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Peter Rabbit helps Bowness to gold at the Chelsea Flower Show

PUBLISHED: 00:00 18 August 2014

Stacey McShane, General Manager of the World of Beatrix Potter Attraction

Stacey McShane, General Manager of the World of Beatrix Potter Attraction

Archant

Bowness sets the gold standard

The World of Beatrix Potter Attraction's Chelsea Flower Show Gold Medal-winning gardenThe World of Beatrix Potter Attraction's Chelsea Flower Show Gold Medal-winning garden

Most gardeners will tell you that rabbits are their sworn enemy but Richard Lucas has a different view. His Peter Rabbit garden recreated scenes from Beatrix Potter’s books and won him a gold medal at this year’s Chelsea Flower Show.

The garden brought the author’s drawings to life with herbs, vegetables and flowers which appeared in her illustrations as well as traditional Lakeland slate and brick walls and Mr McGregor’s greenhouse. His tools are propped against the wall as if he has nipped inside for a cup of tea, allowing Peter to sneak in and nibble the radishes. A pair of furry ears poke out of a watering can and Peter’s famous blue jacket is used as a scarecrow.

The garden is now open to visitors at the World of Beatrix Potter attraction in Bowness, and manager Stacey McShane said: ‘We were delighted with the garden and absolutely thrilled that it won a gold medal.

‘The garden is meant to be seen from all sides, it’s full of nooks and crannies and different points of interest. Although you only have a small space for the show gardens, there is so much in there and the response was brilliant, everyone loved it. We had planned to enter about five years ago but it didn’t happen then, fingers crossed it won’t take that long for us to do it again.’

The World of Beatrix Potter Attraction's Chelsea Flower Show Gold Medal-winning gardenThe World of Beatrix Potter Attraction's Chelsea Flower Show Gold Medal-winning garden

Stacey has worked at the attraction for almost 15 years – she started working part time on the tills and became general manager in May – but admits she wasn’t a Potter fan as a child. ‘My children have been brought up on her stories but I wasn’t, I preferred the Famous Five. I have read them all now though.’

Beatrix Potter’s stories have lost none of their appeal in the 100 or so years since they were first published, with new adaptations bringing them to new audiences. And Stacey is keen to ensure that the World of Beatrix Potter attraction remains as popular as ever.

‘I want to make sure that people know this isn’t just a children’s attraction,’ she added. ‘It’s not based on recent animations, it more like the old books and adults of all ages love reminiscing and being taken back to their childhoods.’

In 2016 they will celebrate the 150th anniversary of the author’s birth and by then the old church hall over the road which the attraction recently bought will have been converted into tea rooms with a garden and rooms for events.

The World of Beatrix Potter Attraction's Chelsea Flower Show Gold Medal-winning gardenThe World of Beatrix Potter Attraction's Chelsea Flower Show Gold Medal-winning garden

The Rayrigg Rooms were built in 1907 – the year The Tale of Tom Kitten was published – and money raised from the building’s sale will go towards renovation work at St Martin’s Church, parts of which date back to the late 15th century.

The church has impressive painted walls and a fabulous east window and in spite the crowds of tourists and busy main road just outside, it retains a sense of tranquillity and timeless beauty, eloquently summed up by Carl and Elizabeth from Iowa who wrote in the visitor book: ‘Awesome’.

Rector James Richards said: ‘There are several things that need to be done but the largest single item is the need to replace the lead roof, which was estimated a couple of years ago at costing about £400,000. There are also a number of other things that are nearing the end of their life – the gas boilers and electrical wiring for instance.

‘The total cost of the works is likely to be about £500,000 and we feel it makes most sense to have one big appeal to raise the money, rather than having an appeal for each piece of work.

Bowness St Martin's ChurchBowness St Martin's Church

‘The sale of the Rayrigg Rooms will make a significant contribution to the costs but we will still probably have to raise about half the cost.’

If every visitor to Bowness chipped in a pound, they’d be there in no time – the town is every bit as popular with holidaymakers and daytrippers as it ever was. Around 12 million people visit the Lake District every year and few of them pass up the chance to stop off at Bowness.

The appeal is obvious, aside from the lake and the views, there is an impressive range of shops which goes well beyond the usual mix of outdoor clothing and tourist tat. And between the ubiquitous tea shops there is a decent selection of places to eat too.

In spite of the enduring popularity of the town with tourists from across the globe – you’re unlikely to visit without encountering at least one foreign coach party – it is possible to get away from the crowds.

Head into the narrow and winding back streets of the old part of the village, known as Lowside, behind the church where you’ll find quieter pavements, shops and the New Hall Inn which is the oldest tavern in Bowness and dates back to 1612. Its nickname is The Hole in’t Wall because a blacksmith who used to work next door to the pub had a hole knocked in the wall so beer could be passed through while he worked.

At the time when the thirsty blacksmith was sipping his pints, Bowness was a small fishing village. But once the railway started to bring the visitors in the 1850s, tourism took hold and it hasn’t loosened its grip.

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