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The Jewel in Cumbrias Crown
Hill Top Farm (Cumbria, England)
Member Name: pania22
Hill Top Farm (Cumbria, England)
Advantages: brings the fantasy of childhood to life
Disadvantages: very busy, I hope it isnt damaging the house irrepairably for our future generations.
"Thank God I have the seeing eye, that is to say, as I lie in bed I can walk step by step on the fells and rough land seeing every stone and flower and patch of bog and cotton pass where my old legs will never take me again."
We owe the vast majority of the Lake Districts immaculate preservation to a set of little hardback books. The authoress, if indeed that is the term for a female author, was besotted by animals, their natural form and also the lives that she imagined they led out of human earshot.
This lady, of course was Beatrix Potter. Originally a young lady with a wildly active imagination and a massive talent for art and story telling originally dismissed by her parents as a flight of fantasy. This long dismissed talent led to Beatrix amassing one of the biggest personal fortunes of her time, allowing her to purchase great swathes of the land that she loved and indulging in her next great passion of sheep farming.
Rough, Tough and exceptionally knowledgeable, beatrix had a reputation amongst other farmers that lead to her being greatly respected if a little feared!!
On her death Beatrix bequeathed the entirity of her estate to the National Trust and this land now forms virtually 80% of the national park of the lake district. Trout Beck and Derwent Water form a part of this bequest amongst others.
"Most people, after one success, are so cringingly afraid of doing less well that they rub all the edge off their subsequent work"
Beatrix's most famous work, without a doubt, and one that has had the privelege of being translated into hundreds of differeent languages is "The tale of Peter Rabbit"
One day, young Beatrix, having seen the gorgeous farmhouse and adjoining land by the name of "Hill tops" for sale in her beloved Lake District on a recent family holiday, payed a visit to her accountant to enquire, whether, with a few more books she may be able to afford a house of her own. Naively unaware of her wealth Beatrix was amazed to hear that she could buy ten houses if she wished. Not surprisingly the purchase of Hilltops came not long after!!
Today Hilltops stands exactly as Beatrix left it, Set out according to her wishes the house is, as a tourist attraction, the jewel in cumbrias crown.
Situated about 2 miles outside of Hawkshead in a small hamlet named Near Sawry (not to be presumed to be close to far sawry a good 5 miles further down the road!) the house draws thousands of visitors from near and far year round.
Entering the free car park, the farm outbuildings are still evidently within use today and off limits to visitors. A small hut in the cornor of the car park serves as a ticket office and again this is one of the original outbuildings to the property, I much prefer this to the addition of a purpose built building and it added somewhat to the authenticity of the experience.
Stepping out of the car park and walking along the road towards the gate is an almost time travelling experience. The hamlet itself retains such character that it is easy to imagine Beatrix and William coming out of their wooden gate and heading off down the road towards their favourite fly fishing spot.
Entering the gardens in which the house stands and you are immediately greeted with a market garden in front of you. Now here I must be honest, on first siting Hill Tops I was a little underwhelmed at the side that greeted me. The drab grey exterior with a somewhat spartan climbing rose didnt quite match with the country cottage image that I had envisaged. And then I gave myself a damn good talking to. This was an authentic farmhouse to an authentic working farm, that hadnt been lived in for a number of years and had no cause or reason to be spruced up just to appeal to my stereotypical nous. Casting aside any expectations I excitedly headed towards the house awaiting my allocated time to enter.
"Don't go into Mr. McGregor's garden: your Father had an accident there; he was put in a pie by Mrs. McGregor"
Standing outside the house I was met with a truly puzzling site which i still havent got to the bottom of! Mr Mcgregors garden!! absolutely picture perfect, painted wrought iron gate and everything exactly in situ as it is in the book. Now, Peter Rabbit was written while Beatrix was still a resident in South kensington, London, so would have had no knowledge of this garden at all to base her illustrations on. Did Beatrix add this at some point during her life as a tribute to her most famous work? Was it created after her death according to her instruction? I have no idea and internet research leaves this question a mystery. The house was awash with guides. Having one or two also within the garden area would've been a very nice touch indeed.
Entering the property that remains devoid of the charms of modern life to this day, candle light, dark woodwork and a wallpapered ceiling between the rafters left the atmosphere closed in and a touch oppresive. I could imagine Beatrix sat at her table in the great room, with the rain lashing outside on a dark winters night could've had quite a struggle to read anything at all!
To my immediate childish excitement I instantly recognised items of furniture that featured in the books illustrations!! the victorian oven from the tale of the pie and the patty pan, the dresser complete with blue and white china from Jemima puddleduck, the rug from "two bad mice" was all there to see! it was like fantasy coming alive in front of my eyes! the downstairs of the house consists of 4 rooms one of which is a tiny scullery, which would be immediately knocked down and extended in todays modern age. All of which contained items of furniture laid out according to Beatrixes wishes. The items continued to look familiar and my jaw gaped further open with each stride.
Heading upstairs I was sad to see that the stair treads were wearing very thin with the amount of visitors this house has seen. I wonder what lasting effects are being inflicted on this property due to its popularity? I was also amazed to see in this area, several portraits of fox hunting scenes hanging on the panelled walls. Surely our Beatrix, the out and out animal lover wasn't an advocate of fox hunting?
And then there it was, Tom thumb and hunca muncas house, the dolls house, sat as if it was yesterday that it was last played with. Reminiscent of a bygone age and a symbol of Beatrix's childish innocence that many say she retained until her dying day.
For me, a life long admirer of her works, visiting Hilltops was an amazing experience and one that I would recommend to anyone. The suthenticity of the display and the retention of the character in the house, grounds and surrounding areas themselves are there to be admired, and preserved in equal measure.
Wishing to stretch our legs and shake off the closed in feeling of the house we decided to head out for a walk. Lying within a miles walk of the property is moss tarn, a lake on which William and Beatrix used to spend many hours fly fishing, playing about on boats and generally enjoying the scenery. After William, Beatrix's husband passed away, she never again visited the tarn and it is this that I believe she is referring to in the original quote above. Passing through a local farm yard we were soon out in the broad countryside and passing the edge of the tarn. Sat on a rocky precipice overlooking the tarn it was easy to imagine the fly fishing scene in front of us. continuing on we passed through some glorious countryside and a brief area of woodland for about 3 miles before emerging back out onto the road a mile between Hawkshead and Near Sawry.
overall I feel that a visit to Hill Tops and Near Sawry itself is a must during any visit to the lakes. I felt wholly enchanted by the experience and the short walk was accessible to anyone of a moderate fitness level.
The house itself had quite ricketty pathways although a disabled access was present via the gift shop. Access to the lower level of the house would only be accesible to wheeelchair users.
I would say that unless your child was familiar with the works of Beatrix Potter this is a visit that the adults would enjoy more than any children.
The car park was relatively empty when we arrived but within the 3 hours we spent in teh area was totally packed. However I did visit during the Easter holidays and as such was to be expected.
The ordnance survey reference for Hilltops is SD370955
The Postcode for SatNav purposes is LA22 0LF
Opening hours and prices can be obtained on the national trust website
All quotations used are freely available across the internet and reproduced from non-copyright websites.
Summary: take only photographs, leave only footprints people!