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Beatrix Potter's Lakeland farm
Hill Top Farm (Cumbria, England)
Member Name: micksheff
Hill Top Farm (Cumbria, England)
Advantages: Beautiful setting, lots of associated history
Disadvantages: Admission prices
There is something quintessentially very English about the children's author Beatrix Potter so it isn't too surprising that she chose the picturesque setting of the Lake District to spend much of her life. Although Beatrix was born in London her parents were very wealthy and she spent many childhood holidays in The Lake District. During her adult life and equipped with the wealth that her books had brought her Hill Top Farm was just one of around a dozen farms that she bought in this area, although it is here that she lived most of the time. The other farm purchases were merely to prevent to land falling into the hands of developers.
She had purchased Hill Top Farm in 1906 and when Beatrix Potter died in 1943 she bequeathed it to the nation, with the instruction that it and its surrounding farmland should be preserved for future generations to enjoy. It is now in the hands of the National Trust who open it for visitors and they also farm the land and gardens by traditional methods (hand ploughs etc). A gift shop near to the house sells produce that has been grown here.
Hill Top Farm is located in the small village of Near Sawrey, on the opposite shore of Lake Windermere to Windermere town itself, although a ferry takes passengers across to the other side, so visitors staying in Windermere can visit Hill Top Farm quite easily.
I visited Hill Top Farm in June 2010. I had planned a 13 mile walk from Windermere, across the water on the ferry to Hawkshead and I knew that my route would take me right through Near Sawrey so it seemed like an ideal place to stop. I was surprised that there are no road signs (or at least I didn't see any and the footpath kept pretty close to the road most of the time) but since there is only one road that runs from the shore to Hawkshead it is quite easy to find. The first indication that I was somewhere near came from the large number of people with their cameras round their necks and a sudden traffic jam ahead of me, which I was not expecting to encounter on a narrow country road.
Near Sawrey is a picture postcard sort of place. It has a lovely historic church and a few pretty cottages, but not a lot else. A few of the cottages and nearby farms have turned their hand to offering Bed & Breakfast, cashing in on the tourists, but on the whole, everything is still quite un-commercialised. It is a very rural setting surrounded by England's highest mountains and deepest lakes.
There is a large car park close to Hill Top Farm but the house itself isn't visible from the road. Instead there is a building (a former cottage) that has been converted into the visitor centre and gift shop, which you have to enter. Once you have parted with your admission free a gate then leads out of the visitor centre and it is a short, uphill walk to Hill Top Farm, which is now visible. The footpath cuts through the gardens and as it was in June when I visited everything was very pretty and in full bloom.
I'm ashamed to say that I didn't take note of whether access to the house was suitable for wheelchair users but I think that it should be as it is a good quality footpath and the slope isn't too steep. Within the gardens an outbuilding has been converted into a toilet block and beyond the flower beds there were row upon row of vegetables.
Entry to the house is by numbered ticket only. Since the house is quite small it can only be toured via a guided tour and only about 8 people can go in at a time. We had about a 15 minute wait but once inside the first thing that I noted was it was quite cramped. All of the rooms are filled with original furniture, which are constructed from dark oak and the small windows don't let in much daylight so it was also quite dark and dingy as well as a little claustrophobic. The tour includes all of the rooms including the bedrooms upstairs and the kitchen. There is the actual bed where Beatrix slept, the desk where she sat and illustrated her books and the range in the kitchen where she cooked etc.
I enjoyed my visit to Hill Top Farm but I did feel that it was a bit expensive considering that we probably only spent about 15 minutes inside the house and also that none of the 45 acres of farmland are accessible, except the small garden. It is also not permitted to take photos inside the house. On the whole though I'm glad that I visited here and I would recommend it to others.
The current admission charges are
National Trust members - Free
Adult - £6.50
Child - £3.10
Family ticket - £16.00
Hill Top Farm
Summary: A former home of Beatrix Potter now in the hands of the National Trust
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