Apple trees (I think they were apples) blooming in front of the windows of our room).
We stumbled downstairs, saying good morning to the house cat, and into the dining room for our first English Breakfast: sausage (made from the pigs over the hill) sunnyside up eggs, toast, homemade blackberry jam, baked tomato, English bacon (which looks and tastes a lot like Canadian bacon - but better) and, of course, TEA! I had the vegetarian sausage made from lentils and MrKnotty had the real deal. Delicious, delicious!
Part of the kitchen gardens of The Duck. There were peppers, rosemary, thyme, basil, mint, strawberries and just about every other herb imaginable.
We packed up our things, left them at the front desk, stuffed ourselves into the tiny car and headed for Hill Top, Beatrix Potter's home in the town of Near Sawrey. We team-drove, but my "Too close!" was now more of an "eek!" than an "AHHHH!"
To gain admittance to Hill Top, you first stop at the office, a small house down the road from Hill Top and directly next to a replica of Hill Top, used for the movie Miss Potter. As we had been advised to arrive early, we were the second couple in line, sandwiched between two British couples. We struck up a conversation with the older couple behind us, who wanted our input on the recent bank failing and the American presidential race. They told us we had arrived just in time -- a bus carrying more than 80 Japenise tourist were on their way from their hotel and would be arriving shortly. The wife made a reference to the Japenise remembering how beautiful England was from the last time they were here (persumably, a reverence to WWII from her tone) and her husband told her it wasn't appropriate in front of company.
The door opened and we purchased our tickets -- from the same woman we had purchased tickets to the gallery the day before in Hawkshead. She recognized us as well and encouraged us to buy National Trust memberships if we planned to keep up like this. I breifly imagined leaving the U.S. forever and becoming an ex-pat with an English accent, taking tea every afternoon and picking berries from the hillside. MrKnotty snapped me out of it by reminding me that the KnottyKitties were waiting for us at home. Even then, fresh fluffy scones have an allure of their own...
We walked up the road, passing Beatrix's working farmland on the way. I highly encourage you to enlarge this picture -- you'll see the sheep to MrKnotty's left and gorgeous cottages in the hillside.
A bit of walking later and we discovered the path up to the house, walking through the garden. This is the house she purchased after publishing Peter Rabbit, but the majority of her book were written here. Walking through the garden, was like walking directly into a picture book and I began to remember feelings I hadn't had since childhood. I realized that my idea of fairy stories and make-believe looked just like this -- and must have formed in my head at an early age from the pictures in her books. In short, I had the distinct feeling of walking into Farmer MacGregor's garden.
We arrived at the front door to find it was not yet opened. Speaking with the other couples who were waiting, they all said that as we traveled the farthest to be here, we should be the first inside -- which was very kind of them.
And so, when the door opened we stepped into the cozy two-story, as though we were walking into a friend's home -- void of tourist, other than ourselves, and with the company of of two docents. Everything in the home, from the dark hardwood floors to the stone fireplace and old wooden rocker in the corner, was exactly as she had left it, just as she insisted when leaving it to the National Trust. In the windowsills were copies of her books, open to pages inspired by those rooms. So look in the china cabinet, then look at the Tale of Tom Kitten, and there's the teapot and the dining room table -- exactly as they appear in the book. Look out the window at the hills and back at the book, and there's the same hill and, remarkably, the same trees, albet bigger. We walked upstairs and around in every corner. The rugs, the bed, the quilts -- all there. Exactly like walking into a book.
Coming back around and down the stairs, the home was now filled with tourists, so we stepped outside and into the garden where a light rain had begun to fall. There was Farmer M's watering can, and rows of tidy vegetables. We walked in circles, my desire to stay batteling with my desire to enjoy it on my own without having to remember it as crowded with the throngs of loud and very hand-sy-pushy tourists.
We headed out the path, passing Tom Kitten's gate on the way and into the gift shop, where the crowd descended and I was literally knocked against the wall by the ensuing crowd. And chose to stay there until they passed. We made a few purchases and then, rather than head back to The Duck, took a long walk through the countryside.
Past herds of sheep and several cows. Into a huge monster of a mud puddle, under trees turning orange and gold with the fall, occasionally passing another couple who, from the mud on their boots, must have come the same way.
We spent most of the morning this way until we felt certain that if we didn't turn around, we would never catch our evening train from Manchester to London. We said goodbye to the great people at The Duck, and threw our belongings into the back of the tiny car.