No wonder the Lake Poets were so inspired!
Trip Start Jul 08, 2007
24Trip End Aug 09, 2007
Map your own trip!
Show trip route
WOW! We arrived at Oxenholme station on Thursday evening and met Simon Ellis, an Oxford grad and former professor in Hong Kong who kindly helps the Alabama program each summer.
The Lake Distrct still maintains a lot of the Norse language from some of its earliest inhabitants. The word "dale," for example, means valley, and the hills are usually referred to as "fells." Stone walls also characterize the area and prevent sheep from meandering too far, although humans are welcome to do so. Since I cannot find a job back in the States, I am considering becoming a wall builder here! I could tolerate those views day after day!
After a good night's rest, we walked through downtown Grasmere and visited the Wordsworth family's church and gravesite. The church used to have a dirt floor, so local parish
Our next stop was Dove Cottage, where Wordsworth lived during his "golden decade" along with his sister Dorothy. The house was constructed in the 1500s and was originally used as a pub, and many of the pub features still exist.
We then hopped next door to the Jerwood Centre and Wordsworth museum, where the curator spoke to us about some of Wordsworth's original publications and explained to us why some other books are valuable beyond the ridiculous (ie, a $100,000 original edition of Frankenstein!)
After all of this, it still wasn't quite time for lunch! Simon walked us along the "Coffin Path," which, despite its morbid name, provided us with some spectacular views. We walked to Rydal Hall, where we ate lunch at a tearoom adjacent to the main house. Classic European sandwiches...meat and butter! YUCK! Several of us purchased an alternative main course from the tea room.
When Wordsworth and his family moved, the owners of Rydal Hall leased them another house on their property called Rydal Mount. It provided gorgeous views of Rydal Lake, and Wordsworth lived there until he died. The home is still owned by some of his descendants, who use it periodically throughout the year.
Following our forced descent, we stopped in Ambleside for a hot beverage and then caught the mini bus back to Grasmere. Everyone went in to take a nap, sans moi. I explored the big hill outside my window...
...which was not my window much longer! When I returned, my room had big "DO NOT ENTER" signs posted on it. I went to the receptionist to inquire about this matter, and she informed me that the room had suffered from an electrical outage. Funny...it was room 13, and I had just thought the night before that hotels in America don't have a room 13 because of the myth of bad luck associated with the number.
Come dinner time, a sweet elderly woman named Jennie tapped me on the shoulder as I ate at a table with Simon and his wife and daughter. I sat next to Jennie at breakfast earlier in the day, and we compared different aspects of life in the US and England. I told her that the US had an advantage in beverage sizes, and that I did not understand how people stayed hydrated in England. I drink three or four times more orange juice each morning at home than here. Jennie laughed and said simply that it's not as hot here.
Saturday morning, we took the mini bus to Hawkshead, where Wordsworth attended grammar school. The curator at the school was incredibly entertaining and shared with us some of the rules from when the school was first founded in 1585. Boys were required to be at school at 6 am and could not leave until 5 pm. They were permitted to drink 3 pints of beer per day (!!!) AND bring their tobacco! School was held six days a week, and church was mandatory on Sunday. The service lasted 3 hours, and students were tested on the sermon material the next day because the headmaster was also the priest! And I thought Dr. McClure was demanding! Wordsworth had carved his name into a desk, which none of the boys were discouraged from doing because they were given a pen knife to sharpen their quills.
A boat delivered us to the other side of Coniston lake, where we visted Brantwood, the former home of art critic and social advocate John Ruskin. After teaching at Oxford, Ruskin evidently bought the house without ever seeing it in hopes that the scenery and seclusion would help him recover from exhaustion.
After Brantwood, we hopped on our second home (the mini bus) and made our way for Beatrix Potter's old house called Hill Top. She owned lots of the surrounding land that we drove through, which she purchased with her book profits and then donated to the National Trust when she retired. Hill Top was a disappointment to me (I can see my mom falling backwards in her chair out of dismay right now...) they let in WAY too many people and there were no tour guides or literature, so you didn't know what you were looking at.
The mini bus then drove us back to Glenthorne. I decided to take another hike up a neighboring hill. Towards the top, I started to slip on a muddy spot and quickly grabbed hold of a plant to maintain balance. And guess what I grabbed? MORE NETTLES!!!
Had I had Wordsworth's grammar school pen knife, I may have been tempted to amputate my hands. I suppose that this is what I get for boasting about never having had poison ivy before.
At some point on Saturday, I pulled a Wiley and lost my umbrella. It was actually even more of a Wiley because I actually lost MY umbrella before I left for Oxford, so Mom kindly searched for a travel-sized one that I could borrow. Whoops.
We got up Sunday and headed back towards Oxford by train and bus, due to substantial flooding in southern England. I was hoping the roads would still be closed so we could stay another night. I know that all of these photos do not express the full sense of surroundings...the fresh smell and the motion of the clouds are things you will have to use your imagination for.
Congrats if you made it through this whole thing! I recommend a visit to the Lake District!!!