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An Unwalled University

Charlotte Mason Institute’s English Lake District Retreat

The Afternoon of 30 April - the Morning of 4 May 2018

St. Mary’s Church, Ambleside, England, UK

Wordsworth referred to the Lake District as “An unwalled university all dedicated to plain living and high thinking.”  Come join us at the 2018 English Lake District Retreat as we share a time of learning more about Charlotte Mason. And, join us as we enjoy the “unwalled university” through exploring the towns of Ambleside, Grasmere, Rydal, and the lush green country lanes, gardens and fells (hills) around where Mason lived from 1890 until her death in 1923.  Imagine yourself taking her daily horse carriage ride through country roads observing the birds, flowers, and the changing of the seasons. But most of all imagine yourself enjoying the tranquility of the Lake District and the contentment of being with others interested in learning more about this amazing educator.

We welcome Malcolm Guite, poet, musician, and authority on Coleridge (and others) as our keynote speaker.  The Rev’d Dr. Guite will provide several sessions including learning how to read and enjoy poetry, singing and more.  We will also enjoy Dr. Rachel Johnson sharing with us her study on Mason’s idea of living books through the works of George MacDonald and G. A. Henty.  You will also experience sessions designed to reflect conferences at the House of Education attended by teachers who had graduated.   

There will be time for visits to the Armitt Gallery Museum and Library where you can explore the Mason Archive.  Through the helpful assistance of the Armitt Curator, Deborah Walsh and the Armitt Trustees we will enjoy a reception late Monday afternoon, 30 April 2018 at the Armitt. Following this time at the Armitt we will walk up the lane and enjoy a time of singing and poetry with Malcolm Guite on the campus of the House of Education and what is now the University of Cumbria.

There will be excursions including hikes, nature walks with naturalists and more.  

Sessions will be held at St. Mary’s Church in Ambleside.  Visit St. Mary’s on the Internet here:  St. Mary’s.  

Malcolm Guite


Poet-Priest Malcolm Guite is Chaplain of Girton College, Cambridge and teaches at the Faculty of Divinity at the University of Cambridge. He lectures widely in England and North America on Theology and Literature and has published poetry, theology, and literary criticism and has worked as a librettist. His books include: Mariner, a spiritual biography of Samuel Taylor Coleridge (February 2017), Parable and Paradox (2016), The Singing Bowl (2013), Sounding the Seasons (2012), Theology and the Poetic Imagination (2010) and Faith Hope and Poetry (2006). Malcolm has edited two poetry anthologies for Lent and Advent: The Word in the Wilderness (2014) and Waiting on the Word (2015).

Malcolm has a particular interest in the imagination as a truth-bearing faculty and continues to reflect deeply on how poetry can stimulate and re-awaken our prayer life.

Malcolm enjoys sailing, walking, old books, live music, riding his Harley Davidson motorbike and all the varieties of the British countryside and weather. Malcolm is also part of the rock band Mystery Train, regularly performing gigs at Grantchester, Cambridge and other places around Cambridgeshire.


Dr. Rachel Johnson MA MCLIP


Until December 2012 Rachel worked as the Research Librarian at the University of Worcester, UK. The Research Collections at Worcester include a significant collection of nineteenth century children’s literature and contemporary multicultural children’s literature.  researchcollections@worc.ac.uk

Rachel remains Associate Staff with the International Forum for Research into Children’s Literature based at the University of Worcester, UK. Her research is predominantly in the field of nineteenth century children’s literature with a specialism in George MacDonald and G.A. Henty.  Her publication, A Complete identity: The Youthful Hero in the Work of G.A. Henty and George MacDonald deals with the construct of the 19th century western hero.

Having recently moved to Cambridgeshire, and failing to retire as planned, Rachel is now working part time as Assistant Librarian (job-share) at Tyndale House Library, a research library in Cambridge, UK specialising in Biblical Studies http://www.tyndale.cam.ac.uk/, and in her ‘spare’ time, volunteers at Homerton College Library, Cambridge, UK where she is working with a special collection of historical children’s literature.

Involvement with her family, including two young grandchildren, church, and other activities, are ever present delights.

Contact:  wanderinglibrarian56@gmail.com

Abstract:  A discussion of the criteria for 'living books'.

In this talk my aim is to begin with a brief examination of the concept of ‘living books’ and to tease out from this concept some foundational criteria by the use of which a ‘living’ or a ‘life-giving’ book might be selected. In order to create such criteria I will draw on theoretical and critical work examining the aesthetics of children’s literature.

Following the identification of criteria, I aim to demonstrate what such material might look like, through the textual analysis of one or more texts, to include writing by George MacDonald, and mentioning work by more recent authors.

In conclusion I aim to touch on the emergence of a growing receptiveness to metanarratives, of which the Christian narrative is one, and include a mention of ongoing scientific research on the effect of reading and the development of empathy, as evidence for the benefit of ‘living books’.

Preparing for the Retreat

How can you prepare for the retreat?  Here are a few ideas.

1.  Use your search engine and read about the Lake District online.  Along with Charlotte Mason, the heritage of the Lake District is filled with interesting people to know better:  Beatrix Potter, John Ruskin, William Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, the Armitt Sisters, Matthew Arnold to mention only a few.

2.  Reread The Story of Charlotte Mason or Margaret Coombs’ book:  Charlotte Mason:  Hidden Heritage and Education Influence.

3. Read more about Malcolm Guite at malcolmguite.com.

4.  Read Dr. Guite’s new book on Coleridge: Mariner: A Voyage with Samuel Taylor Coleridge.  

5.  Dr. Guite has requested that attendees bring two poems with them to this retreat:  1) a poem you love and 2) a poem you do not understand but would like to.

Registration Fees

Early Bird Registration Fee - $399.90 - 26 October - 1 March 2018- includes lunch and supper meals, all snacks and Monday evening reception.

Early Bird Registration Fee for Mason's Alveary and Institute Supporters - $359.90.

Spousal Early Bird Registration Fee - $149.95 - This registration is intended for spouses who wish to hike and enjoy the Lake District, enjoy the meals, attend Monday's receptions and occasionally attend a session.  If spouse desires to be a full-time attendee, he or she will need to pay the regular registration fee.

Regular Registration Fee - $449.95 2 March - 30 April 2018.

Regular Spousal Fee - $199.95 - 2 March - 30 April 2018.

This registration is intended for spouses who wish to hike and enjoy the Lake District, enjoy the meals, attend Monday's receptions and occasionally attend a session.  If spouse desires to be a full-time attendee, he or she will need to pay the regular registration fee.


All meals and snacks are provided in the registration fee.

Breakfast is on your own.

Lunch and Supper will be provided on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.  We have designed these times together for discussion and a sense of community. For that purpose we have hired an English caterer named “Cracking Spread” from Ambleside.  They will be creating special meals for our conference which include lunches, featuring soups, salads, sandwiches and English desserts.  Chef Adelle is designing dinners to reflect the English countryside and Lake District local fare.

Crackling Spread will have tea, coffee, fruit juice, spring water and snacks flowing throughout the day, while you are learning and enjoying the sessions.

Malcolm’s desire is for all of us to join with him over meals and to continue the flow and intimacy of the experience which has been created via the discussions.

No noonday meal will be provided on Friday, 4 May. However snacks will be provided for the morning.


There are various places in Ambleside to lodge.  The Lake District is one of England’s primary vacation spots.  This means that there are lots of places to lodge, but it also means you need to reserve a place as soon as you can.  The link below is to one hotel who has offered a special rate for those attending the Charlotte Mason Institute Retreat.  Be sure to mention our name.

Link:  The Fisherbeck

Just in case you need to know:  We contact businesses and people in England through Skype.  It is cheaper.

For more lodging options, simply do an Internet search and you will find a number of rental agencies in Ambleside.  St. Mary’s, where the daily sessions will be held, is in Ambleside.  If you get your lodgings in Ambleside you should be within walking distance of St. Mary’s.  Of course some places will be farther than others.  We suggest that you ask the place you contact for lodging to tell you the distance to St. Mary’s Anglican Church in Ambleside.  Here is the link to the church:  St. Mary’s.  You will notice that Ambleside and Brathay Church are in the same parish.  The sessions will be held at St. Mary’s.


You can cancel your registration up to 1 April 2018.  There will be a 20% cancellation fee.  The 20% cancellation fee will be based on the registration fee and any meals for which you paid. 

Once you have paid your registration fee you will be connected to our English Lake District Facebook page.  There you can share ideas, ask questions and learn more from those who attended in 2016.


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Roanoke, VA 24018
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