THIS old photo is of Undercragg… and can a 300-year-old Cumbrian farmhouse lying at the foot of looming rocks have been better named?

Situated at Seathwaite at the head of the Duddon Valley (this Seathwaite is not to be confused with the other Seathwaite in Borrowdale), the Grade II listed stone cottage dates from the early 1700s.

Inside is an old carved spice cupboard bearing the initials N & AW, standing for Nicholas and Agnes Walker, the parents of legendary rural parson Robert Walker, who served the congregation of Seathwaite chapel for 67 years, and was made famous by Wordsworth in his Duddon sonnets as “Wonderful Walker”.

The Rev Robert Walker, who had been born at Undercragg in 1710, was noted for his industry and frugality but as a father of 10 children (eight survived) on a paltry stipend of £5 a year, he would have had little choice. Walker was intelligent and practical and throughout his existence would pursue other sources of income to support himself and his family, including, unusually for a clergyman, running an alehouse from the rectory!

This unassuming Church of England priest died in 1802, aged 92, and though they never met the man, William and Dorothy Wordsworth became interested in the local stories about him and obviously an admirer, giving him the epithet Wonderful Walker.

Wordsworth published a Memoir of the Rev Robert Walker in 1820 and includes references to him in his 1814 poem The Excursion and in his sonnets on the River Duddon.

Besides ministering to his flock at Seathwaite church, Walker would double up as a school teacher, only asking payment from those parents who could afford it.

He would farm his glebe land, labour in the field for other farmers and spend long hours spinning wool and flax to sell on (his sheep shearing stone lies at the entrance to the porch at Seathwaite church).

He would also act as ‘scrivener’ for the local community – writing their letters, sorting their bills and making their wills, and was steward of the manor of Dunnerdale between 1754 and 1799.

He also made his family’s clothes, cured leather from his own cattle and made clogs. Another source of income was the payment of one ha’penny received for every net cast by the fishermen of Crummock water, whatever the size of their catch. This was levied as payment for his introduction of the draught net.

Walker brewed his own ale but never drank it himself and his ale house rules were strict – "no late hours, no tippling, no immorality or indecency of any kind". He charged 3d a pint to his jug-and-bottle trade and 4d to the customers who drank on the premises.

He was also a talented furniture maker and several pieces he made, including the "bobbin chair" subsequently donated to Keswick museum, have survived.

In 1892, the naturalist Samuel Barber (in Beneath Helvellyn’s Shade: Notes & Sketches in the Valley of Wythburn) wrote of him: “The Wonderful Walker type of parson may be considered about as extinct as the Dodo.”

Robert Walker was the twelfth child of Nicholas Walker, a yeoman farmer, and his wife Agnes. He attended Ulpha school where he was taught by Mr Parker, the curate of Eskdale. As a young man he became a schoolmaster first at Gosforth, where he taught village children for three years, before moving to Buttermere as a reader. In his spare time he began preparing to join the ministry and was taught by Henry Forest, the curate of Loweswater. He was schoolmaster at Loweswater until 1735 when he returned home to his beloved Seathwaite to become its curate, a position he held for almost seven decades. He was given a home there and married Ann, a domestic servant, and on his death, in 1802, he was able to leave £2,000 to his descendants – a sum worth well over £100,000 today.