Okay, it’s Castle Cottage Time!

It’s already Castle Cottage time . . . I know I’m so late!!! But we’ve had tons of visitors💞. . .  Ray and Paul were in Dublin for my birthday, Elaine too, and then Elaine came to our house in Galway Bay for a week, then Siobhan joined us, then friends from the Island, Barbara and Annie, then Elizabeth and Mike, so we were running and seeing and eating and being, and I just couldn’t force myself to stay home! So here we go, make-up day, and prettiest new favorite MUSICA we listened to while driving around Cornwall! All for you . . .

Spring has finally sprung here. We’re in the Lake District up in the North of England and just experienced three of the most beautiful days of our trip.

Long walks along Windermere and wild flowers galore . . .

So pretty on the tablecloth I bought in the antique store in Florida (on our way to the ship) for our Picnic in Beatrix Potter’s Garden!

I’ve been saving them since we got to Ireland . . . making a little wildflower book.

This pink delight was a photo I took just yesterday in Grasmere . . . looked up and there it was!

I don’t want you to think I haven’t been thinking of you, I’m a two-fisted photo taker and you are always on my mind! No place to set your camera? No problem just put it on the hedge!

No bird gets by me . . .

And I’ve been capturing all the precious little details that British hotel rooms have to offer . . .

And no pub-fire escapes the clickage of my camera!

Not to mention the antique stores . . .

This saves me from spending too much money and stuffing my suitcases, a photo is like owning something and not taking up space with it!

Luv-lee . . .

But this little silver spoon I had to buy ~ time to take it home! Tiny, slips in easily!

I’m still peeking in people’s windows  . . .

And marveling over the simplicity of the old things . . . other new favorite MUSICA, just in cases . . .

But today I want to tell you about the day we crossed Windemere from Bowness . . . we’d come from Ireland the day before, back across the Irish Sea on the ferry, with a night in a Welsh hotel, and this day, last Friday, we’d driven across North Wales and up to the Lake District. (Whew.)

Now we had a very special destination . . . on the other side of the lake . . .

Me, telling Twitter where we are! This is how I look when a big dream is about to happen! (PS you don’t have to join Twitter or Tweet yourself to see the photos I put up, and there are a lot of them since all I need for photos and Twitter is a phone, much faster and easier to do while driving than a blog, fyi).

Driving hill and dale heading for Near Sawrey, hearing on the radio, ABBA is getting back together for next Christmas! (Knew you’d want to know!)

Getting close . . .

And there it is, I would know it anywhere . . . home of Hill Top and Beatrix Potter . . .  Eeeek. Have not been here for a while, but never so far from my thoughts.

We could tell by the street signs that we were getting closer . . .

And there it is, Castle Cottage! And I know Mandy is inside waiting for us, and if I could jump for joy in the front seat of the car you know I would. If you are saying, “Mandy? The name is familiar, but I don’t remember . . .”

Or, if you’re new to the blog ~ Let me catch you up.  You may not know that Betsy (she’s American and on the left), one of my Beatrix Potter Society American girlfriends, introduced me to Mandy (who is English and on the right with Joe), who just happens to live in Castle Cottage, the house where Beatrix Potter lived with her husband Willie Heelis for thirty years. Last summer Betsy brought Mandy to our house on Martha’s Vineyard for lunch in our garden.  Such a lovely time. Beatrix Potter has brought so many nice people into my life. Instant something-in-common ~ kindred spirits, aspiration-centered, beauty-based. During our happy conversation I mentioned that we were coming to the Lake District again next year (=this year!), whereupon Mandy invited me for tea at Castle Cottage! 💘Be still my heart. The first and only time Joe and I had been to the Lake District was in 2012 and for only one teeny, rainy week for my first visit to Hill Top, a long time dream, which many of you read about in A Fine Romance. This time, we’d be renting a cottage there for two weeks. So of course I said YES, PLEASE, thrilled at the thought of being so close to the actual place where Beatrix Potter became her real and true self.

During our lunch I told Mandy about the BYO Picnic Basket party we had in 2016 on the lawn at Stourhead… and that I thought I might try to do another one on this next trip ~ and she said, “How about you have it in my garden?”  The Castle Cottage garden is what she is saying, and I’m thinking, “Beatrix’s house for my Girlfriends!” I saw Castle Cottage from far away last time we were there, coming from Hill Top and looking across Post Office Meadow with longing. I tried to be calm. Brain doing back flips of reorganization sparking with mad thoughts. Waiting for her to change her mind. Even after we toasted on it. But she didn’t and now, we are here, and it is happening, and our Picnic is on Friday! And, in addition, for frosting on the happy-cake, when I told Mandy I had Blog, Facebook, and Twitter Girlfriends who really wished to join us, but for all kinds of reasons, like not having a traveling partner, or not wishing to drive on the wrong side of the road (on the skinniest streets in the history of the world), couldn’t. And she said, “Hey, why don’t I put together a tour?” Eyeballs to heaven. And she did, and I told everyone on social media how they could join, and as of this very moment she is leading thirty-one happy campers through the highlights of the Lake District for ten glorious days, and bringing everyone to our Picnic in Beatrix Potter’s Garden!!! I met them all the day they came in! I know. How can this BE?

And then, as Mandy had directed, down the narrow back lanes of Near Sawrey to the house we went . . .

As slow as I could make Joe go, very, very slow, please do not hurry, windows down, crunch of gravel, song of blackbird, through the green gate we went . . .

Where we were royally welcomed by Mandy and the fluff ball in her arms, Stanley the pup. I’m done being overwhelmed and tearful with joy here in this pic, I did that as I walked through the green iron gates, and saw it all up close ~ in this photo, I am only just happy.

And here for two delicious hours, looking at the view, at what Beatrix loved so dearly, the rolling hills and undulating stone walls, the sheep and the peacefulness of it all . . . while Mandy explained the garden layout, what she and her husband Bill had done in the seven years they’d lived here, what they’d discovered about what Beatrix left behind, how Mandy had come to know Beatrix Potter through her house and gardens. Verklempt. Silent. Staring. Listening. Soaking.

Some of the hedges and plants were so overgrown, Mandy cut them back to the nubbins, but if you look at the trunks, they are HUGE, and you know they were planted by Beatrix. Another thing I found out. See the first two chimneys on the left? That’s how big the original cottage was when Beatrix bought it. You know how you feel about your home? Well, that’s how she felt about hers. A refuge. The middle window on the bottom was the door.  She added on part two, in the middle, with the porch in 1913 ~ so the house was long and flat-ish … and the far right of the house, with the peaked roof, was added in 1923. So this house is totally Beatrix and you can feel it.

Such an adorable little cottage she bought. This Victorian genius, city girl, could have lived anywhere, but, with utmost good taste, stepping over the norms of the times she lived in, honoring her heart’s desire, sensing life is short, she chose a teensy little cottage, far from London in the English Countryside. She never updated it with electricity or running water. Her small, 17th century barn is still exactly the same as it was in her day. And she died there, overlooking the wonderful world she built for herself, in 1942.  This was her view . . . and she owned most of it. Of course, what you smell, is fresh cut grass. Cut by the little teeth of sheep . . .

. . . that graze the fields around the house . . . leaping and running little lambs with their patient moms . . .

These are Mandy’s two darling dogs, Stan and Ollie. Father and son. Son LOVES to play!

Mandy took us room-to-room inside the house, telling us about each space, what it is and what it was, about the secret exits Beatrix built so she could be alone when she wanted to be, her grandfather clock, the room she died in, the views she had . . . and she shared Beatrix’s personal photo album . . . this wonderful photo had another little black dog. And that hat. The little pleats. They just don’t make them like they used to.

Here with her dad . . . I love her little linen clothes, see the patterned underskirt and stripped leggings and leather boots, don’t you just want them? The flower at her throat? The buttons and the wide scarf wrapping her waist?


And here, I took a picture of one of Mandy’s photos, of Beatrix in her later years, with her two dogs, ON her porch, in FRONT of her porch . . .

Castle Cottage is wonderful, I’ll show you more pics of the inside later ~ Joe and I are picking up Kellee and Sheri at the train station at 5pm Lake District time (they’re coming in from London), and it would be nice if I wasn’t wearing my jammies!  But this darling towel quoting Beatrix’s famous “first words” was hanging in Mandy’s bathroom. So cute, I found a shop that sells them in Grasmere, I got one for me and for when I come home, another to be a giveaway, for YOU!

And then, ahhhhh, time for tea on the porch, milky Earl Grey tea and cake . . . where I made a video for you . . .


I promised you I would bring you along . . . what I lack in quantity, blog-post-wise, I try to make up for in quality . . .💞

And a little close-up of deliciousness . . . yum! During tea Mandy told me all the secret surprises of what’s going to happen at Hill Top on the day of the Picnic which I can’t tell you now because then they wouldn’t be secrets, and I told her my surprise . . .  that I was contacted by Victoria Magazine and they are sending a photographer to our picnic! Not that there will be any lack of photography going on that day, but now we’ll have a professional doing our “class photo!” I’ll be sure and show you everything, it’s still all in the future, oddly, after it happens, I’ll show you how it went!

I’ll get to see our kindred spirits wearing their name tags, meeting each other in person, from sea to shining sea, and all over, at BeaStock, half a jillion strong.

Stan, the puppy, asleep next to my leg, Ollie on my lap, surveying the goodness. Thanking my lucky stars I bought that little figurine of Jemima Puddleduck all those years ago . . . it’s funny where the little things of your heart can lead you in this mystery of life . . .

With hugs and promises for later, we left Mandy so she could get ready to welcome our Tour Girlfriends . . . and Joe and I walked Beatrix Potter’s walk, into the village for our 6 pm dinner reservation . . .

 Look at this adorable building! It’s Tower Bank Arms, the historic pub right next door to Hill Top and just one of the places in the village that Beatrix Potter illustrated for her little bunny books.

As requested, our table by the fire . . .

Then off for our first vision of the cottage we’d rented for our Lake District stay … it’s the downstairs part of the cottage at the end …

We walked the next day and this is it looking back from across the meadow . . .

And the view from our driveway . . . Baaaaa! And SO MUCH MORE . . . but I have to go. Before I can even tell you about the Milkman . . . I’ll have to come back, maybe tomorrow, early, maybe before you’ve gone to bed tonight, due to time difference, but while Joe and Kellee and Sheri are sleeping, I think you should hear about the Milkman!

Also…Mother’s Day . . . Just around the corner! Don’t forget this delicious cake!

The new cups are still going out, although I believe the Mother’s Day cups have all been sent by now . . . they went first! The rest are on the way . . . hope you’ve been getting them! I’ll tell Kellee and Sheri hello for you!

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464 Responses to Okay, it’s Castle Cottage Time!

  1. Sheila says:

    Oh, Dear, dear Susan, thank you for this glimpse into fairyland from a little old midwest granny who still believes in fairy tales, thanks to you. I am so enjoying your trip.

  2. Peggy says:

    So wonderful to be able to “travel” with you! I got my cups! So happy! They are beautiful!

  3. Julie V from Springfield, MO says:

    Oh what at thrill to see your new blog post! The rolling hills, the pretty lanes, flowers of beautiful that I can smell them and all those adorable lambs – luv-leee as can be 🙂 I felt like I was right there in the car with you and Joe as you (we) approached the green metal gates to Beatrix Potter’s lovely Castle Cottage- my heart was pounding. The music was perfect and I am so happy that you are taking the rest of us girlfriends along. Can’t wait to hear about the milkman. Congrats on Victoria Magazine coming to the picnic – thrilling!

  4. Dianne says:

    Beautiful pictures! Just wait until you return to the Vineyard…New England has sprung! Finally! -Dianne from Maine

  5. Susan K. says:

    Greeting Sue and Joe, just love traveling with you both. Sue you have a real ” gem “in Joe. Lucky ladie 💕💕💕💕

  6. Sue says:

    So lovely Susan, I am so glad your dreams are coming true and that you are sharing them with all of us. I received my mother’s day cup and can’t wait until Sunday to give it to my mom. 91 years strong, she has had a rough spring health wise but I know this lovely, light weight cup will soon be a favorite for her to enjoy her tea. Looking forward to hearing about the picnic and the rest of your travels…..and of course about the milkman. Happy days to you!

    • sbranch says:

      Give her a special Mother’s Day hug from me. You are so lucky to have her. xoxoxo

  7. Kathie Bee says:

    How lovely Beatrix Potter’s land is! You are probably pinching yourself for your good luck, but I think Beatrix is doing the same in heaven. How happy she would be to see all her kindred spirits in modern times enjoying her treasures.

  8. Mary/Indiana says:

    Such gorgeous pictures, wish I could picnic with you girls!
    Oh, and I love. Ictoria magazine so will be on the lookout
    for that particular issue! Can’t wait to see more pics of the
    inside of Beatrix Potters’ house! The grounds are beautiful!
    Definitely want to hear your Milkman story, too! Lol

  9. Diane L. says:

    Dear Susan, you are so generous to take the time to share so much of your trip with all of us. The photos are breathtaking, your art is delightful as always, and the joy and excitement you express in writing is uplifting and contagious! Thank you for sharing, and continued blessings on your adventure.

  10. linda matera says:

    Happy Birthday Susan–how lovely to spend it in your favorite place

    I love seeing all your special places through your eyes.You notice all the details.
    Thanks for taking me along
    Linda Matera

  11. Sunny says:

    Paradise. That must be what paradise looks like. And sounds like. And smells like. Once there, I would never want to leave. Thank you for sharing the lovely experience.

  12. kathiellen says:

    Dear Susan,
    My heart was racing while reading this blog!! I honestly feel like I am there thanks to all of your beautiful pictures, videos, descriptions, tweets and baaaas! I am SO glad that you are SO happy,…You certainly deserve to be!!! You make all of us girlfriends VERY happy!!! Thank you Dear, Dear Susan!! I can hardly wait until the Picnic!!! How can I go on Mandy’s tour online? That sounds like so much fun!! How nice of her to do that!! I cannot get enough of the beautiful pictures that you are posting on your blog and on twitter!!..I keep going back again and again!! That is exactly what Heaven must look like!!! Have a wonderful time at your picnic!! Enjoy your sweet little cottage and the rest of your time in England!!!

    • sbranch says:

      This was Mandy’s first tour, and I’m not sure about tours in the future, but I’ll be sure to post them when and if I find out she’s going to do it again!

  13. Frances McGuinn says:

    Thank you so much for sharing! It is just delightful to read and view the pictures and video.
    Enjoy your stay!

  14. Linda D'Elia says:

    Love, love, love your notes! I always feel like I went along on your trip with you. How exciting to be in the house where Beatrix lived! (Not the same, but maybe a similar feeling to how I felt when I saw the Mona Lisa up close and personal, at the Louvre!). What wonderful pictures. Thanks for sharing!

  15. Frances Fowler says:

    This is all so incredibly beautiful. You must feel as if you’re in a dream and don’t wish to wake up. But the incredible thing is that it’s all real! And thank-you for sharing it with us 🙂

  16. Karen Lotito says:

    How delightful! I just love everything English, especially since my dear Mother-In-Law was English. Which is why we queue and post letters and have a fridge. :-). So glad that the weather has turned nice for you. The cherry blossoms are out in our neighborhood, just gorgeous. And the thundercloud plums! This morning we had a symphony of great-horned owls hooting away; the babies are here! Have a wonderful time; I will be a the picnic in spirit! Love, Karen xoxoxo

  17. Rebecca says:

    Oh my, how wonderful to see it all thru your photos and journal! I wish I were there. Thank you!!

  18. Elizabeth says:

    My oh my…thank you, thank you for sharing!! How much fun you are having!! Lovely!!

  19. Sally Jenks Roth says:

    How divine, I’m there with you and it is too gorgeous for words. Thank you for sharing it with us!
    I’ve always loved the world of Beatrix Potter and her friends and now my littlest grandchild does too. What a wonderful time you and Joe are having… and I’m glad you’ve had some sunshine also.

    • Sally Jenks Roth says:

      I’ve been looking at your beautiful photos, quotes and illustrations again and again today, “Surveying the Goodness” as an antidote to the worrying news. Goodness will make the world right again.
      Thank you!

  20. Mary says:

    How lovely! thank you for taking the time to share with all of us. I look forward to your blogs every month. And this one, well, it’s almost like we are right there with you…

  21. Mary Windemuller says:

    I wish I were there!

  22. Mary Lawrence says:

    Life in the English countryside suits you to a tee.Being able to visit Beatrix Potters home had to be a wonderful experience.I can’t wait to read the book that will be born out of this experience.I will be waiting for more news from the milkman.lol Mary Elizabeth

  23. Lynette Strohbach says:

    Thank you so much for all of these photos and the descriptions and insights! Just beautiful.

    I hate to spoil all this, but the name Lynette Strohbach is still coming up (I think for the last three or four posts) on my comment page. My name is Ann Evans.

    • sbranch says:

      There is a very fine teeny tiny almost undetectable bug living in our blog, and this is the little trick it likes to play. Some people have had luck with refreshing. Some have said it does it on one device but not another, and sometimes it just goes away. We have tried to figure it out, but as they said in Shakespeare in Love, “It’s a mystery.”

      • kathiellen says:

        Every time that I begin to send a comment, somebody else’s name and email is listed….like right now. I see Deborah and her email where I am suppose to type my information in. I delete her information and type in mine and it always works. Now watch….this time it will show Deborah’s name! ha! ( I am kathiellen )

        • sbranch says:

          You fixed it! We have tried so hard to find this problem and end it forever, failing miserably. Thank you Kathiellen!

    • FayE in CA! says:

      Ignore Lynette’s name (sorry, Lynette) and put your name in its place before you post. Should work!

    • Lynette Strohbach says:

      No problem Ann Evans, you can post for me anytime, ha ha!!

  24. Nita Nell Hurse says:

    I just can’t help being a bit envious….have been close by this area some years ago and have never forgotten the wonder of it all. You are so kind to share all your fantastic activities….doubly enjoyable for me because we seem to “think alike”.
    Thank you so very, very, much!

  25. Susan Edwards says:

    ❤ loverly …thank you for sharing.

  26. Margaret Harke says:

    Dear Susan,
    I was so taken by your lovely pictures and tales of your travels in the Lake country of England. It was my favorite place to be during my trip to england years ago.
    Just wanted to ask if you have read any of Susan witting Albert’s cottage Tales of Beatrix Potter? They was absolutely delightful and charming. There is one titled the Tale of Cockoo Brow Wood.
    Continue to enjoy your trip and keep taking us along, too.

    • sbranch says:

      We were JUST talking about that last night! We took Kellee and Sheri to the Cuckoo Brow Inn for dinner!

  27. Marlene Beggs says:

    You continue to amaze and delight with your choice of MUSICA, quotes and photographs. I hope all your girlfriends will someday travel the back roads of UK. Last Apr stayed in a cottage in the Lake District and revisited Beatrix Potter sights after an absence of 50 years. This Aug will spend a week in Staffordshire and another in Devon & eastern part of Cornwall, all because of a son marrying a Brit and choosing to live in England. I was blessed to live and travel in England for 2 years as a teacher for American military elem. schools.

  28. Carla vdM says:

    Oohh my goodness Susan, you are in Beatrix house.
    How amazing and wonderfull.
    Really love all the photo’s you share.
    Have a great day Friday when you are picknicking in Beatrix garden.

  29. Kathy says:

    So lovely. Thanks so much for taking us along! So looking forward to a new
    book from this trip!

  30. Lisa G. says:

    Oh, my gosh – the view!!! Thank you for that little video, it’s the most perfect thing, such a sight. Wowee. Perfect. Enjoy the picnic! And thanks also for the little birdie photo – I like to see the English birds.

  31. Bonnie says:

    I could do with a cup of tea at the moment. 🙂 Lovely post as usual.

  32. Julie says:

    wow, a dream. I’m very jealous of–but happy for–all who are able to join you. I saw your pictures from Williamsburg and read that you’d like to return. Please Please Please plan a tea for Williamsburg. That is a trip I’d be sure to make. Enjoy!

  33. Andrea says:

    I have missed you and love you! As I read this, I can actually feel your excitement here in little Rhode Island. Thanks for sharing and by the way, SPRING HAS SPRUNG finally. Everything seems to be blooming at once tulips, lily of the valley, dogwoods, and Lilacs! All of New England seem to be in a better mood! Wish I was there for the picnic but I am there is spirit. Thank you for posting. xo

  34. Laura Brown says:

    Have been using my Castle Cottage cup for weeks now in anticipation of joining you on the lawn via the blog and today that partially and true – viewing the rolling hills. Sitting with kindred spirits across the web in anticipation of Friday. We are here. We are ready. Thank you for carrying us with you.

  35. Anne Miller says:

    GASP! Thank you, Susan. I am loving every minute of this pilgrimage from my own cozy cottage in Riverlea, Ohio. Looking forward to the picnic!

  36. Kathy Garwood says:

    I am so glad I found your blog in the Country Register. I love the Lake Country and Beatrix Potter. Looking forward to reading more about this adventure and the picnic

    • sbranch says:

      Yay, Country Register! Nice to meet you Kathy!

      • Mary in Phoenix says:

        And did you know the Country Register started right here in our very own neighborhood of Moon Valley in Phoenix?! Barbara Floyd was a neighbor and started it the same month our daughter Katie was born in 1988! I have loved watching it (and her) grow over the years 🙂 So excited for your dream come true Castle picnic. The *A*N*T*I*C*P*A*T*I*O*N* must be over the top! 🙂 Cheers! xoxo ♥

        • sbranch says:

          No, I had no idea Mary! Amazing. The connections just keep on coming! Yes, it’s TOMORROW and I am BESIDE myself (over there, across the room, leaping and jumping like a lunatic!) xoxo

  37. Sandra Garber says:

    My Mother’s Day cup has arrived. It is so beautiful.

  38. Liz says:

    A little slice of heaven and perfect weather to go with it. Baaaa!

  39. joleen standley says:

    It just gets better and better. I’m so excited for you. And for us that you share so wonderfully.

  40. Ruth says:

    Lovely time you are sharing with us…sigh wish I was there!
    Glad you are having a wonderful time!

  41. Yvonne says:

    Absolutely stunnliy beautiful so envious. Hey a great rest of your trip.

  42. Ruth E. Rupp says:

    I am soooo enjoying our trip and reveling in every picture and word you write. How wonderful to see Spring “springing” in England. How I would love to spend time in Beatrix Potter’s home. You are so lucky! I appreciate all the wonderful pictures you are taking and sharing with all of us and love reading all your descriptions of the place. Can’t wait for the picnic. Such an exciting time. I know you will be really busy meeting and greeting and eating, but think of me for one split second, because I will be there with you “in spirit”!! Enjoy, and as always, safe travels. Hugs from Minnesota, Ruthie

  43. Christine from CA says:

    Oh my here your are and so are we! Love it all. Love Ladies in Lavender and the beautiful music! I am so excited for the picnic and all the girlfriends there! Thank you so much for sharing it all with us! Continue with your, our happy times!

  44. Patti G says:

    Oh so lovely! Such adventures you two have!
    Looking forward to the grand picnic and subsequent photos!

  45. Diane says:


  46. Jane from CT says:

    So lovely ….thank you so very much for sharing.

  47. Oh my goodness, you are living the dream. Beautiful.

  48. Ginny Evans says:

    Have such fun “traveling” along with you!! I decided to re-read A Fine Romance too, just for full emersion. I want to get lost in this wonderful, favorite place all over again!! Enjoy it all and thanks for sharing.

  49. Carol says:

    Oh, I wish I was with you. I was in Cornwall many years ago for a week and the daffodils were every where and being sold at the end of many family roads. It was an honor system. Leave your money and take the daffs. How lovely. Please keep your blogs coming. They are so delightful

  50. Kay Kay says:

    How luv-lee your dreams are coming true.
    It must have been unbelievable to stand where Beatrix stood, seeing the views that she saw, hearing the sheep as she must have. You and Joe have been blessed. Thank you for taking us all along!

  51. Judy vincent says:

    Lovely pictures and comments. ❤️

  52. julia walker says:

    Susan, You are so gracious to share this with us. I love Beatrix too! Julia in Cincy

  53. Patti H says:

    This post is leaving me breathless…the photos are just too precious, and your commentary on such a variety of subjects is making me giddy with joy. I feel that I am going to be revisiting all your new adventures for several days.
    Thank you for acknowledging teachers too. Here’s a quote for you from me, a retired teacher:
    “Most of us end up with no more than five or six people who remember us. Teachers have thousands of people who remember them for the rest of their lives.“ ~ Andy Rooney

    • sbranch says:

      The truest of the true. Thank you for what you do and for the hearts and minds you’ve touched. Teachers are amazing, and deserve better than they’re getting!

  54. Amy from Salem says:

    So good to hear from you😊. I really loved the little video, beautiful scenery and colors. I was so excited when I tapped on the photo of Beatrix and her dog. I knew right away what I was looking at, that little dog looks just like my “Willow”. Your blog made my day. Thank you so much for sharing. I know you are enjoying every minute. Hugs💟

  55. Olivia Werner says:

    You made my day. It’s s late and I’m tired, but now I’ll fall asleep and have lovely dreams. 🐰 💐

  56. Kathleen I says:

    Thank you Susan, for another lovely post. I have so enjoyed all the pictures & videos of your trip. Anticipating reading about and seeing pictures of the picnic. Thank you again.

  57. Ruth Winkler says:

    Dear Susan, I have been so impatient, I also started to worry about you and Joe, and tonight I am happy once more. Your newest castle cottage story arrived and it is so beautifully presented to us all. Thank you for taking the photos you take, love Mandy’s darling dogs, love the tea and the cake, and then the fireplace dinner table. I am curious about your newest rented house. The whole area is just so peaceful and lovely. No wonder you are so excited. Enjoy every moment.
    Victoria Magazine is one of my favorites and I am thrilled they will cover your picnic. How great is that? Keep well and safe. Looking so forward to your next chapter.

  58. Michelle says:

    Your last quote says it all. I was supposed to be flying there right now (from Texas) to be at the picnic, but we had to cancel for several reasons. The name tags were ready (and laminated) and the bags half packed. An indescribable disappointment, but it couldn’t be helped. Thank goodness for trip insurance!! I am so happy though that you are sharing everything — the photos are just gorgeous! I’m sure I will read through this post several times (while drinking milky tea). The Victoria Magazine photographer surprise is just wonderful too — I was a charter subscriber. Please tell Mandy’s friend Andy hello! Long story, but we were supposed to tour with him this week. Have a wonderful picnic and please share pictures. The timing of your trip with bluebells, fluffy lambs and boodles of bunting was just perfect. This upcoming book is going to be too good for words (of course, not for your words). I’m ready to reserve a copy! Cheers!

    • sbranch says:

      I’m so sorry Michelle! That must have been very hard. I’ll do my best to show you what you missed . . . maybe even a rainstorm on the day of the picnic, we don’t know yet, but sometimes armchair travel works out best!

  59. Barbara A Case IN says:

    Dearest Susan, I am so happy things are going so well ! I know you are enjoying every minute. Perhaps someday , we never know !! Hugs to all !

  60. Fan in California says:

    I look forward to your pictures of the inside of Castle Cottage. I have actually been inside Castle Cottage: My Mom and I were able to go on a tour where Hill Top docents went to the actual areas depicted in some of Beatrix Potter’s book illustrations. At the end of the tour, the docents allowed us to go through the cottage since it was empty at the time. It needed some updating (1970’s/80’s kitchen and bathroom) so it will be so great to see what has been done.

    As always, thanks for your wonderful posts!! So lovely to walk down Memory Lane while you visit one of my favorite areas in England!!!

  61. Ann says:

    Your pictures make me tear up. England in May…is there a prettier place or a prettier season anywhere else in the world? Have a lovely picnic!

  62. CindyK says:

    What a deliciously lovely post! It was almost like being there! What a dream come true to be able to have tea at Cottage Castle, and to have the picnic there too! Love all the pics you took. The pic of you and Mandy standing at a distance looking out over the rolling hills, I looked at that pic for a long time, imagining what it would be like to live in such a peaceful place! Thank you!

  63. Cindy Maulin says:

    Hi Susan…. I am pretty sure that this blog post brought me to tears…( at first I thought it might be the onions for the casserole but no… it’s the post)….and as well as it should be. Watching a friend realizing her dream as it comes true is a precious moment. What an incredible charming beautiful fairy tale place… perfect for our FairyTale girl and her Girlfruends from far and wide. There may be many miles between most of us, but you have brought us together. Just like little Jemima, you never know where the smallest actions will take you. Blessings to those friends who will be there in the flesh and cheers to a fabulous memorable picnic filled with happiness and friendship. We are all there in true Girlfriend spirit! ❤️
    PS….what about that Milkman?!?!😊

  64. Tracy K says:

    I enjoyed you Fine Romance trip and I’m enjoying this one too. Thanks for taking us along!

  65. diana from ancaster says:


  66. Beth Barnat says:

    Thank you for this gift! Beautiful! I love the movie about Beatrix Potter and I love her artwork and stories. Thanks for the tour, Susan!

  67. Sue Saubert says:

    Mandy hosted our tour group with Helen Bertram and Betsy Fry at Castle Cottage last June and I feel like I am right there with you enjoying her joy and laughter. What a wonderful blessing that Beatrix Potter left a legacy that continues to inspire and touch so many lives.
    Thank you for sharing your adventures of this trip with all of us, Susan. Carry on and enjoy a “lovely’’ picnic celebration.
    Please give my kind regards to Mandy.

  68. Mary Parsons says:

    Oh Susan, I am transfixed with the beauty of this place! I just want to keep staring at your photos. It is hard to believe that it is real. The stone walls are my favorite. I hope you enjoy your picnic and I am looking forward to the pictures. Sincerely, Mary Parsons

  69. Lynn Barlow says:

    Thank you, Susan, for posting your lovely pictures. I feel like I’m visiting Castle Cottage with you! The “A Fine Romance” mug (thank you again, Vanna) arrived on May 4–beautiful and in absolutely perfect condition! I emailed Sheri. The book and mug will be treasured. Best wishes to you and all the girlfriends at the picnic.

  70. Penny Carpenter says:

    Soooo happy for you to be there. And happy for me to get to SEE it all via you!!
    Have fun!

  71. Colleen Wilson says:

    Well..I think this has never happened before. I seem to be the first to reply. I must say how when I read everything you describe, I have this yearning in my heart for everything that you get to see and experience. It is hard for me to describe the pleasure it brings me to enjoy the sights and sounds through your eyes. I can imagine myself standing in front of Beatrix Potters home, looking across the countryside with the sheep “baaing” in the background. Doesn’t the beauty and awe of it all just almost “hurt ” your heart, Susan? I’m a Canadian (born and raised country girl) and have just recently (4 days ago!) joined my hubby who has been working in Milan since last October. How I want to get out into the countryside away from this noisy city and see something besides cars and buildings! Anyways..I have never commented before, but always look forward to your next wonderful story and adventure. It brings me ALOT of joy! Thankyou!

    • sbranch says:

      It almost does hurt my heart Colleen, so much beauty. How wonderful that you are getting such a lovely new experience! Yes, out of the city, away from all that, I’m sure you’ll love it. I’m so happy you’re enjoying our adventure with us, it’s nice to have you along!

  72. Jo'L says:

    Lucky, lucky you and all of us sharing this marvelous adventure. Fairytales indeed.

  73. Stephanie Davis says:

    Susan, even I am not very tech savvy, but I got myself on Twitter and have enjoyed following along….in your back pocket! I hope you really don’t feel even a twinge bit bad about few blog posts….It does seem you had mentioned it was easiest for you to post on Twitter. You have a life and have looked so forward to this trip….your trip! So hope you’ve enjoyed every moment without any worries on blog posts. We will have your wonderful book to look forward to! Hope Friday and your picnic in that magical, gorgeous land will be all you’ve hoped for. You’ll all be making such wonderful memories (AND Victoria Magazine, wow!). All my best to you, Steph

    • sbranch says:

      You are a doll Stephanie! Yes I do wish I could blog more, but it does usually take a whole day to get one up and going . . . and when everyone is going some place, I tend to want to go too! But I also made a promise, and doing my best to keep it. Love that you’re here, it truly does make it more fun to see everything not only through my own eyes, but looking out for my Girlfriends too. xoxoxo

  74. Marge says:

    Such lovely photos and friends! Through you and Joe we get to travel and see the British countryside in a way that is unique and beautiful. Can’t wait to see the Victoria Magazine issue about the picnic! All the best, Memarge 🙂

  75. Totally gutted that I won’t be able to make the picnic, but as luck would have it, they scheduled my mammogram for the same day and as anyone knows it these things are a bit like hen’s teeth over here at the moment and I dare not reschedule. 🙁 My mom is a BC survivor and so I never take chances with that. My heart will be very much with all of you kindred spirits on the day. You are not all too far from it, but when you and Joe are off on one of your jaunts for the day, try to visit Pendragon Castle, in the Mallerstang Dale near to Kirkby Stephen. It was the home of Uther Pendragon, father to King Arthur, and positively atmospheric. Whenever we stay up there we rent a cottage a stone’s throw away from it. Oh how my heart will be with all of you on Friday. I’ll be raising a cup and my pinkie albeit several hundred miles away. xoxo

  76. Terry Jansen says:

    This is such a darling post..Thankyou Susan..I would soooo love to be at the picnic..even if it rains! You have managed to make us feel as though we will be though…had to go out to my ‘Susan Branch picket fence garden’ and imagine!
    I really feel for Michelle who had to cancel her trip..all the best to her..
    Maybe someone will let some little lambic-pies loose amongst the picnic baskets lol

  77. Nor Azlina Lop says:

    Dear Susan, I have no words to describe how I am enjoying your trip ,both your blog and twitter posts. Keep them coming. They really really made my day and giving me lots of joy.
    Looking forward for more of your adventures,the Victoria magazine and of course your new book….
    Have a wonderful picnic and enjoy England for as long as you can.

    • sbranch says:

      Thank you! Is your name Nor? Want to say Thank you, Nor, but wanted to make sure as I’m unfamiliar with it. xoxo

      • Nor Azlina Lop says:

        Hello Susan, yes..my name is Nor. That’s my first name and Azlina my second name. Lop is my father’s name. We do not have family names in my culture. We retain our names as it is ,even though we are married.
        If you notice there is a “saipul” in my email address. That is my husband’s name and my children carry this name with them.
        Thank you for asking. You are so sweet and kind.

        • sbranch says:

          Thank you for your reply, Nor . . . it’s always interesting to me… where are you, or maybe more likely, where are you from?

          • Nor Azlina Lop says:

            Hello Susan, I am enjoying reading your blog and “travelling” with you all the way from Malaysia.
            Have a lovely picnic with lots of wonderful magical memories to cherish..

          • sbranch says:

            Malaysia! We truly are the world, Nor! Thank you for being here!

  78. Susan Bochman says:

    Having a little trouble with the internet in the Kentmere valley. Please forgive me if you got a message before. Just wanted to say that my blue picnic basket made it through customs a second time to come to your picnic. As one of the girlfriends said that Beatrix left a legacy for all to enjoy…so are you…you are making memories for all of us through you blogs and books. Thank you for providing them for all to enjoy.
    Do we need any special instructions for parking on Friday? Until we open our picnic baskets and spread our blankets…

  79. Deb in Wales says:

    I won’t be at Castle Cottage. Mum went in to hospital on 16 February and still isn’t home. Too much travelling for reasons I’d rather not be dealing with here!

    Still, I’ve saved my Castle Cottage mug for the day, and will use it for the very first time with Constant Comment tea on the day, although my timing will be out as at the time of the picnic I will be somewhere on a bus travelling to and fro visiting Mum.

    ~~~Deb in Wales xoxo

    • sbranch says:

      Oh Deb, I’m so sorry. I hope she’s getting better … my prayers are with you. xoxo

      • Deb in Wales says:

        Thank you. I hope the weather shines kindly on Castle Cottage, and all of the picnic goers tomorrow ~ not too hot, not too cold, just right! xoxo

        • sbranch says:

          And so it was, perhaps a little grayer than we’d hoped for, but most importantly, it didn’t rain! No drenched cucumber sandwiches!

  80. Lynn from Islip says:

    Hi Susan. What size jelly roll pan. Happy safe travels!

    • sbranch says:

      It’s the size of a cookie sheet. I’m traveling right now and can’t measure it, but it’s pretty much the same everywhere I think!

  81. Cris says:

    I have a great idea that I think your girlfriends would love. What about writing a book for the 365 days a year? It would be a book of inspiration that could be read daily. You could use passages out of your books,quotes, and art to inspire us each and every day. I love that idea!

  82. Sandi from the Cape says:

    Dear Susan, So wonderful are all your beautiful pictures! I got my gorgeous mugs, Mother’s Day, Kitty Love, and the English Cottage mug which join the Castle Cottage mug. Love them all! I’ve been following you on Twitter and haven’t come across how we can join Mandy and her English Tour. Can you give us that info again? Thank you for taking us along, and I can’t wait to see what Victoria Magazine does! Blessings to you and happy travels!

    • sbranch says:

      Go to the side column of the Blog, click on EVENTS. Mandy’s Tour is there, and perhaps someday she’ll do another!

  83. Leslie Watkins says:

    This has to be my favorite post of yours EVER! And I so loved the video of being able to hear those sweet sheep as well as the beautiful views. Drink it all in, sweet friend! Thank you for taking us along on this amazing journey! A dream come true for this Beatrix Potter fa

  84. Candice Black says:

    Be Still My Heart! XOXOXO

  85. Jamie says:

    This is so beautiful! And brings back so many memories…
    My father was transferred to Cockermouth in the 60’s, so my family lived there for 18 months while I was in elementary school. I can still see so many of these breathtaking places in my mind – and now you are sharing them with me in color! It never disappoints! If you visit William Wordsworth’s home in Cockermouth, drive by 17 Brigham Road (the house was named Waverly) and give a wave. So many wonderful memories were made there!!

    • Jamie says:

      Wondering why this is marked “awaiting moderation”?

      • sbranch says:

        Because I like to read them, and haven’t had time these last few days, but here I am!

    • sbranch says:

      I’d love to get up there, but it will likely have to be next time. This is our last day to play, tomorrow we pack!

      • Jamie says:

        Thank you for sharing all of your adventures with us. It makes me smile every time I read your words and see the photos and drawings! You truly are a special girlfriend to so many !!

  86. Wendy Olson, a thoroughly English girl living in Tustin, CA. says:

    Hi Sue – Well, once again I have been checking daily for your latest blog – and here it is! And once again you have made my day…….I am so happy for you; making your dream(s) come true. And sharing it all with us; I wonder if you know how wonderful it is for us to be included in your dreams and travels? Thank you from the bottom of my heart……………….have fun (oh, I know you will!)
    P.S. Amazing – I have been checking daily and yet I am number 244 to make a comment……!!

    • sbranch says:

      My dreams are your dreams, and yours are mine, so it’s very easy to bring you along. That’s what I think anyway… xoxoxo

  87. Dawn Tuthill says:

    It all looks wonderful! Thank you for taking us along. It gives me something to look forward to since my work has been stressful lately.

  88. Christine Morgan says:

    Susan—Thank you for the update. Love reading about your trip. So magical! (where can the name tag be printed?) Just wanted it for the fun of it! Have a great time—keep us posted!

    • sbranch says:

      Look on the right side column of the blog … you’ll see EVENTS … just click and you’ll be there!

  89. Rene Marie Foust says:

    Thanks so much for taking us on the beautiful journey with you; I feel like I am there. I only wish I truly were there and hopefully someday I will get the opportunity. Thanks to you I will know all of the great places to visit. Have a wonderful time and again thanks for sharing

  90. Barb Cowles says:

    Dear Susan and hello to Joe,
    Thank you so much for the beautiful post. It’s always a special treat to open my email and see your name pop up.

  91. MJ in MI says:

    Truly savoring your posts! It’s great to see your dreams come true and thank you for the vicarious thrill! More happy trails to you — can’t wait to see what’s ahead. Appreciate all your efforts and eagerly awaiting my mugs 🙂

  92. Sandy Schmidt says:

    Thanks for sharing your journey with me! I so wish that I could be there in person! Simply beautiful Lake District… One of the places I hope to visit someday!

  93. Tisa says:

    I feel transported….and I’ve been watching the BBC show Escape to the Country (sort of like our House Hunters International) in which viewers are taken to a specific county area in the UK and shown three marvelous properties…and they all seem to look so quaint and charming like Hill Top. What a wonderful country! Thank you for all the glimpses! Enjoy your picnic with the Kindred Spirits!

  94. Allyson says:

    So exciting about Victoria magazine!! Oh how I wish I was there!!

  95. Sandra says:

    Thank you fo this wonderful adventure showing all the treasures in the Lake District..I am so pleased the weather has been kind and you are at your kindred spirits home in Near Sawrey.
    Thinking of you all on Friday but hope you get my card.. I just wanted to be there with you all..you opening the card will be enough ..and having a great time. I love Mandy…gorgeous voice..
    Bless you all and enjoy it All..May the wonderful Beatrix always be there in our lives..as we look out for Peter.
    Thank you again..with love Sandra from Birmingham.uk

    • sbranch says:

      I got it Sandra! I’m so sorry you couldn’t make it, it was a wonderful day … we missed you! Thank you for the sweet thought! xoxo

  96. Patricia Edde says:

    I can see that you’re having the time of your life and although I wish I was along on your magic carpet, I am so happy for you and Joe and that you share it with us. I just sent off for a “23 and me” kit so will be anxious to see if I still show up with Great Britain not only in my soul but also in my genes.
    I can’t wait to see the Victoria issue with your picnic in it. I have been a fan of that glorious magazine since its first issue and when it stopped publication I was crushed but lo and behold, years later I was ambling along in Costco and there, calling out my name, was a new Victoria. My mouth dropped open, my heart started to beat faster and I kept staring at it thinking I must be seeing a grand illusion but it was REAL. My eternal thanks to Phyliss Hoffman DePiano for bringing this piece of “fairy tales and moonbeams” back into my/our lives. Speaking of which, I covet that Meisscin (I think I read it right) pitcher in the antique shop. I could see it sitting perfectly in my home filled with flowers.
    An update for you: our papa eagle has never been found but the babies are doing so well and mom is getting more comfortable with the UME. I still grieve for our noble, loving and courageous sire and so wish for closure, but am so proud of mom and hope that she finds a good life with another and will still come back to Decorah next year.
    I just received an email from your team in California saying that my cups are on their way so am waiting, as patiently as possible. to hold them in my hands.
    Much happiness to you and Joe from Sam (whose sleeping on an afghan in the bathroom right now as I type) and Patricia

    • sbranch says:

      Me too! Perfect words, Patricia, Grand Illusion! What a good surprise to find it again! That does not happen often enough! Hope you got your cups! Sad about the Eagle Dad. Nature is glorious but she can be a little scary at times.

  97. CarolK in NJ says:

    Ooooh soooo lovely! What a magical place. I can feel your excitement in your video scanning of the gardens and meadows and Castle Cottage. Can’t wait to see and hear all about the picnic. Wish we could have joined in the fun in person but seeing your pictures makes it all better. Enjoy because, by golly, June is racing to the finish line.

    • sbranch says:

      It sure is! I can’t believe it, I’m constantly telling Joe to slow down, in more ways than one!

  98. Anne Hebden says:

    We are planning on being there Susan, travelling from Yorkshire early Friday morning. So excited!! Fingers crossed the rain stays away. Looking forward to meeting you all xx

  99. Chris says:

    OMG how amazing it must be to be there – right in Beatrix Potter’s home!!! I love your posts, Susan… your writing and pix make me feel like I’m along for the wonderful ride Thank you so so much xoxoxo and have an amazing picnic!!

    • sbranch says:

      Tomorrow is our last night in the Lake District and we’ve been invited back to Castle Cottage for dinner with Mandy and Bill … wah, but Oh I can’t wait!

  100. Joey says:

    NO ONE….absolutely NO ONE deserves to be gifted with such delightful joys because there can’t be anyone else who is so appreciative and deeply grateful as you! From the tiniest, treasured happening to the most magnificent of blessings, your thankfulness is truly a lesson for all of us to follow. May Cloud 9 follow you all the days of your life.

    Love and hugs to you, Susan

    • sbranch says:

      Gratitude is at the top of our list for everything we’re being allowed to experience … you just never know what your lot in life will be, and this is a gift we will never quite get over. Thank you Joey, that was so very sweet!

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