Saturday, October 30, 2010

Grasmere and our week in the Lake District

It was noon by the time we got into our rental car in Liverpool.   The drive to The Lake District was supposed to take about an hour and a half or maybe two but it took me an hour and half to figure out how to get out of Liverpool.  Still, we made it and the drive was pretty straightforward. Once we got away from the Liverpool, the countryside became increasingly pretty with leaves showing their autumn colors – something we especially treasure as we don’t get to experience much of Fall living in South Florida.  
One of the spectacular views across the way from our cottage

Most of the drive was along a well-developed highway.  There was a considerable amount of traffic.  In England it is “half-term” and the vast majority of schools are on break.   We were heading to one of the most popular half-term destinations.  This had actually affected our ability to get a cottage for the length of time we wanted forcing us to adjust our original plan.  When we got  off the highway and onto the two-lane road (one in each direction), traffic slowed to a crawl, which, given all the winding hills was something of a challenge to me as I don’t often drive a standard-shift car, and most especially, seated in the right hand seat, driving on the left-hand side of the road!   Still, I did pretty well and managed to avoid any catastrophes.   A couple of people learned on grades to keep some distance from me.

We drove along A-591 which took us through Windermere, perhaps the most well-known and popular of the Lake District destinations.   The scenery is absolutely stunning and all week, because of a frost, the leaves have been continuing to turn; the colors at week’s end being noticeably different than at week’s beginning.
Fireplace in our living room.   We never quite got it going.

Welcome to our cottage!

We stopped in Ambleside at offices of Lake Lovers, the agency managing our rental, to pick up the key-to our self-catered cottage which was in Grasmere, the next town up.  Susan had carefully and selected the perfect cottage for two.  It is called “Poet’s Corner” and is quite literally 30 yards from Dove Cottage where William Wordsworth lived for several years and wrote some of his most-well known poems.   

 There is a very good little museum dedicated to Wordsworth attached to the cottage which we enjoyed visiting during the week when the weather was particularly rainy. Our cottage, “Poet’s Corner” is cozy and beautifully appointed and has been a treasured haven this week.  I said to family members when I spoke to them this past week, “Grasmere and The Lake District has become one of my new favorite places on earth” and it has.  Around every corner is a picture perfect postcard view.
View of Wordsworth's Dove Cottage from the front door of Poet's Cottage where we were staying

I was especially attracted to come here because of my fondness for Wordsworth and because his notions of “reflection in solitude” fit well with the overall theme of this sabbatical.   Wordsworth wrote and spoke of “spot events” when our senses and emotions are filled.  These occur in special places and it is, Wordsworth believes, our remembrance of these “spot events” that especially feed us and particularly allow us to get through the difficult times of life.  Certainly, my time in Grasmere will be a “spot event” for me.
During the week, I took several long hikes along incredible trails that offered spectacular views of fells and tarns and gills (you’ll have to look those up!) all in autumn hues.   We had two sunny days.  We have also had considerable rain.

One of the views of Rydal Lake and surrounding countryside during our five mile walk
On Thursday, the forecast was for foul weather in the afternoon (with talk of gale force winds possible).  Susan and I decided to get our walk in in the morning.  It was a relatively easy five-mile walked called the Rydal Walk which took us around two lakes – Rydal Lake and Grasmere Lake.  We set off and took our time, even stopping for tea at “Rydal Mount,” the house where Wordworth and his family moved when they outgrew Dove Cottage.  We could have toured the house, but didn’t, only taking advantage of the small tea house that serves as a half-way station along the Rydal Walk.    

As we left there, the weather began to deteriorate.   We still had a good hour and half to go.  By the time we completed the walk and reached Miller House which had become our regular lunch place (it has internet capability), we were completely soaked through despite our having adequate rain gear.   Still, the walk had been absolutely gorgeous and worth the effort.
Miller House became our regular way station in Grasmere.  They had great food, free internet and incredible Banoffee Pie! 

Amazing view of the valley on my walk up to Alcock Tarn
My favorite walk of the week was a steep hike up to Alcock Tarn (okay, I’ll help – a “tarn” is a small lake or pond on a mountain).  The Alcock Tarn walk afforded me views across two valleys and over Grasmere that were absolutely breathtaking!  I took lots of pictures, but they will never do justice to the actual experience.  I am confident that the experience of standing at Grey Crag and looking over Grasmere and the valleys below will be a “spot event” for me! 

Interior of St. Oswald's.   We didn't get to worship in the building because of a broken boiler, but we were able to look around.   In some ways, it reminds me of St. Paul's
Wordsworth's sister Dorothy, who was very influential in his life was buried in the adjacent plot
On Sunday, we worshiped with the people of St. Oswald’s Church.  The historic church building couldn’t be used on Sunday because the boiler was broken (and it was very cold),  so worship took place in a renovated barn which serves as their parish hall.  William Wordsworth, his wife Mary, his sister Dorothy, their children and a brother are all buried in St. Oswald’s Churchyard.  

View of the village of Grasmere

This deer crossed in front of me on my walk around Lake Grasmere.   We stared at each other for awhile

 In Grasmere, we experienced Sara Nelson’s celebrated Grasmere Gingerbread which is unique and quite delicious.  We have had a wonderful week.  It’s Friday and we leave tomorrow for Liverpool to catch a train to London so that we can board the Chunnel train for Paris.   Hopefully, things will have calmed down in France and we will be able to travel without too much difficulty.  It is raining heavily today.  I had hoped to get one more wonderful walk in before we left, but I don’t think it’s going to happen.  Susan just made us omelets, then we’re off to visit Peter Rabbit! 
Our cottage is in there somewhere


Made how do I stay here? said...

Love reading your blog Dad!

Made how do I stay here? said...

Would have written more in my last comment, but I've had trouble with leaving posts b/c I am not really a g-mailer! I enjoyed reading all of this, but especially the parts that I can so easily see you and Mom in my taking and hour and a half to get out of Liverpool, or getting soaked silly on your very long walk, or Mom taking care of you when you were sick, or when you wrote about the experience of driving stick shift on hills, in traffic, wrong side of the car, and wrong side of the road. I bet that was either colorful or funny (perhaps only to Mom though...).
I am so glad you are enjoying this trip. I liked the concept of the spot events by the way! I thought back through my life and that's really how I view so much of it. And when times are down, I remember the good ones!
Keep writing! I love you both!

Nancy Armstrong said...

I am so enjoying reading your blog. It sounds like a wonderful trip. We miss you both. Kathleen is doing a great job keeping up with everything.