Poetry in motion – a day out in Tennyson country
Nestling in the heart of the Lincolnshire Wolds, a traditional country pub and restaurant offers real ale, good food, a friendly, relaxed atmosphere… and a touch of history, too
From the Bluestone Heath Road, which runs between Caistor and Candlesby, I noted the sign for Tetford, and wound my way down to the bottom of the 320m high ridge. It was here, at the White Hart Inn, that Poet Laureate Alfred Lord Tennyson would relax at his favourite oak settle under the horse brasses in the back bar, enjoy a pint and, no doubt, a touch of local village gossip. For this was once the meeting place of the Tetford Club for local gentry.
A leisurely drive away is Somersby, the poet’s birthplace. To reach there, I turned right from the car park and right again at the T-junction on to Station Road. Looking out for the memorial at the next junction, I turned left, heading past the Cross Keys Inn. Another left turn was signposted Somersby and Harrington. This is quintessential England, a dreamy landscape of gently rolling hills and hidden valleys, where swaying fields of crops are edged with poppies. Little wonder, then, that the poet was so inspired by his surroundings.
‘I have a love for the old Lincolnshire faces and things which will stick by me as long as I live’ (1845).
As I approached the straggle of properties in Somersby, on my right I passed the attractive Georgian, cream-coloured rectory where Alfred was born in 1809, the fourth of 12 children. Today it is a private house, and stands next to Somersby Grange, a castellated manor house. Across the road, through the gate and past the gravestones, stands the 15th century church, where Tennyson’s father, George, was rector. He is buried in the southwest corner, having passed away at the age of 52. Inside the church you can see the font where the Tennyson boys were baptised, and imagine a young Alfred tolling the bells in the tower. The church contains mementos and a bust of the poet.
The brook which flows through the village was a well-known haunt of Alfred and his brothers, and his poem ‘The Brook’ could well have been influenced by childhood memories.
Bag Enderby, a mile down the road, is where George Tennyson was also the rector. The church is built of greenstone and has stood since 1407. Further along the country lane I arrived at Harrington Hall, Engulfed in fire in late 1991, it has since undergone restoration. Tennyson often visited this 17th century manor house, when he was hopelessly infatuated with its tenant’s ward, Rosa Baring. His poem ‘Maud’ is derived from his love for her.
‘Come into the garden, Maud, I am here at the gate alone, and the woodbine spices are wafted abroad, and the musk of the rose is blown’.
From Harrington, I continued north up the hill, and where the road forks, I followed the sign to Brinkhill. It was now a gentle downhill run into the village. At the red telephone box I turned left for South Ormsby. At the next T-junction I turned right, signposted Louth. At the next crossroads I turned left, signposted Belchford/Scamblesby.
I was now on the Bluestone Heath Road, an ancient drove road which follows closely an ancient ridge trail across the spine of the wold. The road undulates past woodland, opening out to reveal spectacular views. It was now that I could fully appreciate why the region is famed for its magnificent big skies. Once atop Tetford Hill, I turned left at the crossroads signed Tetford, for the downhill run back into the village.
Images from top: Lincolnshire Wolds view outside Tetford; Typical Tennyson country; Tennyson’s home in Somersby is now a private residence; Church at Somersby; Tennyson’s former local, White Hart Inn, Tetford. (© Michael Cowton)