Last updated: 24th Oct 2013
Hawkshead sits at the heart of Beatrix Potter Country in the Lake District. The area is home to the two famous Beatrix Potter attractions, the Beatrix Potter Gallery in the village centre and just to the south at Near Sawrey Beatrix Potter's historic home, the 17th Century Hill Top farmhouse.
A visit to both these National Trust properties plus walks and tours of favourite Beatrix Potter beauty spots in the Hawkshead area like Tarn Hows offers a fascinating insight into Beatrix Potter's influences, life and her supreme talent for drawing and the study of nature.
The Beatrix Potter Gallery in the heart of Hawkshead village is housed within the one-time office of Beatrix Potter's husband, the solicitor William Heelis.
The Heelis family firm's presence in Hawkshead village dates back to the mid-19th century. The beautifully converted 17th century building which houses the gallery today, thought to be Potter's influence for Tabitha Twitchit's shop, displays original watercolours, paintings and sketches by Beatrix Potter revealing the author's supreme talent for drawing and her eye for detail drawn from her extensive research on plants, particularly fungus and mosses.
Entrance to The Beatrix Potter Gallery in Hawkshead is by timed ticket and pay and display parking and a National Trust shop well stocked with Beatrix Potter books and biographies sits to the gallery in Hawkshead village.
Exhibits within The Beatrix Potter Gallery also dig deep into Beatrix Potter's links to the National Trust, her early interest and work in conservation and her dedicated campaigning to protect parts of the Lake District. Children's trails linked to Beatrix Potter displays also feature at the gallery.
Beatrix Potter began writing her world famous children's stories as letters to children she knew, particularly to one young boy Noel who was the first to receive 'The Tale of Peter Rabbit'. Initially Peter Rabbit was rejected by several publishers, but Potter persevered and had it published herself.
They sold well amongst friends and family, and word continued to spread. The design, writing, small size and illustrations were all Beatrix Potter's work and ideas. Hill Top, Beatrix Potter's former farmhouse home at Near Sawrey just 2 miles south east of Hawkshead is essential visiting for Potter fans.
Beatrix Potter bought Hill Top in 1905 with royalties acquired mostly from the sale of Peter Rabbit. The house is rich in influences, decoration and personal artefacts which knowledgeable Beatrix Potter fans will recognise as features within her children's books.
Little changed since her death in 1943, Hill Top contains many of Beatrix Potter's favourite possessions, her china, furniture and her picture-postcard cottage garden with vegetable garden closely resembling that depicted in the Peter Rabbit story.
Whilst at Hill Top Beatrix Potter created some of her best loved stories and characters including Jemima Puddle-Duck and Pigling Bland. Children's trails wind around the garden at Hill Top and there are spectacular views across to Windermere from the farmhouse.
The definitive biography of Beatrix Potter, 'The Tale of Beatrix Potter', written by Margaret Lane just a few years after Potter's death with assistance from Potter's husband William Heelis is a superb read in conjunction with visits to the Beatrix Potter Gallery and Hill Top.