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Wordsworth's garden at Dove Cottage

Posted: Friday 17 August 2012
by Kate Bradbury

I visited the former home of William Wordsworth in the Lake District last weekend. It was fascinating to walk around Dove Cottage as it was when it was lived in, but I couldn’t wait to see the garden.


Inscription on a gate in William Wordsworth's garden, at Dove Cottage, Cumbria

I visited the former home of William Wordsworth in the Lake District last weekend. It was fascinating to walk around Dove Cottage as it was when it was lived in, but I couldn’t wait to see the garden. Somehow, to me, a living, evolving plot of land represents more of the person than the artefacts of time stood still.
 
Described as ‘semi-wild’, the garden is planted with cottage garden favourites such as poppies, honeysuckle and red campion, and it has a separate, gated vegetable patch where beans, peas and turnips are grown. At the top of the garden, visitors can sit in a ‘summer shed’, similar to that which Wordworth’s sister Dorothy (who he lived with) had built so they could look out on the beautiful view of the lake below. I like to think Wordsworth created many of his poems while sitting in the little summer shed; I sat in it and read To the Small Celandine.
 
Wordsworth loved his garden. Many of his poems were about his favourite plants growing at Dove Cottage, while Farewell describes his sense of loss of leaving ‘the loveliest spot that man hath ever found’ when he moved to a larger house nearby. I find it difficult to imagine living without running water or electricity, or having to write with a quill, but I can instantly relate to the wrench of losing a garden (as I’m sure all gardeners can).
 
Wordsworth only lived at Dove Cottage for nine years, but during that time he wrote some of his best poetry. I wonder if the garden had anything to do with his ‘golden decade’. I hope so.



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oldchippy 17/08/2012 at 18:32

Hi Kate,Back in 1966 England won the world cup and we looked at a cottage just out side St Ives in Cornwall without running water or electricity the water would be laid on in 1967 and the electrics 1968 so we didn't buy it,But it had 3/4acre of garden,So it's not unusual not having services we rely on today,
Oldchippy.

Dovefromabove 17/08/2012 at 19:17

Another garden and environment which certainly shaped English Literature is John Clare's Cottage and garden at Helpston http://www.clarecottage.org/pages/Gardens

It gives reality to our understanding of life as it was lived in John Clare's days, with straw mattresses on the floor and a never-ending family of children filling a tiny space. What appears to us now as a home of calm simplicity must have been full of life, noise, children and never ending household tasks.  

But the garden .... the garden is wonderful, full of plants, herbs and flowers grown at the time, and reveals just a little of the reason that John Clare had the countryside coursing through his veins.

happymarion 17/08/2012 at 21:24

My poems usually wake me up in the middle of the night begging to be written and refusing to let me go back to sleep, but the hours I spend in my own garden and the Bristol Botanic Garden doing repetitive but pleasant tasks like weeding are when the thoughts that demand to be written down are formed in my mind. As a younger woman going for a long country walk would do the same. As for mod. cons, Kate, I had no electricity or running water in our tenement till I was 15 and my parents rented a council flat. Hard work for my mother with three children to keep clean but she managed it. There was no garden but plenty of hills to roam around and pick blackberries in. I managed to write poems then too - you can do a lot of thinking picking blackberries.