Another year gone, and a round up of what happened in Grasmere Village in 2016. It was a year many won’t forget in a hurry. We might be a small village but there is always something going on. Especially this year, Prince and Prime Minister, Cyclists and Wrestlers it was all happening this year.
After the stress and strain of Storm Desmond it was lovely to discover that a sunny photograph of National Trust Property Allan Bank graced the front of the 2016 Handbook. A great advert for the village.
Unfortunately things were very quiet in the village. The main A591 closed between Grasmere and Keswick and the village literally a cul-de-sac. Various initiatives like free parking were offered but it really was deserted as you wandered round.
We had a visit from the then Prime Minister David Cameron spotted in the school playground.
Snow on the tops in February and then on lower ground too.
Valentine’s Day visit to the Dove Cottage restaurant was a surprise with a cherry “heart” when I cut my cake. Very appropriate and tasty too!.
Meanwhile the environment agency were dredging the River Rothay, taking care to not disturb the crayfish, and these canoeists were quick to take advantage of a new launching area into the river. Storm Desmond was still having it’s effect.
After a dismal Winter signs of Spring were appearing with snowdrops and Daffodils at Wordsworth’s Grave.
The rubble that was piling up on the Sports Field after all the dredging was a perfect viewpoint for this cheeky Herdwick.
Elsewhere in Grasmere and throughout the central Lakes Herdwick sheep of a different kind were appearing as part of the Calvert Trust Go Herdwick fund raising initiative.
Temporary bridges were built on the A591 and a little mini bus started running between Grasmere and Keswick, my goodness it was popular! It ran along the far side of Thirlmere and became quite a tourist attraction in itself.
We had another famous visitor. Prince Charles visited with a trip to the Gingerbread Shop, Wordsworth’s Grave and St Oswald’s Church.
It certainly made the village busier.
April and things were looking up in the village both visitor and weather wise.
An exciting initiative in May brought coloured lights to the mere. Nocturnal Rainbows as part of Lakes Ignite Art installation.
As the tourist season started properly it was still a case of getting the message out everywhere that Grasmere was open for business.
Grasmere does look great in May, blossom and bluebells.
Bannerigg Woods were a sea of blue.
And then at last! Dunmail Raise was open and Grasmere was connected with the North again. Hello Keswick we missed you.
Diessen Brass Band (twinned with Windermere) performed at NT Allan Bank and the music echoed through the valley.
Grasmere celebrated The Queen’s 90th Birthday.
The village looked lovely with flags flying everywhere.
Grasmere Glee celebrated in the Village Hall.
Kendal Mountain Festival kindly brought outdoor cinema to Grasmere and Glenridding to support the flooded villages. The weather was kind and a great time was had by young and old alike.
July in Grasmere means Rushbearing. A rather wet one this year and the Rushbearing Maidens had a rather soggy walk round the village but kept smiling.
But it wasn’t all rain in July, the sun shone too.
August Bank Holiday and the 166th Grasmere Sports and Show. After a night of rain morning broke fair and a good turnout of visitors and locals alike enjoyed the Sports and entertainment on the Sports field.
Competitors travelled from all over the world to compete.
Fire eating was a popular spectator event.
Cycling came to Grasmere in September when the Tour of Britain sped through the village.
The village was decorated with painted yellow bikes.
Halloween in Grasmere meant an abundance of Pumpkins throughout the village.
Unfortunately Halloween weekend itself was a bit of a washout and the pumpkins on the village green looked a bit bedraggled.
Liked these pumpkins outside the Gingerbread shop.
Nights drawing in and streets empty by 5pm as the clocks change. Locals practice a form of reverse hibernation and suddenly you bump into friends in the street who have had heads down all Summer working hard to make our visitors to Grasmere enjoy their stay.
I was very, very lucky to win a holiday to South Africa for most of November so from 24 degrees to -4 degrees, however what a sight as we arrived back.
What a great welcome home!
December in Grasmere, what a joy.
You never know who will be about, Taffy Thomas former Storyteller Laureate was having a wander round the village with some student teachers.
The shops have a huge array of individual gifts you can’t find in the larger towns.
A wander up the hill to National Trust Allan Bank and the sound of bells were ringing out as the Beetham Bellringers played. Very festive.
Just time to put the Christmas tree complete with Herdy bobbles up and that’s nearly it for another Grasmere year. Grasmere Players Pantomime still to see, always a great family occasion.
Wishing all my readers a Merry Christmas and Health and Happiness for the coming year.
The new season always brings a few changes to Grasmere. Shops open and shut, people come and go. This year however we have a welcome addition to the Village.
As Grasmere is a busy tourist area, the recent loss of our Tourist Information Centre was of great concern to traders and locals alike. With nowhere to welcome our visitors and provide local information it didn’t give a very good impression to visitors from all over the world.
National Trust had previously had a shop at Church Stile Grasmere which had closed some years ago and had more recently been occupied by Taffy Thomas Storyteller Laureate. Taffy no longer needed the whole building (his Storytellers Garden is still located here) so the good folk from National Trust decided to not only open a shop again, but to also include a much needed information Centre.
I have written previously about the history of this Grade Two Listed Building, but a quick resume. Earliest recorded occupant was a Richard Harrison who died in 1662. By the 18th Century the building had become Robert Newton’s Inn. This was visited by William Wordsworth and his brother John, along with Coleridge on their Lake District tour of 1797. It was also a welcome meeting place for coffin bearers who had to carry the dead in all weathers from the Parishes of Ambleside and Langdale to the Church in Grasmere. A more recent resident was Robert Hayes (1859-1947) who had a market garden and specialised in varieties of heather. A far cry from the Hayes Garden Centre in Ambleside today!.
The Information Centre includes a comfortable space for people to browse local Information, pick up a bus timetable, and find out information about local events and walks. It is hoped to eventually have the fire going in the winter which would look wonderful. National Trust properties and areas like Aira Force are featured on the walls. Brochures and information about their properties in the area feature too and with places like Sizergh Castle, Beatrix Potter’s Hilltop, Wordsworth’s House at Cockermouth and the wonderful Townend to visit, there should be something for everyone. Staff are able to download local walks, and it’s hoped that at some stage in the future National Trust Rangers will use the space to meet and chat with visitors and tell them a bit about their work in looking after the area.
Connected to the Information Centre is a National Trust Shop, but not just any shop!. Local crafts and producers are featured, including such favourites as Hawkshead Relish, Herdwick Rugs and even little cute Herdwick Sheep.
Walkers haven’t been forgotten either. Books, maps, Handihikes, and local Grasmere walks on waterproof paper (who said it always rains in the Lake District) are available.
One of the most popular purchases in the shop is the new Tubular Fells map, available framed or unframed which features all the Wainwrights in the form of a London tube map. Very clever!.
So why not pop in and say hello next time you are in Grasmere. Keeping ahead of the times they are even on Twitter @NTGrasmereshop so if you can’t manage a visit in person you can still keep up to date with local news.
National Trust Information Centre and Shop, Church Stile, Grasmere. Beside the Gingerbread shop and St Oswald’s Church in the centre of the village.
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.
Situated in Grasmere, across from St.Oswald’s Churchyard is a very special place. In a row of 17th Century cottages is the home of Taffy Thomas MBE.
One of the earliest occupants was a Richard Harrison who died in 1662. By the eighteenth century it had become Robert Newton’s Inn and William Wordsworth, his brother John and Coleridge stayed here for several days during their tour of the Lake District in 1797. Now it is the home of The Northern Centre for Storytelling. Tales in Trust is a resource for storytelling in the North of England.
Taffy has always been a familiar character, in the old days he used to cycle round on his tricycle nowadays he has a wonderful minibus called Betsy II. Always with a story or a riddle to tell, he is one of life’s real characters.
Taffy has given enjoyment to children and adults all over the world with his stories, and was recently given the amazing title of the first ever Laureate for Storytelling. Running for two years from Jan 2010 to Jan 2012 he is now truly a fine ambassador of storytelling. As Laureate he was given several gifts. These were:- 1Kg of dried beans, a simple compass, a packet of love hearts, a clear glass bottle, a tall white candle, a silver lucky charm bracelet, and a whistle. These have to be worked into stories during his time as Laureate. I look forward to hearing them.
Situated next to the centre for storytelling is The Storytellers Garden. Many amazing tales have been told here, and every event always sells out fast. My favourite events are at Halloween and Christmas, both special times in the garden. In the photo you can see a brazier. Taffy used to love listening to Johnny Morris (of Animal Magic fame) who told tales over a brazier as The Hot Chestnut Man in the 1950’s. He was given permission to recreate this and as part of a Festival I used to help organise called Grasmere Festival of Stars, the Hot Chestnut Man was reborn on 26th November 2005. Taffy commissioned a blacksmith to make the brazier and chestnuts roasted while he told his tales.
Taffy has an amazing coat. Called the storytelling coat it is a unique piece of textile art made by Paddy Killer. Point at something on the coat and Taffy will tell you a tale about it. Taffy is also involved in a monthly storytelling club at The Watermill Ings, where you can listen to stories and enjoy a pint.
So the next time you are in Grasmere, look out for this sign. Who knows, Taffy might be in residence and tell you a story.
Update August 2011.
Taffy is now so busy now that he is Storyteller Laureate that he is travelling all over the Country (and further afield) telling his stories. He is now situated at the end of he building at Church Stile beside his Storytellers Garden. The other part of the building is occupied by the National Trust Information Centre.
So far his year Taffy has been busy taking part in events for the Lake District Summer Music Festival, doing story walks around the village and is due to perform at the world famous Grasmere Sports at the end of August. He will also be doing his famous Halloween stories and Christmas events. If visiting Grasmere, it is always worth giving him a phone on 015394 35641 to see if he will be in the village when you visit.
Caught up with Taffy at the Lakes Alive Event in Kendal and he had brought out his “stop me and tell one” cart for a final run.
Taffy was often a familiar sight on the streets of Grasmere with his bike, so it was a pleasure to see him out and about on it again!