Beatrix Potter’s Derwentwater
Location : Keswick – Grid Ref: NY 254222
Between 1885, when she was 19, and 1907, Beatrix Potter spent nine summer holidays at Lingholm and one at Fawe Park, the two stately homes whose estates now occupy most of the north western side of Derwentwater. The two houses, their gardens and the surrounding landscape provided material for several of her books.
Lingholm was built in the 1870’s . During the 1890’s it was unoccupied or let furnished in the summer. In the early 1900’s it was bought by Colonel George Kemp, later Lord Rochdale, who developed the gardens and built terraces on the lake side. Lingholm’s glory is its collection of rhododendrons and azaleas, many planted in the 1920’s and 1930’s. The woods around Lingholm were – and still are – the home of red squirrels and other woodland creatures. Beatrix sketched them many times in the summer of 1901 while working on the backgrounds for The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin. The Tale of Peter Rabbit uses Lingholm for scenes in the vegetable garden, with its distinctive wicket gate.
On her 1903 visit to Lingholm, Beatrix bought a small sketchbook which she filled with sketches of local scenes. Published in 1984, the fascimile is a collector’s item of considerable interest. Many of her sketches especially those looking across to St Herbert’s Island and Walla and Falcon Craggs are easily recognisable. Owl Island in The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin is St. Herbert’s Island, the destination of a convoy of squirrels who cross the lake on rafts using their tales as sails.
Lingholm is now offering self catering accommodation – see www.thelingholmestate.co.uk, and work is ongoing to get the gardens back in bloom and open to the public again.
It was while staying at Fawe Park in July 1903 that Beatrix was preparing material for The Tale of Benjamin Bunny, and many sketches of the gardens appear in her Derwentwater sketchbook. The gardens slope down to to the shores of the lake and have been landscaped to form several terraces. As well as flower gardens, there is an orchard and a kitchen garden with greenhouses, cold frames and a potting shed.
Although Fawe Park and Lingholm are not open to the public, they may be glimpsed from the footpath between Nichol End and Hawes End (both of which are launch stops on the Keswick Launch). Both houses were designed by the eminent Victorian architect Alfred Waterhouse, Fawe Park in 1858 and Lingholm in 1875.
The original Mrs Tiggy-winkle was Beatrix’s pet hedgehog, who often travelled with her when she went away. On her walks from Lingholm to the Newlands valley, Beatrix met the young Lucie Carr, daughter of the vicar of Newlands Church. She wrote The Tale of Mrs Tiggy Winkle for her, the story of a washer woman hedgehog, who lived at the back of Catbells. Many of the illustrations are easily recognisable – Skelgill Farm, Little Town and Newlands Valley.
The Fairy Caravan, longer and larger than the usual mini-sized Potter books, follows the adventures of a travelling circus.One illustration shows Rattan and Scratch selling their hair elixir in Keswick Market Square.