Our first stop was the current exhibition at Wordsworth Grasmere (or Dove Cottage)‘To the Lakes!’. This exhibition invites the visitor to experience the Lake District through the words and images captured by tourists 200 years ago – the things they did, the places they stayed, the equipment they needed and the clothes they wore.
We enjoyed browsing the many guidebooks that were produced by the early tourists - Thomas West, William Gilpin's wonderful picturesque guide, Mrs Ann Radcliffe and John Housman, to name just a few of the proliferation of travel writers. Not forgetting William Wordsworth's own Guide to the Lakes. We were delighted to note that we have most of these guides in our own collection. We felt very smug!
The exhibition is small but thought-provoking. It is interesting to think how tourism changed during the lifetime of William and Dorothy Wordsworth, and how it has gone on changing over the past couple of centuries. Interesting to think how intrepid early tourists had been inspired by "savage grandeur and noblest thoughts", to quote a poem by John Dalton (1755) Descriptive Poem Addressed to Two Ladies after viewing the Falls at Lodore:
But soon with savage grandeur charm,
And raise to noblest thoughts the mind.
The exhibition follows the beginnings of tourism from the late eighteenth century. Before then the Lake District was considered a wild and desolate place. In 1724 Daniel Defoe described the area as "the wildest, most barren and frightful of any that I have passed over in England".
Whilst we enjoyed the exhibition, our thoughts did turn to earlier exhibitions of the Wordsworth Trust. These were much more fulsome, accompanied by stunning catalogues and with articles, books and paintings "borrowed" from far and wide. This current exhibition seems rather tame when compared to the 2011 exhibition covering the same material (and so much more).
From Wordsworth Grasmere (it will always be Dove Cottage, I think) we popped into Grasmere and enjoyed a couple of hours exploring the Church, the Wordsworth family graves as well as the Heaton Cooper Gallery. We had coffee and cake in Mathilde's and then, a satisfying browse round Sam Read's Bookshop.
On our way home we stopped at Rydal Mount, to complete our Wordsworthian homage. Our destination wasn't the house, but Dora's Field. We weren't disappointed, the field was a mass of golden daffodils. Absolutely stunning.