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Arts

Exhibition reveals Beatrix Potter’s debt to north Lakes

Beatrix Potter sketching on Derwentwater, 1903, by Rupert Potter. © The Cotsen Collection
Beatrix Potter sketching on Derwentwater, 1903, by Rupert Potter. © The Cotsen Collection

[A] new exhibition at Wordsworth House and Garden in Cockermouth reveals how some of Beatrix Potter’s best-loved characters own their existence to the northern Lake District.

Beatrix, who was born 150 years ago this month, is more usually associated with the area around Hill Top Farm, Near Sawrey, close to Windermere, where she wrote several of her children’s books and devoted her later life farming and breeding Herdwick sheep.

However, without the early family holidays she spent in the north Lakes, around Keswick and Derwentwater, she might never have written the world-famous tales of Squirrel Nutkin, Benjamin Bunny and Mrs Tiggy-winkle, the hedgehog.

Squirrels fishing on Derwentwater © Frederick Warne & Co. 1903, 2002
Squirrels fishing on Derwentwater © Frederick Warne & Co. 1903, 2002

The stories behind their creation are told in Beatrix Potter and a Love of the Northern Lakes, which opens at poet William Wordsworth’s childhood home on Saturday 16 July. The exhibition includes several of Beatrix’s original illustrations together with a selection of photographs taken in the area by her father, Rupert.

Zoe Gilbert, Wordsworth House’s Visitor Experience Manager, said: “Although Beatrix was born almost 100 years after William and wrote children’s stories rather than poetry, they had more in common, as writers and early conservationists, than many people realise.

“Like William, Beatrix was profoundly influenced by the time she spent in this beautiful part of the Lake District, so we’re delighted to be marking her anniversary with this very special exhibition. The local places she visited, the views she admired and the wildlife she observed inspired some of her most popular books.”

Admission to the exhibition, which runs until the end of October, is free with entry to the house and garden.

The National Trust property is also holding Beatrix-themed talks, art classes, storytelling sessions and family events throughout the summer.

On Thursday 28 July – the 150th anniversary of the day she was born – it is hosting a birthday picnic for families, from 11.30am to 3.30pm. There will be storytelling, activities and free birthday cake, and children bringing a picnic lunch or tea plus a favourite toy will get the whole family in free.

For more information on Wordsworth House and Garden’s full programme of Beatrix Potter events and activities for adults and children, visit www.nationaltrust.org.uk/wordsworthhouse.

Wordsworth House and Garden is on Main Street, Cockermouth, CA13 9RX. It is open Saturday to Thursday, 11am to 5pm (last entry 4pm) until 30 October. *Adult £8, child £4, family £20; National Trust members free. (*Gift aid prices include a voluntary 10% donation. See website for standard admission prices.)

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