This month is promising to be full of Peter Rabbit with a movie opening 16 March (just in time for Easter) and an exhibition and events, Mischief and Mayhem, already open at Rheged near Penrith. There’s also, of course, the more traditional Lake District pursuit of following in the footsteps of Peter Rabbit’s creator, Beatrix Potter. She is a fascinating character, also known as Mrs Heelis, and she made a huge contribution to local farming, the Herdwick sheep breed and the National Trust.
The film, Peter Rabbit: the Movie, seems to have taken the traditional animal characters and launched them into a modern day Lake District setting and story. This approach may take a little getting used to but, if it encourages people to enjoy the original books and to explore the locations, that can’t be a bad thing.
During filming in 2017, Blue Badge Guide Mandy Marhsall, who lives in Mrs Heelis’s marital home, Castle Cottage at Near Sawrey, was amused by the film crew’s exploits:
“There are lots of scenes in the film where the cartoon Peter Rabbit runs along drystone walls, leaps over gates and generally runs around the Lake District countryside. To make these images work, the crew captured plenty of fast moving shots of very stationary walls and gates. It was comical to see them filming almost nothing and yet knowing that these would be the background to action sequences in the final film. There was also high overnight security in the village during filming – I’m not sure why but it seemed quite out of place in such a tranquil setting.”
Blue Badge Guide Tess Pike has an anecdote from filming on another occasion that any regular visitor to Cumbria – or to anywhere in the UK – might find amusing:
“I think a film crew were working in Kirkby Lonsdale and the story goes that everywhere was much too dry for the storyline so they had to create their own rain to make the pavements and streets look suitably wet. It would be lovely to think that anyone watching this film would associate the Lake District with only dry and sunny weather but that might be a bit too much to ask – it’s certainly ironic that TV and film sometimes need to create their own rain!”
Whether you’re planning to see the film, to browse the exhibition or to visit some of the established attractions, we have several members who specialise in themed tours for Beatrix Potter enthusiasts. They can take you to see locations featured in the original book illustrations, help you to explore the various properties associated with this amazing lady, take you to see her more unusual work at the Armitt Museum or even find a few walled and hidden gardens of your own – all away from the rabbits and with not a Mr McGregor in sight!