Wednesday, September 30, 2020



The house still has many of Beatrix Potter's furnishings.


The Lake District is where London born Beatrix Potter (author of classic children’s books like “Peter Rabbit”) considered home.  Beatrix and her family started vacationing in the area when she was sixteen and fell in love with it.  Over her lifetime, this breathtaking landscape became not only her home but her passion.  She used the proceeds from her books to eventually buy fifteen farms and over 4,000 acres of land that she willed to the National Trust to be preserved for all time. Beatrix understood the importance of preserving the culture as well as the natural beauty. And my tour group and I were going to have lunch at one of her farms.

Gently tucked into grassy hills and framed by stack stone fences sits the 330 year old farm house and barn of Yew Tree Farms.  Used in the movie “Miss Potter” starring Renee Zellweger as her actual home in Hill Top, it is both a working sheep farm and heritage site. Shortly after we arrived, we were welcomed by Caroline and Jon Watson, the current owners, and ushered into the intimate dining room made cozy by the low timbered ceiling and a blazing fire in the fireplace.  No sooner had we sat down when great platters of hearty peasant bread were passed from hand to hand followed by steaming tureens of homemade squash soup. Toasting my backside by the fire, having second and third helpings of the best food I can remember eating and watching the rain fall on a landscape that looked like a painting in the National Museum, I could have stayed there forever.  However, there was another treat for us in store outside.

View from the dining room

Driveway into the Yew Tree Farms

We had to brave a rather serious downpour as Jon, in his role as sheep herder, and his dogs demonstrated how they worked together to herd his flock of Herdwick sheep.  It was such a beautiful setting that I wished it could have been a nicer day, but Jon and the sheep didn’t seem to mind, just taking the cold wet weather in stride.  I think it was Brenda, one of the more observant in our group, who wondered why it was that wool shrunk so drastically when washed when you’d think it would have already been preshrunk on a sheep’s back.  Yes, Brenda.  Why is that?

Jon Watson and his sheep dogs in front of the barn

It was very hard to leave Yew Tree Farms.  I could have so easily unpacked my bags, ordered tea and settled in for a long, long time.  But, reluctantly we boarded the bus and Davie, our driver, very carefully maneuvered our massive coach through tiny country lanes back to the main road and drove on to our hotel in Shap.   On the way, we passed the town of “Giggleswick” and I wondered if it had been named by the same guy who named “Birdlip” in southern England!

One of my favorite movies is "Miss Potter" with Renee Zellweger. Many 
outdoor scenes were shot in front of Miss Potter's door!

(Originally posted in 2012)
by Barbara Champlin