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Visit the home of Beatrix Potter
Hill Top Farm (Cumbria, England)
Member Name: Huomenna
Hill Top Farm (Cumbria, England)
Date: 17/10/13, updated on 18/10/13 (45 review reads)
Advantages: beautiful house and buildings, authentic, has her belongings
Disadvantages: expensive, not good access for the disabled
My Dad and I were on holiday in Grasmere (reliving old times) earlier this month, but at the start of the week the weather wasn't so brilliant so we put off the walking and decided to do some things that had an under cover aspect to them. One idea that came to mind was Beatrix Potter's famous home of Hill Top farm.
Have to say that unless you already know where you're going, this wasn't the easiest place to find and my Dad's got a pretty good sense of direction. I would have expected signage at key points, at least those near to the destination, but don't recall seeing any so if you're not familiar with the area then I certainly suggest use of a map or good sat nav or you'll be driving about for ages. I did notice a bus stop opposite, so public transport does seem to be a possibility. It's a couple of miles from Hawkshead, a slightly bigger village where there's a lot of Beatrix Potter themed shops.
The car park is located 'down hill' from the house itself - it's of a half decent size, but was fairly busy when we were there and I wouldn't be surprised if it ends up full during peak season and there doesn't seem to be much in the way of alternative parking nearby. When we parked there was a man in a high vis jacket directing cars into spaces - seemed a bit unnecessary to me. At the back of the car park is a barn where you go to purchase tickets to the house (which have times written on them), from here you have to walk back out to the road, and up the hill (don't worry it's not a strenuous walk) to get to your destination.
Coming off the road you enter Hill Top farm via a small gate and turn right up a slightly inclined path between attractive flower beds. At the end you're greeted by a rather attractive old building, where there's at least one member of staff standing outside - they will check your tickets and give you a brief history on the property and Beatrix Potter's association with it.
You're allowed to walk freely around the house rather than having to take part in a tour, however there are staff on hand to ask questions. It's a very dark property with dark wood panels lining many of the walls, fairly small windows and no ceiling lights.
The property has been kept as much like it was when Beatrix Potter lived there (early 1900's) in terms of both decor and furniture - specifically furniture and other items actually belonging to Beatrix Potter herself which I think really adds to the experience and you really do feel like you're stepping back in time. There was also a great deal of personal correspondence and other original work of hers so the connection remained strong throughout the property.
The rooms were of a decent size and the staircase is fairly wide, but obviously due to the nature of the property access for the disabled in fairly poor and I see no way that wheelchair users would be able to get upstairs. The 'living room' was lovely - really cosy feeling with a nice log fire, I could easily imagine myself curling up in a chair opposite the fire in winter, reading a good book. I was also intrigued by the wallpaper on the ceiling in this room and a large piece of dark wood furniture with a date on it somewhere in the 1600's. The kitchen is all set out but roped off just beyond the open door so you can't go in - not really sure why this is. There are some other closed doors throughout the property, but when we asked about these we were informed they're 'just cupboards'. I also loved the sheer number of desks and writing spaces in all the rooms - I have a pen palling hobby so this was like my idea of heaven!
Back outside there is a small vegetable/fruit garden with a short path to the middle of it - even in October there were still some raspberries growing. Coming out of here and walking down a slightly narrower path, next to the one you came up on, there is a field bordering one side - in here were a small number of sheep and a few wild rabbits (if you look close enough). At the end of the path is a small building housing the shop.
As you'd expect most of the items in here are related to Beatrix Potter with everything from factual books on her life, to her stories, and a great many kids toys (Dad said he wished I was still a child as there's so much he would have loved to buy me). There were a few other slightly more 'generic' items such as fancy jars of food, that have no specific relevance to the property or Beatrix.
The National Trust are the owners so my Dad and I got in for 'free' as Dad is a member. If you're not a member then you can currently expect to pay £8.50 for an adult, £4.25 for a child or £21.25 for a family. Personally I think this is fairly expensive as the property doesn't take a huge amount of time to walk round, even when dawdling. If you're a national trust member though then great. You may also want to consider that you can access the shop and gardens without a ticket, so effectively membership just covers entry to the house.
There are varying opening times and days for the house and the gardens as well as being dependent on the time of year, so it's always a good idea to check on the national trust website to check it will be open when you plan to visit - I won't give any specifics here as it seems to change on an almost weekly basis. Suffice to say the gardens and shops tend to be open for longer than the house.
Like many National Trust properties, you're not allowed to photograph the inside (which is explained before you step into the house) however there appear to be no such restrictions on the outside and I took a few photos of the house exterior and garden.
There is no on site cafe and the shop doesn't really sell any good that would be suitable for lunch/picnic. If you do want to make a bit more of an event from your day out though then there is a pub called The Tower Bank Arms which is located between Hill Top and the car park - it's a quaint little pub and was featured in 'The Tale of Jemima Puddle-Duck'.
Worth a visit?
I think I'd have to say yes - Beatrix Potter is a well loved historical figure of not just national, but international importance and she had a huge impact on children's literature, one which is still very much felt today. Hill Top was a large part of her life and being in such 'original' condition does make you feel like you're getting to know her and her life that little bit better. I know it probably costs quite a bit to maintain, however I can't help but think the tickets are rather pricey considering the length of time you're likely to spend there - enough probably to justify becoming a fully fledged member of the National Trust.
Summary: lovely if you're able bodied and a National Trust member