Hello darlings, how’s everyone? I’ve been LOVING reading your wonderful comments, so happy you could be with us at the Picnic! Here I am again, trying to keep up, but everything seems to happen at once. Some amazing news in this post, along with the amazing views of the beautiful English Countryside . . . MUSICA
But before I start, I just want to say (gone but not forgotten), Happy Memorial Day everyone! Hope you’re having a wonderful weekend.
Lilacs into the sea for remembrance 🇺🇸 And prayers for never again.
We’ll be thinking of you! It’s a holiday weekend here too, celebrating spring into summer, they call it a “Bank Holiday” and we don’t quite yet have a full handle on what that means! All we know for sure is . . .
So off we go, right where we left off, a few days after our picnic . . . the story continues. When I was at Hill Top, I looked out the window and could see a stone bordered farm road going up behind Castle Cottage (Cottage is on the right behind the tree, and the dirt road is behind that) . . . it’s the way to one of Beatrix’s and William’s favorite places …
A small lake where they would go on beautiful summer evenings, and get in their little row-boat, and he would fish and she would sketch. (That’s them above, see her gorgeous hat on the chair? I believe this is either the day after or the day before their wedding day.)Which is what they were.
So off we went one quiet afternoon, up the stony path to Moss Eccles Tarn, the wee lake (tarn = lake in Lakeland talk) Beatrix Potter owned and left to the National Trust.
Taking pictures the whole way . . .
Through gates . . .
over the rugged footpath . . .
being sure to close the gates behind us . . .
. . . loving the view on all sides . . . (and speaking for myself, the one in the middle is pretty cute too).
Nothing had changed since Beatrix and William walked here . . .
Although these were probably somebody’s great great great great, and so on, grand sheep.
After maybe two miles or so of easy walking (because it wasn’t raining!) we arrived at the small tarn.
We were all alone in this beautiful tranquil place the Heelis couple loved so much . . . I was reminded of Beatrix’s words written later in life when it became difficult for her to get around . . .
They stocked the idyllic tarn with fish and planted water lilies, if you listen close, you can detect a little slap of water against a boat, hear oars splashing in the water . . .
Maybe not the booming of the snipe, but definitely the baaing of the lamb. Only nature noises here, in this picturesque landscape, with farm critters to share it with . . .
Sweet wildflowers everywhere . . .
And this view . . .
. . . as back into the village we went . . .
past Buckle Yeat Guest House . . .
. . . to Tower Bank Arms . . .
For lunch in their little garden.
From our table we could see the pilgrims going into Hill Top . . .
I started to take photos of the village when Joe popped out the door with the menu . . .
Never want to forget this wonderful place, and I won’t!
There’s the Castle, the long gray building in the back of the photo . . . the Castle that Beatrix bought the “Cottage’ from, that’s how Castle Cottage got its name.
We noticed this door on the back of that long building as we were coming down the hill.
Because as Mandy had explained to me, when Beatrix Potter bought Castle Cottage, it was just a tiny thing ~ just the first third of the house starting from the left ~ the whole thing was only the two windows at the top, the three on the bottom, and the house ended there. Very cute I might add. I would have fallen in love with that little house with the perfect view too! In 1913 Beatrix and William added on the next third with the simple porch . . . in 1923 they added the last part on the right with the bay window. So this house was really and truly theirs.
Shall we go inside?
This is the side door into the original cottage. Of course it has all been changed, long before Mandy and Bill moved there seven years ago. The basics are the same, just modernized.
This was originally the kitchen which in those days was basically the center of the house (actually that’s still the same now!). Now I think this room is a little office for Mandy.
This fireplace would have been where they did all their cooking
I followed Mandy from room to room . . . loving every moment of it. She has kept it simple, but the rooms and spaces speak for themselves.
This is the bay window from the inside. Mandy said this is the room Beatrix died in, with that beautiful view of her most inspired place as the last thing she saw. It’s also the room that held her personal photo album . . .
. . . and her beautiful grandfather clock is still there . . .
Ticking time away. So delicately pretty . . . she had three beautiful grandfather clocks in the two properties . . .
She painted here too ~ this is one of her bits of book art . . .
And here is the staircase she painted . . . All of Near Sawrey worked as inspiration for her little books.
Mandy had this adorable towel in the bathroom. I went right out and bought a few to take home. The words are from the letter Beatrix wrote that inspired her first book . . .
Mandy chose this wallpaper and I love it, although if it were mine, I would drive myself insane by painting titles on all the books!
And across the drive from the side door of the house is this amazing relic of a barn that belongs to Castle Cottage. It’s from the 1600s and I don’t think it’s ever been changed. Wonderful little white washed stalls and stone floors…
And low doors, a fascinating step into the past, the real past . . . Once again, thanks to Mandy for her generosity in showing me around her home. Both Joe and I could not possibly have enjoyed it more.
SO much has happened since we left the Lake District . . . I can barely keep up with it. Happy to be recording the moments daily, otherwise I’d miss so much.
For one thing, we had the wedding! Wasn’t it great? Loved watching everyone arrive, seeing the dresses and hats! Joe and I carried on full commentary between us. “Look at that hat with the feathers!” “Love that dress!” “Oh, look, there’s Oprah!” And the wedding itself seemed relatively low-key, and personal, despite romantic carriage and beautiful white horses and long walk to castle, etc. etc. etc. But it was all heart, and very real, and filled with traditions, old and new. Everyone loves to see Diana’s boys happy. And this one got his girl ~ just a girl, in love with a boy . . . So much national pride evident, equal opportunity for adoration . . .
We watched every bit of it from a little cottage we rented in the Peak District. Was so proud, I GOT THE KISS on my cell phone! Took the picture exactly when it happened on our TV! I didn’t know it was going to happen, so it was just a lucky click!
I also got this photo, with the little page-boy’s reaction as the music began and it was TIME to go down the isle. So darling! That smile! I feel like there’s lots of pressure on these two to “change the world.” Made me cry to hear it, everyone wishing for a hero to make everything okay. I think the world did become a better place with this marriage, BAM, right through another barrier that keeps us apart, with all the love in the world . . . Blessings on them both, for ever and ever . . .
This was our perch for the wedding watch. . . in this romantic little cottage just a hop skip and jump from Chatsworth House. This photo is from our front porch, the bluebells were everywhere when we arrived. You never know what you’re going to get, but we loved this place. Great walks from here . . . right out the door and across the loveliest countryside ~ made us grateful just to have eyes and feet!
And here’s the cottage, from the street, looking back at the porch. Called Brookside Cottage. We spent a day at Chatsworth walking the gardens, then drove over to Staffordshire to visit the factory where our cups are made . . . of course they would be in Staffordshire, where all the finest bone china has been made . . .
I wore my new English dress.
We got to see our cups being made and meet the talented potters who do it. We discovered each cup is almost totally made by hand, and got to see the process and how much time and concern is put into them before they go out to you! And that’s a lot!
It’s a small family owned business, started in Scotland in the 1950s by the father, now being run by the sons, with back up from the children. Ian took us on a tour and explained that each individual cup is handled over fifty times by actual human hands! 👏
The molds are made right there in the factory. Each mold can be used maybe six times before they are crushed and recycled to make new ones. They make the clay for the cups in a huge mixer, and each mold is filled with wet clay. They allow them to dry slightly, in a precisely-timed drying period, then the liquid clay is poured off (and saved to use again), and what is left, a thin dry edge still in the mold, is the cup!
The handles are made separately and added, one at a time.
They are fired in the kiln three times, the first time takes out all the water which bonds the material and makes the cup and handle strong.
The cup goes in to the kiln the size of the one on the right, and comes out, fired, and all the water burned off, shrunk to the size on the left! Then they’re glazed, and fired again which is what makes them so shiny and pretty . . .
Then, to make them even shinier and prettier, the design is added, applied one-cup-at-a-time, then fired for the final time. They showed me how to add one of my own designs to a cup, then fired it while we were at lunch and gave it to me to take home! Pretty amazing. We went round the whole factory, and met everyone ~ I thanked them all, and told them how much you are loving your cups, how much we all love the thin lip, and the big handles, how light they are, how BIG they are. Hopefully adding to the pride of craftsmanship already on display everywhere in the factory. 💞 Some people had been there for thirty years, which is saying something!
And now you know why we travel like this! We approved all the new designs while at the factory and then we got to take them with us! They look beautiful, Girls, if you’d like to be reminded what they look like, go HERE, scroll to the bottom of the post and you’ll see fronts, backs, handles and bottoms. We aren’t sold out yet . . . and still have a few of the others left too. I know it’s crazy, but think Christmas if it works for you, because we’re going to let ourselves sell out of them ~ I thought I should let you know. The new ones are supposed to arrive to our Studio by the end of June, just in time for us to arrive home on July 1!
And now, our next stop . . . the magical Cotswolds . . . I walked out early on our first morning (actually that was yesterday morning) and took this picture in the mist . . .
Then I looked the other way and took this one. This village was built in the 1500 and 1600s (but the area has been inhabited for a thousand years), it’s not very commercial, it has no stores, only one museum, and a couple of hotels, basically it lives on beauty alone.
It has been the subject of artists forever, for obvious reason . . .the honey-colored Cotswold stone makes the villages almost glow . . .
Things haven’t changed very much.
There’s Joe trying to open the door . . . we had just arrived at our new cottage!
This is the kitchen, into the “lounge,” which is what British people call the living room. It takes two days to get moved in, to remember where you put everything. Where’s the paper towels, where did you put the laundry soap, is there toilet paper upstairs ~ figure out where you can plug in your adapters, empty the ice chest into a new refrigerator and then wonder where you put the cheese . . .
. . . learn how to work the washer and dryer . . . no two seem to be alike! There is only one machine where we are now ~ it washes AND dries . . . our first load is in right now!
We woke up yesterday morning in our new cottage and slowly came to the realization (starting with the bathroom light, and moving toward the kitchen) that the entire village, for reasons still unknown to us, had lost power. Which was why I was out wandering around in the fog at 7 am, looking for someone to ask if it was just us, or was it everyone. The girl across the street, Laura, saw me out her window, and leaned out to tell me what was happening…there would be no electricity until 3 pm. No lights, no heat, no stove, no hot water (so no shower), no computer, and no phone. Joe made a fire in the wood stove, and we finally decided to try making tea on it. (Note gigantic fireplace opening that at one time would have been a huge cast-iron cooking unit much like the one at Hill Top.)
It worked ~ after a while, the water did get hot! We had tea! It was fun, so we heated our cups and made more tea, then Joe made bacon . . . life was getting good again.
Then we tried a grilled cheese sandwich and it worked like a charm! And then, because we could, out we went for a walk . . .
In the beautiful English Countryside, mas MUSICA
Which, right now, is frothy with Hawthorn and Cow Parsley and needs no electricity to be its best self . . .
What they call “Cow Parsley,” we call Queen Anne’s Lace ~ in the background is a buttercup meadow buzzing with bees . . .
Cow Parsley is everywhere, along all the roadsides and across fields, every hedge is lined with it . . . hillsides look like beer, yellow flowers topped with frothy white foam flowers!
The footpath led us into a field with cows. At first they were all far away and minding their own business ~ but suddenly, they seemed to key in on Joe . . . I’m not exactly afraid of cows, but they are bigger than me. In a pack, they could rough you up.
Yup, they were coming for him ~ Joe says to me, “Stay over there.” I say, “So they kill you first? Then I die a slow death because I can’t live without you?” And so on. Excellent conversation.
“Honey, they’re still coming.”
“Honey, they’re starting to run!”
Made it alive to the pub . . .
And so it goes each day of discovery . . . we’re still trying to educate ourselves as we go along . . . we thoroughly enjoyed our visit to charming, historical, well-loved Haworth, perched on the edge of the moor, and to the Bronte Parsonage. Can’t say enough nice things about it, both the town and the house, and all the things we learned … definitely will put it in the book! We’ve been running around saying Heathcliff! Cathy! ever since! There’s been lots of reading in pubs ~ Joe reads maps and newspapers. I’m still reading my wonderful George Washington, A Life biography, in fact, we’ll be visiting his ancestral home this week . . . also love Country Life Magazine, reading about “lively American girls mixing with British royalty,” saw the whole wedding in Hello, writing in diary, all luv-lee things to do in pubs while you eat something delicious, such as this . . .
. . . amazing lunch of local soft boiled eggs with hollandaise and fresh asparagus, and red grapefruit, drizzled with basil oil . . . pub food been berry berry good to me . . .
We found the home of Governor William Bradford of Mayflower fame in Austerfield . . .
Too many stories to tell in one little blog post, can’t keep up with it because every day is something . . . but I knew you’d want a taste of it … this scene, a feast for the eyes, had to show you, and sheep and lambs decorating the landscape, adding so much charm . . .
This one was brave . . . they usually run from us as we get closer . . . one second later, he did!
The mother-child relationship is as ever it should be, mom is saying … “Come on, Edwina, get out of there, just bend …”
“That’s my girl, you can do it . . .”
“Good. Now let’s go find your brother . . .”
It’s so fun that you can walk across country and be with them . . .Makes me happy I decided to do Mary and her Little Lamb for the September page of my calendar! I think this is for the 2019, but maybe it’s this year!
We also visited Wirksworth in the Peak District again to surprise our friend Jean Hurdle who we met in 2012 when we stayed in one of her holiday cottages . . . you might remember from A Fine Romance (p.138), she has a peacock on her property by the name of Mr. Darcy ~ it was raining when we drove in ~ Jean was in her garden with her hands in the mud, hair dripping wet. We pulled up, I lowered the window, said Hi Jean, she peered up at me, stood up and walked toward us with a priceless look of surprise on her face. We had a wonderful time catching up over a cup of tea.
Filling ye olde creativity cup to last a few more years . . . and it’s working!
And now, finally . . . I have interesting news I couldn’t wait to share with you. I came home a couple of days ago to two amazing emails . . . the first one was from the luv-lee editor of Victoria magazine.
I’m thrilled to tell you, our Castle Cottage Picnic in Beatrix Potter’s Garden will be featured in their September issue! Yay! Now this picnic never has to end!September! And secondly . . . don’t get excited, because I’m trying not to get excited, but . . . I heard from the screenwriter who optioned my last three books. She emailed me and asked me to call her. We had to coordinate our time, she wouldn’t tell me anything, and I was so curious! I finally got her on the phone and yes, it was a good surprise. A beginning of sorts. Took me two days to digest it. It isn’t what you think it is, but it’s getting closer!
So here goes: The development company of an award-winning actress has asked to read Martha’s Vineyard Isle of Dreams! I know who it is, but I can’t say. 🤗 That’s all I can say. And that’s all I really know! Which is pretty much nothing! Eeeek. Not sleeping. Hopefully, I’ll have more to report by the time we return to . . .Believe me, you will be first to know! Maybe it will come to something and maybe not. Joe shrugs and says, “Why not?” But this is wonderful and right now, so let’s take it! We are only interested in the good news! There’s nothing to lose, right? Just going along with the breeze? Eeeek.
But, that’s not all, because two days later, I heard from the screenwriter again! And this time, since my phone wasn’t working, she had to tell me what was happening in an email. Lots of positive back and forth, but the general gist was that she’d had another meeting that morning with another well-known production company who were also excited about reading all three books!
So that means two development companies are potentially interested in my story of starting over! We shall see what we shall see. I try to be calm because I still have to do the laundry and peel the carrots as if nothing has happened! It’s like me sitting here, so beautiful🤓, in jammie bottoms and t-shirt, stripped socks and the lamb birthday slippers from Rachel … but over there, is that other girl, and SHE has a book that’s loose in the world for a reading! I have to ignore her and go fold clothes. But I can hear her in the corner, squealing and giggling and jumping with excitement. I smile sublimely, shake my head, and get on with life. We don’t know.💞 It’s the future.
My little house on the non-prairie. Holly Oak. OMG. Who would have ever thought as I stood there in front of that house in the snow? Ever? (Not that anything has actually happened.😜) The screenwriter had a request that if you, or I, or we, talk about this, update it or whatever, on Twitter or Facebook or wherever, that from now on we use the hash tag #SBBooktoScreen. I’m not sure how, but she thinks it will help. Of course I would love if it would happen! In my heart I shiver at even saying that, because then it gets real, but of the two choices, not happening or happening, I think I choose happening! More fun! Step into unknown! But if it doesn’t happen this time, I don’t think she will give up, and you just never know! So, Tweet me and tell me what you think! None of this would be possible all these years without YOU, your word-of-mouth to and from your moms, your sisters, your aunts, your best friends, and all our luv-lee Girlfriends! It has been amazing. John and Paul said it just right: Until the next installment. Keep us in your prayers, and you’ll be in ours. XOXO