Rydal and Grasmere

Last weekend we spent the day mooching around Rydal and Grasmere. We visited Rydal Hall and walked through the stunning gardens, following the sculpture path. Many carvings and natural art have been completed. Most are temporary, designed to decay back into the ecosystem over time. There are sculptures for sale by artists participating in the trail. We bought a beautiful piece of bog oak carved by Norman Baddeley

After some lunch in the cafĂ©, listening to the water crashing over the series of waterfalls outside, we moved onto Dove Cottage. We haven't been to the cottage since before the first lockdown in March 2020 and have missed it very much. Much work has been done since our last visit and the gardens and woodland walk have been opened. There is also an interesting exhibition "Still Glides the Stream": Wordsworth's Journey Down the River Duddon. This exhibition celebrates Wordsworth’s The River Duddon, a series of 33 sonnets tracing an imaginary walk through the Duddon valley in Cumbria, based on the poet’s experiences from his many visits to the area.

Published just over two hundred years ago, these poems helped establish Wordsworth’s reputation as the poet of the Lake District. The sonnet sequence follows the river from source to sea, encouraging us to think about our relationship with the natural world, the influence of the past on the present, and the passage of our lives. 

I have a beautiful edition of the Sonnets, which were published together with Wordsworth's Topographical Description of the Country of the Lakes.  The preface to the Description says that they were published together "from a consciousness of its having been written in the same spirit which dictated several of the poems, and from a belief that it will tend materially to illustrate them".

  I seek the birthplace of a native stream
All hail ye mountains, hail thou morning light!
Better to breathe upon this airy height
Than pass in needless sleep from dream to dream
Pure flow the verse, pure, vigorous, free and bright,
For Duddon, long lov'd Duddon, is my theme!

Norman Nicholson did not agree with Wordsworth's thoughts on the Duddon, writing instead of the industrialised region he knew:

                       ............Wordsworth wrote:
Remote from every taint of sordid industry".
But you and I know better, Duddon Lass.
For I, who've lived for nearly thirty years
Upon your shore, have seen the slag banks slant
Like screes sheer into the sand, and seen the tide
Purple with ore back up the muddy gulleys...
A hundred years of floods and rain and wind 
Have washed your rocks clear of his words again,
Many of them half forgotten, brimming the Irish Sea...

Norman Nicholson is included in the exhibition with his typewriter taking centre stage and other artefacts that explore the link between the two poets through the valley that meant so much to them both.

Another of my favourite writers - D E Stevenson - borrows one of Wordsworth's Duddon Sonnets in the title of one of my favourite novels Still Glides the Stream:

Still glides the Stream, and shall for ever glide;
The Form remains, the Function never dies...