Winner of Canada's ANTOR Award for Excellence in Travel Writing 2004
Excerpts from 2400 word article
VISITING PETER RABBIT IN ENGLAND'S LAKE DISTRICT
By Pam Hobbs, Pictures by Michael Algar
At a rest centre on our way north, I asked a
petrol station attendant if he knew of a short-cut to
Lake District National Park since I was already late
for my appointment with Peter Rabbit. Unsure what to
make of me, he paused a bit, then with a nod and a
wink said he once had a six foot rabbit called Harvey
but couldn't rightly remember Peter - so perhaps we'd
best stay on the main highway. That was early last
year. By now I'm sure he knows all about Peter, since
the cheeky bunny's l00th birthday was commemorated
with parties, events and exhibitions staged across
Britain throughout 2002. Now a travelling exhibition
has arrived at Toronto's Royal Ontario Museum, a little late for the centennial but still very
exciting for Peter Rabbit fans.
The Lake District, where Peter is celebrated at all times, provided a perfect setting for Beatrix
Potter's whimsical tales. A beauty spot on the face of northern England, this is a region of
mountains, fells (hills) and lakes, and farmlands neatly stitched together with ancient stone walls.
It offers pleasure cruises and elegant country house hotels, tiny hamlets and historic market towns
you want to poke around in. Best of all for Potter enthusiasts, this glorious landscape offers
reminders of Peter and pals at almost every turn in every country lane.
It all began in September 1893 when the author wrote to her former nanny's five year old son,
Noel Moore. "I don't know what to write to you" she informed the ailing lad, "so I shall tell you
a story about four little rabbits whose names are Flopsy, Mopsy, Cottontail and Peter...." In the
tale, illustrated by Potter, Peter ignores his mother's warnings and scampers off to a garden
owned by Mr McGregor - a farmer who has already cooked Peter's Dad in a pie. There he feasts
on lettuces, broad beans and radishes, gets tangled up in a gooseberry net, and barely escapes the
dreaded Mr McGregor before returning home without his shoes or blue jacket with brass buttons.
To date the 23 children's books that evolved from this letter have been translated into 20
languages and sold 80 million copies. Little wonder then that the Lake District receives 12
million visitors a year, many of them walking around with books in hand, matching their
illustrations with real life scenes.
Sites associated with the tales are so popular that Hill Top, a 17th century farm at Near Sawrey
where Potter lived and worked, is closed two days a week to recover from its legions of visitors.
In neighbouring Hawkshead, The Beatrix Potter Gallery receives so many it has timed admission.
Obviously these two sites are a must, but I suggest you also wander the countryside, on the
lookout for rabbits and frogs and farm cats such as those featured in the little white books. Let
your imagination fly and you may see them as the author did, dressed in country-style clothes and
performing human chores.
Beatrix was introduced to the Lake District in the early 1900s when her parents rented
summer houses here. Her favourite spot was Sawrey, a hamlet so small we drove through without
knowing it. Beatrix stayed here often in a summer rental she first knew as Lakeland, and which
later became Ees Wyke Country House Hotel. Most of today's guests, need I add, are here to
explore the haunts of Potter's characters.
FOR MORE INFORMATION contact Visit Britain at l-888-VISIT UK,
www.visitbritain.org or Cumbria Tourist Board in Windermere at e-mail: email@example.com website www.gocumbria.co.uk
WHEN YOU GO: Manchester is the nearest international airport. An excellent tour company
called Cumbrian Discoveries offers personalised sightseeing, driver-guided and walking tours
throughout the Lake District, including Beatrix Potter sites. Contact: Tel. 17683 6220l. E-mail
firstname.lastname@example.org Website http//www.cumbria.com/cumbrian