A Canon Rawnsley Walk

Our walk from Hawkshead Hill to Blelham Tarn and then on to Wray Castle provided the opportunity to talk about Canon Hardwicke Rawnsley, his influence on the young Beatrix Potter, his time as Vicar of Wray Church and his role in the founding of the National Trust.

Hardwicke Rawnsley was installed as vicar of Wray Church in 1877. Wray Church was built in 1840, the same year that Wray Catle was built. He was one of the most prolific writers of sonnets in the history of literature, some 30000, as well as writing many books on the Lake District. He wrote a biography of John Ruskin. He published his poems and sent them to newspapers, always regarding them as an agreeable way of saying whatever he wanted to say. He was a keen amateur naturalist, an antiquarian, an ardent traveller, and a campaigner against objectionable postcards!

His views on the need to preserve the natural beauty of Lakeland had a lasting effect on the young Beatrix Potter, who had fallen in love with the unspoilt beauty surrounding the holiday home. He visited the Potter family during their first stay at Wray Castle in 1882. He was the first published author she met, and he took a great interest in her drawings, later encouraging her to publish her first book, ‘The Tale of Peter Rabbit’, which eventually Frederick Warne published in 1902. A version of ‘Peter Rabbit’ with pictures by Beatrix Potter, and verse by Rawnsley, is available at the Armitt Library in Ambleside.

Our walk took us to some of the beauty spots which inspired Canon Rawnsley and Beatrix Potter. 

Passing Esthwaite I could picture Jeremy Fisher, on his lily pad, fishing. Circling Wray Castle I thought of one of Rawnsley's sonnets:

Wray Castle

Who planned thy strength of towers was out of date;
No leaguers now can storm thee but the wind;
Nor fiercer foe unbidden entrance find
Than April shower beneath a crazy slate;
And there thou sittest in they solemn state,
Waiting for Time about they brows to bind
The grace that larger years than aid mankind,
And days forgetful of thy birth create.
Uplifted pale above thy circling groves,
or moving with the traveller as he moves
In rushing boat or by the dusty shore,
Thou still canst wake the gift that comes from Heaven,
Sweet Fancy, and from Brathey to the Leven
Breathe o'er the lake a quaint Romantic lore.

The Castle is much improved since my last visit when a telecommunications company was in residence!