Guided tour of Hawkshead

PUBLISHED: 08:33 22 July 2010 | UPDATED: 17:36 20 February 2013

Guided tour of Hawkshead

Guided tour of Hawkshead

When the chips are down Hawkshead residents rally round, as Amanda Griffiths discovers on a visit to the 'honey-pot' village

Residents in the picture-pretty Lakeland village of Hawkshead have their fingers crossed that this year at least weather-forecasters are on the ball.

Its Hawkshead Show this month (August 24) an event just finding its feet again after cancellations in 2007 and 2008 and a wet, but not as problematic show, in 2009.

The weather is a critical point for us from a health and safety point of view for the animals as well as for the spectators, says the shows general secretary, Sue Todd.

In 2006 we had a really hot day and we had around 6,000 visitors.

Last year I think we had around 4,000 which wasnt bad considering it was a bit wet. I think the real problem was

as it had been cancelled the previous two years because of the weather, people assumed it would be cancelled again last year.

Show organisers are keen to re-assure visitors that barring any major disasters this years show is ready to go. Organisers have been working to improve drainage, putting paths down and hardcore in the field used for cars.

The programme includes all the traditional favourites; including horses in the main ring, sheep classes, arts and crafts classes, a popular pet section and a fantastic horticultural tent and is also likely to include a re-vamped route for the hound trails.

We hope the show has a positive effect for the rest of the village, says Sue. We know some people just come for that but we do try to encourage others to take the opportunity to visit the village while theyre here.

Its also well supported by the village. We have a lot of helpers and stewards who come down and help

on the day and most of the local businesses advertise in the programme. Its nice to know we have their support.

In fact support and community spirit is something the village has lots of. Shop keepers come together to organise Christmas fetes and community bonfires and fundraising for local projects is well supported.

Villagers have recently raised money for new sports facilities for young people in the area and the next project could be the refurbishment of the village hall, which has recently been painted but needs its interior updating.

The horrific floods at the end of last year and the snow and ice at the beginning of this really brought out the best in local people as Liz Hunter MacFarlane, House and Collections Manager at the Beatrix Potter Gallery explains. During the floods the son of one of the caf owners and some of his friends formed a sort of task force asking villagers what needed to be done.

They helped us move things upstairs in the gallery and even managed to get through to Ulverston on a tractor and trailer to pick up a load of sand to make 100 sandbags for the village, she says.

These are young guys that you might not expect to find helping in other places. We also had a rota system to check on various people in the village and make sure they were OK.

Liz has lived in the village for many years and although she says she has seen the village change in the last few years its not all for the worse. In some ways it is better now, she says. Id say we have a better mix of visitors now, lots of families and couples of all ages.

Of course, the village has been a tourist hotspot for so long now that no-one knows anything different. Even in Beatrix Potters time people would open their houses as tea rooms for visitors.

And speaking of visitors, it seems the Beatrix Potter Gallery is doing better than ever. We had a busy year last year, Liz adds. We, along with most National Trust properties, seemed to buck the recession. People were looking for something to do and holidaying at home rather than going abroad. Id say we saw a really different type of visitor than weve seen before.

These, she says, included a lot more families as well as people making what they felt as the manageable two hour drive from the big conurbations like Manchester, Liverpool and the north east.

We also saw National Trust membership increase more than ever before. People want value for money, especially in a recession, so they think, weve got our membership we should make the most of it, she says.

And Joanne Hudson, Visitor Experience Manager, adds: The Japanese have always been a big visitor group here, but we now have more group bookings than ever before.

So much so, were having to open later in the evening for the group bookings to leave the daytime free for the other visitors. In fact, Im even in talks at the moment with Japanese tour operators to offer something similar next year.

Of course, the release of the Miss Potter film, starring Renee Zellweger in 2006 has also had an impact on visitor numbers to the village.

The film was shown on a bank holiday weekend and we saw an increase in visitors again, says Liz.

Its the sort of film that people remember, it touches them and encourages people to come and find out more. Its a great chance for us to carry on that story and tell them just how much Beatrix Potter did in terms of conservation in the area.

Elsewhere in the village the recession, floods and snow has had an impact on some businesses, but there seems to be a can-do attitude with people finding more ways of expanding their business and offering something new.

Rob Trewby at Hawkshead TIC is one example, as well as running the tourist information point and shop, Rob has started a taxi business, something he says has been very successful, filing a gap in the market. Rob took over the tourist information point when the National Park decided to close it.

I think its important for places like Hawkshead to maintain an information point, he says.

Its not the same as it used to be, Ive had to build up the shop side of the business to help pay for it but I still keep a stock of leaflets and can point visitors in the right direction.

It has been hard with the floods and the recession. People are still coming but weve lost a lot of those who will spend money on the luxury items. The speed ban on Windermere hasnt helped either. At one time boat owners would come round and spend time and money in the village but now theyre going elsewhere.

Things are picking up again now though. The benefits outweigh the negatives. Its a lovely place to live and a great community. Were surrounded by beautiful countryside which is what attracts people; if you want to stay here and run a business then you have to find a way of offering something different to keep afloat - thats what Ive been doing with the Hawkshead taxis - offering a different service.

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