29 January 2015

Lost your bottle?

Very recently, here on the South Lakes Property we held an Assessment Day to help us choose a new member of staff - an Assistant House Steward. The Assessment Day was held at Wray Castle, on the shores of Windermere, which has to be the best location for a job interview - it certainly has the best views. And thankfully it wasn't as snowy on this day!

We put our potential new member of the team through all manner of tests (but we also gave them lunch). My role on this day was to work with the other House Steward and do the 'Object Handling' session.

The idea of this Handling session is to test the candidates' knowledge of the care of and conservation of various items; in this case a textile, a book and a piece of ceramic. We ask the candidates to handle them, watching carefully to make sure they do it in the correct way so as to minimise any risk of damage. We ask them to look carefully at the object - describing its condition in detail. They will tell us about cleaning the object and maybe displaying it safely to the public.

The ceramic we chose this time was not a fancy gilded delicate piece, which our candidates may well have expected, thinking of Beatrix Potter's lovely collection of cups and saucers and ornaments that are on display at Hill Top. Instead we chose an earthenware bottle, with a broken handle.quite at random.

Down in the basement there are all nature of interesting things during the closed season: all the Craft materials for children's activities; Christmas decorations; dressing up clothes; a taxidermied Herdwick sheep; recycling bins and boxes containing items dug up from the grounds of Wray Castle.

Once our candidates got over their surprise at having to deal with such an unusual item, they seemed to relish handling and describing it. One rightly surmised that it had been dug up from somewhere!

After the assessment sessions were done and we were in the basement with cups of tea and leftover sausage rolls (from lunch). I decided to Google the mark that was on the bottle, as it was so unusual. Herzogthum Nassau was stamped on it, along with a kind of lion decal and the word 'SELTERS'. I wanted to know what this all meant!

What I discovered was that this bottle once contained German mineral water! Herzogthum Nassau, means the Duchy of Nassau, a province in western Germany that is today the state of Hesse. The Selters area of the province on northern slopes of the Taunus mountains was famous for its mineral springs. Starting in the mid-18th century, the water was packaged in stoneware vessels and sold internationally. Shipments went out to the Netherlands, Sweden, England, France, Russia, Africa, even as far afield as America and Jakarta. It was a highly profitable venture, with more than a million jugs sold in 1791. In 1850 three million jugs were sold!

Wray Castle was built in the 1840s by James Dawson (a surgeon) who had way more money than sense, and he would appear to have been a fan of the health benefits of drinking this carbonated mineral water. Who would have imagined that way back then bottled water was readily available and drunk by those who could afford it? I certainly learnt something interesting that day.

Written by Fiona (one of the House Stewards)

23 January 2015

Winter Fashion

Hill Top Farm in winter
Beatrix Potter had spent most of her life in London, visiting the countryside for spring and summer holidays.  However, once she bought Hill Top Farm, she faced the snow, ice and rain of winter with her usual determination.
She wore skirts and jackets made from Herdwick wool and would visit her tenants with an old sack over her shoulders to keep out the rain.  No walking boots or wellies; clogs would be the standard footwear. 

Clogs by the spinning wheel at Hill Top
Cath, centre, wearing long skirt and jacket of Herdwick wool helping to plant the Beatrix Potter rose (not in winter!)

There are tales of her helping to dig sheep out from snow drifts.  Herdwick sheep have been known to survive for weeks buried in drifts, nibbling their own fleeces for nourishment.   These are luckier.

Winter snack bar

Cattle aren't brought in to keep them nice and warm; as ruminants sheep and cattle have their own built in central heating provided by their digestive system. However, trampling hooves on wet  ground soon reduce it  to a muddy mess which won't grow grass for a long time. 
Breakfast cereal? (mentioning no names)

  Edwardian farm wear was based on natural fibres and women would wear long skirts.
From BBC Edwardian Farm series - more pics on their website

Now farmers have a wide choice of materials designed to keep out wind, rain and snow. 

What the well-dressed farmer  wears to work
And National Trust Rangers bob around the countryside like winter robins.
Paul models Ranger gear

Even dogs have their own walking boots!
Sam modelling boot on sore paw whilst waiting for a walk
In between Beatrix's time and the present, I can remember Lake District walks meant sensible shoes and plastic macs and have fond (?) memories of students wearing clogs clattering along the corridor on their way to early morning practicals at agricultural college.  It wasn't that long ago!

16 January 2015

We are nearer to Spring than we were in September....

I have to confess that I'm not a winter person. If winter consisted entirely of blue skied, frosty days with the occasional dusting of snow I might feel differently, but up here in the Lakes winter is made up mainly of leaden skied rainy days,with occasional sleet to liven things up a bit (although it's snowing quite hard as I write this). For a gardener this is bad news and I sometimes scan the National Trust vacancy list for jobs in East Anglia where the yearly rainfall total is about what we get in a month. And don't get me started on the short days, having got up at 6 am this week for a gardeners meeting at Lyme Park I'm convinced there should be a law against getting up in the dark!

But there is one bright spark in this otherwise unremittingly gloomy season, and that's for the six weeks after Christmas the garden is closed to the public. That's not meant to sound unwelcoming; for the other forty-six weeks of the year you are most welcome to come and see the garden; but for those six short weeks I get it to myself. It's now that I can do all those jobs that are difficult when we're open, I can block the paths with branches when I'm pruning things, I can leave jobs half finished if the rain gets too heavy and come back to them tomorrow, I can leave muddy footprints on the paths and even park my van outside the house if I need to.

One such job which came to the top of my list yesterday was to cut back the rather too rampant ivy around the side gate to the vegetable garden. Ivy (Hedera helix) is a useful ground cover plant in shady areas and a good food source for a wide range of wildlife. This particular clump had escaped my notice over the last few years and it wasn't until I looked closely that I discovered just how out of control it had become. What started off as a little gentle clearing around the gate turned into a full scale assault on stems as thick as my arm which were threatening to completely engulf a couple of damson trees.
The end result was a much clearer veg garden wall and a huge pile of ivy that took three trips in the van to get rid of!



At the moment it looks rather like a bad haircut, but in a month or two you'll never know it had been cut back.

Incidentally ivy is dedicated to Bacchus, the Roman God of wine, who is often depicted wearing a wreath of ivy and grape leaves. Apparently it was thought that wearing a wreath of ivy leaves would ward off intoxication. I may try it next time I'm in the Tower Bank Arms!

Elsewhere in the garden, the snowdrops are just beginning to flower and the daffodils are poking their leaves up through the ground although still a month or two away from flowering yet, but as Percy Bysshe Shelley (why is no-one called Bysshe anymore?) wrote, 'If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?'

As always I have a long list of jobs including lots of pruning, loads of digging, some new apple trees for the paddock and a new fence in the veg garden. I won't get them all done before we open again on February 14th, but at least you'll be able to get up the garden path!

My musical link this time had to be this and I'll leave you with a short poem by Oliver Herford.

I Heard a Bird Sing.

I heard a bird sing
In the dark of December,
A magical thing
And sweet to remember

'We are nearer to Spring
Than we were in September,
I heard a bird sing
In the dark of December.

See you next time.

Words and pictures by Pete the Gardener.

5 December 2014

Feeling Claustrophobic?

For some of us the scariest holiday of the year is not Halloween,
If you missed us at Halloween, here we are at the Hawkshead shop scaring customers with the help of our familiar and village resident Sparky.
...but Christmas!
But never fear dear, the South Lakes retail team are here to elf help you!
Yes, that's right, we are still here over winter so make sure you plan a visit.

When can you visit us?
You probably know that during winter many of our properties, such as Hill Top house, are closed for essentail conservation work and a very well deserved rest.
However, there's still plenty to do, including your Christmas shopping!
National Trust Shop and Beatrix Potter Gallery, Hawkshead
The shop is open from Wednesday to Sunday, 10:00am to 4:00pm until Christmas eve. We  are also open December 27th to 31st.
The Beatrix Potter Gallery is now closed for winter conservation until 14th February 2015.
Hill Top Shop
The shop and garden at Hill Top are open every day until Christmas Eve, 10:00am to 4:00pm. Entry is free.
The house itself is now closed for winter conservation and will reopen 14th February 2015.
Wray Castle Shop
The castle and shop open every Friday, Saturday and Sunday until 21st December, 10:30 am to 4:00pm.

Wray Castle shop looking very festive.

And just because it's now cold and dark out there doesn't mean your social life has to dull down too. There's an absolute sleigh-full of goings on in the next few weeks, take a look!
Hawkshead Christmas Fair
A great day our and a perfect opportunity to do your Christmas Shopping!
Hawkshead's annual Christmas Fair takes place on Saturday 6th of December and Sunday 7th of December, between 10:00am and 6:00pm.
The weekend includes over 50 stalls, a Lantern Parage, carol singing, live street music and entertainment, beer festival in the pubs and loads more.
For more info take a look at http://hawksheadchristmasfair.com/

Make sure you pop into the Hawkshead National Trust shop while visiting. We have an unmissable range of gifts and decorations to fill your stockings with, plus we will be offering samples of our delicious new food range.

Struggling with your Christmas shopping or need some inspiration? Pop in and speak to our staff. We would love to help you find that perfect present and will even gift-wrap it for you. Much less stress!!!

Don't forget to visit Santa himself on the weekend at the Beatrix Potter Gallery!

Our Thank You For Shopping Voucher
All profits from the money you spend in our National Trust shops go back into funding our work, so we want to say a great big THANK YOU for shopping with us and supporting us.

Pop into any of our South Lakes shops and pick up our exclusive shopping voucher which entitles you to great discounts in our shops.
Make a purchase in all 3 and be in with a chance to win a fantastic hamper worth £335.
The hamper includes a Go Ape gift voucher work £120 and a variety of wonderful Beatrix potter gifts.
Valid at Hawkshead, Hill Top and Wray Castle shops until 8th December 2014. See voucher for terms & conditions.

Happy shopping!!

by Emma, Hawkshead Shop Supervisor and rebel without a Claus.

Ho Ho Ho!

December has arrived and with it, Winter. Although you wouldn't think so with the cracking weather that we've been having recently - it has been pretty glorious! Cold, but pretty.
The arrival of Winter means that it's really very nearly Christmas time.
At my family home we absolutely love Christmas, my mum and little brother, Matthew go crazy for it. In fact, today I've had confirmation that they have already got a vast amount of decorations up with Matt taking the lead - think Santa's grotto but with more decorations! 
It's such a special time of year that means many different things to many different people. For me, it's all about family, friends and spending time with the ones you love – and not forgetting bread sauce! Is there anyone who doesn't love bread sauce?! :)

This time of year was definitely special for Beatrix too! And it was in the festive period that she became an author and illustrator. She would frequently design menus and place cards for family meals but it was in 1890 when she began to take it more seriously. With a little push from her brother, Bertram she sold some of her drawings to Hildesheimer & Faulkner, London who used her images in Christmas cards. And rest, as they say, is history!

For all of us working up at Hill Top and at the Beatrix Potter Gallery it's been a busy month since our buildings closed at the end of the season.

Over at Hill Top we've been occupied with checking the inventory against the objects in the house, meticulously working our way through the house room by room checking objects off the list as we go.
Slowly, steadily and with great care we cleaned, checked and covered each object to protect them until it is time to open the house again in 2015.

This was quite full on but I've taken a few snaps to show you some of what we've been up to :)

Martin making friends with Henry!
These are some funny shaped ghosts!

I've decided to go on a completely different tangent for the main part of my blog this month, if truth be known I wasn't really sure what direction to take. Our Marketting and Communications Co-ordinator asked me to give it a festive feel if it was possible and with all our objects put away for Winter I was a bit stuck for ideas.
After thinking about it (for quite a while), my girlfriend gave me a great idea and it seemed like a lot of fun so decided to roll with it :)

I'm assuming that most of you will recognise this traditional festive tune but I have adapted the words a little. 
I hope it will bring a smile to your face and engulf you in festive feelings :) - and I expect you all to sing it aloud!

On the first day of Christmas Beatrix gave to you and me
Hill Top in her legacy

On the second day of Christmas Beatrix gave to you and me
Two egg heads

"What an egg-citing blog post!"

On the third day of Christmas Beatrix gave to you and me
Three Chippendale chairs

On the fourth day of Christmas Beatrix gave to you and me
Four ivory Netsukes


On the fifth day of Christmas Beatrix gave to you and me

Hill Top © National Trust / Robert Thrift
You know when you have the feeling that someone is watching you?...

On the sixth day of Christmas Beatrix gave to you and me
Six ceramic teapots

Hill Top © National Trust / Robert ThriftHill Top © National Trust / Robert Thrift

On the seventh day of Christmas Beatrix gave to you and me
Seven mystery silhouettes

On the Eighth day of Christmas Beatrix gave to you and me
Eight flowery teacups

On the Ninth day of Christmas Beatrix gave to you and me
Nine Bertram landscapes


On the tenth day of Christmas Beatrix gave to you and me
Ten of Rupert's plates

Hill Top © National Trust / Robert Thrift

On the eleventh day of Christmas Beatrix gave to you and me
Eleven ruby glasses

On the twelfth day of Christmas Beatrix gave to you and me
Twelve mini characters


Wow! With that little musical delight (I'm using those words VERY loosely!) out in the open I hope you're not judging me too much right now haha.

This festive filled post will more than likely be the last time you'll hear from me for the remainder of 2014 so I'd like to take this opportunity to wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
I hope you all have wonderful Christmases and I shall catch you in 2015! :)

Ta ta for now,

Natalie :)

All the words are mine (and some of the snaps are too) but I've had to borrow a few of the images off our collections website :)