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A celebration of Beatrix Potter's 150th Anniversary

27 July 2016

Jane Watson, Marketing & Communications for BP150 Project, National Trust tells us all about her work for the 150th anniversary of Beatrix Potter, just one of the writers inspired by our beautiful, World Heritage nominated cultural landscape...

"I’ve become a bit of a Beatrix Potter nerd this year.  There, I’ve said it out loud.

It would have been 150 years since her birth on 28 July, and there are lots of celebrations going on right across the Lake District – indeed across the UK.  You may be thinking why all the fuss about someone who was born 150 years ago; but here in the Lakes, we’ve so much to thank Beatrix for.  Of course, we all know about her skills as a writer and illustrator and the 23 little Tales she created – which seep into our sub-conscious and seem to be part of everyone’s childhood, in some shape or form.

But Beatrix fell in love with the Lake District in a way that many of us do, and then proceeded to turn that love and passion into something tangible, wanting to save many places from development and as she saw it- destruction.  Her legacy to the nation and the National Trust when she died was over 4,000 acres of land, and 15 farms or cottages, and a world class collection of images, drawings and other items.  This amazing gift means that the Lake District has been protected, but also been allowed to fit into today’s modern world, a living landscape, providing beauty, nature and heritage for everyone to enjoy and experience.

Beatrix Potter is just one of the writers who has influenced the Lake District’s bid for World Heritage status in 2017, she was truly inspired by the landscape around her and I for one, reckon she might have spearheaded the bid if she was here today!

Beatrix was a shrewd businesswoman, who self-published the first edition of The Tale of Peter Rabbit, which then generated interest from Frederick Warne, and started the interest in her talents.  She also came up with some of the first ‘merchandise’ associated with books, developed Peter Rabbit toys, and a board game.  She turned the parlour of Yew Tree Farm into a tea-room to help make the farm financially sustainable and encouraged others to do the same.  She was even instrumental in planning how to open Hill Top to the public in order to showcase her work and life, but also to fund conservation in and around her beloved Sawrey.  This year it’s been open to visit for 70 years.

She was quiet and modest, unpretentious but also outspoken.  Anyone who said that her painting was art would be told: ‘Great rubbish, absolute bosh!’

As a Londoner, coming up to Cumbria and starting to breed Herdwick sheep was startling enough  but then to become the first woman ever to be elected to the presidency of the Herdwick Sheep Breeders Association, shows how she was held in quiet high esteem and much respected by the local farming community.  She sadly died before she could take up the post.  This year is 100 years of the Herdwick Sheep Breeders Association, and Herdy UK are working on a Genebank Archive project, collecting embryos & semen to add to the Sheep Trust Heritage Genebank, helping to protect the Herdwick in an unpredictable world.

She worked incredibly hard right up to the end:  “I would rather keep going till I drop – early or late – never mind what the work is, so long as it is useful and well done.” 

For me Beatrix Potter is not only an icon of British literature and illustration; a comforting, well-known figure of our childhood; she is an inspiring, driven woman, who loved the countryside and in particular, the Lake District with such a passion that she was inspired  to use her talents to do something massively important, to protect it, for ever. 

That’s the reason why we’re all saying #thanksBeatrix on 28th July.  Find out more about what’s happening at www.nationaltrust.org.uk/beatrixpotter"

Jane Watson: Marketing & Communications for BP150 Project, National Trust. (Photos courtesy of National Trust)  

About the author

Jane Watson, Marketing & Communications for BP150 Project

Jane Watson is working on the Beatrix Potter 150th Anniversary for the National Trust BP150 project, saying #thanksbeatrix on 28 July