sun was still thing and Prince Charles next went to the Grasmere Gingerbread shop.
He seemed to be enjoying a joke with owner Joanne Wilson, then disappeared inside for quite some time. It appears he was having a try at slicing gingerbread in the kitchen, however the Gingerbread recipe is a secret! Even to Royalty.
Now here is where the local knowledge comes in. Up until now I’d been balancing on the church wall, but jumped backwards into St Oswald’s Church grounds. Meanwhile everyone was waiting for Prince Charles to re-appear out of the front door.
But he didn’t he came out through the back door and made his way across the graveyard to Wordsworth’s Grave. He was met here by Michael McGregor Director of the Wordsworth Trust and I got a great view.
It was wonderful that the Daffodils were out at Wordsworth’s Grave and Prince Charles took a little time for reflection.
Prince Charles then headed through the graveyard towards the church where he was viewing an art installation by the local schoolchildren. Chatting to various locals on the way.
He spotted Grasmere Tea Gardens across the river and asking who owned it gave everyone sitting outside a cheery wave.
Stuart Cunninghams a local shop also got a chance to chat about business after the floods.
Then into the church.
The Prince of Wales visiting was what we all needed. Everything was feeling more positive, people on the streets, Easter this weekend and the clocks changing this weekend too. Just the A591 to re-open at hopefully Whit Bank holiday and we can all breathe a sigh of relief and try to make up for the business we have lost. Grasmere is well and truly open.
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.
Mention Grasmere anywhere in the World and the first thing people usually say is “Oh that’s where the gingerbread comes from” followed by “and didn’t Wordsworth use to live there”.
Situated in a little shop in the corner of Grasmere Churchyard, both the gingerbread and the building have an interesting history. I collect old postcards of Grasmere and have one of the Gingerbread Shop as it used to be in about 1860.
The building was originally known as Gate Cottage built about 1630, and served as the village school. This was at a time when education wasn’t compulsory and locals paid a penny a day for their boys to attend. William Wordsworth actually taught at the school and his children attended it.
Many of the fixtures and fittings in the gingerbread shop come from the school. This clock originally cost two shillings and sixpence.
When Education did become compulsory a new school was built and the Nelson family took over the tenancy, in about 1854. Sarah Nelson had previously worked for Lady Farquhar who lived in Dale Lodge at the time and she was encouraged by Lady Farquhar’s chef to set up her little business.
Sarah used to sell Helvellyn cake, aerated water and of course her special recipe of Gingerbread. Almost from the start she wrapped the gingerbread in pure vegetable parchment printed “None genuine without trademark”. The Gingerbread is still wrapped in parchment and sealed with a rubber band. The packaging really appeals to the Japanese and other lovers of our history and heritage.
There is always a queue from morning till closing time at the Gingerbread shop. Because of the size of the building it quite often snakes outside and along the street. While Andrew and his team do their best, baking it fresh every morning, it can run out, so an early visit is recommended. And if you enjoy it, you still have time to go back for more!.
I wonder how many hungry faces have peeped in this window over the years. Many famous visitors have graced it’s steps.
TV chef Phil Vickery actually used to work as a trainee chef in Grasmere years ago and has always had a soft spot for Grasmere Gingerbread and includes it in his list of “Best of British Produce”. Another chef to praise it is Jamie Oliver who said “Grasmere Gingerbread is the best i’ve eaten” . Grasmere attracts many famous folk, Tom Cruise, Nicole KIdman and Alan Whicker have all visited at some time.
Grasmere Gingerbread is posted all over the world and it really is a full time job wrapping and packing it.
This little shop is the only place where you can buy the genuine article. And no matter how hard you try to recreate it, it never tastes the same. The recipe is a secret and is stored in the bank vaults at the NatWest Bank in Ambleside.
Every one has there own way of enjoying it. My favourite is to make a lemon cheesecake base with it, delicious!. Enjoy with a cup of tea or a whisky or of course enjoy it just on it’s own. I’ve managed to eat a whole packet while writing this, thanks to Andrew, the “Gingerbread Man”. But my excuse is, ginger is good for you. A last personal tip. Anytime I am travelling by boat I always take a bit to nibble. We were once the only ones not seasick on a trip across the North Sea. Thank you Grasmere Gingerbread!.