Painting my way through England

The Old Bridge House in Ambleside
Today was a rather ambling around day in more ways than one.  First, I found the laundrette in Windermere to do my laundry.  Then the post office where I mailed some packages home.  Then I drove up to the charming little town of Ambleside, where I did a watercolor sketch of the Old Bridge House.  Just two tiny rooms, one on top of the other, perched on a bridge over the creek, I'm not sure anyone ever actually lived in it, but it sure is charming!

Tarn Hows
Yesterday, I painted Tarn Hows on my afternoon walk around the lake.

things from Hilltop
I also did a lot of quick sketches while visiting Hilltop.  Just a collection of things that caught my eye, things I wanted to remember.

Things from Hilltop 2
There was a tiny watercolor, maybe 8 x 10 inches at the largest, probably smaller on one of the walls in an upstairs room.  How I'd love to have a print of it.  The brushwork in that little watercolor was just amazing!  And the light it captured was wonderful!  I was a good girl and didn't dig out my camera per the request for no photos in the house, but Oh!  How desperately I wanted one of that painting!  I also loved the quilt on her bed.  Thankfully there was a postcard of that!

Things from Hilltop 3
Some of the sketches are just rough pencil impressions of things I saw.  Not precise by any means, just a way for me to remember, like the metal horse-shoe type pieces on the bottom of the clogs!

Impression of Hilltop
A very quick study of the front room's fireplace wall.  It's a bit out of proportion, but again, it's just an impression more than anything.  There is a terrific book, still in print about her house:At Home with Beatrix Potter: The Creator of Peter Rabbit   It has wonderful photos and commentary of the house.

The Langdales, Lake District
When I went to Wray Castle a few days ago, I sat and painted the view from the cafe window at the castle.  Then a day or two later, I got to drive right up near these peaks on the way to Wrynose and Hardknott passes.

While waiting to go into dinner, I sketched this lovely scene in Beeley and then finished it later on.

I posted some of this before, but I went back and added to the page.

While I'd love to paint everywhere I visit, there often simply isn't time.  Or it's raining.  Or too many people, or sometimes, there is no place to sit.  Occasionally, I'll do a pencil sketch and then take a photo, and finish the painting later, as I did of the Beeley scene.  Once in a great while, I'll go back and do a sketch from a photo, like I did with these of Tintagel ~ but that doesn't happen very often. I find I really like to get my own impression down, and photos, much as I like them, always result in a different perspective.

But enough of painting ~ here are a few photos from my day!

The Old Bridge House in Ambleside
Here is a photo of the old bridge house in Ambleside.  I like the way they built the stairs outside of the room to save interior space!

Pretty Ambleside
There are gorgeous views all over Ambleside!  This scene is just across the street from the Old Bridge House.

Boletus Watercolor by Beatrix Potter
The main reason I went to Ambleside was to visit the Armitt Library and see their collection Beatrix Potter's naturalist watercolors, especially her fungi paintings!  These for the most part were much larger than the little book illustration, but the brushwork in them was ever so find and detailed.  If you look at the large size of this on Flickr (just click on the photo)  you can see the super teensy brush strokes on the stems of these mushrooms.  Amazing!

If you are wondering why I'm such a big Beatrix Potter fan, it is in part because I taught myself to paint in watercolors by copying her illustrations as a girl!  But looking at these intricate watercolors in person, I realize what a very long way I have to go and how much more there is to learn still!  She was a true master of the medium.

Beatrix Potter's Painting Book
And I love her whimsy too ~ like these illustrations from her painting book for children and the wonderful instructions to go with!


A Day with Beatrix Potter!

What a perfect day I've had!  I've just got to share it now instead of working on catch up posts!
This morning, I woke to pouring rain and was so disappointed as this was my appointed day to visit Hilltop, Beatrix Potter's first home in the Lake District.  But then it started to lift and by the time breakfast was over, it was just fits and starts.  I decided because of the rain to drive over to Near Sawrey rather than doing a combination of walking and taking the ferry and then the bus ~ I was so glad I choose to do that.  I got an early start and had an easy time finding parking, which I understand can be a real issue most of the time.  Bought my timed entry ticket and walked right up to Hilltop and got in! 

Me at Hilltop!
There was almost no one there!  No photography is allowed in the house, so I asked if I could sketch, which I was allowed.  So I wandered from room to room, sketching items that struck my fancy, things I remembered from the books and a couple of bits of rooms.  (I haven't taken any photos of my sketchbook recently, but I'll be sure to soon!)

Beatrix left all her things to the National Trust with instructions on how they were to be displayed.  It results in her presence being so palpable in the house.  I came out of it feeling as though I'd actually met her face to face!  it was really something to walk from room to room and see all these things just like she left them.  The house is filled with bunnies, from china figures, to bunnies on tiles and plates.  Lots of other animal things too.  The entire house just felt so comfortable!  I loved the scale of it and the layout ~ as much as I like some of the layout of newer houses, these old ones are just so cozy!    

The gardens at Hilltop
Then I went outside to the gardens.  Like the house, they were small, but charming.  Every bit of spare earth was filled with some lovely plant!

Wisteria on the front of Hilltop Cottage
On the front of the house there is a huge wisteria vine!

Geranium at Hilltop
And on the windowsills, pots of geraniums, just as seen in so many of her illustrations!

The vegetable garden at Hilltop
The vegetable garden was walled with a green door to it!

Bee Skep at Hilltop
One wall had a niche with a bee skep in it!

Roses and Pasture at Hilltop
There was a long walk with climbing rambler roses ~ a white one that was so fragrant and lovely!

Sheep Pasture at Hilltop
Along the other side of the path was a small pasture with several of the Herdwick sheep, which  she championed.

Wild Rabbit at Hilltop
There were quite a few wild bunnies making the most of the protected space to eat and sun themselves in the grass!  The gal in the shop said they have had a bumper crop of rabbits the past couple of years and that they don't do anything in particular to encourage them, but they just show up much to the visitor's delight!

Tower Bank Arms in Near Sawrey
I had lunch next door at the Tower Arms, which is also featured in a couple of the stories.

Mushroom Tarragon Soup and Wildwood Cider
I had the Mushroom Tarragon Soup ~ so savory and delicious! A half pint of Wildwood hard cider  was the perfect accompaniment!

Me at the Tower Bank Arms
They were kind enough to not only take my photo, but to call the cook out to tell me how they made the soup!

The Tower Bank Arms Mushroom Tarragon Soup (as told to me by the cook)
Stew up some mushrooms, the flat kind, along with some potatoes in some vegetable stock with some tarragon.  
Then when the potatoes are soft, whizz it all together and add salt and pepper to taste.  

Somehow, I don't think I'll be able to quite match his version!

Then I headed a couple miles up the road to another little town called Hardwick where the Beatrix Potter Gallery is housed in this unassuming building. Turns out that is is where W. Heelis had his law practice!

There I got to see the original pen and ink drawings that Beatrix did for Peter Rabbit and some of the pre-publication correspondence about the book with F.W. Warne & Co.

I loved seeing them ~ and especially to see that her drawings were in the same size range as all the sketches I do!  I had wondered if they were much larger, but the originals are pretty close to the size they are in the books!    

Tarn Hows
Then I headed off for Tarn Hows, which is a lake that Beatrix enjoyed in the area.  It has a nice trail all around it, and was one I had marked off in my "Walks with Beatrix Potter" book that I wanted to do.

Tarn Hows
It was a nice little hike, about 2 miles.  Really lovely, especially since the sun was much more prevalent!  

Coin tree
Along the path, I came across this strange looking tree trunk.  As I got closer, I realized that it was filled with coins!  There were many tree stumps and logs along the path with similar treatment!

The foxgloves were glorious!

Tarn Hows
There is a small green peninsula in the lake that is covered with a soft carpet of short grass and moss.  It was such a fairytale kind of spot!  Just lovely!

At the end of the hike as I came around the end of Tarn Hows, the clouds lifted off of the peaks and I got this lovely glimpse of the Langdale Peaks in the distance!

What a lovely, perfect day!


Chatsworth ~ The House

No matter how you look at it, Chatsworth is one imposing building/estate/garden/etc.  It's hard to imagine just one family living here (though really, countless people did and do live here, just to keep the place functioning).

Playful Dogs Sculpture at Chatsworth
Throughout the grounds, there are statues from across the centuries.  I enjoyed these playful hounds in the courtyard as you prepare to enter!

The Grand Entry Hall at Chatsworth
The entry hall is grand and imposing.  All extremely ornate.

The Main Entrance Hall at Chatsworth
How do you being to describe such a sight?  Words fail me.

Beautiful wood carving at Chatsworth
Throughout the house, one of the things I loved the most, was the quality of the wood carving.  From these beautiful twisting pillars with their garlands of flowers and the beautiful paneling... (and note the beautiful velvet dress worn by the Duchess of Devonshire at the Queen's Coronation)

Wood Carving at Chatsworth
to the exquisitely delicate and intricate carving in the chapel...

More Woodcarvings at Chatsworth
And the life-like birds on the panels in an adjacent room, which is all of a hunting theme, hence the "dead" birds.  Beautiful and amazing to see such wood carving.

The Plate Room at Chatsworth
So many of the rooms were over the top, such as this Plate Room with its collection of oriental porcelain hung in columns on the high walls.  For myself, I found the "State Rooms" to be dark, uncomfortable and a little too much for my simple tastes.  Amazing to see?  Yes, but who would want to spend much time in those rooms?  Really?

I found the house hard to get comfortable with.  The grand scale of everything puts it out of reach somehow.  I also found much of the interior to be very dark ~ not just because of the conservation efforts, but there was so much dark wood paneling, especially in the formal State Rooms.  I couldn't wait to get out of them after a while, as I found myself craving light!  It was much better in the guest bedrooms with their lighter walls, but the sheer quantity of ornamentation also got to be somewhat overwhelming for me.

One of the Gallery Hallways at Chatsworth
I did love the long hallways hung with artwork ~ so many amazing paintings to see!  And didn't Mr. Darcy walk down one of these hallways?

Beautiful Glass Chandelier at Chatsworth
Beautiful crystal chandeliers in the hallways.

Beautiful tapestry rug at Chatsworth
Gorgeous tapestry rugs on the bedroom floors.

Handpainted Wallpaper at Chatsworth
Amazing handpainted wallpaper on one of the guest bedroom walls.

John Singer Sargent painting at Chatsworth
Everywhere you looked, there was another beautiful piece of artwork, such as this massive painting by John Singer Sargent.

The Dining Room at Chatsworth
The dining room was enormous.  Somehow this room seems so much more friendly than most of the other public rooms here.

The Bride statue at Chatsworth
My favorite thing to see here in the house at Chatsworth was the statuary, in particular, this lovely piece which is delicate and beautiful and an amazing tribute to the skill of the sculptor.

Sleeping Lion Statue at Chatsworth
But this sleeping lion captured my heart as well!

Me at Chatsworth!
So, here I am, at the end of the day, a little footsore, overwhelmed with all I had seen, and grateful that I will eventually go back to a small home and ever so glad that I don't have to be responsible for taking care of this enormous place and all of its beautiful, if over the top, stuff!  It was fun to see, but I'm so glad to live a simpler life!