Life as I know It

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San Luis Obispo, California, and South Bristol, Maine, United States
Author ~ Illustrator ~ Lecturer

Sunday, October 3, 2010

"But is it still magic in here?"

"Welcome to Hill Top," the robin chirped (I think). "Miss Potter left the garden gate unlatched."

The little red-breasted robin trilled a welcoming song to us as we walked into Beatrix Potter's Hill Top cottage. Inside, a fire crackled, children wandered wide-eyed through the rooms, and a little girl asked, "Is Beatrix Potter here today?" "I'm sorry, she isn't," the blue eyed docent answered. "But is it still magic here," the little girl asked as she fondled her Peter Rabbit book. "Oh yes, it is still magic here," the docent replied. And it is...a hundred years of magic for millions of children, and, yes, for all of us who will always be children at heart as long as we live.

 The original iron gate leading to the walled garden.

 The parlor window.

 What am I photographing? Clusters of Sempervivum tectorum, also known as houseleeks or live forevers. They are believed to protect a home from lightning. 

 But I love the ancient name for these plants, which is "Welcome home husband, however late and drunk thee may be."

In the caretaker's window.

The gate that opens from the walled garden to the orchard.

Inside the walled garden.

Hill Top behind me, but I felt like it was really heaven.

Love the old trough in the garden, which was a magnet for birds. Look to the right and you can see the poacher's spade stuck in the ground. It is just like the one that is pictured in Peter Rabbit with a robin sitting on the handle.

A feast for my eyes wherever I looked.

Jemima Puddleduck's egg tucked under a leaf in the walled garden.

You will see this wooden beehive in many of her books. I love the cloche next to it.

The bee hive with shallots drying beneath it.

The old rhubarb forcer has seen many years of service.

Ok, I'll take this wheelbarrow, but HOW do I get it home?

The front entryway to Hill Top

Looking into the apple orchard and beyond.

Beatrix's beloved Herdwick sheep.

Our new friend Gillian, the gift shop manager, shared some rare insights with us. The white house with the bay windows to the right is "Miss Potter's marital home with Mr. Heelis." She passed away in that room looking out to the hillsides and village she loved beyond any others. See the sinuous walled pathway behind the house? We were told that Beatrix and Mr. H. always walked this pathway up to their beloved "tarn" (Cumbrian for pond) at the top of the hill. Quite a hike. It took us about 50 minutes to make it to the top. I know that Beatrix's feet gave her problems in her late 50s, and I'm sure she couldn't have walked up there with bad feet. 

Jeff photographing the hillsides on the walk up to the tarn.

Looking back to the village of Hill Top from the pathway.

Twist my arm and I'll stay here for a life time. Beatrix Potter bought over 4,000 acres and a few farms and donated them all to the National Trust. They're preserved forever all thanks to a determined lady who wrote her "little books" for children. 

Peacefully hiking the pathway and doing close up photos of lichen... 

See the beautiful lichens and mosses. A miniature world inhabited by a red jacketed British Soldier lichen. I love them. 

I loved these words from Beatrix's journal: "All the little fungus people singing and bobbing and dancing in the grass and under the leaves all down below, like the whistling that some people cannot hear of stray mice and bats." Beatrix believed that the faerie fungus people "laugh and clap their hands, especially the little ones that grow in troops and rings amongst dead leaves in the woods."

I'm hiking down the pathway, minding my own business and quietly enjoying the countryside when I hear...
...the thunder of little hooves. I moved against the wall, and they ran past me.

This is Buckle Yeat B& B, which is next door to Hill Top. This lovely building was often pictured in her books. You can stay here, and we wanted to, but the entire inn was booked for a wedding.

Right alongside the road there was this wonderful display of squash.

Nice woodpile cloaked in sweet peas and topped with a green roof.

The tarn where Beatrix and Mr. Heelis picnicked and fished. Can't you see why she so loved it there? I heard many rumors about where she was buried, but particularly liked the one that her ashes are scattered here in a spot she loved. 

I sketched above the tarn and could see Miss Potter choosing the exact spot, which was a perfect look out over everything.

Me and my best friend having a wonderful adventure together.

I hope this isn't too long for you, but I wanted to somehow repay you for the dozens and dozens of well wishes and loving thoughts. I am so sorry that I am behind in answering you, but we've just returned and now I am preparing to give my talk ("The Artist in the Garden and the Garden in the Artist") at the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens, which is a world class jewel. It would be wonderful to see you there Thursday, October 7th at 6:00 p.m.. Tickets are $15.00 for non-members, $10 for member. A booksigning with refreshments will follow my talk and all proceeds will benefit the garden. If you come early take the time to enjoy the amazing Children's Garden. It is breathtaking.

I'll be working on my slide program and also more blog entries. Look for our two visits to the fabulous and historic town of Oxford where we walked in the tracks of C.S. Lewis, Lewis Carroll, Tolkien, and more. Also two meals at Jamie's Italian, the masterpiece of Jamie Oliver. Wow! Won't you drop by again in a few days for a visit?

All love and best wishes to you,


P.S. We had a chance to visit the adorable Rachel Lucas (Mozart's Girl). She is "The Queen of the Blue Angel Bakery" and now has a stall in the Aylesbury Farmer's Market. I'll tuck her into one of the next blog entries. Rachel's creations are beautiful and scrumptious. We were so happy to witness the legions of fans she has amassed through the years. Please visit her blog and get to know her better.


jaz@octoberfarm said...

oh wow sharon!!! thanks fpr the trip! that is a true piece of heaven!

The cottage by the Cranelake said...

Wonderful photos of a wonderful countryside! I´ve never been to Britain but the photos I´ve seen from the countryside there always makes me want to move there :-) But how could I leave my own paradise here by the bog :-)

I don´t know why, but she isn´t especially well known over here. She was a fantastic artist so she should have deserved to be more popular here.

Have a great day now!

Anonymous said...

OHHHHHHHHH I felt like I was THERE! Just gorgeous photos! What a magical adventure INDEED!! Thank you for sharing!!

Leanne NZ said...

oh me too Thank you Sharon & your best friend for taking such wonderful photos & sharing them.

A beautiful place - a one day dream place to visit when I grow up

Love Leanne

Mozart's Girl said...

Dearest Sharon, did it really all happen?? It seems like a dream now in some ways! Almost ready for my trip but still baking like a madwoman. So wonderful to read this post about what happened 'in between'!! Thanks too for your sweet words about kind. Looking forward to filling in more gaps! With love, Rachel xoxo

Pondside said...

What a beautiful note from a magical place. Peter Rabbit and all his friends figured large in my childhood and in my now-grown children's as well. I was so touched when our daughter gave a set of Beatrice Potter books as a Christening gift to our first grandson.
This is a post to read again and gaze for a long time at each photo.

Terra said...

As I looked at each photo I fell in love with Beatrix's farm. Could this possibly be the most beautiful place on earth? Or what heaven looks like? Thank you for this tour, and now I read you visited C.S. Lewis and the Inkling's spots, oh I will not be jealous, even tho Jack is my Christian mentor, through his writings!

Susan said...

I closed my eyes and it was like being in one of Beatrix Potter's stories. Thank you for the photos.

Anna Flowergardengirl said...

You are so wonderful and I enjoyed this post immensely. Stay busy my friend as you truly do spread the most beautiful thoughts along your path. Thank you for doing so.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for sharing these wonderful pictures of Miss Potter's home and garden.

They are absolutely gorgeous!

Vee said...

Oh I'm so glad that you found the garden gate open with all the magic still inside. What a wonderful post! Thank you for all the beautiful photos, which explain so very well why anyone would fall in love with such a place.

Robin Larkspur said...

Oh my, I have tears in my eyes looking at your wonderful pictures of our beloved Beatrix Potter's Hilltop, thank you for sharing these. I am thrilled.

Lemon Verbena Lady said...

Glad you two are back safe and sound. It goes by too quickly! Thanks for sharing your amazing adventure. Looking forward to more! xxoo Nancy

Betty said...

Such a beautiful place, the Lake District. Thank you for sharing your visit and for all the little interesting nooks and crannies you
shared with us. You might like to remember your visit to the area by viewing Lakeland Cam a daily dose of inspiration and beauty.
A belated happy birthday greeting and good wishes for the year ahead!

FlowerLady Lorraine said...

Thank you so much for sharing this magical journey with us. What a lovely setting that is part of history.

Love and hugs to you ~ FlowerLady

Kay's flowers said...

Thank you so much for sharing all the pictures. It would be my dream to someday go see her home. But since I can't go right now I can see it through your eyes. Glad you are back with us again to share all you are doing.

Carol said...

Too long? NOT AT ALL. This is a delightful post . . . what a wonderful adventure to share with your best friend and now with your readers. I so enjoy the landscapes . . . that sweet birdie and the thrill of the sheep running along the road. Wonderful!! The photographs are beautiful! I have never seen Beatrix's Hill Top paradise . . . Thank you! ;>)

Lori ann said...

Amazing! Wonderful! i'm going back for another look right now. Thank you Sharon and Jeff, this is a wonderful post. I LOVE Beatrix Potter, someday i hope to go too.

Lydia said...

This is a post to come back to, again and again.

By sharing you not only made the world smaller- you made it more charming.

Thank you

Carina said...

Thanks for letting us share in the magic of Beatrix Potter. Lovely pics. Would love to go there.

Zuzana said...

Oh my goodness, each and everyone of your photographs could make a painting. What a beautiful place and those views are out of this world. I would have loved to have walked there with you.
Thank you for sharing this magical experience...

Susan Freeman said...

Dear Sharon,
Thank you so much for the loveliest of tours! It was perfectly enchanting and in my heart I am there as well.

Susan and Bentley

Unknown said...

Just beautiful... My favorite pic?
The one of you and Jeff holding hands...I think the best way to take in such a beautiful place would be with your best friend. I hope to visit there with mine some day :)

Claus said...

Beautiful Sharon! Exactly how I imagined Britain's countryside. Beatrix Potter has never been that popular in Guatemala. I suppose our traditions rely on local authors and stories from Latin America or Spain. After watching a movie adaptation of her life though, and after your photos, I am curious about her work. I will try to find some of her books; perhaps for my little niece! :o)
thank you deeply for sharing!

One Woman's Journey - a journal being written from Woodhaven - her cottage in the woods. said...

Thank you for allowing me to go on this trip with you. The images are beautiful. What a wonderful adventure and blessing for you and your best friend :)

hens teeth said...

Your happiness in being at this special place absolutely shone through Sharon. I am so very happy you had such a wonderful time.
Thank you for your kindness too. x

Suzanne said...

Sharon, thank you so much for posting your trip-- I felt like I was there! This is the one place I hope to visit one day, Hill Top and Charlotte Mason's former college for teachers. Someday....

So glad for you, what great memories!

Kristina said...

What a lovely and peaceful place! I have always wanted to travel to England and visit Miss Potter's home. Thank you for sharing with us!


suzanne said...

Dear Sharon~

A dream come true...This will definitely be a future journey for Andrew and myself. I too want to walk with him hand in hand as I walk these paths. Sharon you must have felt such joy and peace.

I can just imagine looking out for the little potter characters to appear around bushels and pots.

What a wonderful experience. I will be back for some more Sharon.

A happy day to you

jaz@octoberfarm said... got me! i almost always use evaporated milk but altered the recipe because i thought people would not give it a try if i posted it that way. some people just don't know from evaporated milk if you get my drift. in this recipe i used both. i eat mostly a strict vegetarian diet and always have. weird cook i am!!! my family loves meat so i cook a lot of it.

Pat said...

A dream trip and you have shared it so perfectly with lovely glimpses of Beatrice's world.
Absolute perfection!

Judith @ Lavender Cottage said...

Thank you for visiting my blog and leaving a comment. I have promoted your books various times in my gardening column when I write about our young but future gardeners.
What a magical journey you have taken us on in this post, enjoyed seeing everything.

Pear tree cottage! said...

Sharon what a thrill and an honour to see your comments on my blog today. After reading your profile I had to go and rush off to my huge collection of country living magazines to find the September 1997 Yes! Remembering when the magazine arrived and O! How I loved "A Maine Cottage" then and now.

I wrote to the magazine in 1989 telling them that this Aussie was "So! In love with the country living magazine" they put my humble little letter in their letters to the editor in the Novembers 1989 edition. Well after that I had so many lovely ladies from USA write to me I was so pleased, one lady in particular has been my dear friend ever since.......we have watched each others children grow up and are now grand parents is so interesting and we never know were it will take us do we.

I will put my name with your other dear friends on your "watching" list if that is Ok! With you....and do hope to chat often.

Best wishes from Australia.


Pam/Digging said...

"Is it still magic here?"

What a delightful way to begin your story of Beatrix Potter's place. The home and landscape are beautiful and homey and all that one would expect from reading her books. I was moved by your images, especially the shadow of you and your DH holding hands. What bliss it would be to live out one's days in a place like that.

Pam/Digging said...

"Is it still magic here?"

What a delightful way to begin your story of Beatrix Potter's place. The home and landscape are beautiful and homey and all that one would expect from reading her books. I was moved by your images, especially the shadow of you and your DH holding hands. What bliss it would be to live out one's days in a place like that.

D said...

I absolutely love this place, your photos and all of its magic and would like to stay a while longer, if you don't mind. :)

Lili said...

When I read the part about the Live Forevers protecting a house from lightening strikes I gasped, as our former home was struck not once, but twice! But I think I see the problem now, we had the wrong Live Forever plants, they were the Sedum ones! Oh Sharon, I so enjoyed your story today and couldn't help thinking how lovely it must have been for you to sit on that lovely knoll above the tarn and sketch. Welcome back home. ~Lili

Lili said...

When I read the part about the Live Forevers protecting a house from lightening strikes I gasped, as our former home was struck not once, but twice! But I think I see the problem now, we had the wrong Live Forever plants, they were the Sedum ones! Oh Sharon, I so enjoyed your story today and couldn't help thinking how lovely it must have been for you to sit on that lovely knoll above the tarn and sketch. Welcome back home. ~Lili

Cindy (Applestone Cottage) said...

Utterly Amazing Sharon!
What a magical and beautiful place!
I so loved this tour!
We have a new baby here!

From the Kitchen said...

Magical!! I can picture "Peter" and his siblings nibbling and frolicking and being chased by Farmer McGregor!

I started your post but had to stop and brew some tea before continuing. Thank you for a lovely visit.


Cher' Shots said...

Oh how I'm wishing I had been a mouse in your pocket! I adore Beatrix Potter - her talent amazes me. Thanks for sharing!

Anonymous said...

Thank you SO MUCH for showing us these photos of your trip to Hill Top. What a fantastic photo of the robin! I hope you will show that in your future bird book and let children know the difference between the American Robin and the English (British?) Robin! Oh, I LOVE that you let us see your visit to England and the Lake District. I might not ever be able to go there but I LOVE< LOVE<LOVE that I can visit by your photos and descriptions. Thanks so much.

Kay Guest

Wsprsweetly Of Cottages said...

Hello Sharon,
Could anything be more wonderful than to actually be there...AT the very home she lived in? I have all those wonderful figurines and as a matter of fact I began my collection of stuffed toys, beginning with Benjamin Bunny, right across the street from where you little shop, Heart's Ease was. :) I remember it well.

Thea said...

Dear Sharon, I have so missed your postings, but I can't think of a better reason that your trip to the Lake District. Thank you so much for sharing your photos. But you know what? My favorite is the one of you and your guy's shadow. Someday I'm gonna gets me a man and travel as joyfully as you do. welcome back! t

Beth said...

Dear Sharon,

Thanks to you, I got to revisit Hill Top today. I love England, and feel it is in my blood. After 911, we planned a trip to England, and it was just what we needed. It was an unusually beautiful spring, almost no rain, with some days which were so warm we had to take off our sweaters. We walked the rolling hills and through little woods carpeted with bluebells. Somehow the countryside seems so tame and park-like compared to our wild tangled American forests and brushy fields. It felt peaceful, safe and calm, at least until the invasion of Iraq came on the news. The English countryside speaks to me and to something deep inside me, which must be my English blood. I loved your post! love, Beth

Anonymous said...

This is just wonderful...really magic! I have such a soft spot for the English countryside, it is special...thanks for a lovely reportage!

rebecca sweet said...

Heven's no this post isn't too long - I was sad when it ended! I'm so glad you were able to spend an afternoon at this delightful place, as I know it enriched your soul - it shows in your photos and your writing. What a day you both must've had! p.s. were you serious in the ancient translation of those houseleeks? If so - you KNOW I'm using that in one of my posts!! That translation is just too perfect!!! ;)

Jan said...

WOW--wonderful series of photos and info;-) When we were in England with our 2 kids this summer, it was for too short a time (as we travelled through other countries as well). I didn't get to this adorable place but now have some pictures in my mind to remember it by. The English countryside is just gorgeous in your photos;-)

We were in Maine this summer, too--and I wish I were there this week so I could see/hear you speak at the Botanical gardens there!

RachelD said...

This has been such a lovely tour, kindling such a longing to stroll there again.

Thank you for sharing this familiar, dear spot---your photos bring back wonderful memories, and it's like looking at Home.


Dee @ Red Dirt Ramblings said...

Dear One. So glad you are back, and no, it wasn't too long. As you know, Beatrix Potter is one of my favorites too. I loved the beginning. My children found all of her books to be magical and loved the BBC series which brought her drawings to life. I wish they would re-release it. I've featured it on my blog before. Thank you so much for taking us along. It is truly the trip of a lifetime. Please say hi to Jeff!~~Dee

"Daffodil Planter" Charlotte Germane said...

I feel that I've been on a pilgrimage. Thank you! I will save this post forever.

Brenda@CoffeeTeaBooks said...

So glad you are back safe and sound. I LOVE the pictures, you made me feel as if I was (almost) there.

The entire trip sounds like a dream vacation. Although I did think it funny that you were taking picture of plants, not surprised... just funny. ;)

Carla said...

Oh Sharon, thank you so much for sharing your photos and thoughts. I doubt that I will ever be able to make such a journey, but you have taken me with you! Each photo brought Ms. Potter to life again. Now when I revisit her books that I have I can put the pictures she drew to life from your visit.

kj said...

sharon, i will be back to soak in every word and every scene and every wonder, but for now i'm just saying welcome back.

we had an art fair in my side yard last weekend and as i came here i'm thinking, hmmm, maybe sharon and her books would like to join us next year. i could easily bribe you but i'll save that part for later :)

i'll be back by the weekend


maggie said...

Thanks so much for this wonderful vicarious vacation. I'm certain I could stay there forever too.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing those lovely pictures of a heavenly spot. I loved reading all about Miss Potter's place.

debra said...

hi Sharon and just gave me a wonderful moment of magic. Thank you so much for sharing your visit to Miss Potter's home in the Cotswolds....I have pictured it in my mind's eye for so long, and here it is, seen through your camera and descriptions. I am super jealous and can only hope to follow your lead and visit some day. Hope your talk went swell on Thursday PM and that you can
R-E-S-T a little in the coming week,
much love, Debra

Lovella ♥ said...

What an absolutely delightful place to visit. It seems to peaceful ..and I heard the hooves imagination just enjoyed the walk about the cottage and beyond.
Lovella from Mennonite Girls Can cook.

Rebecca said...

Thank you for such a heart-warming tour. I wish all my other senses could join sight for THIS one.

I surely wish I lived closer to take in your upcoming talk. It would be such a privilege to meet you and learn from your experiences!

Donna said...

Oh, Sharon, I feel like I have seen heaven on earth in this post! Thank you for leaving your photos large so I could click on them and drink in the gorgeous countryside! It was wonderful to visit Hill Top through your eyes!!! Thank you for the tour!... Donna

Cris, Artist in Oregon said...

What a lovely place. I had to go watch my Miss Potter movie after seeing this. Its just beautiful there. Thanks for sharing all this.

Unknown said...

Thank you for sharing these lovely photos. I'm reading a book about Beatrix Potter just now, and your post and photos have made it all the more delightful!