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 Weds 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/

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.

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.

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