A series of walks that give you the chance to stop for coffee, cake, lunch or brunch at Mathilde’s at the Heaton Cooper Studio, the Lake District’s centre for mountain art. All the walks are free to everyone, connecting visitors with the natural surroundings of our unique landscape in this UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Spring is almost here. The days are longer, the birds are singing, and it’s time to go and see the flowers that inspired the world’s most famous poem, daffodils.
We have a walk that starts and ends here at Mathilde’s. It’s only about four miles, one way; we’ll suggest some return options later. But first, those daffs.
The ones that Wordsworth wrote about were not in our valley here but over the hill, beside Ullswater. William had been staying with his sister Dorothy at Pooley Bridge and on their walk back home (yes, they’d come over via Grisedale hause) they saw wild daffodils beside the lake beyond Gowbarrow Park.
These are the daffodils painted here by Alfred Heaton Cooper. Dorothy wrote in her journal: “I never saw daffodils so beautiful; they grew among the mossy stones about and about them, some rested their heads upon these stones as on a pillow for weariness, and the rest tossed and reeled and danced and seemed as if they verily laughed with the wind that blew them over the lake.”
And the rest, as we know, is literary history. But the daffodils on this walk were perhaps even more special to William Wordsworth. They’re the ones he planted in memory of his beloved daughter Dora, who died at the age of 43 from tuberculosis. William was distraught; he’d already lost two of his children to illness.
Now Dora’s field is owned by the National Trust who make sure that daffodils continue to grow there. The field lies just below the house, Rydal Mount, where Wordsworth lived for most of his life.
So we will walk there on a little pilgrimage, on a path that’s steeped in history itself. From Mathilde’s, take the road past the church and school to the end of the village, cross the main road, and take the minor road that runs behind Dove Cottage, where Wordsworth also lived for nine years. This road climbs steadily upwards; at the signpost take the right hand path, that leads you past the tiny White Moss tarn.
This path is known as the coffin route. In the days before there was a church at Rydal, the dead were carried along here to be buried in the graveyard at St Oswald’s Church in Grasmere. It used to be thought that the coffins themselves were carried, but recent research suggests that the corpses were usually put in a ‘winding sheet’ or shroud to be carried. They were then put in a coffin at the lychgate just before burial. Look at the shape of the “resting stones” along the way and use your imagination!
The path emerges just above Rydal Mount, and to reach Dora’s Field you will walk down the lane and cut through the churchyard on your right.
The daffodils here epitomise all that’s best about the Lake District in spring, and if you have time you should call in at Rydal Mount and have a look around the house, and the gardens that Wordsworth started landscaping. Yes, there are more daffodils, of course.
There are return options: retrace your steps through the woods along the coffin route, or head down to the main road, cross over opposite the Badger Bar, and cross the bridge to take the longer path back via Deerbolt Wood and Grasmere shore. Or you can catch the bus back to Grasmere.
Whatever your choice, we will have the kettle on specially for you! Late lunch, afternoon tea, coffee and cake, are all on the menu for you back at Mathilde’s. And there will be some daffodils on the walls in our gallery, too.