by Barbara Ballard
Grasmere, the northermost village in the southern Lake District, is set in a valley surrounded by the lower grassy slopes of the Lakeland hills.
Old cottages, faced with pebble dash, and houses of bluish-green local slate vie for attention along the twisty streets of the village. Victorian villas sit comfortably beside hotels, galleries and shops catering to tourists. Gingerbread lovers stop for a treat at the famous, teensy Gingerbread shop near the church. It's hard to imagine this tiny space was once a school. Church Stile, a row of 17th century cottages, is now the home of the National Trust shop, but in a past life was an inn.
Across from Church Stile in the village centre sits the 13th century church, dedicated to St. Oswald, the 7th century Christian king of Northumberland. The Rushbearing Ceremony, which takes place on the Saturday nearest St. Oswald's Day (August 5), commemorates the time when the floor of the church was covered with rushes. Children parade to the church bearing rushes in the form of a cross.
Grasmere's most famous resident, William Wordsworth, is buried in the churchyard. He lived here from 1799 to 1813 in the two storey Dove Cottage. The whitewashed cottage with its Lakeland slate roof was originally an inn, the Dove and Olive Branch. When Wordsworth was alive, it was known as Town End. Today, tours are offered of the home and next door an exhibition on Wordsworth informs and delights poetry lovers.
Stand on the bridge by Grasmere Lake and look back at the River Rothay winding down from the village to the Lake, and you will see what Wordsworth meant when he said of this village, "The most loveliest spot that man hath found."
There are boats for hire at Grasmere Lake.
Grasmere, the northernmost village in the southern Lake District, is located on the A591.
Tourist Information Centre
Red Bank Rd.
Tel. (0) 1539 435 245.
Dove Cottage and Museum
The museum contains Wordsworth's books and a collection of manuscripts, paintings and books relating to British Romanticism.
Open daily (closed for 4 weeks in Jan./Feb.) from 9:30am-5:30pm. Cottage by guided tour.
Tel. (0) 1539 435 544.