Wordsworth's Romantic Garden at Rydal Mount

by Zoe Dawes /
Zoe Dawes's picture
Nov 06, 2010 / 0 comments

Rydal Mount & Gardens"... and Ralph Waldo Emerson wandered round this garden with Wordsworth declaiming his verse at the top of his voice ...' Somehow that vividly brought home just what a significant figure the poet was and how closely he is linked to modern history.  Peter Elkington was showing me round William Wordsworth's lovely home, Rydal Mount in the heart of the Lake District. The garden is one of the very few remaining Romantic gardens left in the UK.  Wordsworth loved his garden and took great pride in landscaping it to make the most of the topography and beautiful views.

Wordsworth Plaque

In front of the house, originally built as a farmhouse around 1550, is a small mound known as The Mount. Now partially covered in rhododendrons, it has a little seat where a visitor can contemplate the Lakeland scenery. It's said that the mound was originally a look-out used by Norse settlers. It was here Wordsworth composed his 'Evening Ode'; as he put it: "Felt and in a great measure composed upon the little mount in front of our abode at Rydal..."

"No sound is uttered,--but a deep
And solemn harmony pervades
The hollow vale from steep to steep,
And penetrates the glades." 

Rydal Mount 

Inman's Portrait of WordsworthWordsworth lived in Cumbria all his life. He was born in the pretty northern village of Cockermouth, went to school in Hawkshead and settled into the small Dove Cottage to enjoy married life and write his beloved poetry.  As his family grew he moved ino the village of Grasmere and eventually settled at Rydal Mount in 1813 with his wife, Mary, sister Dorothy, children and often many friends. He became Poet Laureate, although only when Queen Victoria agreed that he did not have to write any poetry to order! 


Like Wordsworth, Dorothy loved the house and garden and before she died she looked back on her first walk alone after their arrival, 35 years before:

"My youthful wishes all fulfill'd
Wishes matured by thoughtful choice,
I stood Inmate of this Vale
How could I but rejoice?"


The garden in AutumnThe garden is laid out to look as natural aspossible, in line with Wordsworth's love of all things simple and harmonious.  Peter pointed out various rare trees, including a magnificent cut-leaf beech tree and a copper beech, both looking glorious in their autumn finery, and many other bushes, shrubs, ferns and bulbs. He told me the poignant story of Dora's Field, which is nearby.  Wordsworth loved his daughter dearly and had bought the paddock for her. When she died, he and Mary planted a huge amount of daffodils (said by some to be 80,000) in her memory. It is now owned by the National Trust and can be accessed from Rydal Church.

Further down the garden it becomes wilder and the steps lead to the water garden and croquet lawn, scattered with fallen leaves on this visit. At the end of the garden is a stone terrrace with a seat overlooking on one of my favourite lakes of all, little Rydal Water. 

Rydal Water from the terrrace 

I especially loved the little Lakeland stone Summerhouse, more of a shelter really, with its glorious views across the garden to the fells beyond.  Sitting there it was easy to see what inspired the poet to write:

"Far-distant images draw nigh,
Called forth by wondrous potency
Of beamy radiance, that imbues,
Whate'er it strikes, with gem-like hues!"

The Summer House 

Emerson was only one of numerous famous and not so famous visitors, including Coleridge, de Quincey, Sir Walter Scott and many other creatives passionate to meet their poetic hero.  Rydal Mount is owned by Wordsworth's descendants and they can occasionally be encountered on a visit.  Peter and his wife are the lucky custodians of Rydal Mount, living 'above the shop' and it was a pleasure to be shown round by such a devoted expert. A real delight awaits anyone who comes to see this lovely place.  I am sure there will be many more in the future.

Wordsworth's Dining Room 

Rydal Mount house and gardens is open all year round; details can be found on their website. I am delighted to say that we have arranged for The Quirky Traveller visitors to have a tour of the gardens with Peter followed by refreshments in the Wordsworths Dining Room.  


Wordsworth's study & view