My article on Beatrix Potter’s Lake District is published today in Britain Magazine.
Controlled by her mother, constricted by Victorian expectations of women, she worried she’d never find anything useful to do.
But she was allowed to draw and paint. In doing so, she saw differences in closely related fungi others didn’t find until the 1940s. Eventually, she produced a scientific paper for the respected Linnean society, speculating about the germination of fungal spores. As a woman amateur, she was easily dismissed, but years later proved right.
With the proceeds of her books, she bought Hilltop Farm in the Lake District. Her energies turned to farming and conservation, and she became a passionate champion of the early National Trust. At 47, she married her solicitor, William Heelis. With his help she bought up farms vulnerable to ruin or development. When she died in 1943, she left the NT over 4,000 acres of land and 14 farms, still working and tenanted today. No one knows what the Lake District would look like without her.