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How we were inspired by famous faces of the Lakes

Alfred Wainwright, move to Cumbria, Scalesceugh
The late, great Alfred Wainwright

A cherished collection of authors and artists put The Lake District and Cumbria firmly on the map - and have inspired generations ever since.

Many of them also influenced our choice of names for the beautiful villas we built at Scalesceugh.

So we wanted to pay our own tribute to the creative talents who have touched the lives of millions at home and around the world.

So let’s introduce them all, in case you’re not aware of all the great works they achieved - Beatrix Potter, William Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Alfred Wainwright and Arthur Ransome.

We will look at how their influence is still enormously relevant today, with everything from new Hollywood films to new major Lakeland tourist attractions being opened in their names.

Beatrix Potter, Scalesceugh Hall and Villas, Retire to Cumbria, Retire to the Lake District
Beatrix Potter outside Hill Top, Near Sawrey

Villa: Beatrix

Named After: Beatrix Potter, author and artist

Helen Beatrix Potter - known as Beatrix - is famed the world over for her beautifully illustrated children’s stories, most of them based in The Lake District around her homes, and none more famous than The Tale of Peter Rabbit.

Beatrix was born in 1866 in London and was encouraged to draw from an early age. She never went to school but her parents employed an art teacher.

In summers, her family would travel north to spend a few months in Scotland. However, when Beatrix was 16, the family decided instead to stay at Wray Castle, overlooking Lake Windermere.

This was where Beatrix fell in love with the countryside and creatures of the Lake District.

Peter Rabbit was one of Beatrix’s earlier characters, and came from an illustrated letter sent to a friend’s son. After being rejected by several publishers, Beatrix self-published The Tale of Peter Rabbit, printing 250 copies in 1901 for her friends and family.

Peter Rabbit, Scalesceugh Hall and Villas, Retire to Cumbria, Retire to the Lake District

Publishers Frederick Warne & Co quickly realised that they had made the wrong decision in turning her down, and the rest is now legendary, with all of Beatrix’s delightful books becoming best sellers.

Beatrix was also ahead of her time in terms of licensing her creations and providing merchandise.

Today, the whole of Cumbria, the UK and many bookshops and toy shops around the world sell her stories and cuddly toy characters, but Beatrix herself designed and created the first Peter Rabbit doll back in 1903, and registered it at the patent office.

That visionary action makes Peter Rabbit the world’s oldest licensed literary character. And Beatrix didn’t end there. She went on to invent a Peter Rabbit board game, create colouring books, a tea set, slippers and more.

She would no doubt be proud today, to walk through the towns and villages in which she grew up, and see so much variety of merchandise on offer related to her stories.

Have a look at the Beatrix Potter shop in Bowness-on-Windermere here.

The money Beatrix made from her books allowed her to invest in farmland. Most famously, she bought Hill Top Farm at Near Sawrey, close to Lake Windermere, which featured in many of her tales and is now an extremely popular tourist attraction.

Beatrix married local solicitor William Heelis in 1913, and they lived at Castle Cottage, Sawrey until her death in 1943.

Hill Top, Scalesceugh Hall and Villas, Retire to Cumbria, Retire to the Lake District
Hill Top today

What has been Beatrix Potter’s legacy?

Beatrix left 15 farms and more than 4,000 acres of land to the National Trust, for which she was a devoted supporter.

She is credited with preserving much of the land that now makes up the Lake District National Park - a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Hill Top Farm, on Beatrix’s orders, was kept exactly as it had been when she lived there. Today it welcomes tens of thousands of visitors each year.

As for Beatrix Potter books, more than two million are sold across the world every year, and have been translated into many languages.

Her stories have been celebrated and retold in film, animation, song and ballet.

Most notably, the 2006 film Miss Potter starred Renée Zellweger, Ewan McGregor and Emily Watson and focused on Beatrix’s early career and romance with her editor Norman Warne. Sadly, Norman died a month after proposing to her.

The BBC produced a dramatisation of her life - The Tale of Beatrix Potter - and a delightful animated series, The World of Peter Rabbit and Friends was introduced by Niamh Cusack as Beatrix.

Today’s children still enjoy animated adventures, with a new set of stories based on Beatrix’s books and characters being a popular fixture on kids’ TV channel CBeebies.

Hollywood got involved on a major scale when in 2018, Columbia Pictures released Peter Rabbit, a live-CGI mix which was so popular, it spawned a sequel.

Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway is scheduled to be released on April 3, 2020 and stars the voice of James Corden as Peter Rabbit, plus Daisy Ridley, Elizabeth Debicki and Margot Robbie as some of Beatrix’s most loved characters. Live action roles are played by Rose Byrne, Domhnall Gleeson and David Oyelowo.

A truly modern take on her work, as you can see from this trailer

It is incredible that her work is still inspiring generations in the 21st century.

The World of Beatrix Potter Attraction in Bowness-on-Windermere is well worth a visit - it will take you about an hour to walk through displays and models of Beatrix’s most loved books and characters, before reaching a delightful tea room and gift shop. Find out more here.

You can also travel the Beatrix Potter Trail around the Lakeland destinations associated with her life and career. Download the guide here.

Beatrix villa, Scalesceugh Hall & Villas, Beatrix Potter
There's a good chance of spotting Peter Rabbit and friends from a Beatrix villa

Beatrix Villas

Our bungalows named in honour of Beatrix Potter have stunning views, south facing over 3.5 acres of stately gardens, with jaw-dropping archway entrances making the most of the natural light.

Scalesceugh Villas co-founder, Dr Anita Herdeiro says: "The elevated height and private forest walk behind the bungalow gives us excellent opportunities every day to see a naughty little rabbit.

"The tiered garden certainly allows you to admire the beautiful countryside, and enjoy seeing a variety of birds. It is easy to see why Beatrix Potter was so inspired by the Cumbrian landscape and wildlife.

We have Beatrix villas available here and here.

William Wordsworth, Scalesceugh Hall & Villas
William Wordsworth

Villa: Wordsworth

Named after: William Wordsworth, poet

Wordsworth was one of the most influential romantic poets in English history.

Born in 1770 in Cockermouth, he developed a love of nature at an early age, and this theme was reflected in many of his poems.

After losing his parents at an early age, Wordsworth was sent to school in the picturesque Lakeland village of Hawkshead, where he began to write poetry. Nothing of his was published until 1793.

Then in 1795, Wordsworth received a legacy from a relative and he and his sister Dorothy moved to Dorset. Then they moved to Somerset and lived near the poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge (see below), who had been an admirer of Wordsworth's work.

They collaborated on a famous collection of poems, Lyrical Ballads, which is regarded as the beginning of the romantic movement in English poetry.

In 1799, William and Dorothy Wordsworth moved to the Lake District, settling at the beautiful Dove Cottage in Grasmere. It was here that Wordsworth wrote his most famous poem, I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud, in 1804.

Here is an excerpt from that poem:

I wandered lonely as a cloud That floats on high o'er vales and hills, When all at once I saw a crowd, A host, of golden daffodils; Beside the lake, beneath the trees, Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Wordsworth, Dove Cottage, Scalesceugh Hall & Villas, move to the Lake Distruct
Dove Cottage, Wordsworth's Grasmere home, now a popular visitor attraction

Two years before he wrote his most famous poem, Wordsworth had married childhood friend Mary Hutchinson, but life began to spiral tragically downwards as far as his family life was concerned.

Two of his children died, his brother drowned at sea and Dorothy suffered a mental breakdown.

As far as his works are concerned, the period of time from when Wordsworth met Coleridge, until 1808, is now known as his “Great Decade.”

This included Tintern Abbey, The Solitary Reaper, Resolution and Independence, The Brothers, Michael, Poems in Two Volumes and a portion of The Recluse called Home at Grasmere.

In 1808, Wordsworth and his family moved to a larger house in Grasmere, and then five years later moved to Rydal Mount, near Ambleside, where Wordsworth spent the rest of his life.

He was appointed distributor of stamps for the county of Westmorland in 1813, and succeeded friend and fellow Lakes Poet Robert Southey as poet laureate in 1843, holding the post until his death seven years later.

Wordsworth was buried in Grasmere churchyard.

What has been William Wordsworth’s legacy?

William Wordsworth is seen today as a pioneering writer of his time, who revolutionised English poetry.

Until recently, there were a number of visitor attractions associated with Wordsworth. But then a growing number of people thought… actually, we don’t do enough to celebrate his work!

So in 2020, to mark 250 years since the birth of the great Lakeland poet, a major £6.2million transformation of all things Wordsworth is being launched.

‘Reimagining Wordsworth’, largely financed by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, will see The Wordsworth Museum modernised and expanded.

The museum houses a wonderful collection of his manuscripts, books and fine art and will now offer more of an interactive experience, helping to explain to visitors the continuing importance and relevance of Wordsworth’s work.

Dove Cottage is being authentically restored to recreate the home as it was in 1800, as is the orchard in the garden. It will also have a redesigned cafe and terrace.

New woodland and walking trails are being provided in Grasmere, as well as a new walled garden with improved access for people with disabilities throughout.

A new learning space will promote poetry through workshops and other events.

As some of the attractions have been closed for this work to take place, check the latest developments and opening times here.

Wordsworth Villas

These stunning homes have wonderful open countryside views, and are named after William Wordsworth as every springtime, you can look out onto a beautiful valley of dancing daffodils, as written about it I Wandered Lonely As A Cloud.

Dr Anita Herdeiro says: "Naming some of our villas after Wordsworth was inspired by the glimpse of golden daffodils I saw over the hills on the forest beds, behind the houses."

We have one remaining Wordsworth villa available here.

Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Scalesceugh Hall & Villas, retire to Cumbria
Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Villa: Coleridge

Named after: Samuel Taylor Coleridge, poet

Samuel Taylor Coleridge would become known as one of the famous ‘Lakes Poets’, together with his friends and fellow Cumbrian residents William Wordsworth and Robert Southey.

He was born in Devon in October 1772, the youngest of 14 children. Coleridge met Robert Southey while studying at Cambridge University, and later gained a relationship of mutual inspiration when Coleridge met Wordsworth.

Two of Coleridge’s most famous works, The Rime Of The Ancient Mariner, and Kubla Khan, were written in his most productive period while living in the Lake District.

Coleridge had moved to the Lakes in 1799, following William and Dorothy Wordsworth. He and his family lived at Greta Hall, Keswick, later to be joined by Robert Southey and his family. Southey continued living there after Coleridge left.

There were dark times for Coleridge, as he became addicted to an opiate known as Kendal Black Drop. His marriage also fell apart and his mental health suffered. Coleridge died in 1834.

Greta Hall, Keswick. Scalesceugh Hall & Villas, move to Cumbria, move to the Lake District
Greta Hall, Keswick, the beautiful former home of Coleridge

What has been Coleridge’s legacy?

Coleridge helped inspire the Romantic movement in art and literature in early 19th century Britain.

Even though many of his poems were unfinished, he is still considered one of the most influential poets of the era.

Still today, his epic poem, The Rime Of The Ancient Mariner, is a favourite in English Literature lessons.

Coleridge was a keen walker on the Lakeland fells, and was the first recorded person to descend Scafell Pike via the dangerous Broad Stand.

Today, Coleridge’s former home, Greta Hall, offers holiday accommodation for between two and 22 people in 11 bedrooms in two main wings.

The Friends of Coleridge publishes the Coleridge Bulletin, sent out to members twice a year.

Coleridge Villa

Dedicated to the poet, a three-bedroom villa with superb-sized lounge/kitchen, totalling 480sq ft, and doors leading onto a private patio. Have a look here.

Alfred Wainwright. Scalesceugh Hall & Villas retirement community
Alfred Wainwright

Villa: Wainwright

Named after: Alfred Wainwright, fellwalker and guide book author / illustrator

Alfred Wainwright’s Pictorial Guides to the Lakeland Fells are still very much in demand today, used by many a walker and climber of the 214 Lakeland climbs.

The series of seven handwritten and hand-drawn volumes describe the landscape in great detail and are works of art. Wainwright described his books as a ‘love letter’ to the fells.

Wainwright was born in Blackburn in 1907, the youngest of four children. He left school at 13 and went to work at the Town Hall. After years of night study, he qualified as an accountant.

Wainwright visited the Lake District for the first time at the age of 23, in 1930, travelling by bus from Blackburn to Windermere with his cousin.

They climbed Orrest Head and Wainwright later said the view from the top “cast a spell that changed my life”.

He added: “It was a moment of magic, a revelation so unexpected that I stood transfixed, unable to believe my eyes. I saw mountain ranges, one after another, the nearer starkly etched, those beyond fading into the blue distance.

“Rich woodlands, emerald pastures and the shimmering waters of the lake below added to a pageant of loveliness, a glorious panorama that held me enthralled.

“I had seen landscapes of rural beauty pictured in the local art gallery, but here was no painted canvas; this was real. This was truth.”

Not surprisingly, Wainwright made it his mission to move to the Lake District, which he did in 1941 when he was employed at the Borough Treasurer’s Office in Kendal.

Wainwright began exploring the mountains and in 1952, he began work on his famous, treasured Pictorial Guides. For this he would later be awarded the MBE.

Wainwright Pictorial Guides, Scalesceugh Hall & Villas
Stunning detail inside one of Wainwright's famous guides

The guides and fellwalking occupied all his time until his death in 1991. As was his wish, Wainwright’s ashes were scattered on Haystacks, a favourite mountain of his.

What has been Wainwright’s Legacy?

Alfred Wainwright is responsible for nurturing many, many thousands of love affairs with The Lake District and outlying areas of Cumbria.

Often portrayed as reclusive and anti-social, he was at heart an emotional and passionate man who cared deeply about the Cumbrian landscapes. He was certainly at one with nature.

Wainwright became friends with and inspired Mark Richards, a fellow walking guide author/illustrator who kindly wrote a recent article for us here.

The Wainwright Society exists today to keep alive the fellwalking traditions promoted through his guidebooks. You can find out more here.

Wainwright Villas

Our own Wainwright works of art have proved very popular. We have one Wainwright villa remaining here.

Arthur Ransome, Scalesceugh Hall & Villas
Arthur Ransome

Villa: Ransome

Named after: Arthur Ransome, author

Arthur Ransome, born in 1884, was an author and journalist best known for writing the Swallows and Amazons series of children's books.

These are much-loved school holiday adventures, mostly set in the Lake District. Ransome wrote more than 40 books in total, making him the leading children’s writer of his day.

He had many adventures of his own, among them playing chess with Lenin, marrying Trotsky’s secretary and helping Estonia gain independence. All of which attracted the attention of MI5 and MI6.

Ransome’s major love was back home, though - the Lake District.

What has been Ransome’s legacy?

Swallows and Amazons has enjoyed numerous film, TV, radio and theatre adaptations.

The most recent big-budget film, released in 2016, starred Andrew Scott, Rafe Spall, Kelly Macdonald, Jessica Hynes and Harry Enfield.

You can watch a trailer here:

The Swallows & Amazons novels have inspired people ever since their release, and are credited with giving Dame Ellen MacArthur a desire to sail, and putting the late botanist David Bellamy on a mission to champion conservation.

The Arthur Ransome Trust exists today to help more people discover and enjoy Arthur Ransome’s life and works.

The Trust is working to create a Ransome Centre in the Lake District, Ransome’s spiritual home.

Professor Peter Hunt wrote of Ransome’s novels: “They changed British children’s literature, affected a whole generation’s view of holidays, helped to create the national image of the English Lake District, and added Arthur Ransome’s name to the select list of classic British children’s authors.”

Swallows and Amazons, Scalesceugh Hall & Villas
The Swallows and Amazons series has been printed in many versions and languages

Ransome villa

Aptly exciting, inspirational and spacious, but sadly for people wanting to move to Scalesceugh Hall & Villas, no longer available.

Dr Anita Herdeiro adds: "I was very much inspired by the love these writers had for the Lakes and Cumbria. Our houses certainly let you admire beautiful outlooks from their gigantic windows."

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