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Visiting the garden at Wordsworth House

A row of bare apple trees in the garden at Wordsworth House, Cumbria in late November.
Bare apple tree branches in winter | © Anna Place

Wordsworth House’s walled riverside garden was William’s secret childhood playground. It was here that he learned the love of nature that turned him into one of the world’s favourite poets. With hidden corners perfect for peaceful musings and a changing display of colours throughout the seasons, you are sure to find your own moment of inspiration.

A piece of history

A fine example of a working Georgian walled garden, the Wordsworth's garden has been presented, to the best of our knowledge, as it may have been when William and Dorothy played games along the flower beds. This little green oasis was strongly associated with the happy childhood of these famous siblings who later recalled fond memories of playing outdoors on their riverside terrace walk, where closely clipped privet and roses ‘gave an almost impervious shelter to birds that built their nests there’. It is also significant as a rare survivor of 18th century walled town-house gardens in the north of England.

Despite the ravages of serious flooding in 2009 and 2015, the garden of Wordsworth House has been painstakingly restored and replanted to return it to it's Georgian splendour, with the clipped formality of the front garden contrasting with an abundance of 18th-century varieties of fruit, vegetables, herbs and cut flowers cultivated in the shelter of the warm brick-faced walls to the rear.

Frost covered leaves in the garden during winter
Frost covered leaves in the garden at Wordsworth House, Cumbria | © National Trust Images/Paul Harris

A space for people and nature

Walking off the busy streets of Cockermouth and into the green and blossoming garden inspires an instant feeling of ease. The surrounding walls covered in espaliered trees and rose bushes act as a perfect sound barrier and the free and easy way the garden grows with it's gentle structure and design invites you to step right in and make yourself at home. You will also often find our friendly volunteers who are more than happy to answer your question and share their knowledge. To make sure birds and pollinating insects also feel welcome, our head gardener Amanda uses organic principles throughout the garden and has specially selected local wildflowers and herbs to entice bees and butterflies to feast. The winter months are no time to be tidy as leftover apples, piles of dead leaves and leftover stems and sticks provide shelter and food for wildlife. It is only with the first signs of spring that the tidying begins so that the garden is ready for our first visitors. With blooms and blossoms from the first snowdrops and crocuses in late winter all the way to bright swaying sneezeweed in autumn, there is always something for both people and nature to enjoy.


An oasis in the heart of Cockermouth

Take a look into this quiet blossoming garden and listen to our head gardener Amanda as she shares her passion for organic gardening and the particular history of William Wordsworth's beloved childhood playground.

A close-up of snowdrops growing among brown leaf litter and bright green bracken at Colby Woodland Garden, Pembrokeshire.
Snowdrops bringing life and joy to the dead of winter | © National Trust Images/James Dobson

The garden that inspired a poet

Wordsworth House’s walled riverside garden was William’s secret childhood playground. It was here that he learned the love of nature that turned him into one of the world’s favourite poets.

Today, it is filled with the stillness and chill of winter. Wandering ‘lonely as a cloud’ among sleeping centuries-old varieties of flowers and fruit trees under a gentle covering of frost, it isn’t hard to picture the wild child born here 250 years ago and how his ‘sweet birthplace’ inspired a lifetime of creativity.

Beneath the foliage-shrouded terrace where he and his beloved sister Dorothy used to play, the Derwent, his ‘fairest of all rivers’, gurgles by.

Close-up of a robin perched on a frosty green bush
A robin visits the frosty garden in winter | © National Trust Images/Richard Bradshaw

Although closed for the winter, the garden is still bustling with life as birds feed on fallen autumn fruit and snowdrops begin to push up through the frost. Once our doors close in November, volunteers come to help us put the garden to bed with the trimming of trees and bushes and a little bit of tidying. Piles of brush are left for overwintering insects and small mammals and left over apples will provide a much needed feast over the colder months. In February, volunteers return to start getting things ready to welcome visitors in the spring. Although these weeks are peaceful, with the quiet only disturbed by bird song, by the end of March we all can't wait to share the garden and the first blossoms with everyone once again.

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