Apr 11

Wandering in Wordsworth’s footsteps – Grasmere to Rydal

by in Culture, Cumbria, Video, Walking

“I wandered lonely as a shroud …”. I know, not right, but I’d just told a friend we were filming along the ancient Coffin Road from Grasmere to Rydal and he came out with it… In olden times, the Coffin Route was used by locals carrying the dead from Rydal and Ambleside to St Oswald’s church, Grasmere. Today, the sun was shining, the blossom was out, the daffodils were doing what Wordsworth said they do; “fluttering and dancing” in a very slight breeze, and it was the perfect day to make a video.

Lake District daffodils - photo by Zoe Dawes

I was with Andrew White, of Walks Around Britain, to film a Quirky Traveller Walk.  Our starting point was St Oswald’s Church, where William Wordsworth and family are buried.  Trying to get space at the graveside was tricky; Andrew needed to get a clear angle but, of course, many Wordsworth fans were also trying to get their own photos of the poet’s last resting place.

Wordsworth family graves Grasmere Lake District

Wordsworth family graves

Eventually he got the shot he wanted and then we went to the garden where I sat amongst the daffodils, beside the River Rothay and read the ‘Daffodils’ poem to camera.

We had discovered it was William Wordsworth’s birthday that day – born 9th April 1770, so it seemed appropriate.

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;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

From there we set off on our way, heading towards one of the most visited houses in the Lake District.

Dove Cottage Grasmere

Outside Dove Cottage, Andrew managed to get some good footage in between the groups of Japanese tourists being shepherded in through the tiny doorway.  Wordsworth wrote some of his most famous verse in this delightful old house with its wonky floors, dark wood panelling, a stream running under the kitchen and old newspapers covering a bedroom wall.

Dove Cottage Sign

A gentle climb up the old path; a little stream ran alongside and we got a quick glimpse of a glittery frog scrambling into the undergrowth as we trudged past. There was hardly anyone on this path, in spite of it only being ten minutes from one of the busiest tourist spots in the Lake District.  Andrew was very understanding about my need to have frequent stops to ‘rest, appreciate the views … or read up on my next piece to camera.

Coffin Route stop off

Photo by Andrew White

When we stopped to film by White Moss Tarn, I was intrigued to read that it was here that Wordsworth used to skate and where he met the Leech Gatherer wh0 inspired one of his many Lakeland poems about local folk.  The sounds we heard were much as they must have been 200 years ago:

The birds are singing in the distant woods;
Over his own sweet voice the Stock-dove broods;
The Jay makes answer as the Magpie chatters …

White Moss Tarn

Lugging heavy camera equipment was possibly slightly less heavy than a coffin and Andrew managed to keep smiling during the five hours it took to complete the day’s filming.  Every so often we stopped for him to get a shot of a view, me walking up or down the path … or simply to enjoy the glorious scenery.

Andrew & Rydal Water

We ended our wandering at Rydal Mount, the gracious house that Wordsworth rented for almost 40 years till his death in 1850.  The garden was a delight, with spring flowers tumbling over rocks, beside tiny pools and woven through the woods.  Birds were singing their hearts out as they celebrated this abundant season. Dora’s Field was scattered with the thousands of daffodils the poet planted in memory of his adored daughter.

Dora's Field daffodils - photo by Zoe Dawes

The final shot of filming was of a diamond-strewn Rydal Water glittering in the late afternoon sun – a perfect place for recollecting in tranquility …

Rydal Water from Rydal Mount

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;
Beside the Lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:-
A Poet could not but be gay
In such a jocund company:
I gazed—and gazed—but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude,
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the Daffodils.

William Wordsworth 1770 – 1850

Here’s the video so join me on a glorious spring walk in Wordsworth’s footsteps along the quirky Coffin Route …


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14 Responses to “Wandering in Wordsworth’s footsteps – Grasmere to Rydal”

  1. From Barry:

    I have been to some of those locations, of course, but had no idea about the “coffin route”. That lends a strange ambience to the location. Enjoyed reading the poem again. We had to learn it by heart at primary school, but I can only recall the opening stanza these days.

    Posted on April 11, 2011 at 5:21 pm #
  2. From Ron Creer:

    I want to start a campaign called “Wordsworth did write other poems, you know!” “Daffodils” is such a minor poem and now a cliché. More people should read “Michael”, some of the “Lucy” poems, “Resolution and Independence” [commonly referred to as the Leech-Gatherer] and especially “The Prelude”. He wrote hundreds of poems, some eminently forgettable but a handful are some of the greatest produced in our language. I agree that reading them aloud in the area where they were inspired is a wonderful experience, and one of my professional highlights was reading verses from “Michael” to a group in Greenhead Ghyll near the very sheep fold that he saw and where he had his vision of the tragedy. I reckon your Quirky Travels ought to include readings, Zoe!

    Posted on April 11, 2011 at 6:39 pm #
  3. From Zoë Dawes:

    Cheers Barry – the Daffodils poem has some lovely lines in it. The Coffin Route is a very easy way to appreciate the countryside – you should try it one day!

    Posted on April 11, 2011 at 6:54 pm #
  4. From Zoë Dawes:

    Thanks Ron. You’d have got on very well with my English tutor at Uni – he loved Wordsworth too and was very keen to spread the word. As someone who nearly got thrown out for not appreciating WW’s poetry enough I might not be the best person to join your campaign, but do agree that he wrote some great verse. I was surprised at re-reading the Leach Gatherer how cleverly the mood shifts throughout the poem. Your ‘Michael’ experience sounds uplifting. I occasionally quote from relevant literary works on QT trips if I feel the audience might like it …

    Posted on April 11, 2011 at 7:01 pm #


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