We were recently lucky enough to weekend away without kids in Grasmere in the Lake District. I love that it’s nestled in the surrounding mountains and the fact that it’s not quite as big or bristling with tourists as some of the other towns and villages in the Lake District. Of course, Grasmere is perhaps best known for its connections with William Wordsworth as well as the distinctive gingerbread sold in the little shop.
Although we passed Dove Cottage, and had a wander through the churchyard where he’s buried, much of our time was spent trying to stay out of the driving rain. Fortunately for me that meant a leisurely mooch around the Heaton Cooper Gallery. It’s a beautiful, light-filled space with the most wonderfully curated things to covet. Dreamy coffee table books, tactile home accessories and a lovely selection of children’s books too. The watercolours – mid-century Lakeland scenes – by William Heaton Cooper himself can be purchased as prints (or, if your budget is on the modest side, cards and postcards).
For creatives, there’s a great selection of art materials and the gallery staff are friendly and knowledgeable when it comes to advising on what to choose. I did leave having made a few small purchases – and even called in again the following day, just because.
Taking advantage of a break in the clouds we then headed off up a little lane near the gallery. A footpath through some woods brought us out in the grounds of Allan Bank, a National Trust-owned property where Wordsworth once lived with his family. It’s unusual in that the house is a very relaxed place for visitors and nowhere is out of bounds; you can go into the kitchen and make yourself a cup of tea, peruse the papers and have fun with the children. The house was heavily fire damaged in 2011, and the National Trust have taken a unique approach to its renovation: the visiting public are being asked to help decide how this should be done. This even extends to people writing their suggestions on the bare walls.
Outdoors, the gardens are beautiful and have breathtaking views of the surrounding landscape. Allan Bank was home not only to William and Dorothy Wordsworth, but also Samuel Taylor Coleridge and Thomas de Quincy, so it comes as no surprise that there’s a distinct bohemian feel to the place. Coupled with the laid-back atmosphere, rambling grounds and peeling paint it’s an incredibly evocative and inspiring place to visit.
Images by Sarah Hardman