Thursday, 28 July 2016

Beatrix Potter: 150th Birthday Anniversary

2016 sees big birthday anniversaries of two of the Victorian women whose life and work have long been a constant source of inspiration to me: 200th birthday of Charlotte Bronte back on 21st April, which I marked with a personal tribute here, and 150th birthday of Beatrix Potter on 28th July.

“What heaven can be more real than to retain the spirit-world of childhood?” 
~Beatrix Potter~

Beatrix Potter (1866 - 1943) was an amazing woman who managed to accomplish her goals in an era when ambitious women were still firmly discouraged from becoming successful. She is best known for her children's stories about animals, especially "Peter Rabbit", which she beautifully illustrated herself. However, her talent and achievements did not end there. She was a natural scientist; a farmer winning prizes for breeding Herdwick sheep which are a common and distinctive sight in the Lake District where she lived; she was a shrewd business woman who bought and managed a number of local farms and a considerable amount of land; she was passionate about conservation and left a large estate to the National Trust after her death.

I love the Lake District, and go there at least once a year. And every time I am there I like to think about Beatrix and her life, and go for walks involving places associated with her. The most fascinating of all is, of course, the "Hill Top", the farmhouse she bought with the proceeds of sales of her first book "The tale of Peter Rabbit". Apparently she never lived at the Hill Top but she wrote some of her stories there. She did furnish it like a home, and a very inspirational one. Today it remains as she left it, and is a busy museum where timed tickets are issued. I just love coming here and looking around not just the house but the gardens too. And the whole village of Near Sawrey, where the cottage is situated, breathes the presence of Beatrix and her animal characters through various sites used in her stories.

Earlier this year, during a week's stay in Grasmere, I went to see the World of Beatrix Potter Attraction in Bowness on the Windermere lake for the first time. The establishment  itself is celebrating a special anniversary this year - 25 years of the day it first opened its doors to the public. It's a magical exhibition place where Beatrix's much loved characters are brought to life. I thought I would share some of the photos I took back in February as part of my tribute to Beatrix for her big birthday anniversary. All photos are quick snapshots taken with my mobile android phone, and were given just a basic edit in Lightroom.

A figure of Beatrix as a young woman with a couple of her animal characters by her side near the entrance to the exhibition.

Old Mrs Rabbit, the mother of Peter Rabbit and his siblings Flopsy, Mopsy and Cotton-tail

Peter Rabbit, Beatrix's first and most famous character, a naughty rabbit who goes into Mr McGregor's garden and helps himself to some of the vegetables.

Mr McGregor is planting out cabbages at the moment he spots Peter Rabbit in his garden.

Jemima Puddle-Duck, a naive but endearing duck who decides to build a nest away from the farm she lives on.

A cunning fox whom Jemima meets in the nearby wood, and who lets her build a nest in his comfortable woodshed.

Mrs Tiggy-Winkle in her kitchen, the adorable hedgehog, a short and plump woman who washes and irons the clothes for the animals.

Mr Tod, the disagreeable fox, the arch enemy of the badger called Tommy Brock.

The table set for a meal in Mr Tod's kitchen.

Tommy Brock , the badger, sleeping in Mr Tod's bed with a pail of water balanced over his head by Mr Tod who hoped to play a trick upon Tommy.

Mr Jeremy Fisher taking a break from fishing to eat a sandwich sitting on his lily pad boat.

Mr Jeremy Fisher is seized by a huge trout and pulled into the water. He manages to escape and invites his friends to dinner.

A scene created by the illustration from "The Tale of Pigling Bland"

Two soulmate piglets from "The Tale of Pigling Bland".

A life size figure of Beatrix in her later life. She liked to be called "Mrs Heelis" at this stage of her life being happily married to the respected local solicitor William Heelis.

Me and Mrs Heelis. Just could not resist!

Beatrix's timeless tales never lost their popularity and continue to be enjoyed by children all over the world.
For anyone wishing to know more about this fascinating woman I strongly recommend Margaret Lane's biography "The Tale of Beatrix Potter" and the movie "Miss Potter" starring Renee Zellweger.

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