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.
A beautiful Spring day. As Allan Bank in Grasmere (a National Trust Property unlike any other) was open, I decided to take a wander up the hill and see what they were up to. This is the fifth year the property has been open and a while since I have written about it.
The property is a short walk from Grasmere (disabled parking on site) and has the most glorious views of Grasmere. The sun was shining and the daffodils were out. Lambs in the surrounding fields. Paradise!
Grasmere school children were enjoying the grounds as part of their Forest Schools activities. It looked as though they were having an Easter egg hunt.
The Art Room had been changed around over the Winter. Anyone adult or child can just sit down and use the art material provided to paint the amazing view out of the window.
In the kitchen cafe one of the volunteers (they are always looking for more) Janet was making Easter floral arrangements to decorate the tables. Tea and coffee are by donation and you can wander around the house, tea in hand.
Or if you are lucky grab a seat beside the roaring fire in Wordsworth’s Study, pick up a book and relax.
Allan Bank was once the home of Wordsworth and his young family but was also the home of Canon Hardwick Rawnsley one of the co-founders of the National Trust. This is the 150th Anniversary of Beatrix Potter’s Life and Canon Rawnsley was an inspiration to Beatrix when she was a young girl. He encouraged her creativity and also encouraged her in her love of the countryside.
Scattered around the house were cushions with quotes. I particularly liked the ones in the play room.
The play room was just waiting for little Easter visitors with books and toys to enjoy.
Allan Bank isn’t just for children. Upstairs is the Chorley Hopkins Mountaineering Library with a wealth of books on Mountaineering both in the Lake District and beyond.
Just along the corridor is a craft room where visiting crafters sometimes demonstrate lace making, printmaking etc. There are lots of vintage board games in here too. Looking out of the window you can quite often see the resident red squirrels but none today.
Just time for a quick look in the little shop, but the grounds were calling. Sunshine in the Lake District can’t be wasted.
In the grounds there is a fabulous woodland walk with great views. It is steep in places but well marked and resting places to be found. I had a little seat to look at the mere.
Next further up the path with a glimpse of Helm Crag in sight.
And finally Helm Crag in all it’s glory.
Something that hasn’t changed this year, or for a long time before is the old Victorian viewing tunnel in the grounds.
Time for a last cup of tea and tempted to cake by Sophie to round off my visit.
For more information about Allan Bank Grasmere see http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/allan-bank-and-grasmere
Follow them on Facebook. National Trust Allan Bank or Twitter. @AllanbankNT
My previous Blogs with the history of Allan Bank.
Spring is arriving at last in the village. We now have a lifeline in the form of a bus link to Keswick so we aren’t feeling quite so isolated, and the work on the A591 needed after Storm Desmond is progressing. We can be easily accessed from the South or by the scenic route over Kirkstone Pass to the North. It is always a lovely time to visit. Snow on the fell tops, daffodils appearing, shops stocked up for the new season and hotels all spruced up over the winter. Some good bargain breaks at this time of year too.
Today we had rain, sleet, snow and sunshine, and that was just the morning!
It’s a funny thing but I suppose we all have our own idea of when Spring has arrived. The thing I always look for are the daffodils starting to flower at Wordsworth’s grave. Well today there were daffodils appearing everywhere.
Even in shop windows. This was a lovely Spring window display in Sam Read Bookshop and further down the road Herdy was getting in on the act too.
Of course the Lake District is always associated with daffodils because of William Wordsworth’s famous poem. Grasmere has it’s very own daffodil garden and you can find part of the poem reproduced there.
In the garden I would say the daffodils will be perfect just in time for Easter this year.
I decided to head round the riverside walk through Broadgate, then to the Mere.
The Environment Agency have been dredging the River Rothay since the floods in December and as I approached the other day I was amazed to see that as the digger exited the river, three canoeists appeared and used the slipway to launch their canoes! A nice bit of positive thinking.
They paddled along and the next thing I spotted them in the Mere.
We might have had a lot of rain over the winter but another advantage is that everything is looking very lush and green at the moment. As you can see Grasmere is ready for the new season, all that is missing are the visitors. Get yourselves up here, you don’t know what you are missing!
Recently as part of the Museums at Night initiative Dove Cottage Grasmere, held three evenings for a limited amount of people to experience the cottage at night as it had been when it was an inn called the Dove and Olive Bough.
A welcome awaited with the sounds of the fiddle floating through the air.
The history of the house is referred to in William’s 1806 poem The Waggoner. “Where once the Dove and Olive bough offered a greeting of good ale to all who entered Grasmere Vale”. And on this occasion real ale was also supplied. It was wonderful to wander around the garden, drink in hand, on a balmy summer evening.
The sun was just setting on the village, and visitors had made their way home.
Walking further up the garden you come to a seat overlooking the rooftops.
The view would have been different in Wordsworth’s day of course as Dove Cottage was built on the old turnpike road, the view would have been much more open, the lake not obscured by the buildings on the “new” road that exists now.
It was getting chillier so we repaired inside for some real ale poetry and prose, with a few drinking songs thrown in for good measure.
To quote “The Waggoner” again we had to “leave it with a jovial heart” as time waits for no man, and neither does the 555 bus which was speeding some of our party home. A good night had by all. Thanks to http://wordsworth.org.uk Why not have a look and see what events are on when you next visit Grasmere Village.
This has been a spectacular spring for bluebells in the Lake District. The very cold weather earlier in the year seems to have really helped them bloom.
I had visited Rannerdale, famous for it’s bluebells a few weeks ago, and had been just a bit early to see them in all their glory.
However there was no need to travel any further than Grasmere. Loughrigg Terrace was a sea of blue, and right beside the main road Baneriggs Wood was looking stunning from the main A591 road. Baneriggs Wood is situated on the opposite side of the road from Penny Rock, the corner you go round as you approach Grasmere Lake. Did you know it is called this because a penny was added on to the rates to cover the cost of blasting through the rock to build the “new” turnpike road to Grasmere. Although the Rydal section was made about 1770, this section was not made until about 1831.
The light was just starting to fade but all around, a sea of blue. Bluebells prefer moist and shady conditions so the Lake District is perfect for them. Some estimates suggest that the UK has up to half of the world’s total bluebell population and most are found in woodland like these.
I am sure Wordsworth enjoyed the Bluebells when he went on his walks around Grasmere. The Romantic poets of the 19th Century, such as Keats and Tennyson, believed that the bluebell symbolised solitude and regret. Well despite being right beside the main road through the Lakes I was still able to find solitude and certainly wasn’t regretting my decision to have a wander through the woods!.
Grasmere is beautiful in all the seasons but when the fell side is tinged in blue, it is certainly a sight to behold.
Wordsworth is always all around when you visit Grasmere, however sometimes more than expected! We have had a huge amount of snow this week. Imagine everyone’s surprise when despite a blizzard blowing, the valiant servants from Wordsworth House in Cockermouth made their way up the valley to Allan Bank in Grasmere.
The visit had been planned a few weeks ago but with blizzards, snow and roads closed no one had expected them to even set off!
But these servants from Wordsworth’s birthplace were made of stern stuff and it wasn’t long before they were warming themselves in front of the fire in Wordsworth’s Study.
Warmed by the fire and a welcome cup of tea the servants explored Allan Bank. Wordsworth moved here from Dove Cottage, and I did spot a servant giving a wistful look down the valley in that direction.
Time for a recital of some poetry. Wonder if it was “I wandered Lonely as a Cloud” as some of the other servants were spotted admiring some Daffodils!
Wordsworth spent a lot of his time walking the fells, and frequently walked from Grasmere to Ambleside to collect the mail. I imagine he would have loved a map like this to plan his journeys.
One last look out of the window before heading off through the snow to visit Dove Cottage and the Rydal Mount.
Group photo on the doorstep before setting off into the blizzard again.
We are so lucky to have all the History that Wordsworth brought to this area. In Grasmere alone we have the Wordsworth Trust and Dove Cottage, Wordsworth’s family grave in St Oswald’s churchyard, Robert Newton’s Inn at Church stile where he stayed and drank (now a National Trust shop), the Yew trees he planted in the churchyard, and Allan Bank where he lived, now a National Trust property open to the public. Add in Wordsworth House at Cockermouth and Rydal Mount and it is a literary feast in Cumbria.
Now about these servants…..
They wrapped their shawls warmly around them and set off,
A long cold walk to the village,
Next stop Dove Cottage, another Home from Home.
Driving from Ambleside to Grasmere and coming round Penny Rock, the first thing you see is a building standing proud at the head of the Easdale Valley. How many people must have thought “Who lives in a house like that?”. Well really it should be “Who lived in a house like that?”.
It’s a house with a story to tell, so here we go. At the time that Allan Bank was built, Wordsworth was living in Dove Cottage. Along comes a Liverpool Attorney named Mr Crump and decides to build a house slap bang in the way of Wordsworth’s uninterrupted view of the Easdale Valley. At this time Dove Cottage did not have the houses of Lake Terrace in front of it, they were built at a later date, and with the living room of Dove Cottage being upstairs it must have been an annoyance right enough!
Wordsworth said “Woe to poor Grasmere for ever and ever!….. When you next enter the sweet paradise of Grasmere you will see staring you in the face…… A temple of abomination.
A few years later, Dove Cottage had become too small for Wordsworth and his growing family and they ended up as tenants of Allan Bank. Summers were idyllic, and Wordsworth had quite a bit to do with the planning and planting of the grounds. Winters were not quite so idyllic, with chimneys that smoked back into the rooms, filling Dorothy with despair as everything was covered in soot. They lived at Allan Bank for several years, with Coleridge and De Quincy frequently staying or visiting and quite often about 15 people there at the weekends.
Another famous tenant of Allan Bank was Canon Hardwicke Rawnsley. One of the founders of National Trust. He moved there with his second wife Eleanor who outlived him and was a very active participant in village life. She died in 1959 and is well remembered by older villagers. The house had been left to the National Trust by Canon Rawnsley with the understanding that Eleanor be allowed to live on in it till her death.
There then followed several tenants, and that’s how it would have stayed, had it not gone on fire in 2011. The fire was caused by an electrical fire in the roof.
One of the largest fires Grasmere has ever seen, fire engines came from all around. The current tenants escaped unscathed but the building was a sorry sight. Wrapped in plastic sheeting for most of last year it was hard to imagine that any good could come from it.
Spring forward to April 2012 and National Trust have now opened the house to the public. Great excitement in the village about the news that we would finally see inside the building.
Not like any other National Trust house I have ever been in, you are met with a sign saying “Don’t knock just come in”. Next surprise is, it is warm and homely despite being left with the bare bones showing.
Each room has a theme, Friendship, Garden, Writing etc.
There is even a Heaton Cooper room, with information about the famous Grasmere Artists. You can draw or paint your own masterpiece here.
The idea is to see what people think should be done with the building. With this in mind areas of wall have been left for comments.
It is very interesting to see what people are thinking and feeling about the house. Coffee and newspapers are provided and with the fire lit, it’s a perfect place to escape.
You can also wander around and find your favourite room. Twinings tea is also available. Why Twinings you ask? Well when Wordsworth lived at Allan Bank he wasn’t keen on the tea available in Grasmere, and used to send to Twinings in London for tea chests of tea to be delivered. Apparently he spent about £1,500 a year with them. He must have liked his tea! And I am pleased to say the tea available in Grasmere these days is much improved!.
The views from Allan Bank are spectacular and everyone seems to enter the rooms and gravitate towards the window. I have been there several times and even when the weather isn’t so good, the views still amaze.
The grounds of Allan Bank are another reason to visit. The National Trust Rangers could be seen working hard for months, cutting back trees and making paths.
The first thing you see when you go outside is a building that looks like a chapel. It was apparently a billiard room.
It must have been a very nice billiard room, with stained glass windows and lovely detail on the door.
Also in the grounds is a Victorian viewing tunnel.
The Rangers have also created a woodland walk. Fairly steep in places but with wonderful views of Helm Crag and Dunmail Raise.
So the next time you are in Grasmere why not wander up the road at the side of the Miller Howe Cafe and discover Allan Bank for yourself. What should be done with it in the future? It’s time to have your say.
Working in Grasmere you get used to the usual questions. “Where is the gingerbread shop”, “Where are the toilets”, however over the past year a new question has joined them “What on earth has happened to the Prince of Wales?”.
Built in 1855 and occupying an enviable position with frontage to the Grasmere Lake, Browns Lake Hotel was built as a testimony to the 19th Century tourist industry that Wordsworth did so much to inspire.
The hotel was built by Levi Hodgson who was resposable for building other impressive buildings still standing in Grasmere. Cragside, The Hollins, and Woodland Crag were all built by him and if you look at the church bridge you can see his initials there as he was responsible for widening it in 1832.
Not long after the hotel was built they had a Royal visitor Edward V11, The Prince of Wales , there was great excitment and Moses Bowness the photographer photographed the young prince on his visit in 1857. Edward Brown the owner of the hotel then changed the name to The Prince of Wales Hotel.
The name Prince of Wales remained until fairly recent times when it had a brief change to the Thistle Grasmere, followed by The Waterside Hotel. The Town End area of Grasmere where the hotel is situated was made a conservation area in 1984.
And now we jump to recent times. Having been sold, plans were submitted to improve the hotel.
The original plans, doubled the existing floor space and immediately there were protests. The Waterside Action Group was set up and even Rolf Harris and Sir Melvyn Bragg got involved. Lakes Parish Council, The Victorian Society, Friends of The Lake District and Grasmere Village Society put forward their arguments against the plans, saying it would dominate Grasmere Lake in an overbearing manner.
Eventually after three attempts the plans were passed on the premise that “All the bulk of the original building will be left intact”.
Apart from knocking through the hotel and leaving this fine Victorian building to the elements work seemed to have stopped. What a couple of years ago looked like being a beautiful 5 star hotel according to the plans has been left to rot.
Recent events have seen the death of one of the owners and I am afraid that Tony Ball hit the nail on the head right at the beginning when he said “This has all the makings of a Trojan Horse”.
Now we have an eyesore as the entrance to our beautiful village as the first thing people see. Situated directly opposite Dove Cottage and the hoardings dominating the landscape. It used to be the main stop for coaches travelling through to Scotland to spend the night. We always knew at about 5pm there would be a sudden flurry of customers who had just checked into “The Prince” and usually remained open until late to serve them. Reekies weavers used to visit the hotel with their wares to sell in the evening. It has taken the buzz away and has impacted on many of the businesses. Will we ever get the coaches back? who knows. We used to always blame any mischief in the village on “the staff from the Prince” and I would give anything to have them back.
Let’s hope that some day this symbol of early tourism in the Lake District is transformed back to her former glory and a new chapter begins for The Prince of Wales, Grasmere.
Update 9th April 2011
Well work has started and to keep everyone up to date here are a few recent photos.
I do have a habit of calling the hotel the Prince of Wales, but believe the name The Waterside Hotel is what will be retained.
As you can see things are actually moving, but there is still a long way to go.
I will keep posting photos as the work progresses, let’s hope we are soon seeing a big improvement.
Watch this space….
Update 2nd August 2011
Good news. Real progress is finally being made. First the tatty hoarding round the development was spruced up with a coat of paint so that it wasn’t such an eyesore and work now seems to be progressing quickly.
You can see the shape of the old hotel appearing at the front elevation.
Apparently the opening date is being kept a secret.
Good News! 26/07/2012 The Hotel is now open under the new name of The Daffodil. See new blog post. The Daffodil Hotel Grasmere A new Beginning.
Was walking along past the church in Grasmere when I spotted new stones being laid in the Daffodil Garden. This only happens a few times a year.
Grasmere Daffodil Garden opened in 2003. A piece of waste land near the church was chosen to try and emulate Wordsworth’s famous poem.
“I wandered lonely as a cloud, that floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd, a host of golden daffodils.
The plan is to have 10,000 wild daffodils blowing in the breeze.
The idea of the garden is to raise funds to promote the heritage of the Vale of Grasmere and it’s traditional ways of Lake District life. This is achieved by selling Daffodil bulbs, which mean you can put down “some roots in Grasmere” yourself.
You can also buy a stone which is engraved with your name and home town. This is laid in the form of a path through the garden. Once the path is finished, sponsorship closes. The stones are made of Lakeland slate, and tend to be bought by people who have a fondness for Grasmere. It isn’t a memorial garden, more a celebration of Grasmere. Donors names are entered in the Book of friends displayed in St Oswalds Church.
The charities sponsored by the garden are, The Friends of St. Oswald’s. St Oswald’s church has over 100,000 visitors per year which obviously takes it’s toll on the building. The money helps to pay for it’s renovation and maintenance.
Another charity to benefit is The Lakeland Housing Trust. Because so many houses are snapped up as holiday homes, it becomes more and more difficult to find affordable housing for locals. The Trust buys and lets homes to young families at a subsidised rent.
The Wordsworth Trust is another beneficiary, helping to preserve the literary heritage of the poet’s bond with Grasmere. His grave overlooks the garden.
And finally, The National Trust gets donations to help farmers to maintain country features which would be difficult otherwise because of low hill farm incomes.
So the next time you are in Grasmere enjoy the peace of the daffodil garden knowing that it is helping preserve the beautiful Vale of Grasmere.
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!.