World events can't diminish Hawkshead's pulling power
PUBLISHED: 15:55 10 October 2011 | UPDATED: 18:08 08 February 2016
The village of Hawkshead is pulling in a new kind of visitor, in more ways than one. Amanda Griffiths reports Photography by John Cocks
This year there were fears that international events would send visitor figures plummeting. Incredibly, local shopkeepers say there were more foreign visitors than ever this summer. No one quite knows why but,
The worldwide economic slump brought down governments and the Japanese tsunami caused tragedy of unimaginable proportions. But nothing, it seems, can stop Hawkshead’s pulling power as a major international tourist attraction.We all know it as a chocolate box village with links to William Wordsworth who went to school there and famous local resident Beatrix Potter.
The net result is that Hawkshead draws thousands of overseas visitors every year, especially Americans and Japanese, all fascinated by two of our most famous wordsmiths.This year there were fears that international events would send visitor figures plummeting. Incredibly, local shopkeepers say there were more foreign visitors than ever this summer.
No one quite knows why but, when they boost the local economy, who cares?
The National Trust say their figures have been further boosted by an influx of casual visitors they call ‘out and abouters’.
Hawskhead resident Liz Hunter-MacFarlane, who is house and collections manager at the Beatrix Potter Gallery, says: ‘We’re starting to get more people who would never have thought of coming here in the past. That’s brilliant for the village because it’s a whole new market for us.’
Joanne Hudson, visitor experience manager for the National Trust added: ‘To be honest we thought the Japanese tsunami would have meant we had fewer visitors but Hill Top has seen more than we expected and the gallery has only had slightly fewer visitors. This year we have seen more groups than ever - they might be smaller groups, but there’s been more of them.’
They both agree that Hawkshead scores as a lovely, traditional village, with a nice mix of independent shops, places to eat, the old grammar school, the gallery and church.
‘And it also still has a strong community feel,’ adds Liz. ‘I think that’s the key thing that’s reflected in the village atmosphere. In the winter it’s not a ghost town, the locals are still here and we have the chemist, co-op and post office. It’s still a hub with everything you need really.’
Kim Merrick, owner of café and gift shop Poppi Red has lived in the village for 23 years and agrees. ‘It is a really good, strong community,’ she says. ‘People work well together and I think they have realised they have to work harder to get more people to visit.
‘It’s a destination place. You have to make an effort to get here but people always say it’s worth the effort. I always think Hawkshead is like going back in time. it’s like a village in the 1950s.’
In the past, Kim helped organise village events like the annual bonfire and the Christmas fair and market, important events for the villagers.
‘I feel we all make our living from the village and events like the Christmas fair are about us giving a bit back,’ she says. ‘It’s making it special for the people who live here; the Christmas fair in particular creates a lovely atmosphere.’
Roger Humphreys, proprietor of Cumbrian Legendary Ales, a brewery based on the shores of Esthwaite Water, just a mile outside the village centre, agrees.
‘It’s the responsibility of local businesses to support the community,’ he says. ‘We’ve just run the bar at the Hawkshead Show for the second year and we hope to be able to do the same thing next yea. It’s our way of giving something and, of course, it’s a nice occasion as well.’
Roger and the team took over the brewery at Esthwaite two years ago having outgrown their previous base and now supply a number of pubs in the village as well as across the Lakes.
Head brewer Hayley Barton has been welcomed into the community and she won an award at the CAMRA Beer festival – the only lady brewer to have won a category award. The company has also picked up an award for their best selling Loweswater Gold.
One of the most notable local events has been the awarding of MBEs to the owners of The Hawkshead Relish Company, Mark and Maria Whitehead, for services to the local food industry.
‘It was a complete surprise and such an honour,’ says Maria. ‘It’s usually just awarded to the managing director of the company, which would be Mark, but I got a letter too.
‘When the envelope came I thought it was a tax bill and then when I opened it I couldn’t breathe! My next reaction was it must be a joke. The hardest thing was we couldn’t tell anyone for weeks.
‘We haven’t actually got it yet, we think it will happen in November. We were lucky enough to be invited to the Royal Garden Party in the summer so we’ve had a preview of Buckingham Palace which I think will help calm the nerves and we met the Queen and Prince Philip in 2008 when they came to Penrith.
‘We gave the Duke a bag of relishes which he wouldn’t let anyone take from him. About three weeks later I took a phone call from Lord Mountbatten’s daughter wanting to order some of the damson jam we’d given him. We’ve had a few more orders since. I suppose it would be nice to get the Royal Warrant eventually.’
Hawkshead Relish Company is certainly a success story, set up to get them out of financial difficulties after Foot and Mouth hit the Lake District in 2001. Their busy café was suddenly empty.
Mark has always made his own relishes, chutneys and jams to serve alongside the food in the café, with a few extra for people to buy and take home with them so to get through the crisis he added a few more items to the range and the couple set about selling them in various local outlets.
In 2005 and with the café up and running once the couple finally made the decision to concentrate on that side of the business. They now produce around 2,500 to 3,000 jars a day (from initial production of 120 a week). Their headquarters is on the edge of Hawkshead, having outgrown the shop’s kitchen. They sell them in 450 outlets in the UK, 22 countries worldwide and, of course, their shop in the village.
‘We haven’t had the best summer weather-wise,’ says Maria. ‘But sometimes I think that does make the village busier because people aren’t going for picnics. The shop has certainly been busier this year than last and we’ve seen more foreign visitors, especially the Japanese who have favoured our lemon curd and five fruit marmalade.
‘There’s also been lots of development going on at the school and affordable housing being built. I feel there’s a really vibrant community here - I think the village is more alive than ever.’
Happily for Hawkshead, the village has managed to retain three pubs – the Queen’s Head, the Red Lion and the Sun Inn.
The one niggle for local businesses concerns parking. It’s certainly a concern for Alex Godfrey, the new manager at The Sun Inn.
‘People are always saying how expensive it is,’ he says. ‘They come in and order food and want to know how long the meal will take because they’ve only paid for an hour’s parking. They eat and rush off and miss the village, which is a shame.’
Beatrix Potter Gallery in Hawkshead, join us in celebrating the centenary of 'The Tale of Timmy Tiptoes'. Admire some of Beatrix's specially selected and rarelyseen original artwork as you explore thischarming 17th century building. You canbuy Beatrix Potter's complete tales andexclusive collectables together withother delightful Beatrix Pottermemorabilia from Hill To shop online at www.shop.nationaltrust.org.uk/beatrixpotter
Spoil yourself have a day out at Poppi Red and treat yourself to something special. We have everything from cupcakes to clothes, Pims to pictures, hearts to handbags. It’s Girlie heaven.
KINGS ARMS HOTEL
Join us for a relaxing stay amidst the green hills and dales of the Lake District and we will be delighted to offer you good home made food, homely comfort and warm hospitality in historic surroundings
If you are a hill walker, a gardener or just simply love the outdoors and the Lake District, a visit to our store is a must do! There is a selection of exciting outdoor brands including Regatta, Craghoppers, Bear Grylls and dare2b, offering a wide choice of stylish outdoor and travel clothing, footwear and accessories, but there is a delightful café, jam packed with mouth watering sweet & savoury treats and delicious hot & cold drinks, and what's more - if you buy a flask in our store, you can get it filled for free in the café!
Award winning traditional Preserves, Relishes, Pickles, Chutneys, Jams and Marmalades. The top best seller is the famous Red Onion Marmalade made with balsamic vinegar which has featured in Ready Steady Cook as a favourite of Celebrity chefs Nick Nairn and Ainsley Harriot.
SAWREY HOUSE HOTEL
offers you a very special combination of comfort and elegance set admist the stunning beauty and tranquillity of the Lakeland fells. Located in the heart of the English Lake District, this splendid Victorian country house nestles in the pretty village of near Sawrey.
Matching traditional classic quality with contemporary styles, Stewardsons is a family run business set in the heart of the picturesque village of Hawkshead selling a range of clothing, footwear and accessories from brands including Aigle, Joules, Barbour, Cat and Sebago.
THE RED LION
provides plentiful comfort, and a friendly ambience along with traditional home cooked food in a setting which both delights and relaxes you in equal measure. These ingredients allow for the perfect setting to while away the hours in a cheerful, relaxed and informal atmosphere.
is a jewel enhancing the picturesque lakeland village. The Gallery stocks an amazing collection of extraordinary quality paintings by artists from across the world. With a friendly and relaxed atmosphere the gallery is very welcoming to customers old and new to view the ever changing and evolving diverse display of collectable paintings.