Sykehouse Cottage

A beautiful C17th Holiday Cottage in the Lake District


Dorothy’s Christmas Birthday

dorothy-wordsworths-christmas-birthday-978144727150501

“Up, rapt at her gate,
Dorothy Wordsworth ages
one year in an hour;

her Christmas birthday
inventoried by an owl,
clock-eyed, time-keeper.”

It was published as a small hardback book by panmacmillan in 2014 and is a perfect Lake District Christmas present.


Norman Nicholson: “a unique and unjustly overlooked Cumbrian”.

norman nicholsonThis January marks the 100th anniversary of Norman Nicholson’s birth in Millom and BBC is marking the occasion with a half hour radio programme presented by fellow Cumbrian, Eric Robson, on Sunday 5th January.  The Corporation’s press release describes him as “the unique and unjustly overlooked Cumbrian” and I guess a short radio documentary might help raise his profile a little – though calling the programme “Provincial Pleasures” is, I feel, damning the man with faint praise as “Provincial” was a phrase he fought against all his life.

Nicholson was championed by TS Eliot, Ted Hughes and Seamus Heaney though he remains little known because he chose to stay in the little town of Millom than move south.  On the western edges of the Lake District, in this desolate, post-industrial landscape, Nicholson wrote a lovely meditative poem about his craft and about his middle name (which was also his mother’s maiden name) “Cornthwaite”:  “… I lop, / Chop and bill-hook at thickets and rankness of speech, / Straining to let light in, make space for a word, / To hack out once again my inherited thwaite / And sow my peck of poems, not much of a crop.”

This poem was first published in “Sea to the West”, 1984 and can be found in Collected Poems. pp.354

To learn more about him, you can visit the Norman Nicholson Society’s website.  The link is here.

© The Trustees of the Estate of Norman Nicholson, by permission of David Higham Associates Limited


Norman Nicholson : The Fierce South Lakes Poet

norman nicholsonThe sun has set / Behind Black Combe and the lower hills, / But northward to the fells / Like gilded galleons on a sea of shadow / Float sunlit yet. (South Cumberland, 16 May 1943)

Norman Nicholson was born in 1914 and so I hope there will be many celebrations of his poetry and writing coming up. Apart from the two year bed rest he spent in a sanatorium, Norman lived his whole life in Millom, writing poems both about the fells and the ironworks.

His poems have a honesty and a sometimes shy, sometimes defiant, open handedness about them which makes them very appealing.

His obituary in The Times described Norman as “provincial”.  He fought against this term as a put down and defended the label as a valuable, compassionate and humane perspective on life which we all respond to.  In his most famous poem, “The Pot Geranium”,  he describes the little plant thus: ” “A pot geranium flies its bright balloon … My ways are circumscribed, confined as a limpet / To one small radius of rock; yet / I eat the equator, breathe the sky, and carry / The great white sun in the dirt of my finger nails.”  Wow.

© The Trustees of the Estate of Norman Nicholson, by permission of David Higham Associates Limited


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Dorothy’s Daffodils

On Thursday 15th April 1802, Dorothy Wordsworth wrote in her journal:

‘… I never saw daffodils so beautiful they grew among the mossy stones about & about them, some rested theirwordsworth daffodils heads upon these stones as on a pillow for weariness & the rest tossed & reeled & danced & seemed as if they verily laughed with the wind that blew upon them over the Lake, they looked so gay ever glancing ever changing. This wind blew directly over the lake to them. There was here & there a little knot & a few stragglers a few yards higher up but they were so few as not to disturb the simplicity & unity & life of that one busy highway…”’

Two years later, her brother wrote: “I wandered lonely as a cloud …”, his wife, Mary, contributing what Wordsworth later said were the best two lines in the poem : “They flash upon that inward eye / Which is the bliss of solitude”.  This group collaboration for such an iconic poem always makes me think of how many other unseen contributors there must be to great works of art.

If you need a little inspiration, why not come to Sykehouse Cottage in March and search for wild Wordsworthian daffodils?  Wild daffodils are simpler and shorter than the tall, fancy ruffle cultivars we see in gardens.  They like to grow on damp ground under trees.  Dorothy and William Wordsworth found theirs at Ullswater but wild daffodils are more common in the South Lakes.  Probably the best place to see them from Sykehouse Cottage is on the banks of the Duddon.  A short drive and a lovely walk to find your own secret “host of golden daffodils”.

For further information about the Wordsworths and their time in the Lakes, including Dorothy’s journals, you should really visit Dove Cottage.  It’s open every day with a host of things to do and is just a 40 minute drive from Sykehouse cottage through beautiful countryside.  Follow this link to Dove Cottage.

If you would read another post about Wordsworth : The Westmorland Girl :  click here.