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This report is taken from PN Review 184, Volume 35 Number 2, November - December 2008.

Letter from Grasmere Adam O'Riordan

Heckberry, Solomon's Seal, Vagabond's Friend, Osmunda ferns: on my third night in Grasmere I sit out late with my neighbour, the custodian of Dove Cottage, and over a bottle of red wine I am taught the names of the flowers, herbs and plants in my little patch of garden. A breeze moves through the huge cherry tree and we are momentarily caught in the slow drift of a summer blossom-storm. It is 9.45 p.m. and there is still light enough to make out the swifts scrawling their names in the air.

I write from the beginning of my time at the Wordsworth Trust, the Centre for British Romanticism, where they annually appoint a poet-in-residence to honour Wordsworth's wish that 'Youthful poets, ... among these Hills / Will be my second self when I am gone', from a cottage that sits at the end of tiny cobbled lane in the hamlet of Town End - a peaceful huddle of low-slung slate buildings with wood smoke rising straight up from their chimneys.

The old 'Corpse Road' runs behind my house where the dead would be borne to consecrated ground, the route punctuated by 'coffin stones' where the bodies would be set to rest while the bearers took a break. Scratch the surface of almost anything here and you find a wonderful folklore at work; my favourite discovery so far, the 'corpse candles', eerie lights at ankle height that lit the coffin bearers' passage. The hunch is that ...


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