Therefore all seasons shall be sweet to thee,
Whether summer clothe the general earth
With greeness, or the redbreast sit and sing
Betwixt the tufts of snow on the bare branch
Of mossy apple-tree, while the nigh thatch
Smokes in the sun-thaw; whether the eave-drops fall
Heard only in the trances of the blast,
Or if the secret ministry of frost
Shall hang them up in silent icicles,
Quietly shining to the quiet Moon.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

A Visit to Hill Top

We have been back from Lancashire for several days but life is very busy at the moment and I haven't had time to read blogs or to write in my own. It looks like staying that way for a while too, summer involves much more coming and going than the stay at home winter months and postings are likely to be sporadic over the next couple of weeks. The photo above is the outside of Beatrix Potter's house Hill Top. It was extraordinarily difficult to get a photograph without people in it as it's very popular with visitors thanks to the film 'Miss Potter'. It is only a small place so visitors are given timed tickets and about a dozen people go in every five minutes. There is no limit on how long you can stay once you are in though so every room is crowded and, to be honest, I didn't particularly enjoy it. The National Trust have a way of de-personalizing places and, even though all the contents belonged to Beatrix Potter and Hill Top is just as she left it when she died, it feels more like a museum than a home. This isn't inevitable when somewhere is open to the public, I've been in places which felt as though someone had just left the room and would be back any minute. Of course in the case of Hill Top it is true that after her marriage Beatrix didn't live here, she did visit it every day and still did her writing here but perhaps that is the explanation of the lack of atmosphere.

This pretty little building is one of the outhouses - the privy I rather think.

The path leading up through the garden to Hill Top,the garden was very pretty and appealed to me very much. There was quite a lot that you couldn't actually get into though, the vegetable garden(below) was only viewable over the gate and the small orchard was also off limits.

Another thing that really irritates me about the National Trust is that they won't allow any photographs to be taken of the interiors of their properties so all I can offer is photographs from a book I have on Beatrix Potter called 'Beatrix Potter At Home in the Lake District' by Susan Denyer. It's a very interesting book with a great many photographs - well worth buying if you are interested in Beatrix Potter. The photo above is of the room you go into as you go through the front door. I know it actually looks very attractive and homely but it has been set up especially for the photo! The only similar thing that I saw was that the fire was lit in the range.

These are the stairs leading to the upper floor, I find this very attractive with the bare polished wood. It's just occurred to me what part of the problem is with NT properties, it's their obsession with light levels which makes everywhere dark and gloomy because there are always blinds shutting out some or all of the light. I know that bright sunlight does fade things and that they need protection but I really do think that the NT go over the top with this.

This is the staircase in an illustration from The Tale of Samuel Whiskers, Beatrix used Hill Top and it's furnishings a good deal as a basis for her illustrations.

This is the main bedroom with the bed that Beatrix Potter never slept in! When she was living here before her marriage she did use this bedroom but with a different bed.

This is the room where Beatrix did her writing at the desk in the corner.

The road which runs through the village of Near Sawrey, just a short distance from Hill Top.

This is Castle Cottage which is where Beatrix Potter lived after her marriage to William Heelis. I took the photo from an upstairs window at Hill Top.

The Beatrix Potter Gallery is in this building in Hawkshead which was originally the offices of the country solicitor's practice in which William Heelis was a partner. I enjoyed looking round here, it was quite atmospheric and had a lovely display of some of the original watercolours done for the books. There were a lot from The Tale of Tom Kitten as that particular book is 100 years old this year. There were only 3 or 4 other people there and it had much more of the quiet,peaceful feel that I would guess Hill Top had once upon a time. L and Mr B.Baggins strolled around the village while I was in there. Afterwards we went into a pub called The King's Head for some lunch - outside it had a notice saying 'Dogs Welcome' which is a very nice change from 'No Dogs Allowed'! Mr Baggins made himself at home, stretching full length in front of the fire and wagging his tail furiously as people stepped over him saying things like' what a lovely dog' and 'isn't he well behaved'. Meantime I was thinking things like 'I can't believe he's being this good' while smiling and trying to look modest:):)

Two books that I bought in the Gallery, both full of interesting bits and pieces.

A row of cottages in Hawkshead.

A view across Lake Windermere with the fells in the distance.

Another view of Windermere, both these were taken when we stopped in Ambleside.

There were dozens of swans on the lake and this is one of them. We had a really nice day in the Lake District in spite of a dire weather forecast, it was dry and pleasantly warm all day and only started to rain just as we got back to our house.


Ragged Roses said...

It's good to have you back, Rowan - I always look forward to your posts. Thanks for the photos of Hill Top Farm, my daughters would love to go there. It's a shame that NT has depersonalised it as you say. I love the Lake Distric but it does get so busy - you probably chose a good time to visit. Have a good weekend.
Kim x

Sheila said...

Never having had the opportunity to visit in person, this is definitely the next best thing. Your photos and despcription are lovely.
It is unfortunate they have depersonalised it, I understand what you mean.
The house and the surrouinding countryside look lovely, and a wander around that village looks like something I would really enjoy.
Tell Mr. B. Baggins I am very impressed with him, but really expected no less from such a sophisticated gentleman..

smilnsigh said...

Yaaaaaaaa! Now I can comment in this entry!

Yes, the settings-gremlins have been at work! You are the second person I've recently seen have this very problem. ,-)

But I now can say how I love this entry!!! All of the photos and text of course. Plus, how I'd love to be invited into some of those houses... in the row of cottages in Hawkshead. Oh how I want to peek in those windows and knock on those doors and be invited in. :-)


peppylady said...

Glad to hear you made it home safe and sound.
Beautiful pictures

Britt-Arnhild said...

What a lovely post.
I am flying over to GB tomorow for a week, and this really gave me the perfect mood :-)

La Tea Dah said...

What a wonderful post! Thank you for the tour of Beatrix Potter's childhood home. I enjoyed it very, very much.

:) LaTeaDah

PAT said...

Hello Rowan, I stopped by before, but could not leave a comment!!

I knew I would love your trip report and I do! What a beautiful place. The photos and your words are wonderful! I felt as though I was there.

Thanks so much!
Back Porch Musings

Lynda (Granny K) said...

I know what you mean about the NT. The Lakes is a great place to take a dog though, we've been invited into so many shops whenever one of us has stood outside with ours. I can tell you of one pub which allows dogs in, even where food is being served. The owners Bearded Collie pads around the bar and likes his drop of beer!

healingmagichands said...

sounds like your vacation was a lot more relaxing that mine was! Love the pictures, especially of the gardens.

Lee-ann said...

OMYGOSH! Rowan what a wonderful holiday you had and all the beautiful photos too.

This would have to be a dream come true for one of our little grand daughters should she ever be able to go and see the way you have all the famous Beatrix Potter homes. one day she may just do that too.

I will have to show her your lovely photos and to think you walked up those lovely garden paths too.

thank you for sharing this with us here in Australia.
The world is so much smaller through the eyes of blogger friends.

Remiman said...

It's such a pleasure when you return from your travels and share your excursions through pictures. Of course, all the more so since we both seem to be enamored of many of the same things. The buclic English countryside is so relaxing and stimulating at the same time for me.
I've never read Potter, but certainly am aware of her writings.
Spring and summer do require much more outside attention and that leaves little time for blogging. A time for everything as the saying goes. We'll be moving to the river cottage in the week ahead and like you may not be as faithful a blogger as I've been through the winter months. is my 1 year blogaversary.

Kate said...

The pictures of Lake Windemere are incredible. What incredible surroundings ... I was happy to go on tour of Beatrix Potter's surroundings. It is sad that her place has more of a museum feel to it.

Simmy said...

You write so evocatively Rowan that I want to go back to the Lakes quite soon (I haven't been for about 8 years).

Kelli said...

Thank you so much for sharing the wonderful pictures of Hill Top. I really enjoyed them!

tash said...

It really does look lovely - I've always wanted to explore that area, but haven't ever had the chance.

I know what you mean about the NT tending to make homes feel cold and impersonal - we found that with alot of the houses we visited in Dorset, however there is one notable exception, a house in Northumberland called Wallington - it is a wonderful place and feels so cosy and warm, perhaps because the original owners still live in parts of it. They could definitely do with adding some 'love' to a place. I'm with you on the no-photography too - some places do let you take photographs if you don't use flash, although when it's so dark it is very difficult to take a photo without - sometimes asking will yield results. We encountered this problem with Cotehele house in Cornwall, it was pitch black inside because the tapestries may fade with the sun - such a pity, we could hardly make them out.

Mrs. G said...

Adding my thanks to the others for taking the time to share your photographs with us :)

I didn't see Beatrix Potter's home while in the Lake District...I think time had something to do with that...but I wish I had...this makes up for it in a bit of a way :)

Betty said...

Beatrice Potter is one of my favorites...Just today I ordered the DVD of 'Miss Potter' and look forward to watching it with my 16 year old twin granddaughters....
Thank you for the lovely tour...

Your grandchild is precious, back side and all..Betty @ Country Charm

Betty said...

Beatrix Potter......Sorry about that.....Betty

FrenchGardenHouse said...


What a beautiful trip report! It's almost like I have been there, it is really a very gorgeous home and area. Next time I am in England I will def. visit this area too.

How lucky we are that you are willing to take these trips for us, and share the "view"....:)

Cin said...

Oh thank you for sharing these Rowan! Hill Top is on my list of places to visit, so this was very welcome indeed! I too am not thrilled with the NT's no photography rule, or their issues with lighting. I remember reading a memoir by a lady who spent a number of years taking care of a NT home with her husband, and she too was dismayed by the lack of lighting - apparently in her case it was done so the delicate vegetable dyed carpets and fabrics would not fade any further.


Tara said...

Thank you for your post and all your lovely photographs. I am currently reading the Beatrix Potter biography by Linda Lear and I'm sure I will return to these photos when I get to that part in the book.

Anonymous said...

I love your blog! Would you be upset if I added your blog to mine?
I live on a farm in Colorado, the western side of Colorado, called Delta. Farming, as a way of life, is fast disappearing in western Colorado, due to farms being sold to developers/subdivisions. Therefore, I decided to share with anyone who was interested, what farm life is/was like in my lifetime.
I can honestly say that I now understand what the American Indian felt like as he watched his way of life disappearing!
Once again I love your blog, the beautiful trips you take, and that wonderful exciting time of the Tudors!
Linda Brown

Heather said...

Wow~! What beautiful photographs! This is Heather from the Tasha group...Im so happy you liked to this! Such a visual feast!~