One of the best known denizens of the Lake District was Beatrix Potter. The author of the Peter Rabbit stories, her tales are well-loved by children all over the world. In particular, there seems to be a huge Japanese following, with Beatrix Potter’s Hill Top House and the Beatrix Potter Gallery being two of their must-see attractions.
Hill Top is located just outside Hawkshead in Near Sawrey, about a 20-minute ride from Blenheim Lodge, Bowness-on-Windermere. Beatrix Potter gifted Hill Top to the National Trust on her death. It was one aspect of a substantial bequest she made to the Trust, including acres of land and almost all the original copies of the illustrations she made for her books.
The Beatrix Potter Gallery is housed in a 17th century Lake District Townhouse in Hawkshead, which is about a 15-minute ride from Blenheim Lodge. ‘On display are original sketches and watercolours painted by Potter for her children stories as well as artifacts and information relating to her life and work. The display changes annually.’ (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beatrix_Potter_Gallery)
Beatrix Potter was a very well-educated young lady, who was schooled at home. She was interested in the natural sciences, artistic and literary pursuits. In 1905, she finally moved from London to live permanently in the Lake District, firstly at Hill Top Farm, where she now had a place to call her own and where she could retreat to write and paint at will. Some of her more well-known books include The Tale of Peter Rabbit, The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin, The Tale of Mrs Tiggy-Winkle, The Tale of Jeremy Fisher, and The Tale of Jemima Puddle-Duck.
Beatrix Potter also became involved in country issues, and started to learn about sheep farming and conservation, whilst continuing to write and illustrate her books for children. She had already bought a field in Near Sawrey in 1903 prior to purchasing Hill Top Farm, and in 1909, she bought another farm, Castle Farm, opposite Hill Top. In all, Beatrix Potter bequeathed 15 farms and over 4000 acres of land, along with cottages and herds of cattle and Herdwick sheep to the National Trust on her demise. ‘Hers was the largest gift at that time to the National Trust and it enabled the preservation of the lands now included in the Lake District National Park and the continuation of fell farming.’ (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beatrix_Potter)
Her ambition to own land in the Lake District and to preserve it from development was encouraged by William Heelis, a local solicitor. In 1913, at the age of forty-seven, Beatrix Potter married Heelis and moved into Castle Cottage on Castle Farm. Becoming deeply involved in the community, she served on committees to improve rural living, opposed hydroplanes on Lake Windermere, founded a nursing trust to improve local health care, and developed a passion for breeding and raising Herdwick sheep. In 1923 she bought Troutbeck Park, an enormous but disease-ridden sheep farm which she restored to agricultural health. She became one of the most admired Herdwick breeders in the region and won prizes at all the local shows. The Heelises were also enthusiastic supporters of land conservation and early benefactors of the National Trust. In 1930 Beatrix became de facto land agent for the Trust, managing some of their farms, as well as her own, over a vast section of the Lake District.
(Quoted from www.beatrixpottersociety.org.uk/files/aboutbp.html.)
Hill Top is the jewel in the crown with respect to Beatrix Potter attractions in the Lake District. Indeed, it is the most visited literary shrine in the Lakes. Beatrix Potter had left her first home in the Lake District to the National Trust with the proviso that it should be preserved as she had left it for all time, including her furniture and china. It remains so to this day.
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