What a nice programme this, marking the 150th anniversary of the birth of Beatrix Potter, was! It was particularly fascinating to hear how savvy/canny Beatrix Potter was. Her family might have tried to make out that they were very posh, but they were only one generation removed, on both sides, from hard-working middle-class Tamesiders, and that definitely came out in Beatrix :-). She was well up there with all the merchandising and commercialisation of her characters, in a way we really don’t associate with late Victorian and Edwardian ladies, and she went around buying up land and farms all over the Lake District. And then it turned out that her well-respected publishers were on the fiddle … and Beatrix’s softer side really came out there, when she stuck with them, because they were owned by the family of her late fiancé, and one of her books saved them from bankruptcy. We also heard about Beatrix’s studies in mycology, and how she might well have become a scientist had it not been so difficult for women to do so at the time. Interesting stuff, and very well put across by
Hyacinth Bucket Patricia Routledge.
The real star of the show, though, was neither Beatrix Potter nor Peter Rabbit, but the wonderful Lake District! We got to see Patricia Routledge going over to Hill Top, Beatrix Potter’s home in beautiful, peaceful (well, it is except when there are coachloads of tourists there!) Near Sawrey, in the Mountain Goat (that nice little minibus which picks you up after you’ve got the ferry across Windermere from Bowness), and visiting nearby Hawkshead (where Beatrix’s husband’s law firm’s office is now the Beatrix Potter Gallery – entry free for National Trust members, and they even give you a free sample of Kendal mint cake in the shop!), and Wray Castle where Beatrix once spent a holiday. She even interviewed a National Trust representative on board Gondola, the National Trust owned steam yacht which sails on Coniston Water … although I was rather put out that Channel 4 didn’t mention its name! And lots of shots of fells and … er, sheep! I was up at Coniston, Hawkshead, Hill Top and Wray Castle on Saturday, and they’re such wonderful places. The National Trust does a superb job in the Lake District, and Beatrix Potter was one of the people who really got that association going.
We did get to hear about the books too, of course! And to hear that a previously unpublished book of hers is to be published, although unfortunately she only left one illustration for it. It’s about a cat with a gun!
The flags are out outside “The World of Beatrix Potter” in beautiful Bowness-on-Windermere, to mark the sesquicentennial (I like that word! It was used a lot between 2011 and 2015, in connection with the American Civil War!) of her birth, and the National Trust’s got various special events and exhibitions going on during the course of this year. It’s really lovely, special, English stuff … go and see it, and enjoy!