The World of Beatrix Potter is one of the top attractions for young families in Bowness-on-Windermere. It brings to life the much-loved stories of one of the world’s most popular children’s writers. The famous characters from her books are all here: the hedgehog washerwoman Mrs Tiggy-winkle, the gentleman frog Jeremy Fisher and, of course, mischievous Peter Rabbit, probably the most famous of Potter’s creations.
Visitors enter The World of Beatrix Potter through a small theatre where they watch a five-minute film about Potter and her books. As well as focusing on her pets, many of which were the inspiration for the animal characters in her little books, the film also explains her love of the natural world and her life as a Lakeland farmer. Potter first fell in love with the Lakes during family holidays to the region, and, in 1905, bought Hill Top, a small farm in Near Sawrey that has since become a pilgrimage site for fans from all over the world.
The doors of the theatre open out directly on to the first of many scenes from Potter’s books. First, you step into a peaceful woodland glade with Jemima Puddle-Duck flying overhead in her smart blue bonnet and pink cape. Other locations brought to life with 3D models, countryside sounds and real smells include Mr McGregor’s greenhouse and Mr Tod’s underground home. Beatrix Potter’s there too, a squat figure wearing the tweeds for which she was famous.
Touch-screen displays provide fascinating snippets of information about the books, and feature quizzes and tasks for young visitors. Children also get an activity book with puzzles in it and questions they can answer as they make their way around the exhibition.
A ‘virtual walk’ leads visitors into the Lake District landscape. A computer projection provides 360-degree views of the places that inspired Potter’s books, while another short film and an interactive timeline provide more information about the writer’s life.
The tiny Peter Rabbit Garden at the back of the museum, created by Richard Lucas, was used as the basis of an award-winning design at the Royal Horticultural Society’s Chelsea Flower Show. The garden, which featured various details from Potter’s drawings including Peter Rabbit himself, won gold at the 2014 show. The World of Beatrix Potter has a gift shop and a café. The attraction also arranges for Peter Rabbit to call in on the children’s parties that it organises. These are usually held just across the road in the Laundrama studio. This is an off-shoot of the Old Laundry Theatre, which shares a building with the World of Beatrix Potter and stages a variety of performances from comedy and music to drama and films.