William Wordsworth’s home from 1813 until his death in 1850, this grand estate is still in the poet’s family, who occasionally drops by to check up on the old place for a day or two, perhaps entertaining friends. The rest of the year it is a fully-staffed museum, with multi-lingual guides and guidebooks in most major languages (A Pig Latin guide was noticeably absent, however). Nearby is the famous Dora’s field (after his daughter), full of thousands of daffodils, a spectacular sight if you hit it at the right time of the year. Local legend maintains “Daffodils” was based on this field, but in truth the poem was written long before the field was planted.

The house was originally much smaller, and the Tudor-style dining room still remains of the orignal, built in 1574. Later additions include the drawing room and library. Wordsworth originally rented the place after moving from Grasmere with the death of his two children and a falling out with Coleridge (my dates are a little shaky there). It still contains much of the original furnishings, including a portrait of Queen Victoria. The rest of the furnishings are apparently authentic from the era but not necessarily Wordsworth's.

As one tours the house and estate, it is important to keep in mind the major change to the house: adequate light. In Wordsworth’s time, most of the windows were much smaller and scarcer, giving the actual house a much drearier atmosphere. It is no wonder, then, that he retreated to his flowing gardens, where the grassy knolls rise and crash like frozen ocean waves, and trees overhang a leisurely, refreshing path. The small hut that he built to write poetry in still stands, and indeed one feels that if surrounded in this magical atmosphere, one could also write trite verse such as

    I WANDER'D 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;
    Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
    Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

That is until one actually tries to. However, almost anyone can catch the spirit of Wordsworth's romantic impulses: the soot-covered, dingy interior paled in comparison to the beautiful, breezy outdoors, and in a time when industrialism threatened to consume all that was light and lovely in the world.

Location: Rydal, Ambleside, Cumbria.
LA22 9LU.
Tel: 015394 33002

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