Last year was a special one for devotees of William Wordsworth.

April 7, 2020, marked 250 years since the poet was born in Wordsworth House, Cockermouth, and the celebrations should have been marked with a series of events in his home county.

Not least among these would have been the unveiling of a newly revamped site at Wordsworth Grasmere - which incorporates the poet’s former home of Dove Cottage, its garden and the museum.

However, coronavirus had other plans and the site - which had been closed since 2019 for £6.5m of work - did not open until August and, even then,

delays meant not all of the new features were complete.

But, although the anniversary may have passed, Wordsworth Trust director Michael McGregor, hopes this year will be just as special as 2020 was meant to be.

A complete reinterpretation of Dove Cottage was completed last year and opened in the summer alongside a new cafe.

However, Michael explains there has been much more for visitors to enjoy since Wordsworth Grasmere reopened on May 17.

“What people will come to is a completely transformed site,” he says.

“We’ve thought about everything from how we display and present our collection to how people make their way around the site.

“There is a whole new set of displays using the latest technology and the latest display methods. We’ve put a rooftop viewing station on the top of the museum because one of the things we wanted to do is connect our site with the village of Grasmere itself.

“People can now stand on top of the museum and get a wonderful view right out over the Vale of Grasmere.”

New outdoor spaces will include a woodland trail and sensory garden.

“The idea is that people can have an indoor and outdoor experience here,” he says.

“We’ve taken a stretch of woodland that we owned and put a woodland trail in there. For us, because we do have outdoor spaces on site, we will make that very much part of the offer.

“You’ve also got the ‘wow’ factor of the cottage and the fact that’s been completely changed inside to show a lot more of the cottage that the Wordsworth’s themselves would have known. It’s much more of a step back in time than it used to be.”

For the short time it was able to open last year the attraction was trading at around 30 per cent of normal levels.

Michael hopes numbers will be much more healthy than this in 2021 - despite still having some restrictions in place - but also that the new features will entice back former visitors and generally encourage people to see it as somewhere to come again and again.

“What I am expecting is that it will take time for that audience to build again, particularly because we’ve historically relied to certain extent on overseas groups,” he says.

“For us the challenge is that if we’re not getting that market we need to make that up in some way and engage those newer visitors that have been coming into Cumbria and attract more families.”

This is at the same time as broadening its general appeal.

“If you are a business you ask yourself that fundamental question of what is our purpose and why do we exist?” he says.

“We don’t have a divine right to exist and we have to constantly think about our purpose and our mission.”

The new Wordsworth Grasmere is designed to give people more opportunities of feeling a personal connection with the poet, whether that is through watching a film, soaking up the atmosphere of the house or just looking at the view from the roof.

“We recognise that to a lot of people poetry is like mathematics,” says Michael.

“They see Wordsworth as a crusty Victorian sage who has little relevance to their lives today.

“For us it’s about thinking about why does he matter now and what is it about him that has the ability to speak to us across the centuries.

“People’s enjoyment and understanding of things happens in different ways.

“It’s to give that variety and reach out to that wider audience and not just people who know about Wordsworth. When we’ve done market research 90 per cent of people knew little or nothing about him, yet we were presuming they did.”

Michael says one way of doing this is projecting the poet’s focus on maintaining a balanced relationship with the natural world, a very current theme in our present time.

“The fact he writes so much about close observation of nature, about slowing down and being mindful, the health-giving benefits of walking.

“Since Covid has struck poetry has become a real source of consolation and hope for people. A poet like Wordsworth does provide that.

“It’s about communicating that in a way that’s accessible, it’s not about being academic.”

Michael believes the directness and accessibility of Wordsworth, who described himself as a ‘Man speaking to men’, lends itself to this.

“He is a poet for everyone,” he says.