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Travel Report: The World of Beatrix Potter.

The World of Beatrix Potter.

The World of Beatrix Potter, Bowness-on-Windermere, England.

May 2019.

There is a host of brilliant English children’s authors who inspired my love for literature as a kid. A.A. Milne… Roger Hargreaves… Roald Dahl… Robin Jarvis… to name but a few. Growing up, I was also aware of Beatrix Potter, though for reasons that escape me I only actually read her first book, The Tale of Peter Rabbit.

The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter 1902

Over the years, I caught more of Potter’s stories through various animated film adaptations. I remember feeling charmed about the fantastical world she created and her rich and varied cast of talking countryside animals.

And yet, somehow, I never did get around to reading those other tales. What can I say, with all the books, movies and records I was into, I never seemed to have enough time.

The life of Beatrix Potter.

Beatrix Potter 1866-1943.

Later, as an adult, I saw the 2006 biographical movie Miss Potter, starring Renee Zellweger as the iconic writer and illustrator. I found Potter’s life story utterly absorbing, albeit mawkishly told in the film.

Thus I was delighted to come across a building dedicated to her work during my visit to The Lake District in 2019. Which brings me to The World of Beatrix Potter, an attraction located in the picturesque town of Bowness-on-Windermere.

The World of Beatrix Potter.

The World of Beatrix Potter in Bowness on Windermere

The World of Beatrix Potter.

Initially, I found myself wondering if this was an attraction purely aimed at kids. But then I thought what the heck, when in Rome and all that. After all, The Lake District is where Potter settled following the success of her tales.

Inside The World of Beatrix Potter.

It’s also the land that inspired many more of her stories and characters. The region that saw her branch out, with great success, as a conservationist and animal breeder. Hence I went inside, paid the £8 entrance fee and headed through the doors into a darkened underground grotto.

Beatrix Potter attraction Bowness on Windermere

The World of Beatrix Potter.

Immediately, I found myself transported into Potter’s magical world. All around me were handcrafted scenes from her stories. Bewitching patches of the pastoral Lake District countryside inhabited by Potter’s lovable characters.

Mr. Tod The World of Beatrix Potter.

Mr. Tod catching up with the news.

To my left, I spied a straw house set among the tall grass and deep purple woodland sage. Nearby stood Peter Rabbit in his signature blue jacket, nibbling greedily on some radishes from Mr. McGregor’s garden. Oh dear, he was about to get into big trouble. Meanwhile, a goose flapped overhead to the lilting sound of traditional English folk music.

Exploring The Lake District.

In fact, there are lovingly created dioramas dedicated to all 23 of Beatrix Potter’s tales. A perfect opportunity, then, for me to walk through her famous series of children’s books and remind myself what I’ve been missing all these years.

Visit The World of Beatrix Potter.

The World of Beatrix Potter.

Although Potter had always had confidence in her writing and illustrating, the success of The Tale of Peter Rabbit came as a huge surprise. After its release to the masses in 1902, she became one of Britain’s first writers to aggressively commercialise her stories and characters. As a result, she set to work on themed wallpaper, a stuffed Peter toy and a board game.

Moreover, she began writing her second story, The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin, published in 1903. Much like Peter, Nutkin was a naughty and insolent character that delighted children and led adults to draw comparisons to the rebellious working class of the day.

The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin The World of Beatrix Potter

The World of Beatrix Potter.

The Squirrel Nutkin display also features Old Brown, the (supposed) villain of the piece. He lives on Owl Island, where the squirrels go to collect nuts. At first Old Brown is happy to let them go about their business, especially as they offer him various gifts for the privilege. But Nutkin’s constant taunting of the old owl eventually leads to consequences…

The World of Beatrix Potter.

Old Brown Owl The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin

Don’t mess with Old Brown.

From there the dioramas come thick and fast, from Benjamin Bunny, Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle and Jeremy Fisher, to Miss Moppet, Tom Kitten and Jemima Puddle-Duck.

All characters that were familiar to me by name, but whose storylines I hadn’t been aware of. Jeremy Fisher, for example, a mishap-prone frog, was inspired by the pet frogs Beatrix kept as a young girl. And by her father Rupert, who was a keen fisherman.

Jeremy Fisher the frog.

The World of Beatrix Potter.

This giant shopfront represents the charming store owned by Ginger the tomcat and Pickles the terrier in Potter’s 1909 adventure The Tale of Ginger and Pickles.

They sell all kinds of stuff, including “red spotty handkerchiefs, sugar, snuff and galoshes”. Unfortunately, their poor business practices (they offer free unlimited credit to everyone) result in them going out of business. And from there the story unfolds…

Ginger and Pickles store World of Beatrix Potter

The World of Beatrix Potter.

Potter drew on details from a shop in her local village of Sawrey for Ginger & Pickles. She dedicated the book to a dear friend, a blacksmith by the name of John Taylor suffering from longterm illness. Furthermore, she modelled one of the book’s characters, John Dormouse, on him. But sadly Mr. Taylor never lived to see the book released.

Ginger and Pickles.

I liked how each diorama comes with a touchscreen panel. This is where you can get some background info on each book and maybe even read a few key passages. There’s also educational stuff, such as how foxes hunt in the wild and the intelligence of pigs. The info is available in seven languages.

Exploring The Lake District.

The Tale of Pigland Bland The World of Beatrix Potter

The World of Beatrix Potter.

About halfway, I broke up my journey through the tales by ducking outside into the Peter Rabbit Garden. It’s a modest space, but carefully maintained with a lot of love from its team of gardeners.

Peter Rabbit Garden

The Peter Rabbit Garden.

Packed full of colourful plants and bushes, it was designed to recreate the style of garden seen in many of Potter’s books. And if you know the tales well, you’ll catch all kinds of cool details. Like the cos lettuces, gooseberry bush and watering can, which all feature in that first Peter Rabbit story.

Peter Rabbit Garden World of Beatrix Potter attraction

The World of Beatrix Potter.

However, there’s nothing discreet about the garden’s stunning centrepiece. Towering high above most of the greenery, even some of the trees, stands The Enchanting World of Beatrix Potter Sculpture. Made by the artist Anthony Bennett, this bronze creation shows three gleeful children releasing Jemima Puddle-Duck into the air.

The Enchanting World of Beatrix Potter sculpture

The Enchanting World of Beatrix Potter.

But Jemima certainly isn’t the only character to feature. The sculpture actually depicts characters from all 23 tales. Some sit snugly at the feet of the children, others inhabit the base of the piece. It’s fun doing a 360 of the sculpture and tracking them all down.

The Enchanting World of Beatrix Potter Statue 

The Enchanting World of Beatrix Potter.

It was none other than Renee Zellweger who unveiled the artwork on the 23rd of April 2006. On a nearby bench, surrounded by greenery and a pretty potted plant, one can also check out Bennett’s original sketches and notes. A cool insight into what he was thinking during the creation process.

The Peter Rabbit Garden.

World of Beatrix Potter statue.

In the Peter Rabbit Garden.

After passing the last of the dioramas, I entered a small exhibition on Beatrix’s life. There’s a lot of juicy stuff here, from the fractured relationship with her controlling mother, to the untimely death of her fiancé Norman Warne, who as Potter’s publisher played a key role in her success.

Beatrix Potter's World.

The World of Beatrix Potter.

Naturally there’s also a focus on her love of The Lake District. There are models of the Potter family’s many houses, including Hilltop Farm in Sawrey where Beatrix predominantly lived for the last 38 years of her life. It is now open to the public as a museum, I’d definitely like to go and visit one day.

Model of Hilltop Farm

The World of Beatrix Potter.

And of course the exhibit celebrates the fact that Beatrix left nearly all of her properties and land to The National Trust. That’s over 4000 acres of countryside, home to 16 working farms and untold herds of animals including her precious, prize-winning Herdwick sheep.

Beatrix Potter English children's author.

The World of Beatrix Potter.

Finally, of course, one can pick up just about any Beatrix Potter gift imaginable in the shop. Yes sir, from magnets, key rings, t-shirts and coasters, to postcards, posters, soft toys and the books themselves.

The World of Beatrix Potter.

The Tales of Beatrix Potter.

Overall, I think The World of Beatrix Potter is a decent attraction for both kids and adults. I’d say it’s a perfect introduction to the author and her work and a good warmup for visiting the museums that now stand in her former homes.

Happily, working on this article gave me the kick up the bum I needed to… at long last… read through Potter’s famous tales one by one. Indeed Sladja and I started just a few days ago and are already three stories into the journey. So far, it’s been a blast.

Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle

“Bye bye!” from Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle.

Like this? Maybe take a look at my many travel articles from all around England.

I’ve been living, working and traveling all over the world since 2001. So why not check out my huge library of travel reports from over 30 countries.

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  • Little Miss Traveller

    How delightful Leighton. I adored the Peter Rabbit books and bought the complete set for my children when they were little and they loved them too. I’ll definitely be visiting this enchanting museum sometime when I’m in the Lake District. Thank you for telling me how beautiful it is and enjoy reading Squirrel Nutkin et al.

    March 23, 2022 - 9:22 am Reply
    • Leighton

      Thank you Marion, I knew you would be familiar with the series. We are enjoying it so far, read The Tailor of Gloucester last night and will be doing The Tale of Benjamin Bunny tonight. A long overdue look at one of our greatest writers!

      March 23, 2022 - 9:28 am Reply
  • WanderingCanadians

    The Tale of Peter Rabbit is such an iconic children’s book. I remember reading it, and a few of the other tales of different animals, when I was younger. The World of Beatrix Potter looks like a fabulous place to visit to see a different side of those books from the perspective of an adult.

    March 23, 2022 - 11:04 am Reply
    • Leighton

      It’s amazing how far and wide her work has reached. Thanks for dropping by!

      March 23, 2022 - 11:58 am Reply
  • Lyssy In The City

    What an adorable museum, I’d definitely love to visit this. I’d probably say this is so cute 100x to Jon haha. The garden is so beautiful too! I’m not sure why but the name Beatrix Potter made me think of Harry Potter, so I was happy this was about Peter Rabbit instead.

    March 23, 2022 - 1:35 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Glad you like it Lyssy, these tales are so endearing, the characters so iconic. Thanks for stopping by!

      March 23, 2022 - 3:42 pm Reply
  • Diana

    How neat! Somehow I only read the Tale of Peter Rabbit. I didn’t realize she wrote other stories nor did I know anything about her life. Thanks for the tour!

    March 23, 2022 - 2:32 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Thanks Diana, she’s a fascinating woman who created a large cast of charming woodland animals. Appreciate your contribution to the thread.

      March 23, 2022 - 2:42 pm Reply
  • Memo

    I can only recall reading Peter Rabbit but probably read any others that were available when I was a child as I loved to read and they all sound so familiar. Loved the Fox reading the newspaper. The attention to detail was impressive. This whole house is such an extensive undertaking. All 23 stories in interactive dioramas with touch screens and in 7 different languages. Every museum would love to achieve something like that. And that garden and sculpture is a fabulous culmination. Now I have to scare up some of the books too. Thanks for the inspiration.

    March 23, 2022 - 3:25 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Cheers Memo, it’s a cool project to go through them all. It really only takes 30 minutes each night to read the next tale. Then perhaps an additional half an hour to check out the Wikipedia page for each story. Which is well worth it as there’s loads of interesting history around Potter and her tales. I’m actually in the middle of an email to you right now. Coming soon…

      March 23, 2022 - 3:41 pm Reply
  • NortheastAllie

    That is amazing that there are so much garden elements infused to this area celebrating Beatrix Potter! She had such an impact on story telling, so that is awesome that this place really showcases her inspiration.

    March 23, 2022 - 3:47 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Thanks Allie, it is an exhibit that’s been made with a lot of love, glad that came through onscreen. Thanks so much for your continued support of the blog.

      March 23, 2022 - 3:58 pm Reply
  • pam@ichoosethis

    Can you imagine having this kind of talent – enough to leave such a wonderful legacy like this? Super cool post. 🙂

    March 23, 2022 - 4:32 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Right Pam, I strive and strive but must accept I’ll never reach the heights of Beatrix Potter ha ha. Thanks for visiting this cool attraction with me.

      March 23, 2022 - 4:42 pm Reply
      • pam@ichoosethis

        It is super cool 🙂

        March 24, 2022 - 3:42 pm
  • travelling_han

    When I was little I couldn’t pronounce Jeremy, so he was always germy fisher to me. And same with pigling so he was piggle bland. Ahh the childhood memories 🙂

    March 23, 2022 - 5:18 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Seems like most British people have some kind of early Beatrix Potter memory. Thanks for chipping in, Han.

      March 23, 2022 - 5:32 pm Reply
  • wetanddustyroads

    Ah, what a lovely place! I have only “discovered” her books in my late 30’s when my brother and his family visited us from the UK and the children asked me to read their books to them (their little backpacks each had a couple of Beatrix Potter’s books) … and I loved it … probably more than them ☺️. Thanks for the tour – another one I enjoyed very much!

    March 23, 2022 - 7:31 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Thanks Corna, great to hear of your own link to Beatrix Potter and her work. Appreciate your contribution!

      March 23, 2022 - 8:03 pm Reply
  • salsaworldtraveler

    Thanks for reviving fond childhood memories. I remember Peter Rabbit was one of my favorites to read and be read to. I still think of him whenever chamomilla tea is mentioned.

    March 23, 2022 - 10:07 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      What a wonderful memory John, getting all this feedback today has both surprised and delighted me. Thanks for your contribution.

      March 23, 2022 - 10:21 pm Reply
  • salsaworldtraveler

    chamomile, oops.😄

    March 23, 2022 - 10:50 pm Reply
  • Rebecca

    I read a book or two from Ms. Potter growing up, but it wasn’t until I watched the film Miss Potter that I started getting into her stories. What a charming attraction, then, in the Lake District! Besides the natural beauty of the region, it also has literary significance (as you mentioned with Wordsworth and the Lake poets), and Beatrix Potter is no exception! Might have to stop by while in the region someday. 🙂

    March 24, 2022 - 3:07 am Reply
    • Leighton

      Excellent Rebecca, I think ‘Miss’ Potter did much to bring about a new generation of readers. The Lake District is such a stunning region, you’d love it I’m sure. Really want to see Hilltop Farm, Potter’s country home, one of these years.

      March 24, 2022 - 8:57 am Reply
  • qprgary

    Thanks for that, the wife loves Peter Rabbit and it now looks like we’re booking for a trip to the frozen wastelands of the north.

    March 24, 2022 - 8:35 am Reply
    • Leighton

      Cheers Gary, what plans do you have in the old frozen wastelands?

      March 24, 2022 - 9:00 am Reply
      • qprgary

        Apart from Preston away and a night at Northcote where Lisa Goodwin Allen does amazing food then a trip to Clitheroe to David Byrne the best wine merchants in the country just to cheer me up after our probable no show at North End.🙈🙈🙈

        March 26, 2022 - 8:44 am
  • Monkey's Tale

    I think I only read Peter Rabbit, and didn’t know anything about the other books or the author. Looks like the perfect tribute to her talents. Maggie

    March 24, 2022 - 2:04 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Its curious how that first tale is the one that literally everyone and their dog knows about, the others less so. Even a native Englishman like me! Thanks for reading Maggie.

      March 24, 2022 - 2:11 pm Reply
  • grandmisadventures

    This was a lovely way to begin the day. I love Peter Rabbit, but sadly I have never read through the rest of the stories either. This is another book I’ve put on my list to introduce Tessa to. What a charming tribute to her and the beautiful world she created.

    March 24, 2022 - 3:58 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      I highly recommend going through the other stories Meg, we are really enjoying it so far. Thanks for checking out The World of Beatrix Potter. I have simply got to visit the house museums one of these years.

      March 24, 2022 - 4:28 pm Reply
  • Toonsarah

    Unlike you I had several of her books when I was a child and borrowed others from the library. Many many years ago I visited Hilltop Farm which I really liked (I have a thing about visiting the homes of famous authors). But back then this attraction hadn’t even been thought of! It looks really well done but I suspect the farm would still appeal to me more!

    March 31, 2022 - 5:44 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Hey Sarah, nice to hear from you. I’m with you on visiting the homes of famous authors. Indeed we have quite the list to get through. How wonderful that you did Hilltop Farm back in the early days. Funnily enough we visited ourselves on Monday. It was a magical experience to say the least and one we’ll always treasure. It’ll be a couple of years I guess before I write it up. Ho hum, too many places to blog about. Thanks for stopping by!

      March 31, 2022 - 6:05 pm Reply
  • InsideMySlingBag

    This is so cool Leighton, thanks for putting out Beatrix Potter! NIce tribute and thanks for the string of likes Leighton, appreciate it! ✨♥️✨

    April 6, 2022 - 8:35 am Reply
    • Leighton

      Thanks! And you’re very welcome.

      April 6, 2022 - 8:56 am Reply
  • ThingsHelenLoves

    Such a charming post! I love the work of Beatrix Potter, it’s so timeless. And her personal story is just as fascinating as anything she ever wrote down. She was very before her time in a lot of ways. I didn’t realise she’d written that many stories though; I could probably list half a dozen. I’ll have to look them up and see what I’m missing.

    May 12, 2022 - 1:34 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Hey Helen, so glad you liked this one. A month back Sladja and I actually went to see her home, Hilltop Farm, in The Lake District. A wonderful, fascinating place where the very soul of the woman seems to ooze from the walls. Sadly, with the backlog of articles I need to put out, it may be a few years before I blog that one up. Thanks for reading!

      May 12, 2022 - 3:39 pm Reply

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