I think of all the people and places that we studied in conjunction with our trip to the UK last year, Beatrix Potter's life probably had the biggest impact on me.
When we got to the Lake District the incredible beauty of the place fell like such a weight on my chest that I suddenly knew why Beatrix Potter had to live here and understood what her inspiration was for her artwork and then her life as a farm woman and conservationist.
You can't just enter this part of the country as an observer. It demands a response.
Our day to visit Beatrix Potter's Hill Top Farm was the rainiest of all our days!
The weather put no one off and we had to park a good way down the road beyond Hill Top.
But it gave us the chance to approach the village on foot and admire the blackberry bushes on the side of the road.
Blackberries!!!! As in Peter Rabbit blackberries. (In case you didn't know, this blog is name for blackberries....)
From this view you can see Beatrix's married home (Castle Cottage) on the far right of the photo (off-white color) and then you can see its proximity to Hill Top Farm (which would be to the left of the white car in the photo). This was one of my big discoveries of the day -- I had no idea how close the two homes actually were! No wonder Beatrix could use Hill Top for artwork and entertaining guests -- she had only to walk over the field between the two.
Here we are walking up the long side garden towards the house.
A very wet day indeed!! And the entrances to the house are limited to something like 8 people every 10 minutes.
Might as well have a look around! Here is the orchard:
A view from the kitchen garden which was just below the house:
This looks like a scene right out of Mr. McGregor's garden! (Incidentally, Scots were known for being excellent gardeners and so perhaps that is why Beatrix chose a Scottish name for the gardener in Peter Rabbit!!):
Another view of the garden with the Hill Top Farm barns beyond:
Another entrance to the garden from the side:
And here are the barns because I needed to know exactly where Beatrix was going when she checked on her livestock:
Here is the part of the house that Beatrix added in 1906 for the farm manager and his family. You can see Beatrix's initials and the date in the front of the building. The current farm manager still lives there!
A bit of perspective of the house as a whole:
Getting closer to our time inside. The docent outside was happy to answer any questions we had while we waited:
When it was 11:50 it was our turn to go in!
We had strict instructions on removing our jackets and turning them inside out so as to preserve the contents of the house (we had to carry them around with us):
We were not allowed to take photos of the inside of the house which was, of course, disappointing. A few of my favorite memories from inside:
-- the first view of the large living area with the black stove in the fireplace just like in many of the books
-- the inviting table and chairs in front of the fireplace, making you want to spend the day there
--the low ceilings and the dark lighting
-- the perfect, tiny parlor with fireplace, table and china cabinet and the Edward VII coronation teapot that features in one of the stories
--seeing Lucinda and Jane (dolls); this, along with the very ham in the dollhouse from which Beatrix painted the ham in "Two Bad Mice" flooded me with memories from my childhood and it was as if I'd seen these things a hundred times and yet it was the first time.
--seeing the art room with art from Beatrix's mother, father, brother, and herself
Back down the long garden that is so beautifully described in the book at the end of this post:
And then just down the way is Tower Bank Arms pub which features in at least one of the stories:
I thought I would walk around the tiny village and take a few pictures of other houses and buildings:
Making my way by road over to Castle Cottage.
And here is Castle Cottage from the back:
The view out to the fields:
And the view behind Castle Cottage:
Apparently poaching is a problem!
A few more cottages lining the road:
Back to the center of Near Sawrey:
And a rain-drenched rose:
And a pile of giant marrows growing in front of Tower Bank Arms!!!
Wishing I had gone in and had a cup of tea inside the Arms in this window!
It was so special to visit Hill Top! Afterward we headed over to Wray Castle -- the very first place the Potters rented when they visited the Lake District. That will have to be for another post!
Beatrix inspires me with her love of nature and everyday life. I also feel that her very difficult childhood and the isolation and emotional pain she endured became the rich soil from which her art and writing grew. Her commitment to land conservation and the gift that the Lake District has become to the people who visit is an example to all of us.
Now, since we couldn't take pictures inside the house, and many can't actually go to the house, here are two books you'll want to read to bridge the gap:
At Home with Beatrix Potter: The Creator of Peter Rabbit by Susan Denyer is gorgeous book that will show you all the rooms inside Hill Top as well as talk about the various other places Beatrix stayed and lived in the Lake District. It is filled with many beautiful photos as well as artwork by Beatrix, and of course lots of history and information.
Beatrix Potter's Gardening Life: The Plants and Places That Inspired the Classic Children's Tales by Marta McDowell, which came out last year I believe, is a most delightful book! McDowell discusses Beatrix's history with gardens and then goes through her garden at Hill Top season by season!!!! It's on my wish list and I am certain if you love gardening, or Beatrix Potter, you will love this book!
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