Beatrix Potter is familiar name. A remarkable author and artist, her beautiful depictions of the natural world have captured the imaginations of children worldwide. What many people don’t realise however, is that Beatrix was so much more than her storytelling – she was a fiercely independent woman and a remarkably forward-thinking conservationist who enabled the protection of one of the UK’s most treasured landscapes, The Lake District.
My name is Olivia Frost and I am a 23 year old MA Wildlife Filmmaking student studying in Bristol. Beatrix Potter has long been an influential figure in my life; as a child, I devoured her stories and poured over her exquisite drawings. However, it wasn’t until my first holiday in the Lake District that I realised just how special and inspirational Beatrix really was. Her love of the natural world extended far beyond the page and into the real landscapes of the Lakes, which she dedicated her life to preserving.
Beatrix has a lifelong love of British wildlife and broke through the rigid and often misogynistic restrictions of Victorian society to devote her energy and efforts to conserving it. After developing a career in authoring children’s books, Beatrix purchased her first home in the Lake District, the beautiful Hill Top Farm, and from then on spent the rest of her life shielding Lake District wildlife, landscapes, traditions and communities from exploitative industrial developers who were looking to break the land up, destroying and pillaging it in the process.
Using savings earned from her writing, she invested in local farms and began to build a thriving network of land which was managed with careful precision and efficiency. She was particularly passionate about protecting the traditions of local Lake District communities and was eager to support the livelihoods of local farmers.
Taking the time to learn traditional fell farming techniques and even becoming an expert on local crafts and practices, Beatrix had also developed an interest in Herdwick Sheep. This hardy and unique breed grazed on the fells, maintaining the landscapes by eating the course scrub and bracken which might otherwise smother the land. By protecting the breed, Beatrix was able to preserve key Lake District habitats and her prize-winning flocks became notorious throughout the Lakes. To this day, it is estimated that around 99% of the breed still live in the Lake District, 95% of which live on the lands around Coniston, just down the road from Beatrix’s Hill Top Farm.
Beatrix’s excellent land management practices and steadfast passion meant that she was even asked to manage large portions of the Lake District by The National Trust, who also regularly consulted her about land management matters. After her death, Beatrix left all 4000 acres of her lands to the Trust, in the largest single donation of land at the time. She left strict instructions encouraging the trust to continue her conservation work and to continue supporting the local people and farmers in these regions. Without her efforts and her significant donation, we would not have the stunning Lake District landscapes that we value today.
For completion of my Wildlife Filmmaking degree I am creating a film about the REAL Beatrix – a woman who was not only a talented artist and author, but was also a strong and passionate woman who made a tangible difference to the world. I want to share Beatrix’s real life story and to convey the hard work and lifelong devotion that she bestowed on Lake District landscapes. I strongly believe that Wildlife Filmmaking offers the perfect outlet for sharing important stories about the natural world and I certainly believe that this incredible conservation story deserves to be told. For this reason, I will be making a film called ‘The Lady of the Lakes’ which will be dedicated to sharing the story of Beatrix’s wonderful connection with the natural world.
By sharing this story through a combination of re-enactment drama and documentary content, I hope to really showcase the beauty of British landscapes and wildlife. By doing so I hope to inspire others to become more involved in conservation and to witness, understand and value the beauty of the Lake District landscapes which only survive as a result of the land that Beatrix was able to defend, manage and preserve.
I am also looking to empower and inspire young girls to become involved in science and conservation. Beatrix is a great role model in this respect; by pursuing her passions, despite the obstacles placed in her way, she was able to make a real difference to the world. Similarly I hope to encourage others to follow in her footsteps.
Finally, I am hoping that my short film will reflect the kind of woman that Beatrix truly was – a sharp, good-humoured and shrewd businesswoman and farmer, whose unique perspectives and efforts helped to preserve the breathtaking landscape that we cherish today.
Beatrix’s life story is a tale worth telling and I hope her actions will continue to inspire others to engage with nature and conservation, for many years to come. Explore more of Beatrix Potter's life and achievements at some of the locations suggested by Sally's Cotages below.
Stay in Beatrix Potter’s House
Step into Beatrix Potter’s life and book a stay at Penny Hill Farm Cottage in Eskdale, once owned by the beloved author. Penny Hill is a working farm dealing in Herdwick Sheep. The pretty cottage is ideal for walkers who want to explore the beautiful River Esk or the stunning surrounding fell scenery. Penny Hill Farm Cottage sleeps up to 4 people.
The World of Beatrix Potter
This popular attraction in Bowness-on-Windermere and emerge yourself and you family in the books, meeting the well-known characters and exploring their worlds. Relax in Jemima Puddleduck’s woodland glade or warm yourself in Mrs Tiggy-winkle’s kitchen. From the 10th June to the 3rd September 2017 you can also enjoy the live theatre show, ‘Where is Peter Rabbit?’
Take a look at our cottages in Windermere – just a hop, skip and a puddle-jump away from the attraction.
In 1882, at age 16, Beatrix Potter spent a family holiday at Wray Castle and fell in love with the surrounding area. During her stay, Beatrix was greatly influenced by Hardwicke Rawnsley’s views on preserving the natural beauty of the Lake District. During your visit, don’t miss the library, which was one of the author’s favourite rooms.
See our cottages in the surrounding South East Lake District.
Visit the story landscapes
Beatrix Potter set her stories in many real places around the Lake District. Visit Derwentwater to and see Squirrel Nutkin’s island, look out for Mrs Tiggy-Winkle in the Newlands Valley, or hop along with Benjamin Bunny in Keswick’s Fawe Park.
Enjoy a stay in one of our cottages in Keswick and the North West Lake District.
About the author
Olivia Frost is an MA Wildlife Filmmaking student with a passion for wildlife and history. Find out more about The Lady of the Lakes film project here.
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