Poetry contest launched by the Wordsworths

A popular competition for young poets organised by the family of William Wordsworth is inviting entries from school pupils throughout Cumbria.

The Rydal Mount Wordsworth Prize for Young Poets was established in 2013 and has to date attracted a range of remarkable and exciting offerings from young people.

Now the organiser, Christopher Wordsworth Andrew, the great great great great grandson of the Romantic poet, is launching the new contest after last year’s fell victim to the pandemic.

Students at primary and secondary schools are being invited to submit their entries on the theme of Renewal. The poems will be judged by members of the Wordsworth family, and the inspirational “Fire Poet” Philip Wells who is joining the team.

Ella Drury, latest winner of the competition

The contest, said Christopher, has been a triumphant success since the first staging of the event, drawing in thousands of entries over the years. He and other members of the family will hand out prizes at the award ceremony at Rydal Mount near Ambleside in the autumn.

“We have been so impressed with the maturity, wisdom and sensitivity of the young writers who send us their work,” said Christopher. “It’s gratifying to see that Wordsworth still inspires others. He resonates with young people today because he was an environmentalist as well as a great poet, and his legacy is so relevant today. And we are thrilled to be collaborating with Philip Wells, the ‘fire poet’ who does so much wonderful outreach work to take poetry to young people, and particularly those who are disadvantaged.”

Rydal Mount, still owned by the Wordsworth family, was the home of William Wordsworth and his family for the second half of his life, and is where he enjoyed the height of his fame and recognition as the Nation’s Poet.

A popular tourist attraction, the house and extensive gardens are open to the public daily. And there’s now a regular programme of events staged there, including poetry readings, talks, concerts, and a Spring Fair to be held at the end of May.

The winning poem will be framed and displayed prominently in the drawing room at the house. The winner will receive a £50 cash prize, a personal trophy, and his or her name will be added to the roll of honour on the plaque at Rydal Mount. There are book prizes for the poets judged as highly commended in the primary and secondary school categories. The closing date for entries is Friday May 20, and details of how to enter can be found at https://rydalmount.wordpress.com/2022/03/16/entry-form-wordsworth-prize-for-young-poets/

Next year, which will be ten years since the competition began, it’s planned to roll it out nationwide to invite entries from young poets throughout the UK.

Meanwhile, the winner from the 2020 competition, which was put on hold during the pandemic, has been announced as Ella Drury, now a pupil at Barrow Sixth Form College. Ella was still at Furness Academy when she wrote her poem, Letting Go.

As the sun set, its smoky blur filled the vinegar-yellow sky;

I couldn’t wait for the darkness.

I saw the glistening stars begin to poke through the cloak of night,

And I knew that if I closed my eyes I’d be able to see you again.

I sat upon a grassy hill, in the middle of nowhere, talking to you,

because I knew you were up there, somewhere.

And as I felt the soft hand of the wind brushing against my cheek,

I knew that you were there with me.

You opened up the clouds and showed me the moon,

And as its soft glow shone onto the swaying grass,

I thought I saw your silhouette.

I could hear your inaudible whisper in the wind, but my mind saw it as illusion.

Why am I here? I know you’re gone, but I still need you with me.

Spring fair at Wordsworth’s home

A spring fair will be held here in the house and gardens at Rydal Mount, the home of the poet William Wordsworth.

The event, on the weekend of April 30/May 1, follows a highly successful inaugural Christmas fair at our historic house near Ambleside.

Moongazer cards

Stalls selling locally made crafts and other goods, cards, jewellery and much more will be based on the ground floor of the house, and others will be in garden gazebos. The entire house will be open for ticket-holders to look round.

The Rydal Mount tea room will serve coffee, tea and cakes, and there will be an outside caterer providing hot snacks.

Following feedback from visitors at Christmas, ticket prices have been reduced and will now cost £4 if booked in advance and £5 at the door on the day. Ticket booking is available on the website www.rydalmount.co.uk. Limited free parking will be available at the house and on the lane, with other car parking at Rydal Hall and Pelter Bridge nearby.

Tilly Mint silver

The house and gardens at Rydal Mount are also available now to be booked for weddings https://www.rydalmount.co.uk/weddings/

One of the owners of Rydal Mount, Christopher Wordsworth Andrew, the great great great great grandson of the poet, said that the Christmas Fair had shown how well the house could come to life with celebration events. “We are very pleased to be able to host the many talented artists and craftspeople here in Cumbria, but also to bring an entire new audience to appreciate the home, spirit and work of Wordsworth,” he said.

A few stalls are still available for booking; please email events@rydalmount.co.uk for details.

Lorna Singleton, basket weaver

The most Romantic wedding venue

The Lake District home of our most famous Romantic poet is to be a new wedding venue.

Rydal Mount near Ambleside can be booked by couples wanting to tie the knot in the house or garden where William Wordsworth spent most of his life.

Wedding guests will have access to the dining room and the drawing room here – where Wordsworth is thought to have penned his world famous poem, Daffodils. There will also be space on two lawns in the beautiful gardens for marquees.

Our house, between Ambleside and Grasmere, is on a hillside with views over Windermere and Rydal water and the surrounding fells. A focus for romantic literature, it was Wordsworth’s best-loved family home from 1813 to his death in 1850 at the age of 80.

Special features which will be offered to wedding couples include the option to have a tree planted in Wordsworth’s garden, or even a permanent seat in their name. And to mark their first anniversary, couples will be able to book a private dining experience at the house.

Marquee reception

Wedding manager Annabel Candler said: “Having a wedding in an historic place such as this adds the couple’s beautiful story to the romance of the past. This is a very special venue indeed. Rydal Mount continues to be owned by the Wordsworth family and retains the feel of a lived-in family home.”

Wordsworth was a keen landscape gardener, and the five-acre garden remains very much as he designed it. It consists of fell-side terraces, rock pools and an ancient mound.

You can download our brochure by clicking on the link below.

For further information and to arrange a tour of the house and grounds, email weddings@rydalmount.co.uk .

Come and stay in the poet’s bedroom

This year we will be welcoming overnight visitors who will stay at our historic house which was once the home of the most famous of the Romantic poets, William Wordsworth. And they will sleep in the bedroom where the poet slept with his wife, Mary.

The new Wordsworth Experience is a joint venture between Rydal Mount and the nearby guest-house, Rydal Lodge Bed and Breakfast, where our visitors will go to eat in the morning.

The owners of Rydal Mount, descendants of the poet, are working with Helena and Mark Tendall who have been running Rydal Lodge for three years. Visitors will have an option to stay at both locations, perhaps two nights at the Lodge and one at Rydal Mount. Both lie a mile north of Ambleside in the heart of the English Lake District. Only ONE night at a time will be available at Rydal Mount as the room is open to the public daily as part of the visitor experience.

The scheme was drawn up by Christopher Wordsworth Andrew, the great great great great grandson of the poet. He said: “This house is very much a home, and we have been looking at different ways to open it up to visitors. Our recent Christmas fair saw local crafts artists located around the house, in the drawing room, dining room, and bedrooms, and it was wonderful to see the place so full of life. We are sure that guests will be thrilled to stay here.”

Rydal Mount: welcoming overnight visitors

Helena Tendall, a former teacher who has a degree in English Literature, said: “This is a perfect partnership for us. We love Wordsworth and his poetry, and we are close enough to Rydal Mount to be able to offer a shared experience like this. We are very excited to be working with the Wordsworth family.”

Rydal Mount was the home of Wordsworth from 1813 until his death in 1850; his wife Mary continued to live here until her death in 1859. The house dates from the 16th century, and the interior features many of Wordsworth’s personal effects, furniture, and mementoes. Bedrooms which belonged to William’s daughter Dora, and his sister Dorothy, are also open to the public. The house was bought by Wordsworth’s descendants in 1969.

Breakfast at Rydal Lodge

Bookings can be made by phone or email only:  info@rydallodge.co.uk or 015394 33208.  Please explain you are booking for The Wordsworth Experience.  

For more information and a link to the Sunday Times article about the Wordsworth Experience: https://www.rydallodge.co.uk/the-wordsworth-experience/

New musical inspired by Wordsworth

TOGETHER they wrote the Lyrical Ballads which launched the Romantic movement in English literature. Now William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge are to ‘star’ in a new musical inspired by the writings of the Lake poets.

Wander, which opens at the Hope Street Theatre in Liverpool next month, takes the story of the Romantic Poets, mainly Wordsworth and his sister Dorothy,  and Coleridge, and reimagines them in an alternative, more  contemporary setting akin to the 1960s/70s. It features characters called Will, Sam and Dot, songwriters who aim to change their world with their music and lyrics.

The show is written by Jordan Kennedy – who also plays the lead – to consider what would happen if you merged the Lakes poets with the rock and roll energy of Lennon and McCartney? The production is set in an alternative England where the Swinging Sixties and the Romantic Period are fused. Musician Will Laker looks back on his life and career as he addresses his long-time friend and song-writing partner, Sam. Through Will’s eyes we learn  how he and Sam met and planned to create life-changing music, inspired by a dream.

The show features Will’s sister, Dot, portrayed as an overshadowed wallflower with writing talents of her own; Will’s childhood sweetheart Mary; Sam’s supportive but long-suffering wife Suzie, and his lively, spirited muse, Chrissy.

As Will dissects his life, he pinpoints crucial moments of his relationships and wonders what was it that led him to his current position in life, and what might have been.

Wordsworth and Coleridge, back in their time, were great friends with a complex relationship. Jordan Kennedy wonders if they might have been guitar-toting rock stars if they had been born in the 1960s, and so Wander presents the relationship of the two Lakeland poets in the context of the creation of a 1960s rock album.

Jordan studied Creative Writing and English Literature at the University of Cumbria and stars as Will in the musical. He says: “I was struck by the parallels between Wordsworth and Coleridge’s relationship and that of John Lennon and Paul McCartney. Lennon was the natural genius, the magpie, the one who thought outside the box, raw and emotional. Well, that was Coleridge too. Then we have McCartney and Wordsworth, who were productive, churning out work like machines, family men, homely people, who could sometimes be dismissive of other’s work and sometimes bossy but wanting to make it whatever.”

The show, he says, is inspired by both eras and the costumes reflect this, while the songs are contemporary  versions of the poems. “You will see the darker sides of the characters as well as the highs and lows, and the show explores ambition, addiction, love, passion and art. Wordsworth was a great humanist and wrote about the ‘everyman’, he had such insight into  everyday life and that’s what this show tries to do.”

Christopher Wordsworth Andrew, the great great great great grandson of the poet, whose family still own the house where he lived at Rydal Mount, said: “”How marvellous to see yet another generation being inspired by the life and poetry of Wordsworth. This show sounds like great fun as well as a  new insight into the character of William.”

Wander plays at the Hope Street Theatre, Liverpool, Sept 1-3. Tickets and details: https://www.ticketquarter.co.uk/Online/seatSelect.asp

Wordsworth set to music

An album of songs which are settings of poems of William Wordsworth will be launched this autumn at Rydal Mount.

The songs with music by Paul Lodge came to life as part of a project by the Wordsworth family to mark the poet’s 250th anniversary. They have now been recorded as an album, Preludes to Wordsworth, which will be released at a special performance at the poet’s home near Ambleside in the Lake District on Saturday September 17.

Paul Lodge is, unusually, both a musician and professor of philosophy at Oxford University. His songs are informed by his lifelong engagement with music, philosophy, and literature and come from the “same place of mystery” as those of Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Nick Drake, and Bonnie Prince Billie.

He has composed over 100 original songs and plays regularly in and around Oxford at venues such as The Old Fire Station, The Oxford Folk Club, The Banbury Folk Club, Acoustic Music Convention, Port Mahon, The Library, and Mansfield College (where he performed for Hillary Rodham Clinton).

Two years ago Paul heard about the Wordsworth 250 project which launched during lockdown and invited friends, celebrities and members of the public to record themselves reading their own favourite poems and upload them to a website.

The project was a huge success, attracting contributions from Stephen Fry, the actors Tom Conti, Brian Cox and William H Macy, TV stars, broadcasters, members of the Wordsworth family and many more. The 250th poem was read by BBC Countryfile presenter Ellie Harrison.

Paul says: “I decided I would send in a song rather than a reading. This was To — on Her First Ascent to Helvellyn.” It was received enthusiastically by the project’s founder Christopher Wordsworth Andrew, the great great great great grandson of the poet, and Paul was inspired to keep going, contributing in all nine songs, which he dubbed Preludes to Wordsworth.

He subsequently worked with Ryan Michaels, a Nashville based musician and producer, to record more professional versions of five of the songs, which will comprise the album (along with alternate takes of three of them).

He says: “While my recent engagement with Wordsworth was driven initially by the desire to produce new music, I have a professional interest in the philosophical ideas that were current in the 19th century which feed into romanticism more generally. And this connects with another project of mine, Cantat Ergo Sumus (It Sings Therefore We Are), songs inspired by the poetry of philosophers, developed with Oxford band Flights of Helios.”

Paul recently supported Sally Barker (the singer who made Tom Jones cry on TV’s The Voice) at the Acoustic Music Convention In Wallingford. With his brother Richard providing the lyrics, he also created 

‘Shakespeare in the Alley’, a set of original songs written as responses to Shakespeare’s plays which featured at the Oxford Shakespeare Festival in 2018.

Christopher Wordsworth Andrew said: “This is a wonderful tribute to our best loved Romantic poet, and a fascinating, creative response to our Wordsworth 250 project. We are thrilled that Paul will come and perform here at Rydal Mount when the CD is released.”

TICKETS FOR THIS EVENT ARE AVAILABLE HERE: https://www.rydalmount.co.uk/preludes-to-wordsworth-concert/

The songs he recorded for 250 are:

To– on Her first Ascent to Helvellyn: Written in 1816, this poem was addressed to’Miss Blacket’. Wordsworth also begins Book VIII of his masterpiece, The Prelude with a view from Helvellyn, which is a mountain in the Lake District close to Ullswater.

London, 1802 – Written in 1802, this poem is a scathing attack on Wordsworth’s English contemporaries as stagnant and selfish which eulogises seventeenth-century poet John Milton

A Complaint – A poem which concerns the changes brought about by loss of someone close. 

Written In March – This optimistic poem, written at a time of war, compares the oncoming of spring with a time of renewal. 

Song for the Spinning Wheel  – Subtitled ‘Founded upon a Belief Prevalent among the Pastoral Vales of Westmoreland’, this poem speaks of a spinning wheel producing spun wool on its own over night. 

Lucy Gray – Written in 1799, this poem was inspired by Wordsworth’s own experience of being in the snow and his sister’s recollection of the story of a small girl who was lost on the moors near Halifax in Yorkshire.

‘Daffodils’ or ‘I wandered lonely as a cloud’ – Written between 1804 and 1807, this most famous of Wordsworth’s poems was inspired by a walk with his sister Dorothy by Lake Ullswater on 15 April 1802.

The Sun Has Long Been Set is an Impromptu written on June 8, 1802. 

We Are Seven was written in 1798 and published in Lyrical Ballads. It describes a discussion an adult and a “little cottage girl”, which turns on the girl’s insistence that two of her dead siblings dwell with her.

Wood from the poet’s tree

JUST one tree fell in the grounds of Rydal Mount when the winds of Storm Arwen tore through the Lake District at the end of last year.

Fields and woodland nearby are still scarred by fallen giants of many different species. That one tree, a giant Cedar, is thought to have been planted by William Wordsworth. It is now being put to use in a way that Wordsworth – an early environmentalist – would certainly approve.

Huge slices of the tree were given to wood turner Jonathan Leech who happened to visit Rydal Mount shortly after the storm, and he’s now turning them into works of art, which will be sold later this year.

Some of the larger pieces were cut into boards and stacked for drying earlier in the year. These will be used to make smaller designs, such as candle holders, key fobs, pens and pencils. Which conjures the image of a 21st century poet using a pencil from Wordsworth’s garden to create new work. Other, larger pieces, will be made into bowls.

Jonathan is also discussing with the Wordsworth family, who own Rydal Mount, the possibility of carving a chair from part of the remaining fallen tree which is a prominent feature in the gardens now.

Jonathan, who is based near Wigton, has spent most of his life in the Cumbrian countryside and combines his other interests – cycling and walking – with searching for beautiful and unusual pieces of timber. 

Turning the wood

“All my wood is locally-sourced and is obtained sustainably, from fallen or storm-damaged trees,” he says. The wood is then air- and kiln-dried before being shaped by hand into a bowl, dish or platter. The final stages include fine sanding and finishing with mineral oil, to give a perfectly smooth finish. These processes ensure his products are happy in any environment, including centrally-heated rooms.

Jonathan says that his relationship with wood began almost by chance, when working temporarily for top Cumbrian furniture-maker, Danny Frost. Since then, what started as a part-time job has become not only a full-time career, but also his passion.

Cedar bowls

“My preferred style is minimalist, using a simple design which allows the wood to express its own qualities. This often includes natural edges, knot-holes, burrs, spalting, and other naturally-occurring imperfections. Each piece is truly unique.”

He has a previous association with Wordsworth, after making bowls and other items from a large beech tree which had to be felled at Wordsworth House in Cockermouth after the floods in 2009. The poet is an inspiration, says Jonathan: “I love his work, and I share his love of the countryside.”

Working with cedar is different, he says, as it’s a much softer wood. “It’s a gorgeous orangey-red colour and the pieces I’m working with are starting to turn a darker shade now. They are going to look beautiful.”

Jonathan’s work can be seen in several Cumbrian galleries throughout the North of England, and at an open studio art trail to be staged around Kirkbride, west of Silloth, on the last two weekends in September. He also takes commissions, and can design and produce items from a client’s own timber. 

Spalted beech bowl

Leo Finighan, the curator at Rydal Mount, is excited by the project. “I think it’s wonderful to be using the tree in this way. The rest of it, which remains in the garden, does look rather lovely there, so we are still deciding what to do with it. But we think that Jonathan’s work is beautiful, and we are delighted to be working with him on this.”

The pieces will be ready for sale at the Rydal Mount Christmas fair, and possibly also online.

Yew bowl

More information: https://www.jonathanleech.co.uk/

Heavenly music in Wordsworth’s garden

Music on a summer afternoon in our beautiful gardens; what could be more perfect? So we are very pleased to be joining forces with the Lake District Summer Music Festival in August.

As part of their festival programme, the violinist Esther Abrami will play the stunning Lark Ascending by Vaughn Williams here in the gardens at noon on Thursday August 4.

It’s part of a day-long Lark Ascending Trail which begins at the Heaton Cooper Studio in Grasmere and ends later in the afternoon at Sizergh Castle. And part of the festival’s celebrations to mark 150 years since the birth of Ralph Vaughn Williams.

Esther Abrami is someone we’re excited to welcome here. She’s a social media star as well as a great musician, one who has succeeded on international stages and secured a coveted recording contract with a major label due to her courage, determination and willingness to share the ups and downs of her own remarkable life as a musician with a wide online audience.

Born in 1996 and raised in Aix-en-Provence, Esther grew up in a culture far from towering classical institutions. “I went to a small, country school and I was always outside as I loved nature. We had a wild garden at home; my dad built me a little bench up on the hill where I could go to read and play my violin”.

Aged just three, Esther was given her first tiny violin by her grandmother. “I loved the feeling of the violin tucked in so close to me, like a living creature.  I loved the sensation of the warm sound traveling through my body.  After just half an hour with the bow in my hand, I knew that this was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.”

Idyllic setting for concert

She eventually became a boarding student at Chetham’s School of Music in Manchester, and in 2017 Esther was accepted as a student at the world-leading Royal College of Music in London.  Alongside her lessons, Esther also began to build her online career, playing popular classical music on her social media channels. 

Esther has approached social media with the same open mindedness with which she performs her music. She has a sense of fun and fashion and delights in her collaborations with leading fashion houses like Givenchy. She has also entertained people online by demonstrating the difference between the sound of a priceless Stradivarius and a copy.

Her concert here is a free one; visitors just need to buy entrance tickets to our house and gardens, which you can do here https://www.rydalmount.co.uk/

Poet will be paid to live and work at Wordsworth’s home

Poets are being invited to apply for the chance to live and work at Rydal Mount, the former home of William Wordsworth.

The University of Cumbria’s Literature team are inviting applications for a unique poetry commission, in partnership with Rydal Mount.

Rydal Mount: literary heritage

Poets from Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds are particularly invited to apply for the paid commission, which will include a short residency at the historic literary house near Ambleside in the Lake District.
The successful candidate will have the opportunity to be immersed in landscapes which have proved inspirational to generations of writers. They will receive a £1000 fee on completion of the work commissioned by the University of Cumbria.

Leo Finighan, curator and custodian of Rydal Mount, said: “We are delighted to be able to offer a residency scheme to the commissioned poet. Artists will have full access to William Wordsworth’s family home and five-acre garden during their stay, with use of the house’s facilities and freedom to explore the mountain pathways of Loughrigg, Nab Scar, and many more of the old poet’s haunts.”

More details: https://www.rydalmount.co.uk/whats-on/

Deadline for applications: 5pm on Friday 6th May 2022.

Art and photography classes at Wordsworth’s home

TWO Lakeland artists will be offering tuition in the house and grounds at Rydal Mount this summer.

Liz Wakelin will be offering sketching classes in the gardens where groups of up to ten people will have an exclusive opportunity to learn and develop artistic skills in the glorious setting of William Wordsworth’s former home, near Ambleside. 

Liz Wakelin

And award-winning photographer Chris Routledge will run workshops in producing cyanotypes. He will lead participants through the steps of preparing the light-sensitive cyanotype paper, capturing digital images of the house and gardens, and then transferring that digital image to acetate in order to print the final work.

Weather permitting, most of the day will be spent outside, but there’s plenty of cover if it rains. Each participant will go home with at least one print; those taking part are recommended to download the free photo-editing app ‘Snapseed’ to their phones before the workshop.

Cyanotype print, Chris Routledge

The workshops will be available on various dates to small groups, the first on May 21. They will run from noon till 4pm and tickets include £10 credit at the Schoolhouse Tearoom.

Liz Wakelin, a teacher for many years with a Visual Art degree from Winchester School of Art, aims to encourage the development of a sketchbook journal as a way of recording the Lake District. She is a predominately a sketchbook artist with a background steeped in the outdoors. Her current project is to create a visual record of a year in Lakeland for a book commissioned by publishers Inspired by Lakeland.

The artist at work

She says: “My sketchbooks accompany me on most of my walks, both long distance treks and short strolls. Sitting and sketching immerses me in a location far more than simply taking a photograph and thus holds deeper memories of the place.” Her first class will be on May 28.

The curator at Rydal Mount, Leo Finighan, said: “We are very pleased to be working our artist friends on these exciting projects. We believe there’s nowhere lovelier in the whole of Lakeland than the gardens here, with their views of the hills and two lakes. These classes will be very special indeed.”

For booking and more details see: https://www.rydalmount.co.uk/whats-on/

Entry form: Wordsworth prize for young poets

The Wordsworth family are once again inviting young people at schools throughout Cumbria to enter their poetry competition. This is open to all pupils in primary and secondary schools and sixth-form colleges.

The theme this year is RENEWAL and may be interpreted in any way that the writer wishes.

Poems must be submitted as a Word document, double spaced and no longer than one side of A4.

Each entry must carry:

The name and age of the writer (not their school year)

The school that they attend

A contact email address from a relevant teacher at the school.

Entries should be submitted as an attachment and emailed to: poetry@rydalmount.co.uk

before the deadline of Friday May 20.

The poems will be judged during the summer and an award ceremony will be held at Rydal Mount in the autumn term. The winner receives a trophy, a £50 cash prize, and his or her name will be added to the roll of honour in Wordsworth’s drawing room at the house. The winning poem will also be displayed there for all visitors to see. There will be other awards for runners-up and highly commended.