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Visiting the garden at Wordsworth House

Two visitors amongst the apple blossom in the garden at Wordsworth House in spring.
Visitors enjoy the sights and scents of spring in the garden at Wordsworth House | © National Trust Images/Annapurna Mellor

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.

Spanish bluebells and vibrant yellow flowers in the garden at Wordsworth House on a sunny spring day
Spanish bluebells in the garden on a sunny spring day | © National Trust Images/Annapurna Mellor

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.

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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.

Orange and white tulips growing under the heritage apple trees in the garden at Wordsworth house and Garden
Bursts of colour from tulips and daffodils fill the garden beds. | © Melinda Gilhen-Baker

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 colours, scents and sounds of Spring. Wandering ‘lonely as a cloud’ among centuries-old varieties of flowers and fruit trees 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.

Espaliered Hawthornden apple blossom with slate sign against a brick wall in the garden
The garden is filled with delicate apple blossoms from late April. | © Melinda Gilhen-Baker

Spring in the garden

Spring is the time for an abundance of blossom, especially those bursting from our many fruit trees. Starting in May, pale pink and white apple, cherry and damson flowers dance along the paths and against the garden walls. William’s favoured daffodils sway in the breeze from early April and brightly coloured tulips emerge. Our two rows of rare local apple, Greenup’s Pippins take centre stage with wild primroses, alongside beautiful fluffy Polygonum bistorta, or common bistort. Other stars in May are our Peony rubra, with their big round blooms.

There are plenty of whimsical photograph opportunities in the garden during spring. This is a fantastic time for an intimate wedding, with romantic hidden spots full of varying bursts of colours set against fresh green leaves. It has a secret garden feeling, also wonderful for photographing children at play with our wooden blocks or watching bumblebees.

The garden is grown using organic principles and is a haven for our pollinators, for whom we’ve been adding plenty of wildflowers, such as Georgian Marjoram. We have many different types of bees, and our native crab apple tree is a magnet for bumblebees. In the spring, the gentle humming of hundreds of tiny beating wings is a sound that stops young and old in their tracks.

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