This article is from the April 2017 Issue of Forever Young

 FYng Apr 2017 feature image

By Fyllis Hockman

The land of Peter Rabbit really does exist.

It’s right in England’s Lake District, which was assured perpetuity when his creator, Beatrix Potter, bequeathed 14 properties to the National Trust when she died in 1943.

The fairytale villages of this region also bask in the glow of such literary giants as William Wordsworth and William Yeats whose inspirations sprang from the countryside immortalized in the familiar four-by-five-inch children’s books.

The landscape, so tantalizingly green that the colour needs a more-enchanting name, is quintessentially British -- replete with requisite sheep, rolling hedgerows, low-slung stone walls crisscrossing the landscape, slate-roofed stone houses, and sparkling floral flashes of hot pink, orange-gold and deep purple that blink on and off almost neon-like under the ceaseless breezes.

Meandering footpaths make it a walker’s wonderland where you’ll spot Peter Rabbit’s relatives skittering and scampering off on all directions.

Hill Top, Potter’s home for 38 years and the site of many of her creation’s adventures, transports the visitor to her world as it was until she died.

Pick up “A Tale of Samuel Whiskers” and follow the story as you visit the holes where the mice lived that threatened Tom Kitten. You can accompany Pigland Bland as he wanders through the village and seek to protect Jemima Puddle-Duck’s egg as it lays hidden in the rhubarb patch. You can almost hear the Two Bad Mice discussing the ham and cheese that don’t seem quite edible because they are, of course, from Beatrix’s dollhouse right in front of you in the parlor.

Her desk contains letters she wrote, often illustrated with little cartoons and drawings. A first edition of “Peter Rabbit”, which started simply as a story written in a September 1893 letter to cheer up a sick son of her former governess, is available for viewing.

It seems every shop in the area sells some version of Peter Rabbit memorabilia. Emblematic of his omnipresence was our stop at a nearby pub for requisite fish and chips. My husband asked about the soup of the day and, when told that it was carrot, he couldn’t hold back the quip: “How appropriate, no doubt Peter Rabbit’s favourite.”

In the downtown section of Bowness-on-Windermere stands a different testimonial to the creations of Beatrix Potter. More commercial perhaps, but no less intriguing.

The World of Beatrix Potter Attractions, unconnected with the National Trust preservation of Hill Top, offers an animated version of all 23 of Potter’s tales brought to life in an indoor re-creation of the Lake District countryside and her lovable characters, complete with sights, sounds and smells.

You’ll learn that Jemima Puddle-Duck was a real duck that lived at Hill Top whose efforts to hatch her own eggs, thwarted by a conniving fox nearby, were protected by Kep the collie, Beatrix’s favourite sheepdog.

Throughout the attraction are life-size dioramas of scenes from her books, sometimes comprising an entire forest that makes it difficult to realize they were once only illustrations in a book not much bigger than your hand.

Each exhibit entreats the viewer to press a “Find out more” button that gets to an explanation of what inspired Beatrix to write that particular story and how she developed those particular characters. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime journey through a lifetime of literature.