Time to put Wordsworth House to bed

Two costumed servants making the children's bed at Wordsworth House

The last visitors of 2017 have left poet William’s childhood home and the blinds are down and the shutters closed for winter, but behind the scenes, there’s still plenty going on.

Outside, head gardener Amanda Thackeray and her volunteers are clearing and preparing the ground for next year’s planting, which will include a swathe of poppies to mark the centenary of the end of the First World War.

Indoors, the housekeeping staff are packing small and fragile items in tissue, wrapping larger ones in bespoke dust covers and rolling rugs onto lengths of drainpipe so the fibres can relax.

Draught excluders

They will also be checking on their Chimney Sheep, a system of Herdwick wool draught excluders invented by local ecologist Sally Phillips. Inserted above the building’s hearths, they prevent heat loss and keep chilly air out during the colder months.

House steward Rachel Painter said: “We have to keep humidity in the house under tight control to protect the antique furniture and paintings. Our Chimney Sheep not only make excellent use of Cumbrian wool, they keep warm air in and prevent debris falling down.”

Chimney Sheep inventor Sally Phillips inserts one of the Wordsworth House draught excluders
A woman puts a draught excluder up a chimney

Meanwhile, in the offices, the rest of the team are putting the final touches to a packed programme of events and activities for 2018, including a major new exhibition, Where Poppies Blow, commemorating the end of the Great War and celebrating the role of nature in helping sustain Britain’s troops.