A visit to the Lake District,

Wordsworth and Beatrix Potter’s

Gregory came to spend a week with us on the 13th. He fulfils my idea of the perfect guest: he knows when to appear and when to disappear. Better than that, we are always glad when he makes re-entry.

We went down to the Lake District for two days. The weather behaved itself, and it wasn’t yet the tourist season, despite it being Bank Holiday. This is a special part of England, though I imagine when my grandmother and Uncle John were there in 1932, it still had remnants of William Wordsworth in some local peoples’ attitudes. We went to his Dove Cottage. It’s amazingly small, really tiny proportions. We weren’t put off when the youngish guide eased into


            I wandered lonely as a cloud

That floats on high o’er vales and hills,

            When all at once I saw a crowd,

A host, of golden daffodils…


The same day we went to Beatrix Potter’s complex of house and barns. This is owned by the National Trust, of which she was an important supporter. I was disappointed that the modest house one gets to see is where Potter stayed a mere matter of weeks. Her home is across the field, and rented. The house we saw was crammed full of, well, stuff tangentially related to the creator of Peter Rabbit and his friends.


I suspected the B&B bar, St. John’s Lodge, would be noisy at night, for it was on the main street and our rooms were in front. Turns out, there was no noise whatsoever— and the breakfast was parallel to what must be had at the Palace. Much better than in the many B&Bs I’ve experienced in the UK since, yes, 1957.


Speaking of the Palace, there were no better photographs of the Queen than the ones taken when her filly won at Ascot, which meant the Duke (two days out of hospital!) got to hand her the prize. But forget the regality. She was one happy horse lady, all broad smiles.


We returned via Appleby. To get there from the Lakes, you drive through varied, sometimes magnificent country: real Wuthering Heights at one point when it becomes bleak moors. I never tire of Appleby, where my gt-gt-grandfather Richard Sampson married “Jane Wharton, niece of Lord Wharton of Wharton Hall.” Don’t get excited,  there was no such lord at that time. This is the variety of filial devotion without basis that drives historians mad. Appleby hardly ever changes, and I wonder how, out there in remote seclusion, it manages to appear so busy and prosperous. It was once horse country; maybe still is. The church, where the nuptials of the aforesaid fraudulent personages were solemnized, is in the midst of modest renovation. Some of the old pews will be removed or rearranged so as to provide a “social space” in half of the oversized AD 1300 nave. There’s never been anything like a “parish house.” Looks like they have a lively bunch on Sundays. The organ, one of the oldest still in service in England, stays exactly where it has been since given to Appleby in 1775 by Carlisle Cathedral.