Potted Guide to Grasmere
Grasmere, nestles in the very heart of the Lake District, it is a place that captivates the imagination and inspires those that visit.
The valley is ringed by towering fells and lofty mountains; such as Helm Crag (also known as the Lion and The Lamb) and Silver How. The valley itself is dotted with lush meadows and verdant wooded glades, fringing the lakes of Grasmere, Rydal Water and Loughrigg Tarn – a perfect Lake District idyll.
It is this natural beauty which has long inspired painters, poets and writers – with one of the leading lights none other than William Wordsworth, describing the valley as ‘the loveliest spot that man hath ever found’. Wordsworth was so enamoured he settled at Dove Cottage, in the hamlet of Townhead just outside Grasmere in 1799, where he stayed until 1808, he then moved to a larger house in the village at Allan Bank, where he stayed until 1811 before moving to the Rectory where he stayed until 1813 before finally moving to the nearby village of Rydal. Wordsworth was quickly followed to the area by other literary greats; including Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Robert Southey, Sir Walter Scott and Thomas de Quincey.
Even in death this illustrious poet didn’t wander too far from his beloved Grasmere… his final resting place can be found in St. Oswald’s church yard in the village.
Grasmere itself is an ancient community, rich in myth and legend, including a tale relating to the last King of Cumbria, Dunmail ab Owain, who reputedly met a sticky end in 975 at the hands of the combined forces of Edmund I and Malcolm. The opposing armies met in a bloody and ferocious battle, fought in the mountain pass which divides Grasmere from Thirlmere. It is here that Dunmail ‘the once and future king’ died and was reputedly buried under a cairn of stones, a cairn which gives the pass its name to this day Dunmail Raise.
The valley also boasts a proud industrial and agricultural heritage, with mining and farming playing a major role in the area’s local economy, with people over thousands of years interacting with this landscape, including Stone Age Man, Celts, Romans, Saxons, Vikings, Normans and Tudors. This all started to change from the 18th century, with the advent of ‘artistic tourism’ with many notables journeying to the area in search of ‘the picturesque and the sublime’; including William Green, John Constable and J. M. W. Turner.
In more recent years the celebrated artistic dynasty, the Heaton Cooper family, succeeded in conveying the changing nature of the Lake District from their studio established in the village in 1905…
Given this long association with artists and painters it is highly appropriate that Grasmere has the honour of hosting the annual Lakeland Artists’ Society Summer Exhibition each year.
The village plays host to a number of other celebrated events; including the infamous Fred Whitton Challenge every May, one of the most popular cycle sportives in the UK and is also famed as being particularly difficult. The Fred as it is known consists of a 112 mile sportive around the Lake District, starting and finishing in Grasmere; taking in some serious climbs over the Lake District high mountain passes of Kirkstone, Honister, Newlands, Whinlatter, Hardknott & Wrynose.
The Grasmere Gallop takes place in July amidst the spectacular surroundings of Grasmere and Rydal Water. Often referred to as one of the friendliest trail races in the Lakes the event sees first-time runners, and families racing alongside seasoned fell-runners in 5.7k, 10k and 17k races or in the 10k Nordic walk.
Then there’s the Lakes Charity Classic Vehicle Show held in the village in June, a great family fun-filled day with the chance to see some magnificent classic cars, motor bikes, trucks and tractors, whilst raising funds for local charities.
A more sedate but equally famous event is the annual Grasmere Rushbearing Ceremony, which takes place each July. The ancient event is centred on St Oswald’s Church and features six costumed ‘Rush Maidens’, accompanied by a procession of people carrying ‘bearings’ made from rushes and flowers in a variety of shapes.
Grasmere Sports, which takes place in August and were first held in 1852. This is the main event in the village’s calendar and one of the most popular traditional events in the Lake District. Participants compete in a variety of sports; including Cumberland & Westmorland Wrestling, fell running and hound trailing.
There’s a wealth of things to see and do in this ‘loveliest of spots’…