Breaking down barriers with a pen: Poet Reshma Ruia hopes to make the Lake District more accessible

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A poet in residence at the former home of William Wordsworth has ambitions to make Cumbria more accessible to everyone by changing the way minority groups see the Lake District.

Reshma Ruia is one of a growing list of writers in residency at Rydal Mount, near Ambleside.

She hopes her stay in what she calls the "worn and weathered" bedroom next to Wordsworth's will break down hidden barriers to the outdoors - with a pen.

Romantic poet William Wordsworth was born in Cockermouth in the 18th century, very different to Reshma who is Indian born, was raised in Italy and now based in Manchester.

Despite this, she says the famous Lakeland poet has strong cultural links to her home country too.

Reshma told ITV Border: "Wordsworth was very much a part of the literary canon in India.

"We grew up memorising Wordsworth, Keats, Shelly. So there was a kind of familiarity with the landscape that he was talking about.

"Here we were sitting in this hot, dusty landscape reading about snowdrops and bluebells and these lovely lakes.

"It was such a part of our own literary upbringing, we didn't think of it as a foreign or exotic."  

Nevertheless, Reshma says that while staying at his house and going for walks she noticed that not many people looked like her or came from ethnic minorities.

She hopes her literature will play a role in changing perceptions and show "it's accessible to everyone, all you need are a good pair walking boots".

She said: "There's lots of groups in society who are challenging these ideas at the moment, wonderful walking groups bringing groups from black, asian, minority ethnic groups to these landscapes."

Despite her will to change people's perceptions of the Lakes, Reshma confessed that she has felt timid in its outdoor spaces, and sometimes felt like she hasn't fit in.

She said: "The pubs might seem quite daunting because they're closed and everyone looks up when you enter but people look up when anyone enters.

"I think don't be afraid, that's my message. All this beauty's at your doorstep."

Penny Bradshaw is a Professor of English Literature at Cumbria University, and organised the residency.

She chose Reshma and said: "The landscape continues to attract relatively small groups of people within our society, it doesn't really attract diverse audiences."

Citing a report, Penny added that the cultural representations and literary legacies of the Lake District could be one of the reasons there's a continued lack of engagement to the area with certain groups.

Reshma's writing from the residency is yet to be released, but in one of her previous poems she writes:

"I have earned my right to claim this slice of sky as my own.

Don't push me to the edges of a faded pink map. 

My face pinned to a rogue's gallery, labelled "minority alternative."

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