Showing posts with label Beatrix Potter. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Beatrix Potter. Show all posts

Saturday, 1 December 2012

Wild About Britain - an RSPCA short story competition for children

Hurry, hurry, hurry – there’s no time to waste. If your children are interested in wildlife and love writing stories, then there are just a few days left for them to enter a great new short story competition run by the RSPCA. 

The Wild About Britain challenge is inspired by wonderful children’s classics like Wind in the Willows and The Tale of Peter Rabbit. In fact Peter Rabbit was voted the nation’s favourite wildlife character in a recent RSPCA survey, while Roald Dahl’s Fantastic Mr Fox was named our favourite wildlife book.

There are two age categories in the competition – 11 years and under and 12 to 16-year-olds – and the closing date for entries is midnight on Monday December 10. The winner will receive a selection of books from publisher Random House and their story will be published on the website.

As Chris Packham, RSPCA vice president, says: “What could be a more perfect way to get inspiration for your story than to go out into our woods and search out signs of animals like hedgehogs, foxes and badgers? With the Olympics, Paralympics and Jubilee it has been an incredible year for Great Britain. Now it is time to remember that our wildlife is great too.”

I feel very honoured because I’ve been asked to be one of the competition’s guest judges. As a lifelong fan of stories like The Tale of Mrs Tiggy-Winkle and Watership Down, I CAN’T WAIT to read the entries.

For more details of the competition (and to read some of the entries so far) go to the Wild About Britain website.

Sunday, 2 September 2012

The Lake District - a guide for Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt and co

The British papers are reporting that Hollywood superstars Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt have booked a holiday in the Lake District with their seven children.

Apparently they plan to take Maddox, 11, Pax, eight, Zahara, seven, Shiloh, six, and four-year-old twins Vivienne and Knox to a converted boathouse on the shores of Lake Windermere while Angelina shoots her new movie.

For a family used to jet-setting between glamorous homes in LA, Malibu, New Orleans and the south of France, the rugged, windswept Lakes might seem like an odd choice. But I reckon it’s inspired.

Why? Because there’s so much for children to do. Over the years my two have built rope swings across a stream in the Newlands Valley, cooked supper on camp fires, climbed Causey Pike and mountain biked in Whinlatter Forest. My son managed Catbells when he was five, a feat he was so proud of that he pleaded to climb Maiden Moor the very next day.

It admittedly rains a lot in the Lake District, but there are still loads of places to visit. There’s the Pencil Museum at Keswick, the Windermere Steamboat Museum (where you can see Beatrix Potter’s rowing boat and Captain Flint’s houseboat from the TV adaptation of Swallows and Amazons) and The World of Peter Rabbit, a museum at Ambleside that brings Beatrix Potter’s 23 tales stunningly to life – complete with sights, sounds and even smells.

Best of all, young (and old) fans of Beatrix Potter’s books can visit the real-life places that inspired her. If you gaze out across Derwentwater from the top of Catbells it’s hard not to be reminded of The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin, which is set there. And if you walk round the Newlands Valley there’s always the thought that Mrs Tiggy-Winkle might magically appear with her washing basket. Beatrix Potter was walking there when she met Lucie Carr, the local vicar’s daughter, and she later wrote The Tale of Mrs Tiggy-Winkle for the little girl.

So I hope the young Jolie-Pitts enjoy their Lake District adventure. Even if it rains (and it does rain a lot), they’ll have the time of their lives.

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Christmas in the Lake District

As we ground to a halt on the motorway for the umpteenth time I began to wonder whether our Christmas trip to the Lake District was worth it. The journey should take four hours but in 20 years of visiting the place we’ve never managed it in less than six. We usually arrive in a filthy temper at midnight and swear we’ll never do it again.

This was the first Christmas we’d ever spent at my in-laws’ holiday let in the Newlands Valley so it was a bit of an experiment. On the plus side the farmhouse has been done up in the last couple of years and boasts lovely White Company linen, an Aga and a massive roll-top bath with stunning views over the valley (have you ever seen such a great outlook from a bath? No, me neither.) On the minus side, the weather is often dire, with grey skies and sideways rain, and there’s no WiFi.
But we had four blissful days. I panicked slightly the first morning when I realised I’d forgotten to pack my children’s treasured Christmas stockings. I know they’re 20 and 17 but they still hang stockings up on Christmas Eve. I rushed into Keswick to look for replacements but couldn’t find anything. Then the lovely Emma at Temporary Measure in Main Street suggested using two of her printed canvas bags instead. What a brilliant idea – far more chic than stockings.

The highpoint came after lunch on Christmas Day when we set off on my favourite Mrs Tiggy-Winkle walk. As we meandered along the foot of Catbells and Maiden Moor we barely saw anyone, apart from a few hardy Herdwick sheep.

It’s a route that Beatrix Potter knew like the back of her hand. Although she lived further south, at Hill Top Farm in the village of Sawrey, she often stayed at Lingholm, a massive pile on the shores of Derwentwater. She was walking along the Newlands Valley when she met Lucie Carr, the local vicar’s daughter, and later wrote The Tale of Mrs Tiggy-Winkle for the little girl, complete with sweet drawings of Skelgill Farm and the isolated village of Little Town.

Despite the howling wind (so strong that it lifted me off the ground), the walk was as lovely as ever. As dusk fell, all we could see across the valley was the soaring peak of Causey Pike and the twinkling lights of Little Town in the distance. Mind you, we got our come-uppance for setting off so late when we staggered back up the hill in the dark, the night-time silence punctured by shrieks (mostly mine) as several of us went splat in the mud. But it didn’t matter a jot. A few minutes later we were back by the log fire, with festive glasses of champagne in our hands and a toast to Christmas 2011.
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