Lift the veil of Wordsworthian commercialism at Grasmere and it’s easy to discover the village the Poet Laureate loved, such as St Oswald’s Church, noted by Wordsworth as “of rude and antique majesty”. As parishioners, the Wordsworths encouraged the annual rushbearing ceremony, held each Saturday nearest 5 August – St Oswald’s Day.
Recalling medieval times, when rushes were annually gathered and strewn over the church floor to offer warmth, the ceremony remains as uplifting as ever, with local children bearing sheaves and woven shapes of rushes and flowers through the village. Six Rush Maidens carry an embroidered linen sheet dressed with rushes, and the procession ends with a service in the rush-strewn church.
The rushes come from Grasmere’s banks and the moors that Wordsworth walked countless times.
Ease into Easedale
Start on Easedale Road, and remain with the road across the open green meadow past Lancrigg Hotel, then fork right beyond Little Parrock at Jackdaw Cottage for Far Easedale. Tread the well-used track, obeying signs for Far Easedale and Borrowdale, undulating below the cliffs of Helm Crag, past old barns and soon beside the torrents of Far Easedale Gill.
Head for the hills
Cross the footbridge at Stythwaite Steps then fork left, tracing the path below the swelling hills of Grasmere Common, rising to Sour Milk Gill and then Easedale Tarn, cocooned by dramatic edges and crags. You should be able to step across the outlet of Sour Milk Gill and gain the track left beyond; otherwise, follow the path anticlockwise around the tarn to reach the same point.
Wainwright at the helm
The track now descends beside the lively gill off to your left, and you’ll soon reach pools where, in 1802, Wordsworth “walked to hunt waterfalls”. Ahead is the memorable skyline etched by Helm Crag, Alfred Wainwright’s “Midget of a mountain”. It is one of the renowned writer’s favourite short walks, but he famously never actually stepped on to the summit pinnacle. Remain with the walked way, steeply down between crags to finally gain two gates beyond a concrete bridge near Brimmer Head Farm. The left gate leads to the lane back to the rushbearing festivities in Grasmere.
HOW TO GET THERE
Grasmere lies west off the A591, three miles north-west of Ambleside on the B5287. It is well signposted; there is plentiful pay and display parking in the village. Bus 555 (Lancaster and Kendal to Keswick) serves the village regularly every day. Trains run to Windermere from Manchester and Lancaster; change on to 555 bus at the station approach.
FIND OUT MORE
This year the festival will take place on 12 July.
Greens Café & Bistro, College Street, Grasmere LA22 9SY
Lake View Country House
Grasmere LA22 9TD
Small, comfy B&B on the edge of the village, close to the lake.