Day Ten - Hill Top House (Beatrix Potter) & Brantwood (John Ruskin)  

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We drove south to Ambleside and then we went further south, up in the hills, to see the homes of English author Beatrix Potter, who wrote & illustrated children's books, and, John Ruskin, a kind of Renaissance Man of the late 1800s. 

I admit to knowing almost nothing about either person, prior to visiting.  

look for Hawkshead, Far Sawrey, and Conniston Water


Beatrix Potter (1866-1943) was a British writer, illustrator, natural scientist and land conservationist.  

Of the 30 books she wrote, 23 were children's books, the most popular being The Tale of Peter Rabbit.  In her private life (including married life) out in the country, she became a prizewinning breeder of Herdwick sheep.  

Beatrix Potter loved the Lake District beginning with family trips there when she was a child. 

By 1905 Beatrix Potter had become a very successful author, and purchased Hill Top House and farm, near Hawkshead. With her steady income from books and her spin-off merchandizing, she was able to buy many large farms, often at auction, to prevent modern development of this area. 

The huge amount of land which she assembled - fifteen very large farms - was willed upon her passing to the newly formed National Trust.  Her generous gift sowed the seed for what eventually became the Lake District, one of England's first National Parks. (from wikipedia)  

note - you can enlarge any part of a picture by left-clicking in and then out again.

managed by National Trust  Hill Top house period furniture & dishes original printing
  early piano period wallpaper naturalist art  
a Linnean plant classification book interiors writing sample illustration
    book in the gift shop Beatrix Potter, young & old
in the garden town of Near Sawrey        

note - so many admirers come here to tour that the tiny parking lot gets overwhelmed & you have to cruise around, hoping to get a parking space, even in the off-season. At the house, Docents allow a group of about 8 in every 12 minutes so it gets crowded at times.  In the photos above, I often had to wait a few minutes to be able to get a photo of a room w/o other visitors in it.    


We stopped at nearby Hawkshead to have a look around, checking out St. Michael's church on a hill.  Next door was a Grammar school which Wm. Wordsworth attended when young. Otherwise, Hawkshead is a tourist town with B&Bs, restaurants, galleries & shops, in rolling hills terrain. 

a church in Hawkshead St. Michael's & All Angels Celtic cross the lay of the land
     interior Hawkshead Grammar School  
  backwards clock        


John Ruskin (1819 - 1900) was an art patron, an art critic, a watercolorist, and a social thinker.  In his extensive writings, he emphasized the connection between nature, art, and society. 

For a few years Ruskin was a leading thinker & charismatic orator who taught at Oxford, and who drew crowds of students to his lectures. He became so popular that every academic lecture had to be repeated later, in a public forum. He apparently had eloquence, and a deep & captivating voice, and he made you think about big issues.   

There was a nice cafe inside a beautiful old stone building, where we took a coffee break before touring the house. We were the only visitors in the large art-filled home. There were no docents, so we wandered around and read some displays. 

Rich at Brantwood overlooking Conniston Water living room dining room
  statue of Gandhi artwork by Ruskin John Ruskin, young & old
view towards town of Conniston what was J. R. like ? sculpture of Ruskin the words of the artist (Borglum)
  Conniston Water froze in Feb. 1895, see note 1 Ruskin designed wallpaper recent artwork by Hideyuki Sobue, see note 2
more interiors Ruskin designed fire place he liked to have art around crow's nest & scaffolding
the town of Conniston tour boat on Conniston Water Brantwood his extensive garden
multi-leveled garden

note 1 -  in this photo John Ruskin is third from the left.  Others include a local builder, Ruskin's current & future head gardeners, as well as coach & stable boys, and other Brantwood staff (the house can be seen in the background).  No other family members of Ruskin are present. 

note 2 - Hideyuki Sobue is a Japanese artist who resides in the Lake District.  He recently painted images of Wm. Wordsworth and J. Ruskin, presenting his "Conversation with Ruskin" lecture at the Ruskin house in September, 2019, a month before we visited.  

After the house visit we walked uphill into a terraced garden. The setting here, 250 feet above Conniston Water, is stunning and this is not a small estate. Ruskin created 5 separate gardens along a path from the house, down to Conniston Water, which by the way is supposedly one of the quietest & least developed of the Lakes.    

Both destinations today required us to drive on the narrowest roads of the entire trip. It was tricky and breath-taking at times but luckily traffic volume was low. Once back at Ambleside, the road north to Keswick is a very wide & scenic drive. 

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