Our world heritage site: a place to sit and breathe

It’s rare in any summer that we have time to stop, sit and just appreciate the place that we call home, which was once a poet’s home. But this summer, following a gardening incident, I’ve been doing what the tourists do: sitting and looking and breathing the air.

Visitors talk of the tranquillity and serenity they experience here. As the world rushes headlong into chaos, they find that Rydal Mount – and particularly the garden – is a haven of peace. That’s not something you can package or label; we’re now in a World Heritage Site, and this is the heritage of our world.

Some comment that the atmosphere in the secluded areas of the gardens gives them an insight into how the location gave nature its voice in Wordsworth’s poetry. Others confess that until they came here, they had ignored the poetry and now found themselves drawn towards it.

RM natural garden today

“We visit lots of places of interest and a lot of them just become just another place to visit…another historic house,” said one family. “Rydal Mount has a charm all of its own and you really get a feel of what it must have been like to live here and be part of Wordsworth’s circle.”

And others don’t know who Wordsworth was. They’ve read none of the poems. But they come out of curiosity, or to escape the rain, or because the see the sign at the end of the lane. And when they get here, they tell us, it’s something of a spiritual experience. “Secluded” and “enchanted” are words we often find in the visitors’ book.

Yet this is not a remote location. It’s only a few hundred metres from the busiest main road through the Lakes. “But it really does feel like an escape into another world,” said a German tourist. “We want to just sit and breathe and let the madness of the world simply disappear.”

summer at Rydal Mount

And now I’m learning what they mean. We know how the house feels when all the visitors have gone for the day, but usually the gardens are a place of work, for planting and weeding and logging – and mowing. Now I’m forced to sit and rest, and reflect on the wisdom of the poet who, two centuries ago, saw the mess that man was making of his world. The lines were written in early spring, but they’re just as relevant now in high summer.

I heard a thousand blended notes,

While in a grove I sate reclined,

In that sweet mood when pleasant thoughts

Bring sad thoughts to the mind.

 

To her fair works did Nature link

The human soul that through me ran;

And much it grieved my heart to think

What man has made of man.

 

Through primrose tufts, in that green bower,

The periwinkle trailed its wreaths;

And ’tis my faith that every flower

Enjoys the air it breathes.

 

The birds around me hopped and played,

Their thoughts I cannot measure:-

But the least motion which they made

It seemed a thrill of pleasure.

 

The budding twigs spread out their fan,

To catch the breezy air;

And I must think, do all I can,

That there was pleasure there.

 

If this belief from heaven be sent,

If such be Nature’s holy plan,

Have I not reason to lament

What man has made of man?