The White Cottage

MY DAYS IN RETIREMENT

Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle Sends Her Love.

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With another wonderful breakfast this morning, we were on the road to Hill Top, the home of Beatrix Potter and all of her beloved animals. To cross Lake Windermere, we had to catch the Ferry which is just outside of Bowness, which is only a five minute drive from our Guest House in Windermere. We had a 45 minute wait until the ferry arrived, so we joined the others in taking pictures of the sail boats enjoying the sunny day.

Driving off the ferry we were on our way once again and soon arrived at Hill Top within minutes. We were advised by our Inn Keeper to get there early as this is a very popular tourist destination, and she was right. The parking lot was very small, but being one of the first cars to arrive we were parked and ready to purchase our tickets.

Within minutes Nat and I had stepped back into the world of Beatrix Potter as we approached her little cottage while walking up the stoned-walkway through one of her gardens. As we approached the cottage there was a small wait before being allowed to tour the house. No pictures were allowed within the house, but I purchased a small booklet that shows you everything therein. The entire house is original with all of her furniture, collections of art by her brother, dollhouse, library and other original books and so much more. We were advised the only things replaced in the house were the carpeting and draperies.

Nat and I wandered throughout the house – upstairs and down – where we felt like we had stepped into a small doll cottage full of antiquities and beautiful collections and gifts given to her over the years, including her fiancé that died soon after their engagement. One such gift from him were the exquisite and tiny items in her two-floor dollhouse that are just too numerous to mention. As Beatrix never travelled herself, her fiancé gave her little miniature items for her dollhouse which would make any collector envious. The detail in the tiny, tiny little dolls that sat at their little dining table, the little chandeliers hanging in the main rooms upstairs, the hand-carved tiny furniture, clothing, bedding, cookery, paintings (in minute detail) were all too much to see within the small amount of time we had. My instant thoughts were of Gail and Zoe and all the others at home that would be totally enthralled with this little house filled with beautiful little things that added up to a very extensive and valuable collection.

Taking a deep breath and walking away from the dollhouse, Nat and I continued our exploration into Beatrix’s bedroom, sitting room and back downstairs to the main living room and her writing room. The entire house was warm, cozy and welcoming and you instantly felt like she would walk in from her “veg patch” at any moment, with Peter Rabbit following along.

Nat and I then walked back outside to where her “veg patch” was and, again, nothing had changed. Everything was left as it was, with the exception of some cleaning up of the garden from overgrowth. Her watering can still sat a little off-kilter as if she had just walked away to do something else. We walked around to the little garden gate where we could take a small stroll to the middle of her little garden. Somehow I felt like a giant standing amongst a doll-size vegetable patch filled with fresh goodies and waiting to be picked for evening tea. I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face as I could imagine Ms Potter and her little characters as they danced around while she hoed and weeded her garden.

After our walkabout the house we wandered back down the roadway and snapped pictures of the sheep in the field across the way. Another place where Beatrix would get inspiration for her drawings, as she walked to the little post box to get her letters. Some of her little books and corespondence from her publisher were also on display for anyone to read. Despite her background of wealth (she had inherited a great deal for the times), Ms Potter was certainly an amazing woman with imagination and charm. I’m a true believer that you’re never too old to appreciate what this woman has done for any child that’s grown to love her tales and little characters, not to mention what she’s done for conservation.

It went without saying that we had to visit the gift shop. As I entered the shop and laid the house booklet on the counter, the young woman behind the counter asked “Is that all for today?”. Nat’s immediate reply was “If I were you I’d wait, there’ll be more, trust me!” He was right, but I kept my restraint as I browsed through her little books and characters. I did, however, manage to pick up a couple of items for home for moi and someone else. This was one little place on our trip I was sad to leave.

With time still on our side, Nat and I decided to head down the road, drive around Lake Windermere and see what else we could find along the way. We arrived in Coniston, another very busy little village full of walkers, hikers and others having a look about on a sunny, but cool, day. We found a parking spot and walked across to a little family-owned cafe where we ordered a sandwich, scone, and tea. As we took our seat we listened as their young lad was doing puzzles and little mazes in a magazine with his Mom. Once our order was ready, the young lad, with his little pinny on, delivered our order with grace and charm. I was ready to sneak him a Pound before we left, but his little friend came into the cafe and the two of them were away in a shot disappearing behind the “Private” doorway.

Back on the narrow roadway lined with stone walls, shrubbery, trees and bushes, we continued our drive around Lake Windermere enjoying the gorgeous green fields with sheep grazing in almost everyone, along with black sheep we found at Waterhead before we entered into Coniston. We meandered up and down, in and around hill, dale and valley coming so close to some of those stone walls, I had to grab the door handle for fear I’d get scraped. So close, I wanted to reach out and brush my hand along the shrubbery as we drove up and down the hillsides with whizzing cars passing us by.

We were soon back to Windermere and our little room. Not knowing exactly what to do for our tea, we decided to take another walk back down the high street. We ended up back at the Lazy Daisy where our small meal consisted of a ham and mushroom panini (Nat) and deep-fried chicken strips with chips and coleslaw for me. The Lazy Daisy was packed (a sign of a good cafe) but we managed to find a seat and enjoy our meal. With another sunny afternoon upon us, the streets were lined with visitors and locals sitting at every outside table at each cafe they could find having a drink, eating little goodies and petting their dogs that sat obediently along side.

On our walk back to the Rockside we dropped into the Bakery and picked up a couple of goodies for our snacks tonight while watching “Simply Come Dancing”. Our last night in the Lake District. We’ve certainly enjoyed the whole experience despite the tenseness of driving along what seems like ancient roadways meandering up, down, in, around, through village after village and field after field, but with scenery that is a photographer’s dream.

See you in your little story books, Peter Rabbit, Jemima Puddle-Duck, Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle, Benjamin Bunny, Miss Moppit, Tom Kitten, Mrs. Tittlemouse and all of your friends.

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Author: Twila

Born and raised in a small town in Ontario, Canada, with 5 sisters and a brother. Now retired, my husband and I travel, play golf and am slowly renovating our new (old) home. After my kidney transplant in 1999, we've learned to enjoy life to the fullest. Nat and I have driven across Canada, taken an Alaskan cruise and drove home via the Northern United States. We've also been to Mexico, the Caribbean, the East Coast of Canada and Cape Breton. We've done the "Snowbird" thing, having lived in Destin, Florida for a couple of months of the year. In 2007 we changed our travel plans in order to move into and renovate our new "old" home, but hope to someday get back on the road again. We also love returning to Scotland (Nat's origin of birth) to visit his family and tour the Highlands and surrounding Isles.

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