Fox How

We had a blustery and wet walk from Rydal Hall to Fox How yesterday. The days between, and just after, Christmas and New Year are excellent days for getting lots of fresh air and exercise.

Our walk to Fox How was inspired by my interest in houses of literary figures, especially those in the Lakes. Fox How was home to Thomas Arnold, headmaster of Rugby and author of Tom Brown's Schooldays. Arnold was inspired to purchase the land and build the house by his friend, William Wordsworth. Wordsworth and Thomas Arnold became friends when the Arnold family visited the Lakes for a holiday, in 1831.

On the death of Sir Thomas Arnold the house passed to his son, the poet Matthew Arnold. Matthew Arnold's niece, the author Mary Ward (Mrs Humphry Ward) was a regular visitor and spent much of her childhood at Fox How. The house and Lake District inspired much of her writing, and Helbeck of Bannisdale is set at nearby Levens Hall. Her children's novel Milly and Olly is credited with being the first children's book to use a holiday in the Lakes as the basis for the story. 

Fox How looks rather neglected today, and is actually up for sale. Charlotte Bronte's description of the house on her visit in 1850, seems rather apt today "the house looked like a nest half buried in flowers and creepers: and dusk as it was, I could feel that the valley and the hills round were beautiful as imagination could dream". She was certainly correct about the view although our view of the house, on a damp December afternoon, didn't include any flowers!

Our walk also took us past Fox Ghyll, once home to Thomas de Quincey, the author of Confessions of an English Opium Eater. Harriet Martineau was an admirer of Fox Ghyll and wrote " house with the thick grass growing up its tresilled walls, and those walls completely covered with flowering creepers in the largest variety that the climate will admit, and the whole sheltered and almost overhung by the perpendicular wooded side of Loughrigg".

Our final "literary house" of the walk was Loughrigg Holme, the home of Dora Wordsworth and Edward Quillinan. It was here that Matthew Arnold met Charlotte Bronte and Harriet Martineau, and wrote:

"Where, under Loughrigg, the stream
Of Rotha sparkles through fields
Vested for ever with green,
Four years since, in the house...
I saw the meeting of two
Gifted women. The one
Brilliant with recent renown
Young, unpractised, had told
With a master's accent her feign'd
Story of a passionate life;
The other, maturer in fame,
Earning, she too, her praise
First in fiction, had since
Widen'd her sweep, and survey'd
History, politics, mind..."

Such an inspiring walk, rich with so many literary greats, living their lives amidst so much natural beauty.