26 June 2015

Travelling In Style!

Thinking about how to begin this month's post I realised that Beatrix and I have a few different things in common – a rather snappy dress sense, a thing for the sheeps (I am Welsh after all.. or at least that's my excuse) and we both have a bit of a thing for adventuring around and exploring new places.

Beatrix may never have ventured out of the United Kingdom but she sure got around, exploring a lot of different places within the country, something I love doing.
There are all kinds of journeys – long ones which require a multitude of snacks, small, little ones that zip past and those you remember for a variety of reasons.

If you have peeked at the Hill Top and Beatrix Potter Gallery's Facebook page over the last few weeks you will have seen that Michael Portillo brought his railway journey up to the lakes to see B and the team at Hill Top. 

He was here to find out more about Beatrix, her friendship with Hardwicke Rawnsley and the part she played in the formation of the National Trust. I was lucky enough to be able to see some of the filming at Hill Top. I didn't quite get my on screen debut just yet but watching it happen was interesting so keep your peepers peeled for it on the tele in the near future!

Micheal P may favour the railways for his journeys but this isn't the only way to travel check out this amazing ship that we have at Hill Top.

Land Ahoooyyy!
To say that I don't know much about ships is a huge understatement and my experience with them is pretty limited – unless rowing a small wooden boat on Durham River counts? With these long arms I'm practically made for rowing..
So to find out more about this vessel I've done what all good detectives would do... I googled!

This is a three masted ship and apparently made by a sailor between 1870 and 1900-ish. From my research (aka scrutinizing lots of images of ships) I'm going to make an educated guess and say that this is a type of schooner? These are sailing vessels with two or more masts often designed for trades that required speed and windward ability.. trades like, pirating, “Ohh Arrrg!”
With all those sails I imagine that it would have had no problem zipping through the waves or lakes!

A slower, more sedate, unconventional and downright feathery mode of transport is this month's
“Heeeellooooe There!”.

Sure maybe you wouldn't want to use him for long journeys, mainly because he is extremely dinky in real life and to be honest he's a bit out of practice after having been in a cabinet for such a long time.


I know what you're thinking, “A swan is not a mode of transport!” but I would counter this with, “Have any of you seen Doctor Doolite?” the original of course... He had this amazing great big pink sea snail and no one questioned this as a mode of transport when it was time for Emma to head back to London! I absolutely love this film, but back to the swan :)

With a fleur-de-lys painted on one side of his body and a lady in traditional dress knitting on the other it could have possibly been produced by Quimper Faience in Brittany, France. This pottery's design reflects a strong traditional Breton influence and a lot of the older pieces are strongly sought after.
Luckily for us this little guy is staying firmly at Hill Top!

This year's top model pose..
He may be petite but he wears some pretty flamboyant eye makeup.. I mean red eyeliner? That's a bold statement but he is definitely working this look. I myself might give it a miss, with my extremely pale skin I worry I'd end up looking scary rather than spectacular!

Whether you choose a ship or a swan to complete your journey you'll need to have a general idea of which way to go, don't you?

This is down as an ornament on our inventory, it lives in the ivory cabinet but to be honest I'm not completely sure of it's actual purpose or even if it has one..some things are 'just because'.
What are your thoughts on it? 


The hand in the middle twizzles around and to me could point you in the right direction – in my mind the numbers could even be routes? (Does this make any sense or is it just something in my mind??)
My other thought about it was that it reminded me of the big hand from the old lottery adverts.. 

“It could be you!!!”
Anyway I digress, this object came from London and is marked on the bottom ‘H Rodrigues, 42 Piccadilly, London’ – but apart from that we can only guess about its history. Could this have some to Beatrix from her parents or grandparents along with the other bits and bobs of ivory?

My own history with Hill Top and Beatrix has only been relatively small; about 2 and a bit years (ish) but like Beatrix I’m going on another little journey of my own.
I’m happy to say that I’ll be working over at Townend from mid-July until the end of October on a little secondment

However, never fear, this isn’t farewell, we all take different paths on our journeys and you’ll still find me strutting my stuff up and down B’s path one day a week.


There is actually a little connection with Beatrix and the Browne’s of Townend but more of that next week!

See you all in July!

Ta ta for now

Words and photos by Natalie

18 June 2015

A Taste of Hill Top

Beatrix Potter didn't waste time wandering round a supermarket agonizing over the red labels for saturated fat and sugar on everything she fancied.  Nearly everything would have come from the farm or garden - just buying in flour, salt, sugar, bread from the baker and maybe some spices.
Hill Top cattle posing in Windermere

There are still beef cattle and sheep grazing Hill Top land but Beatrix also kept Dairy Shorthorns for milk, pigs, horses, an assortment of hens, ducks, geese and turkeys as well as collies (such as her favourite, Kep) to work the sheep.  She also grew oats and turnips - Beatrix says she 'singled the turnips when she had time'.
Pete's veg patch in Hill Top garden

Gooseberries amongst the flowers
There was also a productive vegetable garden - as there is today, thanks to Pete - and fruit trees bearing apples, plums, pears and damsons, not to mention fruits, such as blackberries from the hedgerows for making blackberry and apple jelly.
 Beatrix was nothing if not fair.  Whilst wanting to keep the best apples for herself, she appreciated the need for local children to 'scrump' - what is better than a stolen apple straight from the tree?  She tied ribbons round the trees the children could help themselves from but heaven help them if they touched the others!  At one time there was a royal procession of apple trees - Blenheim Orange, Norfolk Royal, King Russet and George Royal.
We think this old Bramley in the paddock dates from Beatrix's time

Animals would have been butchered on the farm - no traumatic journey to the slaughterhouse - and milk made into cheese and butter in the dairy.
In the left of this building in the farmyard the pigs were hung and salted and the right side was the dairy

Beatrix didn't like 'modern' machinery so most of the work would have been done using hand tools and horse drawn implements.  During the First World War, when men were called from the land to serve, life must have been particularly hard.  Writing to a potential employee, Beatrix explains that she did most of the cooking herself and also looked after the poultry, the orchard, flower and vegetable garden, as well as helping with the hay.  So she wasn't just digging sheep out of the snow!
So, what might she have cooked?  She was definitely familiar with Roly Poly Pudding and Pies and Patty Pans (perhaps filled with beef from the farm).  Lamb - or more likely the tastier hoggett (the next stage up from lamb - the year after it was born) or mutton, would have featured, perhaps with peas, beans and potatoes from the garden. Hill Top kitchen might have been filled with the smoke from bacon frying.

Without freezers, preserves such as jams and chutneys would have been important and she mentions a visit to Wray Castle where they were pickling walnuts.

So - no wasted time at the supermarket but still ...... whenever did Beatrix Potter have time to write and illustrate her stories?!
Sue and ticket office team. 
p.s.If you're wondering where Sam the spaniel is ,,, he was hiding behind the camera when I took the photo of cattle!

29 May 2015

You've got May-le :)

Hi there!
It seems an awful long time since my last post, what’s it been? 6 weeks (ish)? In my last update I had been giving it the big talk with all my positivity around our warmer weather but gosh that old saying “Ne’er cast a clout till May is out” has never been more appropriate…
It’s not just the weather that’s been busy this past month.  As well as helping to keep Hill Top and the gallery running I’ve been lucky enough to attend a National Trust run course, Convestival. This is aimed at volunteer managers or those who are getting more involved in volunteering.
This fantastic 2 day course took place  at Calke Abbey in Derbyshire – this year it had a superhero theme!  It was a festival style experience, through the day sessions were held in marquees and you could choose which ones were most relevant to you. The festival theme continued through the evening . We enjoyed a superhero menu (including ninja turtle pizzas :P), a live band and a free “schnippel” of cider from the Calke estate.  It was also fantastic to meet other people in similar roles as me and others who had completely different responsibilities.
On the whole it was a relaxed course but you really did learn a lot, not just from the tutors but from other attendees.
I loved the whole thing from start to finish (could you tell?)! I would definitely recommend it to anyone involved in volunteering :)



To infinity and beyond?!
Thanks to Sarah and Rachel for giving me a lift :)
I love getting feedback on my blog posts, I’m constantly asking family and friends to check them out and they’re usually pretty complimentary. However, last time around, someone, whose opinion I really value wasn’t so keen.
This man loves antiques and likes to read more about the objects that we have within our collection as well as what I get up to (I hope!). So, this month I’m reverting back to my original format.
Dad, this one is for you J
I can’t remember when I found this first object, sometime in February I think, and I’ve had a photo of it for aggggges, ready to be put up on here.

It was the tortoise shell top that really caught my eye and once I carefully got it out of its case and got a proper look at it… it’s really lovely!

It is a little oval purse, the front is inset with gold and it’s got the most gorgeously, bright purple silk inside.

This is one of those “I would definitely have this” type of objects! Although it’s not very practical for today’s modern lady. As dainty as I aim to be, I can’t see my ‘buy 9 and get the 10th drink free’ cards or all the pounds I have for the amusement basketball hoops (which I am actually pretty good at!) fitting in there.
From what little knowledge I have of Beatrix I don’t know if she would be using this type of thing up here in the lakes. Then again from personal experience I know that not everyone lives in their walking gear so maybe I should keep more of an open mind.

“Hello there!” has been missing recently but it’s back with a vengeance! I have been looking at this little lady for the best part of a year. She’s tucked away in a store so doesn’t get many visitors; something that I think should change.
So here she is!


"I'm a laaaadddyy"
I’m not exactly sure what it is I like about her as most people I’ve spoken to think she’s a bit creepy..  but when you look at her tiny face she’s not scary at all.
She’s pretty pale – it must be all that time in the dark and her hands are in a strange position but I can confirm that she is not a zombie! There is nothing to fear.

" 'Cause this is Thriiiilllleerrr.."
Yeah, what about the hands… they are stretched out and some of her fingers are curled under. Is she playing the piano? Pushing a pram? Doing an interpretive dance?
We don’t really know, what do you think?
Is this something that B was given as a child or perhaps she had inherited it?
I like to imagine her making up voices and personalities for her inanimate objects – it’s something that I did and still do (who says you can’t have a stuffed unicorn at the aged of 27 ¾?).
Look at this beautiful Davenport desk, dating roughly from the 1830’s/40’s. It currently sits in the corner of the Treasure Room quite happily, not making any fuss and many people don’t give it much notice.

Over winter we had to move him into the New Room so that we could carry out some essential work and I learnt a number of things. 1) Its really, REALLY heavy! (not advisable to try if you’ve skipped your Weetabix that morning) and 2) it’s got some rather special secret compartments.
This is what Catherine and Rosemary showed me one afternoon after I helped shuffle it back into its place.
They did something special and then all was revealed – pens, pencils and lots of what look like funeral mourning card envelopes.

Boosh - ta da!
Back in the day, a mixture of tradition and respect saw people send cards in black edged envelopes. Used throughout Europe these carried the sad news of a loved ones passing.
Did I just see some of the things that B had around the time of Norman’s death? She bought the house in 1905 after all. Or possibly one of her parents?
Everything looks so neat and ordered, like she could come back and use it.
Do you think that this was all put inside “For the time being”? we all do it, but unfortunately  these items hardly see the light of day again.
Whatever the reason I feel like I’ve stumbled across a sort of time capsule and I was really rather taken with it.
Then again, isn’t all of Hill Top a step back in time? “Letttttt's do the time warp again!” I wonder what I would leave behind for future people to find and ponder over..
Whilst I go to mull it over I shall leave you for another month, I hope by the time I’m back we’ll all be able to “cast our clouts”!
Have a fabulous June!
Ta ta for now J
Words and pictures by Natalie

12 May 2015

The Primrose path

May is probably my busiest time of year. After a long winter and a colder-than-average early Spring, we've had a few warm days and everything, flowers, weeds and grass, has sprung to life and is growing like crazy. There isn't much grass to cut at Hill Top but at Monk Coniston, one of the other gardens I look after, there is enough to keep me busy for quite a few hours. I cut it the week before last and I've just been over there and it already needs doing again!

Given the amount of work to do at this time of year, it probably wasn't a great idea to take a week off for a 'boys trip' (or more accurately a 'middle-aged and increasingly decrepit blokes trip'). We stayed in a remote and basic bothy near Inverie in Knoydart on the North-West coast of Scotland, and spent three days mountain biking and walking whilst dodging the rain and snow showers. 

Quite snowy on the tops!

One of the highlights of the trip (apart from the excellent Old Forge which claims to be the remotest pub in Britain) was the sheer number of wild flowers.
On one of our jaunts up an unpronounceable Scottish munro, large areas of the lower slopes were literally covered in wild primroses, accompanied by wood anemones, dog violets, lesser celandine and even a common lizard warming up in the sun. The surprising thing was all these woodland flowers were growing quite happily a long way from the nearest woodland. We came to the conclusion that at one time in the past (before the clearances?) the area would have been wooded, and although the trees have gone, the flowers have remained and are thriving thanks to the very low grazing pressure. We saw quite a few Red Deer but no sheep at all while we were there.

Primroses by the thousand

Back in the real world, my little greenhouse is bursting at the seams with all sorts of vegetable and flower seedlings all waiting until they are big and brave enough to go out and face the slugs and snails and mice and rabbits and cold and wind and rain of Hill Top garden. I've got marrows and broad beans, hollyhocks and everlasting flowers, lettuces and kale, pumpkins and French beans and I'll be planting them out over the next few weeks. I've put in my onion sets and planted potatoes already and I'll be sowing seeds like beetroot, peas and spinach straight into the ground as soon as I get chance. I'll keep you updated on their progress.

Waiting to go out

Other plants looking good at the moment include the white wisteria on the house wall which is just coming into flower and the Azaleas opposite which will soon be their usual riot of colour. Having looked back at some photos from last year, the flowering time seem to be about two weeks behind last year. 

Something which you just have to see and hear if you're in the area is the 'Harmonica Botanica' currently installed in the fern house at Wray Castle. A plant growing in a pot has electrodes clipped to its leaves and roots and the change in resistance as the plant grows is fed into a box of electronic gibbons which converts the signals into wonderful soothing, constantly changing music. One of our visitors found it so relaxing that they fell asleep and missed their bus home! Here's a link showing the Harmonica when it was installed at Cragside, apparently the gardeners there are really missing it. It's at Wray Castle until May 20th so pop along if you can.

My musical link this time isn't one of my all time favourites but it ticked too many boxes to pass up, especially in the week following the somewhat momentous result in the general election 'North of the Border'.

See you next time

Words and pictures by Pete the Gardener



17 April 2015

Which animal are you?

Beatrix Potter's animal characters strike a chord with people all over the world.  So what's their appeal?  Unlike Mickey Mouse, which is a caricature of an animal, Beatrix's illustrations are painstakingly accurate.  The shape of the animal is right, even when she has them stand on their hind legs and wear clothes!  Anyone could recognise a rabbit having seen Peter.


This took practice!


Beatrix's sketches of hedgehogs

As well as being true to their physical appearance, Beatrix also has her animals behave as real animals might.  Jeremy Fisher eats butterflies and grasshoppers and lives in fear of being eaten by a pike, rabbits nibble radishes and Mr Tod has designs on Jemima Puddleduck.  These animal characteristics are blended seamlessly with human ones.  Jeremy invites his friends for dinner, Ginger and Pickles run a shop, and so on.

The animals have been chosen carefully to fit the human stories they tell.  When John Taylor's son, the village carpenter, appeared  in 'The Tale of Samuel Whiskers' as the terrier, John Joiner, old John was jealous.  'how could I draw him if he didn't get up' Beatrix is reported to have said, adding that he'd have to be a dormouse!  

We might wonder whether foxes really are cunning like Mr Todd, rabbits mischievous, like Peter or mice house proud, like Mrs Tittlemouse  but it's very difficult not  to link certain animals with human traits.  Or to see people as resembling animals!

Clothes also have to appropriate.  Could Mrs Tiggywinkle have worn anything but a print gown, striped petticoat and apron?  When Mr Tod is turning over Jemima's eggs he is pure fox, without clothes and a successful Jemima at the end appears without bonnet and shawl.

Many of Beatrix's characters were animals she knew.  For example, Peter was modelled on Benjamin Bouncer, the collie in The Tale of Jemima Puddleduck based on Beatrix's own Kep and a black Pomeranian living in Sawrey became Duchess in  The Pie and the Patty Pan.

We decided to look at our own animals.  I couldn't decide what Sam should be. 
Cavalier lace collar to go with his curly ears


He looks happier out on a walk



We wondered which animal would represent us in a story.  Maybe a mischievous rabbit like Fran's house rabbit, Bracken,
Definitely plotting something!
or a pony like Jenny's Fell, Jess
'Let's play chase'
 Or a comedian like the goat
The last laugh


You could, of course, use toys as characters.  How about this Herdwick sheep grazing in Hawkshead National Trust shop

We decided Adam was very much like his dog, Pippin.  Both very friendly and waggy tail (Pippin), energetic, keen to work and loyal.

Others see themselves as a dormouse (with attitude), a rabbit, a sheep, a parrot, an elegant horse and a squirrel but I'm not saying who they are!











10 April 2015

Wake up and smell the flowers!

Scientists who know about these things say that our memory for taste and smell is far more acute than for words, faces or places we've been. Marcel Proust, in his ‘Remembrance of Things Past’, wrote that a bite of a madeleine vividly recalled childhood memories of his aunt giving him the very same cake before going to mass on a Sunday.  The phenomenon which is known as 'olfactory evoked recall' is most often associated with scents experienced in childhood and I came across one such scent earlier in the week.


Flowering currant

I was working at one of the National Trust's currently vacant cottages near Coniston, cutting back some climbers which were threatening to engulf the cottage. It was a warm, sunny afternoon and butterflies and bees were busily feeding up after the long winter. The object of their attention was a large flowering currant bush (Ribes sanguineum) and as I walked past, the scent of the flowers transported me back nearly fifty years to the playground of my primary school, where a large flowering currant grew in a tiny border surrounded by tarmac. I didn't know what it was called back then, in fact I was still grappling with the mysteries of the alphabet ('A is for apple so rosy and red, B is for baker who bakes buns and bread, C is for.....well you get the idea) but I vividly remember the scent of the flowers, obviously associated with blissful childhood memories of playtime at my first school (or maybe not, I never really liked school)! 

There are a few scented plants in Hill Top garden at the moment, the most striking of which is a small clump of 'Delft Blue' hyacinths which I planted last Autumn. They smell great but you'll have to get on your hands and knees to really get a good whiff.



Hyacinth 'Delft Blue'


I also planted some scented daffodil bulbs last year (varieties Scilly White, Pencrebal and Geranium if I remember rightly) and these will be coming into bloom in the next week or two. Then it will be the turn of Rhododendron luteum the wonderfully scented yellow azalea, followed by lilacs, old-fashioned sweet peas, roses...there is always something to smell at Hill Top, even if it's only the tantalising aroma of a full English breakfast wafting over from the Tower Bank Arms next door!

I've been busy away from Hill Top this week; as well as the climber pruning in Coniston, I've been working at another NT cottage not far from Hill Top which has been vacant for a few months while it received some much needed building work. The garden was rather neglected and I was tasked with creating a lawn area in front of the house. It seems a simple enough request but the ground was a mass of raspberry canes, nettles and docks and would have been a nightmare to dig over by hand so I hired a rotavator to make things easier. 


Before


Or so I thought! The ground was so rooty and compacted and laced with stones that all the rotavator wanted to do was skip over the surface and it took a considerable effort to get it to dig in and churn up the soil. By the time I had finished I felt like I had spent four hours wrestling with an enraged grizzly bear!



After - phew!

Anyway, it is as near to a fine tilth as it's going to get and the next step is to rake it over, tread it down, level it off and lay the turf. If it looks good when it's finished I'll post a pic up next time.
That's enough for now, the sun is shining and I should be in the garden, I'll leave you with my musical link which could have been 'I Just Came to Smell the Flowers' by Porter Waggoner (unbearably cheesy) or 'Smells Like Teen Spirit' by Nirvana (great song but not really relevant) so in the end it had to be this .

See you next time.

Words and pictures by Pete the Gardener.

3 April 2015

"Pace" yourself this Easter!

We've made it! 

We've (hopefully) passed through those dark, rainy and particularly nippy winter months up here in the Lakes. Although no one seemed to tell mother nature – did any of you also have snow last Thursday?! However, I am extremely happy to see the sights of Spring all around me, I've spotted lambs in the orchard, the flowers are trying to poke their heads trough the water logged soil, there is an egg in the garden (although unfortunately not the delicious chocolate kind!) And at this moment I wish I hadn't previously spoken to you about Beatrix's egg heads! 
I for one am definitely looking forward to the warmer weeks that we will hopefully have coming up (maybe that's because I'm a summer baby) even if they don't always like me – I'm pretty pale, almost translucent some could say, so it's factor 30 all the way!.

Spring is not the only thing to have arrived; Easter is here and will be in full swing by the time that this post hits the interwebs.

Trying to think of ideas for an egg-citing entry I'll admit that I found this month's post one of the most tricky, and to be honest I've been putting off writing it for quite a bit. One thing was certain, I wanted to link it to Easter somehow and making it interesting without using too many of those terrible egg puns (though saying that, I seem to have lost some of my willpower and have used quite a few!)
A bolt of inspiration hit me quite uneggspectantly. The other day I remembered an old photograph that was taken by Beatrix up at Hill Top that we have in the collection.

The photo I was thinking of is of a small group of Pace Eggers outside the front of Hill Top.

 
Sometimes these groups are also known as Mummers, they are people who perform traditional folk plays – you are perhaps thinking that this is old fashioned but surprisingly these groups are thriving across the country.
Back to the Pace Eggers, you're probably thinking 'What the heck are they?!' and to be honest before (finally) settling down to write this post I had no idea either.
 
 
After a smidgen of research I discovered that 'Pace Egging' dates back hundreds of years and has been recorded in several northern counties including Lancashire (in which Hill Top used to reside) and Northumbria.

Essentially Pace Egging is a folk play that revolves around a rebirth theme and has strong references to the crusades. It is primarily performed on Good Friday (I think) and according to my research it involves St George fighting many foes including a Turkish Champion. By a sick twist of fate St George then dies but is later brought back to life by a comic doctor.
The Mummers are known to go all out on the costumes; they often blacken their faces for the performance and like to have a bit of craic with the crowd.

Oh and did I mention many groups give several performances on the same day, each at a different pub? So, in my mind it's a bit like a play mixed with a pub crawl – and that can’t be a bad thing!
Unusual it might be but I think it sounds great, so different to anything you would see today and in a way it's totally “British” and we should celebrate our quirky British heritage a bit more often.

Also, is anyone else getting the impression that this slightly follows Jesus' resurrection – although Jesus didn't wear chain-mail armour, or fight dragons, apart from that it's totally similar …

This tradition had all but died out after the First World War when many of the men who would have taken part and performed in this folk play died in action but it's since been brought back to life and is going strong across many northern towns.
This type of folk play can be seen in many locations this year including Middleton, Heptonstall and Bury amongst others – I believe that there are several around the wonderful north so if you fancied seeing one I am sure you might be able to find an opportunity to go.
I for one am seriously intrigued by the whole thing! And would love to learn more about this little known part (for many people) of English heritage.
Who thinks that the north is even more amazing now?! Beatrix and I certainly do! #JustSayin'. And some of you may scoff and say, “pfft but you're Welsh” and yes I am but to that I would say, northern Welsh so it still counts!

If you want to know any more about this intriguing Easter tradition you can try this link or a generic internet search will also do the job.

Back to Beatrix! I've asked Liz why B took a photo of the group but I can only assume that they may have performed a play in the village or close by and she wanted to document it for the future.. maybe? She loved local folk law and the differences that could be found between regions and wanted to preserve them so that they could retain their individuality – this is one thing I have no problem agreeing with her on.
 

This would also ring true because we also have a short letter that came from Country Life Magazine  in which they send Beatrix a rejection for a short story that she wrote to the publication detailing an idea that she had for a piece about the Pace Eggers. We have a facsimile of the letter out at Hill Top and many of our staff, volunteers and visitors can't believe they rejected her, can you?
 
If, like me, you've managed to wangle this Easter off (I'm still not sure how I succeeded in this!) why don't you take a sneak peek at your local events and see if you've got a Pace Eggers play in your parts and help to keep this unique tradition alive? Or if Pace Egging isn't your thing then Hill Top is open throughout the Easter period, so come along and say Hi to the team!

As for me I'm off up to the North East to spend Easter with my girlfriend, stuffing my face with a choccy Easter basket type thing my Mum and Matt have put together for us, exploring a castle, a lighthouse and enjoying a proper Easter Sunday dinner :D

Whatever you get up to have an egg-stra fantastic Easter – the weather's not looking too bad.
Enjoy yourselves! :)

Ta ta for now!

Words by Natalie :)



 

27 March 2015

Field and Farms Forever??

How the landscape Beatrix Potter loved came to be.

It's easy to understand why Beatrix Potter, like many others, fell in love with the Lake District.  The pattern of undulating fields and stone walls sprinkled with farmhouses and woodland, along with the quaint villages and quiet tarns, give it a special feeling of intimacy.  This is set against the grandeur of the fells - when they don't disappear mysteriously into the clouds!
Fields around Near Sawrey  showing Castle Cottage where Beatrix Potter lived as Mrs Heelis

Moss Eccles Tarn above Near Sawrey

However, the landscape, even that of the high fells, is largely man-made and would have been woodland.

People started to change the look of things in the Neolithic (around 6,000 years ago).  Polished stone axes from Great Langdale became the 'must have' gifts exchanged by the upper classes across the country.

The sporadic woodland clearance became more extensive in the later Iron Age (say 300 BC to Romans).  Recently (I mean that - about 2013!) an observant boy found a strange piece of metal in a hedgerow near Hawkshead.  Not convinced that it was a bit of junk, he took it to Kendal Museum and it proved to be an Iron Age sword!  Esthwaite Water was probably larger then so the sword might have been ritually broken and thrown into the water as a gift for the god.
Iron Age sword - broken intentionally (Kendal Museum)
From around AD 300 and through the early medieval the climate became warmer and drier - sorry, you missed it!  The Lake District would have been patched with cereals, grown for food, and blue flax and hemp mainly for their fibres.  No, they weren't all high on cannabis!

The many 'thwaite' names, Norse for 'clearing in a wood' suggests that more woodland was cleared under the Danelaw.  Hawkshead's name derives from the Norseman, Haukr, who had his dwelling, Saetr, there.  Sawrey, a muddy place, had its first mention in 1336 as Sourer and Esthwaite Water is literally the 'water by the easten clearing'.

After AD 1000 more trees went and in the late medieval sheep ruled as there was money in wool and monasteries (in this area Furness Abbey) practised large scale sheep farming in the uplands.  The Court House in Hawkshead served as the administrative centre for this area.  If you want to find out more and look inside, call in the National Trust Hawkshead Corner shop for the key.
The Courthouse, Hawkshead


After the Dissolution of the Monasteries in the 16th century, Hawkshead developed as a market town and many of the buildings, including the one which houses the Beatrix Potter Gallery and retains many original features, date from this time.  The name 'Rag, Wool and Putty Street' reminds us that much of the 'industry' would have been based on animal products and the air redolent with more pungent odours than that of roast dinners!
Leather, Rag and Putty Street, Hawkshead
Stone walls make good barriers, and shelter, where hedges might be hard to establish and useful places to put stones cleared from the fields.  In medieval times, ring garth walls marked the open fell from cultivated vally bottoms.  Cultivated land was divided as feudalism gave way to individually farmed land.  Finally, the Enclosure Movement of the 18th and 19th centuries led to the long walls crossing even the most forbidding areas of the high fells.

In the late medieval there was a 'Little Ice Age' (ending around AD 1700 but persisting in Hill Top ticket office) which contributed to the spread of mire and acid grassland.
Sam particularly likes mud! (and moves too fast for my camera action)
From AD 1600 to AD 1900 coppicing for charcoal has left patches of overgrown or managed coppiced woodland in which oak and other species may be encouraged to regenerate.

For more on how we're caring for the landscape now, check out the Rangers' blog.