We are all aware of the fantastic and highly regarded work of Sir David Attenborough but have you ever considered the work of Beatrix Potter? She was a woman with a clear vision and was at the forefront when it came to flying the flag for conservation.
Famous for writing the children’s classic The Tale of Peter Rabbit – first published in 1908 – she became a firm advocate of conservation notably in the Lake District.
Born Helen Beatrix Potter on July 28, 1866 in London to upper-middle class parents she spent many happy, family holidays as a child in the Lakes. It drew her back again and again and she finally settled at Hill Top, Near Sawry – a farm on the edge of Tarn Hows – in 1905.
Here Beatrix began to observe the animals and wildlife around her. She began to write stories, sketch and paint water colours. Thus Peter Rabbit and his friends were born. Incidentally did you know that Peter Rabbit was named after her childhood pet rabbit Peter Piper!
As a conservationist Beatrix became increasingly concerned about the Lake Districts fragile landscape, particularly after the First World War, when tourism exploded in this area. She began to buy farms, firstly small holdings and than much larger properties to try and preserve the land and allow it to survive and thrive. So keen was Beatrix on preserving and conserving that she never consented to electricity or indoor plumbing in any of her properties. Imagine!
Her properties and lands were left to the National Trust with the understanding that they would remain as working farms and they are still to this day.
Soon after her arrival at Hill Top Farm Beatrix became interested in breeding and rearing Herdwick sheep – a breed indigenous to the local area and characterised by their long black faces and black legs.
In 1922 she bought Troutbeck Farm Park, a former deer park, and filled it with thousands of Herdwicks becoming an animal conservationist who helped sculpt the landscape that we see today. She won many awards for her sheep in local agricultural shows and became President elect for the Herdwick Sheep breeders Association in 1944, this was the first time a woman had been elected – even more reason to admire this forward thinking woman.
Visit the Beatrix Potter Society to read more information about her life.
Lake District National Park
The Lake District National Park is definitely worthy of a visit and is famous for its outstanding beauty from its mountains to the many lakes or meres and lovely towns and quaint villages.
Coniston Water, Lake District
Everyone can find something to do from fell walking, a gentle stroll along the lakeside to full on water sports and wild swimming, shopping and eating in some fine restaurants.
Sarah Nelson’s Grasmere Gingerbread Shop is one of my particular favourites. “Quite simply the best gingerbread in the world”, and I certainly agree with that.
The National Trust
‘Houses Great and Small’
The Lake District has an abundance of National Trust properties and countryside
The National Trust was set up in 1895 by three Victorian philanthropists: Sir Robert Hunter, Miss Octavia Hill and Cannon Hardwicke Rawnsley. They had become increasingly concerned about the impact of industrialization and the development of big towns and cities.
They began to acquire threatened countryside, buildings and coastline to preserve and protect and thus the National Trust was born and is still here today as a guardian for our fabulous UK. It has an estimated 612,000 acres of beautiful countryside, 700 miles of stunning coastline and in the region of 200 buildings and gardens. Amazing!!
Read more about the history of the National Trust
Peter Rabbit and Friends
It’s impossible to write about Beatrix Potter and the Lake District National Park without mentioning that mischievous little scamp Peter and his many friends – Mrs Tiggy-Winkle, Tom Kitten, Jeremy Fisher and Jemima Puddleduck to name just a few. She has 28 books published in all!
A firm favourite with children across the generations it was a sweet letter from a fan William Warner on 11th August in 1908 that prompted Beatrix to write a response to ‘Dear Little William Warner’. The letter went on to be sold at auction in 2016 for £8,500.
Read the letter in full:
Thank you for your nice little letter and your sister’s letter too. I have been trying dreadfully hard to think about another story about Peter. I thinked and thinked and thinked last year but I didn’t think enough to fill a book!
So I made a story about Jemima Puddle-Duck instead and it will be in the shops very soon. I hope you will like it. I must try and do another rabbit book; all the little boys and girls like the rabbits best.
I am staying at a house where there are lots of wild rabbits in the garden – there is quite a black rabbit who lives at the top of a bank opposite my bedroom window. When I am dressing in the morning, I can see him sitting on a stump washing his face with his paws. I have got a rabbit, but it is brown; I call it Joseph. It is very tame and licks my hands, but I think if it got out it would run away into the wood.
It lives in a hutch and has a nice little yard where it can run about and eat grass. I have got a little brown mouse called Dusty. It is running about the table while I write, it has been sniffing at this letter. I am sure it wants to send its love to you!
Isn’t that just wonderful and worth every penny!
Beatrix’s influence is felt throughout the Lakes from her historical houses of Hill Top and Troutbeck to The World of Peter Rabbit Museum in Bowness on Windermere.
It was just one year after Beatrix Potter wrote her first book that the first piece of merchandise was marketed. As well as the original books of The Tale of Peter Rabbit, Peter and his Friends have inspired cartoons, films, special 50p coins and soft toys and alphabet letters.
Visit Teddy Bear Friends to see our full range and take a little bit of the cheeky bunny home with you.