Places of Interest
Wordsworth’s grave, St. Oswald’s Church
The penultimate day of the walk ends at the grave of William Wordsworth (1770-1850) in St. Oswald’s churchyard. Wordsworth was born in Cockermouth in 1770 and spent all his childhood in the beautiful Lake District, until at the age of seventeen he left to study at Cambridge University. He then spent twelve years travelling in Britain and Europe before moving back to the Lakes to take up residence in Dove Cottage (see above) with his sister Dorothy. He remained in the Lake District until his death at the age of 80 years. He died on St George’s day (23rd April) from a cold caught while out walking through the countryside he so dearly loved.
William Wordsworth planted eight of the yew trees in the churchyard and one of them marks his grave and that of his wife Mary. The simple tombstones are now one of the most visited literary shrines in the world. The Church that lies on the bank of the River Rothay is named after St Oswald, a 7th Century Christian King of Northumberland, who is said to have preached on this site. It is the parish church of Grasmere, Rydal and Langdale, and each township has its own separate gate into the churchyard. Wordsworth’s prayer book is now kept in a glass case near the church organ.
Nearby are buried his sister Dorothy, his children Dora, William, Thomas and Catherine, Mary’s sister Sara Hutchinson, and other members of the family. There is also the grave of Hartley Coleridge, eldest son of Samuel Taylor Coleridge.
Grasmere takes its name from the adjacent lake and thanks to William Wordsworth is probably Cumbria’s most popular village. Wordsworth lived in Grasmere for fourteen years and described it as “the loveliest spot that man hath ever found”. When William and his sister Dorothy left Dove Cottage in 1808 they moved to Allan Bank, a large house that William had condemned as an eyesore when it was being built. They lived there for two years, with poet and friend Samuel Coleridge. They then moved to the Old Rectory, opposite St Oswald’s Church, a cold and damp house where his two youngest children died. In 1813 they moved to Rydal Mount (see above).
The majority of the buildings in Grasmere date from the 19th or early 20th Century, though the surrounding farms are much older and St. Oswald’s Church dates from the 13th Century. Today Grasmere is a tourist centre with its abundant gifts shops, restaurants and guest houses and there are many attractions and events held throughout the season. The Lake Artist Society Summer Exhibition, displaying around 300 exhibits by local artists and sculptors is held annually from the end of July to the beginning of September at Grasmere Village Hall. There is also an exhibition at Easter. On the Saturday nearest to St. Oswald’s Day (5th August) Grasmere celebrates its Rushbearing Festival. This custom dates back to the days when the earthen floor of the church was strewn with rushes to provide warmth and cleanliness. In late August Grasmere hosts its Sports Day; one of the oldest and most popular traditional events in the Lake District.
Lion and the Lamb
As you walk out of Grasmere you will see the small rocky hill of Helm Crag overlooking the village, popularly known as the ‘Lion and the Lamb’ or the ‘Old Lady at the Piano’, depending on which side you view it from. These names are derived from the shape of the rock formations that lie at the southeast end of the summit ridge.
The picturesque Ashness Bridge overlooking Derwentwater is one of the most photographed viewpoints in the Lake District. Ashness Bridge is a traditional stone-built bridge on the single-track road that forms the Fair Trade Way from Watendlath to the Borrowdale road (B5289). The view from the bridge, across Derwentwater to Keswick and Skiddaw is well worth a short stop off before continuing on the last few miles into Keswick. Near the bridge is a small cairn to Bob Graham, who ran a round of 42 Lakeland peaks in 1932 (in under 24 hours), a record which was not equalled for 28 years.
As you walk by the banks of Derwentwater towards Keswick the first place you will come to will be the ‘Theatre By The Lake’. Originally the site of the ‘Blue Box’ mobile theatre, first started by Century Theatre it is now Keswick’s permanent home for summer repertoire and festivals. The ‘Blue Box’ theatre is currently situated at Snibson Discovery Park in Leicestershire. ‘The Theatre By The Lake’ is a strong supporter of Fairtrade and hosts various events and sells Fairtrade products on site.
Located within the Borough of Allerdale the market town and civil parish of Keswick has a population of around 5,000. Keswick was granted a charter for a market in 1276 by Edward I and a market is still held every Saturday in the central main street. The town is recorded in the 13th century as Kesewic, meaning ‘farm where cheese is made’. The name is from the Old English cese (cheese) with a Scandinavian initial ‘k’ and wic (special place or dwelling).
During the 16th century, small scale mining took place in Keswick, and it was the source of the world’s first graphite pencils. The pencil industry continued in the town until 2008, when the company moved to Workington on the Irish Sea coast. Keswick was the first place in Britain where police used riot gear. The equipment was on trial in Manchester when there was a disturbance on Windebrowe Avenue in Keswick, in which a police car was overturned. Help was summoned, and the Greater Manchester Police arrived in full riot gear, thus giving Keswick this unusual footnote in police history.
Final end point
Keswick Moot Hall
The Fair Trade Way comes to an end at the Keswick Moot Hall in the central Market Square that was built in 1813. Once acting as the Town Hall this small but appealing building, with its unusual one-handed clock now contains the Tourist Information Centre on the ground floor and an art gallery above.