I have to say that going to Beatrix Potter’s house on Hill Top has to be one of the loveliest experiences I’ve had so far in England. I’ve not been much of a Beatrix Potter fan, not much of a Beatrix Potter anything really. I’ve always enjoyed her drawings, and read the odd passage or two. But I’ve always seen her artwork on all things baby and toddler. So perhaps I’ve been automatically conditioned to love Beatrix Potter and everything that was hers.
Sunday in Lake Windermere was just toasty. Shorts weather really, except that I did not have any shorts to wear. We walked past all the touristy booths and things until we got to the public footpath to a small park by the water. It being Sunday morning, everything was quiet until the hum of boat engines started to break the silence over the water. Pity about the sounds of modernity. It’s a lovely place to just be.
We thought we’d do our own “cruise/walking” tour. We went to the ferry point and paid 50p to cross the lake with all the other cars. Definitely glad we didn’t drive. I saw cars waiting for up to 40 minutes in the queue to board the ferry. The trip across was about 10 minutes.
Once on the other side, we started to follow the public footpaths. This led us to all sorts of places. There was an old Victorian club house where the people used to meet, socialise and enjoy the lake. We traipsed through the woods, and walked through farmland past cows and sheep.
Must admit I had fun opening and closing gates. It was so-oooo Enid Blyton. All we needed was a picnic rug with crumpets and butter, and raspberry jelly to complete the picture. But alas this was not available. All we had was our bottle of water and it was fast running out in the heat. Thankfully, after what seemed like ages (it was only around an hour, really) we came upon a pub in Near Sawrey. Yes, this is the name of the town. So there must be a Far Sawrey and Sawrey. How very practical.
We had the best fish and chips so far in this ye olde English pub. It really did look quite old. It’s renovated now. By that I mean that the main pub broke a doorway through to the stables and converted the stables into part of the restaurant. I know because now that I am an experience mother of a horse-riding child, I know how to recognise a horse stall. Don’t know much else about horse riding.
After lunch, off we went again. We had to pick up the pace as it was about 1.30 pm by then and I had no idea what time Beatrix Potter’s house closed, or how far we had to walk. This time we thought we would follow the road to Far Sawrey, but it kept winding here and there. Still it was a pleasant walk and we enjoyed looking at all the grey stoned houses dotted across the hillside.
Beatrix Potter’s house has been kept just as it was when she died. Now I’m sure the volunteers must clean and tidy up a bit, but everything is pretty much as it was laid out. There is timed entry into her house to minimise the effects of hoardes of tourists coming and going.
Maybe it was because there’s not too many people in the house at any one time, or that the room is darkened or that people spoke quietly, but it felt like such a privilege to step into this space. Everything was as it was. One of the most touching moments for me (still gives me goose bumps thinking about it) was when the room steward gave the little one a picture book of one of Beatrix’s books and said that if he looked at the pictures and look around the house he would find the house in the picture.
And so it was. There on the kitchen range was Mrs Mouse, and it was Beatrix’ own kitchen range. The window on the stairs, the backlit stairs, the sitting room – it was all in her books. She drew inspiration from her own house, shared her pictures to children around the world, who reconnected with it by visiting her house. And so there’s a lovely presence and energy about her place, like a real generosity of spirit. Just lovely.
Of course, when I shared this with my son. All he said was “Mom, you’ve been watching too much Ghost Whisperer.” Hrumphhhh!
Of course, at the end of the house tour, there is the obligatory stop at the gift shop. May I say, I wanted to buy out the whole store. There were Jemima Puddleducks, Benjamin Bunnies, Peter Rabbits, Mr Toads etc stuffed toys, clothes, books, cups, mugs, ceramics and sculptures. Enough to fill a child’s dream bedroom. But we walked away with one stuffed toy and a contented child.
I did not visit the Beatrix Potter Museum in Windermere itself. I was told that it’s also quite lovely. I’m sure it is. But I think if you have to make a choice between one or the other, then go visit her house.