Wordsworth descendant to read children’s classic

A descendant of England’s most famous poet is to join the marathon reading of a classic children’s story in the Lake District.

Christopher Wordsworth, the great great great great grandson of William Wordsworth, will read a chapter of Swallows and Amazons this summer at Coniston.

He joins a list of celebrities and enthusiasts who will take part in the day-long event to mark the 50th anniversary of the death of the author Arthur Ransome who created the  children’s adventure tale.


The event is being organised by Dr Chris Routledge who is head of Continuing Education, English Language and Literature, at Liverpool University, in association with the Lake District National Park and the Arthur Ransome Trust. Also supporting the reading are Stephen and Janine Sykes who live at Hill Top, Ransome’s last home in the Lake District.

It will mark the end of a summer-long exhibition at the Ruskin Museum in Coniston about Ransome, Russia and storytelling.

To be staged by the lakeshore north of the Coniston Boating Centre on Sunday September 3, the event is part of the LakesCulture calendar of happenings in the national park this year. It’s expected that the book’s 31 chapters will take around nine hours to read.

Christopher Wordsworth, whose family still own the house at Rydal Mount near Ambleside where William Wordsworth lived for most of his life, was one of the first to sign up to read. He said: “As a man fast approaching middle age I am certain to get as much pleasure from these books as I did when a child.”

He joins screenwriter Andrea Gibb who adapted Swallows and Amazons for a new film version which was released last year. Andrea writes for both screen and television, and her episode of the popular BBC 1 drama Call the Midwife, which was aired earlier this month, had the highest viewing figures of the series with over 9 million people tuning in to watch.

Organiser Chris Routledge said that he had been inundated with requests to read a chapter of the book. “It’s clearly still a favourite with many people who are well past their own childhood,” he said.

However, there will also be young readers: Dr Routledge’s 13 year old daughter Caitlin will be joined by Elizabeth Kaye, the 11 year old daughter of Jonathan and Caroline Kaye, owners of Windermere’s Cedar Manor Hotel, and 14 year old actor Hannah Jayne Thorp, who played the part of Peggy in last year’s film version of Swallows and Amazons.

Dr Routledge, a great fan of Arthur Ransome, previously organised a marathon reading of Moby Dick at the Merseyside Maritime Museum; a much longer novel, that event took three days.


See the story in the Evening Mail



The Rydal Mount Wordsworth prize for young poets: entries now open

Dear Head Teacher

The descendants of William Wordsworth invite entries from your pupils for the annual Rydal Mount Wordsworth prize for young poets.

All students at Cumbrian schools are eligible to take part. The theme this year is “A WALK ON THE WILD SIDE”, which can be interpreted as the writer wishes. The winning poem will be framed and displayed alongside the work of the great poet in his former home, for thousands of visitors to see.

Entries should be typed in 12 or 14 point font, double spaced, and no longer than one side of A4 paper. They should be saved as individual Word documents and emailed as attachments to rydalpoetry@gmail.com

Entries should include the name and age of the entrant, and the contact details of the student’s school. The closing date for entries is Monday March 20.


The poems will be judged by the Wordsworth family and an award ceremony will be held at Rydal Mount, near Ambleside, on Thursday April 27. There will be signed book prizes for the entries highly commended by the judges from the primary and secondary school categories. A trophy will be awarded, along with a cash prize this year of £100, to the overall winner.  The winner’s name will be added to the plaque on the wall at Rydal Mount.

For further information please email Eileen Jones at Eileen@cumbriapr.co.uk

Young poets offered a chance to be read alongside Wordsworth

A walk on the wild side: that’s the theme for this year’s major poetry award for young people in Cumbria. And the winning poem will be immortalised alongside the work of William Wordsworth in his former home, to be read by thousands of visitors.

The annual Rydal Mount Wordsworth prize for young poets is organised by the descendants of William Wordsworth, and is open to students at all schools in the county.

Poems and judged by members of the Wordsworth family, who will attend the fifth annual award ceremony later this spring. The winning poem will be framed and displayed prominently in the drawing room at the popular tourist attraction.

Peter Elkington, the curator of Rydal Mount, who is organising the contest on behalf of the Wordsworth family, said: “The writers can interpret the theme in any way they wish. A walk on the wild side was the choice of Susan, the great great great grand-daughter of the poet. William Wordsworth was a great walker, of course, and so much of his poetry was inspired by what he saw when walking in the Lakes.”

The winner will receive a £100 cash prize, a personal trophy, and his or her name will be added to the roll of honour on the plaque at Wordsworth’s former home at Rydal Mount near Ambleside. There are book prizes for the poets judged as highly commended in the primary and secondary school categories.

Each entrant also receives a certificate signed by the descendants of William Wordsworth.

Last year’s winner was a 14 year old Jacob Currie, a pupil at Furness Academy, who took the title with his poem The Gap in Life after members of the Wordsworth family judged more than 150 entries from Cumbrian schools. His poem has been framed and is displayed at Rydal Mount for visitors to read.

The closing date for entries is Monday March 20, and an award ceremony will be held at Rydal Mount on Thursday April 27 when the winner will be announced.

Entry forms can be found at https://northwestnewsandfeatures.wordpress.com/2017/02/03/the-rydal-mount-wordsworth-prize-for-young-poets-entries-now-open/

or via the Cumbria education department schools’ information portal.

See last year’s winner Jacob reading his poem here, watched by Christopher, the great great great great grandson of William Wordsworth

TV series takes the train to Wordsworth country


Rydal Mount near Ambleside, the home of William Wordsworth, will be seen in a new series on BBC Four to be broadcast on October 13.

Railways: The Making of a Nation is a new weekly six-part documentary series exploring Britain’s rail network and The Age of Leisure episode will examine the poet’s campaign to halt the development of the branch line to Windermere.

His great great great great grandson Christopher Wordsworth will be seen at the house, still owned by the Wordsworth family, discussing the poet’s objections.

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William Wordsworth believed that bringing in “uncultured travellers” would destroy the beauty they had come to enjoy. Wordsworth’s campaign failed, and the line opened in 1847, but one of the great ironies surrounding the great poet was that whilst he was against tourism, he himself would become one of the Lake’s greatest tourist attractions.

The programme looks at the idea of excursions to distant places which became popular from the 1840s onwards. The ultimate experience was often to head to the hills and sample clean air, far away from the industrial grime and pollution, and working class northerners now had access to the beautiful Lake District.

Historian Liz McIvor explores how Britain’s expanding rail network was the spark to a social revolution, starting in the 1800s and through to modern times.

Liz says: “A fast system of transportation shaped many areas of our industrial nation – from what we eat to where we live, work and play. The railways generated economic activity but they also changed the nature of business itself. They even changed attitudes to time and how we set our clocks. Our railways reflected deep class divisions, but they also brought people together and helped forge a new sense of national identity.

“Before the railways most people lived local lives and had little, if any, interaction with people from other regions with different accents and cultures. With an expanding network people became to mix and learned to co-exist with their fellow countrymen and women.

“This series tells the story of how the railways changed the way we live – giving us a modern, industrial, suburban, consumer nation. This is a social, cultural and economic history of the railways.”

Peter Elkington, the curator at Rydal Mount, said that Wordsworth was, in reality, very welcoming to tourists. “He might have objected to the railway, but he really enjoyed chatting to people who walked by the house, and often showed them round the gardens.”

Wordsworth lived at Rydal Mount, now one of the most famous literary homes in Britain, for most of his life after moving from Grasmere. He wrote and revised much of his poetry there, and the Prelude was published from there, along with the definitive version of the world’s most famous poem, Daffodils. The house and gardens are open to the public daily.

You can watch the full programme on Thursday 13th October on BBC Four at 8pm and later on BBC iPlayer.

One night stand as new Wordsworth portrait heads to Japan

A new portrait of William Wordsworth was unveiled for just one night in the Lake District before heading for a major exhibition in Japan.

The painting of Wordsworth with the Japanese poet Matsuo Basho is the work of Hideyuki Sobue, who now lives in Cumbria, and was commissioned by the Kakimori Bunko Museum in Japan. It will be on show there from next month as part of an exhibition, Walking Poets, which assembles some of the original manuscripts of the poets: Wordsworth in England and Basho in Japan, alongside artworks created by over 20 contemporary artists from the UK and Japan.

The one-night showing was at Wordsworth’s former home at Rydal Mount near Ambleside where the curators, Peter and Marian Elkington, held a reception and poetry recital by Christopher Wordsworth Andrew, the poet’s great great great great grandson. Sobue also read from Basho’s work.

It was, said Peter Elkington, truly a one night stand: “In three days this painting will be shipped to Japan and it’s so good it’s bound to be bought there. It will never be shown in England again.”

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Hideyuki reads Basho

The new exhibition will celebrate the worldwide influence of two of the greatest writers ever. Bashō (1644-1694) was a traveller who wandered throughout Japan, heading west, east, and far into the northern wilderness to gain inspiration for his writing. His poems were influenced by his firsthand experience of the world around him, often encapsulating the feeling of a scene in a few simple elements.

Wordsworth (1770-1850) was one of the most influential of England’s Romantic poets. As a poet of nature, Wordsworth stands supreme. He was a devotee of nature and often spent holidays on walking tours, visiting places famous for the beauty of their landscape.

Wordsworth is the best-known English Romantic poet in Japan, but the Japanese have never before had an opportunity to see his original manuscripts, which are being released for the first time by the Wordsworth Trust.

Kakimori Bunko museum owns the most important of Basho’s original manuscripts. The exhibition there will be open to public from September 17 until November 3, with workshops, symposia and music and poetry recitals.

Sobue last year produced a completely new portrait of Wordsworth, one of a series of works on the theme of I wandered, to mark the 200th anniversary of Wordsworth’s Daffodils, said to be the world’s most famous poem.

He based that portrait on the life mask of Wordsworth, created coincidentally in 1815, the year that Daffodils was published. It forms a diptych – two separate paintings – with a stark picture of a sea of daffodils stretching back to infinity. It was exhibited throughout last summer at Rydal Mount.

Based in the Lake District, after graduating from Osaka University of Arts in Japan, Sobue was elected as a member of the Lake Artists Society in 2008. His work has been shown at a number of major exhibitions in London and throughout the UK.

Over the past decade Sobue has developed an original brush hatching technique, using Japanese sumi ink and acrylic, which is inspired by the concept of disegno – a term from the Florentine Renaissance derived from the Italian word for drawing or design.

For Walking Poets, Sobue has created a polyptych work using four aluminium plates, representing a Japanese traditional fusuma-e (sliding door painting). He has portrayed Wordsworth and Basho facing each other across time and space, culture and language and highlighted the two poets’ humble and naturalistic lifestyles, which were reflected in their poetry.

As a way of visually linking the two poets he has depicted a maple tree. The maple appears in poems composed by Basho and it was a tree loved by Wordsworth too; he planted Japanese maple trees in his garden at Rydal Mount.

At the reception, Christopher Wordsworth said: “It has been a privilege to learn about Basho’s work, about which I knew precious little until now. He stands as Wordsworth’s equal, or even greater, in global literature.”

Guests listened to the poetry recital and were treated to canapes created by Kevin Tickle, head chef at the new Forest Side hotel in Grasmere.

The idea for Walking Poets came originally from a collaboration between the Wordsworth Trust and WALK, the University of Sunderland’s Walking, Art, Landskip and Knowledge research group.