A VISIT TO WORDSWORTH’S DOVE COTTAGE AT THE LAKES GRASMERE…A CONTRAST TO ALFOXTON

LAST WEEKEND I VISITED THE LAKE DISTRICT AND DOVE COTTAGE FOR THE FIRST TIME. IT WAS AN EXTRAORDINARY EXPERIENCE – A REAL PORTAL TO THE PAST AND AN INSPIRATIONAL TRIP. LARGELY UNCHANGED THE LOCAL ANCIENT STONE USED THROUGHOUT AND UNCHANGED LANDSCAPE MAKE IT CLOSE TO WHAT WILLIAM AND DOROTHY WOULD HAVE KNOWN. OVERALL IT WAS BITTER SWEET TO SEE SUCH REVERENCE FOR WORDSWORTH PRESERVED IN ASPIC YET FOR COLERIDGE THE SAD TRUTH OF ALFOXTON REMAINS DESPITE THE EFFORTS TO SAVE IT. HERE IS A COLLECTION OF PHOTOS FROM MY VISIT THAT BOTH DELIGHTED ME BUT MADE ME MUSE WITH MELANCHOLIA ON HOW WONDERFUL ALFOXTON COULD BE. ALL THE MEMBERS OF STAFF HAD HEARD OF ALFOXTON SO I DIRECTED THEM TO MY BBC PIECES AND FILM. BUT NONE HAD HEARD OF THE LONG LOST KEN RUSSEL MOVIE I HAVE WRITTEN ABOUT ON THIS BLOG AND FOR THE COLERIDGE JOURNAL – THOUGH I MAY HAVE STARTED SOMETHING…”WHATS THAT?” SAID EXPERT AFTER EXPERT. OF COURSE THEY ALL HAD HEARD OF THE JULIAN TEMPLE MOVIE! I DO HOPE “CLOUDS OF GLORY”. SURFACES. THE REASON IT HAS NEVER BEEN REBROADCAST SINCE 1978 OR RELEASED IS THE OVER USE OF EXPENSIVE COPYRIGHT MUSIC- I WAS TOLD BY KENS WIDOW BUT PERHAPS THE CONTENT TOO? WHO KNOWS. IT CERTAINLY CAPTURED THE LAKES AND DOVE COTTAGE IN DRAMA BETTER THAN ANYTHING IVE SEEN AND TO ME WAS SUPERIOR TO PANDEMONIUM. THE BIGGEST SURPRISE ON THE DAY WAS TO SEE WILLIAM WORDSWORTH’S SOCKS! ALSO HIS SKATES, HIS CANE, HIS SPECTACLES AND SO MANY MEMORIES OF COLERIDGE. TWO SUCH CONTRASTING GENIUSES. THE PANORAMIC EVOCATIVE MOODY TRANQUIL AND UNCHANGED SETTING WAS BOTH MOVING AND FITTED TOTALLY WITH WHAT I HAD EXPECTED. TO THINK OF DOROTHY, SAM AND WILLIAM TRUDGING THROUGH ALL WEATHER TO RESEARCH AND CREATE FROM NATURE REMAINS AN EXTRAORDINARY MOMENT IN THE ARTS THAT INFLUENCED MUSIC, LITERATURE AND THE PERFORMING ARTS…EVERYTHING. AN UNCHANGED LANDSCAPE IS A RARITY IN THE UK AND THE LOVING CARE WITH WHICH DOVE COTTAGE HAS BEEN KEPT WAS JUST RIGHT IN TERMS OF BEING BOTH REAL, ACCURATE AND EVOKING THE PAST WITHOUT BEING TACKY. IN SOME WAYS AS A HUB IT REMINDED ME OF LLOYD WRIGHT’S TALIESEN WEST IN ARIZONA (THE ARCHITECT) WHERE I HAVE ALSO VISITED. ALFOXTON MAY BE SUCH A HUB WITH A CAMPAIGN. DOVE COTTAGE GRASMERE IS A LASTING MEMORIAL TO WHAT WAS AN ARTISTS COMMUNE WITH SPIRITUAL IDEAS THAT REACH OUT TO US NOW AS IT DID THE THE SIXTIES GENERATION OF MUSICIANS AND ARTISTS (JIM MORRISON OF COURSE LOVED THE ROMANTICS…PARTICULARLY BLAKE). I HAVE TRIED TO THINK OF AN INTERESTING SONG OR BAND BUT UNLIKE COLERIDGE (FLEETWOOD MAC FRANKIE ECT) I CANT THINK OF A DIRECT WORDSWORTH CONNECTION BUT ITS INTERESTING TO NOTE THAT THE CREATION OF HIS SIMPLE HEROES AND RUSTIC CHARACTERS IS ONE OF THE FIRST INSPIRATIONS THAT PERHAPS LED TO THE LIKES OF OF ELVIS AND ROCK AND ROLL AS WELL AS MANY SIXTIES AND SEVENTIES MUSICAL MOVEMENTS THAT TOOK INSPIRATION FROM EVERYDAY CHARACTERS. RAY DAVIES IS AN EXAMPLE PERHAPS. FOLK HEROES HAVE BEEN CAPTURED IN SONG TRADITIONALLY BY FOLK SINGERS FOR FOREVER AND A DAY, BUT WORDSWORTH TOOK IT TO A DIFFERENT LEVEL AND WAVELENGTH AND THUS HELPED SHAPE MODERN WRITING. CHARACTERS SUCH AS “LOVELY RITA” OR “ELEANOR RIGBY’S”…BY THE BEATLES. PERHAPS WORDSWORTH EVEN INFLUENCED REALISM OR EVEN “KITCHEN SINK” TYPE DRAMS PERHAPS AS A RESULT. PERSPECTIVES UNIQUE AT THE TIME. A SEEMING EVERYDAY CHARACTER IN A CLASSIC WORKING CLASS MOULD MADE EXTRAORDINARY. OF COURSE, WORDSWORTH’S PIONEERING WORK WAS “INCIDENTS AND SITUATIONS FROM COMMON LIFE”. WHILE COLERIDGE TRIED TO MAKE THE SUPERNATURAL COMMONPLACE…JIM MORRISON (THE DOORS) AND HIS CONTEMPRARIES PERHAPS DREW FROM THIS SIDE MORE…

IF ONLY THE DERELICT ALFOXTON COULD BE PRESERVED LIKE DOVE COTTAGE GRASMERE. LETS HOPE THOSE CLOSELY INVOLVED WITH THE COTTAGE LIKE MELVYN BRAGG TAKE NOTICE AND SAVE THIS PLACE WHERE ANCIENT MARINER WAS FIRST PERFORMED…

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