The IBBY Congress offered several pre and post tours and I was delighted to see one for the Lake District, long a place I’d wanted to visit for all its literary sites. The group was also an attraction as it was full of children’s literature enthusiasts from all over the world: US, UK, Australia, Thailand, Japan, Russia, and Finland.
On the first day we headed up to Windermere and took a boat ride across to Ambleside, a pleasant little village. The next day we went to Coniston and visited the eccentric and fascinating Ruskin Museum. In addition to a very edited version of his life (nothing on his sad marriage to Effie Gray for instance nor even a label for his children’s book, King of the Golden River) there were exhibits on Arthur Ransome (of Swallows and Amazons fame as it is set in the Lake District), mining, and a water speed racer who died in his final attempt also in the area.
From there we went on to Grasmere where I had a lovely time in William Wordsworth’s Dove Cottage. At the top of the garden was a lovely little spot to sit and look over the village and bucolic landscape. There was a book where visitors were encouraged to write or draw their responses. The one below was amusingly unimpressed.
And then there was this lovely little four year old who chose to draw a dinosaur.
We took Wordsworth’s favorite footpath along the River Rothey to Rydall where there is Dora’s Field of “I wandered lonely as a cloud” fame. I couldn’t stop thinking of Jasper Fforde’s The Eyre Affair where the protagonist Thursday Next gets stuck in the poem and, adding insult to injury, is hit on by its creator.
On our final day we headed to Beatrix Potter’s Hill Top Farm which was predictably charming (with the obligatory collection of bunnies) and I took a pleasant walk in the area. Hearing a clarinet rendition of “Climb Every Mountain” I turned the corner to see this shrewd young busker.
We finished up at Bowness-on-Windermere that has a very British holiday feel to it.
And then we headed back to London, stopping on our way (as we had on our way up) at a place that had a Starbucks with these.