Historian Roger Bingham recalls how Grasmere’s poetic Wordsworth family would have experienced Lakeland in winter . . .

THE Wordsworths, when they lived at Dove Cottage (between 1801-1808) variously enjoyed – and endured – Lakeland in winter.

Whatever the weather, singularly or together, the poet William, his sister Dorothy and – very much the third part in the trio – his wife, Mary, were for ever out and about.

Dorothy’s Journal reveals their admiration for the miniature images of winter, extolling how, for instance, ‘the brooks were very beautiful, arched feathers with wiry stalks pointed to the end. The snow on the stone seat looked as soft as a down cushion and the rock behind looked as soft as velvet, of a vivid green so tempting - a young foxglove like a star in the centre’.

Contrastingly, she often felt overawed by the mightily engulfing landscape – ‘all things looked cheerless, no meltings in the sky – the mountains like stonework wrought up with huge hammers’.

But, unabated, their traipsing continued. Even when ‘it snowed all day’, Dorothy recorded, ‘we walked (over Kirkstone Pass) near to Dalemain...We set off with cold mutton in our pockets.

‘The sun shone but it was coldish and William lost his gloves – we searched but they were gone’.

Though ‘tired and having bad headaches’, they were soon off again to St John’s in the Vale to observe ‘many naked trees and sides of dreary mountains; it grew cold and slippery, a sharp hail shower gathered at Matterdale. I was obliged to crawl on all fours and Mary fell many times’.

Even shorter trips could be difficult: ‘We went towards Rydal for letters. The rain had hardly melted the snow. We stopped to get some straw for William’s shoes’.

Occasionally they were reckless - ‘at Eusemere the way was difficult and the ice on the Tarn cracked. But we caught no cold and happy we felt sitting by our own fire. We boiled a gizzard and mutton for William’s dinner’.

Everything revolved around William. One evening he brought his mattress out and lay by the fire ‘as we roasted apples in the oven’, while ‘Mary worked on William’s warm waistcoat’ and Dorothy, in the back kitchen, ‘made bread and a giblet pie - a Bad Giblet pie’.

Sometimes William could do a hand’s turn, for, after trudging home from Rydal along a road covered in dung and thawing snow, ‘he cleared a path to the necessary (the earth privy) but before we got to it a whole housetop of snow had fallen from the roof upon the path. We all went weary to bed. My bowels bad’.