Reviewed by Catherine Dolan
Wow, what a wonderful day myself, daughter and 4 granddaughters had at the Beatrix Potter Attraction Centre.
We had prepared to arrive at 12 noon to visit Hill Top, which is a small house and therefore a ticket system is in place to avoid congestion and to protect the interior. For those of you, like me who don’t know about Hill Top, Beatrix Potter bought this property and surrounding land in 1905 from the proceeds of her first book, the Tale of Peter Rabbit. Although she was unable to occupy the property permanently, she used it to inspire her writing and illustrations.
On arrival, the staff was very helpful and full of information. They allowed each of the children to borrow a copy of one of Beatrix’s books, The Tale of Samuel Whiskers, or The Roly-Poly Pudding and pointed out the illustrations which are exact to each room. I’m sure in their little minds they could visualise the furry animals coming through the door, scampering up the stairs or even sitting in front of the open fire. The house is full of Beatrix’s favourite things from letters, information from publishers, the pens she used, tiny china tea sets and it looks as if she is still living there! It is amazing and still has its rustic charm and Victorian furnishings.
The garden has a mix of flowers, herbs, fruit and vegetables. The staff even informed the children that the ‘egg’ which is in the Rhubarb patch is one from Jemima Puddle Duck much to their excitement.
We then travelled the few miles to visit the Beatrix Potter Gallery. This is a 17th-century house which displays the original artwork of Beatrix Potter. The gallery building was previously the office of Beatrix Potter’s husband William Heelis, a well-established solicitor of that time. There are 1000’s of illustrations and therefore each year the National Trust chooses a theme and this year it was to discover what it is like to go ‘On holiday with Beatrix Potter’. Beatrix had a varied and unique list of travels which also helped inspire her wonderful stories.
Again, the staff was very informative and helpful. The children enjoyed looking at all the illustrations and using the interactive touch screen to unravel all the unusual things Beatrix brought back from her travels. In one of the rooms there is a Beatrix Potter’s curious childhood collections cabinet which is full of unusual things from gem stones to butterflies and by using the touch screen they were able to view the inside of each drawer. The staff also gave the children a small quiz to do whilst going round this enchanted building, which they all enjoyed immensely – they were even given a Peter Rabbit badge for their effort, this little touch from the staff made the visit even more worthwhile. There is also a small area with bean bags where the little children can relax and read one of her books; another room has headphones hanging from the ceilings with a narrator of her books.
Unfortunately, we ran out of time to visit Wray Castle (another attraction), where I believe Beatrix and her family used to occupy for their annual holidays and subsequently inspired Beatrix’s love of the Lake District. With only an hour until it closed, I wanted to really enjoy the visit as much as the previous two attractions and not be ‘against the clock’, therefore I hope to visit there very soon.
With her love of the outdoors, when Beatrix died aged 77 on 22nd December 1943, in her will she left 14 farms and over 4000 acres to the National Trust, land that it still owns and protects against development today.
Hill Top prices (with Gift Aid): Adult £9.50 (£10.50, Child £4.75 (£5.25), Family £23.75
Beatrix Potter Gallery (with Gift Aid): Adult £5.40 (£6), Child £2.70 (£3), Family £13.50 (£15)
For more information visit www.nationaltrust.org.uk.