‘Thank God I was never sent to school; it would have rubbed off some of the originality’ opined Beatrix Potter about her life, knowledge, and career. Her ideals rooted deeply from the world around her made her a multi-faceted writer, illustrator, designer, and environmentalist earning her a substantial name in the fields of mycology and nature conservatism, which in early Britain, was quite unusual for a woman to be known for. On the occasion of her birth anniversary, here.s presenting her residence-turned-museum to all the readers.
Born 28 July 1866, Potter started out as a writer and illustrator of her books – thirty in total- twenty-three of which were for children. Her characters ‘Benjamin Bunny‘ and ‘Peter Rabbit’ among others have been made immortal by her illustrations and later through digital series, movies, theatre, ballets, musicals, and others. Her beloved holiday location Lake District became her home in the days to come when she bought Hilltop Farm on Bowness on Windermere with the royalties received from her book.
I have had the privilege to visit the Lake District, Windermere while I was studying in Manchester. The beauty and scenic locales of unparalleled beauty, rightly preserved for years by the consciousness of humanity, was an unforgettable sight. In fact, much of its preservation is owed to Beatrix Potter. Nestled between the natural beauty of lakes, waterfalls, winding flowering paths and the hilltop view lies Bowness on Windermere– the former residence of Beatrix Potter, which has now been remodeled into the Beatrix Potter Museum.
The museum equals being seeped into the pages of her books and living them in front of one’s eyes. Illustrations from her books and especially that of Peter Rabbit and Benjamin Bunny have been replicated down to the last details. From the naughty Peter Rabbit creating havoc in Mr. Mcgregor’s garden and being rebuked at, to Mr. Jeremy Fisher, the slightly accident-prone frog who sets out on an adventure; from the dilemma of Jemima Puddle-Duck to Mr. Tod, the fox reading a newspaper; each life-size model reminds the children and elders alike of the magic of Beatrix Potter. In her own words- ‘What heaven can be more real than to retain the spirit-world of childhood?’ indeed the museum acts as a heaven for children.
But that is not all! The Museum boasts of the Peter Rabbit Garden designed by Chelsea RHS Gold Medal Winner, Richard Lucas. Modeling on Potter’s belief of conservatism and environmentalism, the garden has been built with purely organic materials and farms local fruits, and vegetables. It doubles up as a kitchen garden and mouth-watering dishes made out these home-grown veggies and plants can be savored in the Café next door. But do be careful, “It is said that the effect of eating too much lettuce is ‘soporific’.
The world-famous Gift shop in the precinct ships Beatrix Potter merchandise to over fifty countries in the world. Potters characters have also been brought to life by stage artists who perform theatricals in the Old Laundry Theatre. The most famous show ‘Where is Peter Rabbit?’ has been running 2- 3 times a day for the viewers. And if you thought that was it, it is not! Children love the world of Potter and what better than celebrating their birthday’s or special parties themed on Potter? Keeping this in mind, the specially designed Laundrama has been hosting Potterific parties and special occasions for the people.
The Beatrix Potter Museum serves as a time portal to her world. It reminds the readers of a distinguished woman with a sharp intellect and irrefutable love for nature. Throughout her life, she has claimed ‘If I have done anything, even a little to help small children enjoy honest, simple pleasures, I have done a bit of good’. Potter is not only remembered for her lively characters but also for the strength of power that she herself was. Numerous documentaries have been made on her life including a 1982 production by the BBC.
Her principles in life teach all her readers quite a few lessons, the first being conservatism. Lake District, Windermere is one of the prime tourist destinations in the United Kingdom known for its natural beauty, much of which can be owed to the preservation policies of Potter. In fact, her local farming methods can be credited for the sustenance of various species of flora and fauna which would have been otherwise lost. Too few, in the contemporary world remember the importance of nature, else most usually take it for granted and abuse it. Post her death, her entire property in Lake District has been left in charge of The National Trust who continues to walk in her ideals of preserving nature.
Coming to the literary aspect, her very first book was a self-published work. But her growth in her scope of literature only accounts for the fact how well she matured as a writer and that self-publishing is parallel to publishing. As they say Content is King, so was true decades ago. Potter’s foray into illustrations, merchandise designing, farming has helped her to not only draw inspiration for her books but also made her an entrepreneur with several avenues of income. The ideals presented by Potter were relevant for generations to come and thus, even in the 21st century, children and elders alike marvel at the prowess of her creative imagination and the visual appeal of her words.
Potter’s books are widely available across all online and offline platforms like Amazon and Flipkart. It can also be ordered at your nearest bookstore. Currently, due to the grave crisis the world is in, Bowness on Windermere has canceled all its events. It is due to reopen with all safety precautions on 1 August 2020. Should all be well, a trip to this exotic world is a must!
My visit to Bowness-on-Windermere which was my first time at an author’s house-turned-museum brought questions to my mind about preservation. It is indeed true when we say that an author lives through his/her/their words and works but their residence, a prime source of their inspiration should also be equally protected and preserved. Visiting such museums only deepens the burning question in me – Are we doing enough to preserve what needs to be preserved or have we lost a huge treasure trove of knowledge already due to neglect and ignorance? I leave you with this question and would be happy to hear your comments on it.
Until next time……..