Potter, Wordsworth and general Lakes business.

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There’s Russell the bus driver and the guide as we reached our first stop for the day: the schoolhouse where Wordsworth had his schooling before he went to university.

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It was founded in 1609 (I think) and here’s the letters patent from Elizabeth I.

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It’s a small room. In its heyday they’d cram 70-odd boys from 7 – 16 in here from 8AM to 5PM, with 2 hours off for lunch. The only subjects they learned was Latin, Greek and Mathematics. The small boys were downstairs and the bigger boys were taught in the schoolroom upstairs by the headmaster. (One of them was Fletcher Christian’s brother, from the Bounty mutiny.)

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These are the original desks from the 1600’s onwards. They’d put 6 boys in here, then there was a seat attached to the front where another 6 boys would sit.

You’ll no doubt be relieved to know that the boys were allowed to drink 3 pints of ale a day, they were allowed to smoke and once a fortnight they could have a cockfight and bet on it. No other gambling was allowed, but cockfighting was considered sport and so it was ok.

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They were also allowed to have penknives and they were not discouraged from carving their names into the desks. Here’s where Wordsworth is said to have done this.

Here’s some other bits and bobs:

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How can something be this old and is still nonchalantly hanging around?

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Actually, this last photo reminds me of something funny that happened on the bus this morning. The English have some weird and wonderful place names. Have a look at where Wordsworth was born….

We passed by a sign showing this place this morning. Both Barry and I said at the same time, “OMG! “

:HOW could you say you lived there?” I said.

“YOu might has well just call it ’69’ and be done with it!” said Barry.

I thought the bus driver would never stop laughing. Apparently Australians notice things that the English never do. Or maybe the English are too polite to comment on them.

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Then we went 5 minutes down the road to Beatrix Potter’s house. This is the entrance to Mr McGregor’s garden. 🙂

IMG_2095Looks nice, doesn’t it? I’ve never been a huge fan of the Potter books (unless it was Harry Potter) but I learned a lot here and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I’ve never seen the movie, but I used to read her books to the boys sometimes. Jean and Bet on our tour were really excited – they were almost levitating. I guess this was their Brontë parsonage. 🙂

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This was another of those places where they forbade you from taking photos. So here are some sneaky peeks.

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Here’s her room. But there was something here that I went all a’tingle when I saw them.

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Look! They are really rare! I took this one for Jenny, Poppy and Jeff’s breeder, but I had to rush it because the guide was just outside. I’ve only ever seen these in an antique shop once and I nearly had a heart attack at the price, but every Cavalier breeder wants a set of these.

What do you mean you don’t know what I’m talking about? I took a close up but someone was coming up the stairs so I had to rush:

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See the Spaniels on her mantlepiece in her bedroom??? OMG!! I warmed to her right away.

Ok, so it’s not my best shot…

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These books were scattered all through the house. They’re open at the page where there’s something in that particular room that is in the picture. It’s really special when you see the thing or the view that she used.

In the gift shop there was a little china ornament that I fell in love with. It’s from The Tailor of Gloucester and it’s a little mouse sitting on a cotton reel and reading a book. I bought it and the book. When I was in the house I asked a guide if there was anything in the house that she’d used in the book. The guide looked up a little reference book and said that the big grandfather clock in the lounge room was on one of the pages and she showed me which one. I was rapt, because as I stepped over the threshold that clock struck 11. Irreplaceable memories… 

But I don’t have a photo because the guides in that room were everywhere, being omnipotent and omniscient. Stupid guides.

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This is a dolls house. Somebody else who was visiting was talking about the two naughty mice in connection with it, but I don’t know.

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And here’s Mr McGregor’s garden!

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A view back up to the house from the veggie patch.

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They supplied umbrellas here. This is Gordon and Jean from NZ taking a photo.

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I saw this in the garden too… very cute.

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She was an accomplished sheep breeder as well, just so you know. A couple were wandering around here as well.

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Apparently in one of her books there’s a picture of Peter Rabbit posting a letter. Here’s the postbox. 🙂 It’s just down the road from her place, on the corner.

The thing I really loved about this place was the acute sense I got that this was her place. You could tell that this was the place she could come to and have everything the way she liked it and could do whatever she wanted. I knew nothing much about her life before coming here, but one of the guides upstairs was fantastic. (But too vigilant.) The little book in the room upstairs where she did her drawing and writing was open at an outdoor setting. I was looking out of the window, puzzled, when the guide said, “If you look in the background behind the mouse, you can see the lane winding up the hill behind the white house.”

It was true. Then she went on to say, “The white house is the marital home. After she got married (at the age of 47 or so) they decided that there wasn’t enough privacy here, with the farm manager and his family living right downstairs beneath this room, so they bought another house. But Beatrix would still come here every day to work. If any visitors came from London she’d meet them here. The marital home was kept very private.”

I just LOVED that. Even though, by today’s standards, the house was very poky and dark, it still has a very warm, cosy feel about it. It wasn’t just that it belonged to her, because I’m not a huge fan of her works, but the warmth and general loveliness of this place is undeniable. I really loved the independence of it.

The guide also told us another really lovely anecdote. Her parents must have been shocking. The woman was 46 and wanted to get married. Her parents were getting old and they wanted her around to look after them so they were dead against the match. Now get this: her older brother had bought an estate in Scotland and moved up there about 15 years previously. He’d married a girl from a family engaged in trade and only told the parents in support of Beatrix when Beatrix was embroiled in arguments with them 11 years later.

I wonder if my boys would ever be that scared of me?

After that we jumped on the bus and headed off to a scenic lookout that Russell, the bus driver, knew of. The tour I’m on is with a company called ‘Backroads Tours’, and they stay off the motorways as much as possible so you get to see more of the real countryside.

When they say ‘backroads’ they’re not kidding.

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Some of these country lanes are insanely narrow.

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This one only had a sheer drop down one side of it and one lane to drive on.

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It’s when there’s only one lane and two dry stone walls on either side that you wonder how on earth these people do it.

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We ended up for lunch at this place, on a recommendation from one of the Thermomix girls back home. Lunch was beautiful and very reasonably priced.

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Plus how can you go past a place with a name like this?

After lunch the heavens opened. What an insane climate to have in the middle of summer. Though as Russell blandly keeps saying whenever we have a whinge, “Ahhh, but that’s why it’s such a green and pleasant land…”

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Beatrix Potter lived in her place in the early 1900’s. Wordsworth lived in Dove cottage in the early 1800’s. The differences between the two were fascinating.

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This place was an old pub that Wordsworth and his sister Dorothy bought and converted into a house. Later on he married and brought his wife (and subsequently 3 of his children) to live there as well, along with many friends. It must’ve been very cramped and very smelly.

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Being such a rainy day, the rooms were so dark that it was impossible to take photos in the downstairs ones, because they obviously don’t want you to use a flash, which is fair enough. The only thing I could take a photo of was this painting of a family pet. Sir Walter Scott used to breed dogs and he gave this one to the Wordsworth children, probably because it was a bit weird around the eyes and ears. He used to name his dogs Pepper, Mustard or Ginger, depending on the colour, so the Wordsworth dog was one of about 19 Peppers that Sir Walter Scott named. They must have loved him a lot because it wasn’t a cheap thing to get a painting done.

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Downstairs, right below this room, was a cool room called the Buttery, where the pub used to store its kegs and the Wordsworths used as like a fridge. A stream runs underneath it and floods it a little when it rains, which we saw, and it was COLD. The poor kids slept in the room upstairs, all in the one bed. The walls were lined with newspapers to try and keep some heat in. The guide said that it’s an indication of how interested Wordsworth was in keeping up with current events, as he would’ve had to pay quite a bit to get the newspapers sent up from London.

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You can still read them.

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This is the tea caddy. The guide said that tea was very expensive back then. The Wordsworths were living on 70 pounds a year and they spent a third of that on tea. But they were very frugal with it… they’d use the tea leaves twice and then Wordsworth would dry them out and send them to a friend.

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Exciting to see these.

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When he was an old man, someone gave him this cuckoo clock. When visitors came he’d wind the hands around to 12 just so they could see the cuckoos go off.

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I tried to take a shot inside but you can see how gloomy it was. How those women ever saw enough to set a stitch, I have no idea.

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But the garden is charming, even in the rain.

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Here’s the window of the Buttery, and above it the children’s room.

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The small sitting room window. This is the room with the dog in it.

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The last excursion of the day was a trip across Lake Windermere.

Then after dinner, Russell got me to try an English beer. (I hate beer; I’m a red wine girl.)

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I only managed about a third of a half-pint. Beer is definitely not my thing!

It just occurred to me when I looked at this photo, I have some earrings on from Bali, my watch from Singapore and my necklace and ring from Thailand. Maybe I need to buy a tiara in the UK or something?

The hotels’ wifi on this trip have been … interesting, to say the least. Yesterday we had my UK IT advisor Scott in Leicester, Evan18 in Melbourne and myself in Ambleside on Lake Windermere all bumping into each other around in my little share of the cloud, trying to fix up the photo uploads, downloads, whatever. We were communicating through Facebook in our evening and Evan18’s morning. Actually, I’m lucky he was even up in the morning, come to think of it. IMG_2207

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4 Responses to Potter, Wordsworth and general Lakes business.

  1. scottsabode says:

    The Miss Potter movie with Renee Zelwegger is worth watching. That looks like a pretty strong beer to start you off on! And yes, he’s right about the rain. Seeing as south eastern Australia is one of the driest places on planet Earth you’re bound to experience wetter climates just about anywhere you go! Anyway, 38 degrees in Rome so you’ll be sweltering in Europe.

  2. Deb (Albury) says:

    Gosh, we did that same tour in August last year. Absolutely loved that glimpse into Beatix Potters world and Lake Windermere. What a treat.

  3. Jenny at Erinport says:

    Those Staffordshire dogs are probably worth a small fortune – glad to see you’re having a good time !! 🙂 I’ve not heard from the boys so presume the dogglets are okay 🙂

  4. Lucinda Sans says:

    More gorgeous shots!

    We were inondon for three weeks in March and it only rained a couple of times. Lucky, I guess.

    I wouldn’t have started with such a dark beer. Definitely an acquired taste.

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