diamond geezer

 Monday, August 01, 2016

Location: Near Sawrey, Cumbria, LA22 0LF [map] [map]
Open: 10am-5pm (closed Friday)
Admission: £10.00 (free to National Trust members)
5-word summary: Beatrix Potter's Lakeland cottage retreat
Website: www.nationaltrust.org.uk/hill-top
Time to set aside: an hour

150 years after her birth, in Kensington as it happens, the works of Beatrix Potter remain enduringly popular. Her tales of mischievous rabbits and kindly hedgehogs, illustrated in her inimitable style, have captured the imagination of millions and continue to sell to this day. Beatrix lived out the second half of her life in the Lake District, settling in the village of Near Sawrey beyond the shores of Lake Windermere. Sales of her first book allowed her to buy Hill Top Farm, then in 1913 she married a local solicitor and they moved into a larger cottage close by. That's now a private home, but the house and garden at Hill Top are still open, bequeathed by Potter to the National Trust along with a considerable portion of the local countryside. And many thousands make the pilgrimage to Hill Top each year, not least the Japanese, whose love for Peter Rabbit knows no bounds. [10 photos]

Other than the tourists, Near Sawrey's a fairly typical Cumbrian village. A cluster of cottages at a junction of roads surrounded by fields, easier to walk round than to drive, on the slopes between high woods and lakes. The western half of the village looks down towards Esthwaite Water, while the east is on higher ground where sheep safely graze. Back in Beatrix's day the place supported two shops, a pub, a smithy, a carpenter, a timber merchant and a post office, whereas today only the pub survives, along with a hotel and various cottages that do cream teas. Expect to see several tourists wandering around taking pictures, especially of cottages immortalised in some of Beatrix's illustrations, which a National Trust map helps to identify. One B&B has placed a straw Mr McGregor on a bench out front, offering a photo opportunity in return for a charitable donation, while the pub revels in attracting passing trade because there isn't actually much more in the village to see.

Hill Top is still a working farm, but visitors don't get to see much of that, with access restricted to the house and garden, plus a small shop shoehorned in by the front gate. You'll need to have paid back in the car park, which is a little annoying if you haven't come by car, and might mean a gaggle of Japanese tourists have taken their timed ticket before you. I had an hour to wait before I could enter the farm cottage, but that left the gardens to look round, and they're beautifully maintained. Unfortunately they're also quite small, not by farmhouse standards, but in terms of visitor attraction capacity. The main garden follows a long path up from the shop to the house, its borders bursting with summer colour, but not the easiest place to stand and admire when others are trying to walk up after you. Then there's the vegetable patch, a stepped square surrounded by hedges, with Mr McGregor's tools planted artfully in the earth. Everybody wants their photo taken here, with the cottage in the background, but you have to take your turn and it takes a miracle not to end up with a mass of milling visitors inbetween.

Oh, but that's it for outside. A long garden and a square garden, plus not that many benches to sit on, means there's not that much to see while you wait to get inside. A lot of people end up gathering outside Hill Top's front door waiting for their scheduled visit, making an unobscured photo almost an impossibility, or heading back down to the shop to peruse the merchandise again. Potter's books are among the cheaper souvenirs, while anything with the rabbit on seems to sell well overseas. A few Middle Eastern tourists looked distinctly nonplussed by the wait, hanging around in the layby across the lane, unwilling to stroll off and explore elsewhere. I used my spare half hour to write some postcards, affixed with Peter Rabbit stamps I'd bought with me. The Royal Mail have issued a special 150th anniversary set, and have promised that any letter posted this week in Near Sawrey's postbox will get a special Peter Rabbit postmark. I'm glad they told me what it was in advance, because my postcard arrived home the following day irredeemably smudged, and the rest of my family regretfully report the same.

When at last the time comes to enter the house, rest assured it won't be overcrowded inside. Numbers are carefully controlled to allow you to wander around freely and unguided, to enjoy the cottage interior that Beatrix used as a place of inspiration. Almost all of it is original, from the furniture to the knick-knacks, because transfer to the National Trust was made directly after Potter's death in 1943. In a rather nice touch children are offered a copy of The Tale of Samuel Whiskers to take round, with certain pages marked, as a treasure hunt to find the actual dresser, fireplace or bedstead depicted in the illustrations. It's evocative, and somewhat dark, but with only two rooms accessible on the ground floor not especially large. Upstairs there are four more rooms to see, with contents including the doll's house from The Tale of Two Bad Mice and a selection of her brother's paintings, plus a sign reading 'Please Mind The Step' in Japanese. A visit to Hill Top opens an illuminating window into the author's life, although perhaps isn't great value for the admission price, especially if you've come halfway round the world to enjoy.

<< click for Newer posts

click for Older Posts >>

click to return to the main page

...or read more in my monthly archives
Jan19  Feb19  Mar19  Apr19  May19  Jun19  Jul19  Aug19  Sep19
Jan18  Feb18  Mar18  Apr18  May18  Jun18  Jul18  Aug18  Sep18  Oct18  Nov18  Dec18
Jan17  Feb17  Mar17  Apr17  May17  Jun17  Jul17  Aug17  Sep17  Oct17  Nov17  Dec17
Jan16  Feb16  Mar16  Apr16  May16  Jun16  Jul16  Aug16  Sep16  Oct16  Nov16  Dec16
Jan15  Feb15  Mar15  Apr15  May15  Jun15  Jul15  Aug15  Sep15  Oct15  Nov15  Dec15
Jan14  Feb14  Mar14  Apr14  May14  Jun14  Jul14  Aug14  Sep14  Oct14  Nov14  Dec14
Jan13  Feb13  Mar13  Apr13  May13  Jun13  Jul13  Aug13  Sep13  Oct13  Nov13  Dec13
Jan12  Feb12  Mar12  Apr12  May12  Jun12  Jul12  Aug12  Sep12  Oct12  Nov12  Dec12
Jan11  Feb11  Mar11  Apr11  May11  Jun11  Jul11  Aug11  Sep11  Oct11  Nov11  Dec11
Jan10  Feb10  Mar10  Apr10  May10  Jun10  Jul10  Aug10  Sep10  Oct10  Nov10  Dec10 
Jan09  Feb09  Mar09  Apr09  May09  Jun09  Jul09  Aug09  Sep09  Oct09  Nov09  Dec09
Jan08  Feb08  Mar08  Apr08  May08  Jun08  Jul08  Aug08  Sep08  Oct08  Nov08  Dec08
Jan07  Feb07  Mar07  Apr07  May07  Jun07  Jul07  Aug07  Sep07  Oct07  Nov07  Dec07
Jan06  Feb06  Mar06  Apr06  May06  Jun06  Jul06  Aug06  Sep06  Oct06  Nov06  Dec06
Jan05  Feb05  Mar05  Apr05  May05  Jun05  Jul05  Aug05  Sep05  Oct05  Nov05  Dec05
Jan04  Feb04  Mar04  Apr04  May04  Jun04  Jul04  Aug04  Sep04  Oct04  Nov04  Dec04
Jan03  Feb03  Mar03  Apr03  May03  Jun03  Jul03  Aug03  Sep03  Oct03  Nov03  Dec03
 Jan02  Feb02  Mar02  Apr02  May02  Jun02  Jul02 Aug02  Sep02  Oct02  Nov02  Dec02 

eXTReMe Tracker
jack of diamonds
Life viewed from London E3

» email me
» follow me on twitter
» follow the blog on Twitter
» follow the blog on RSS

my flickr photostream