Beatrix Potter inspires romantic bethrothal: Marriage proposal made in Mr McGregor's garden at Near Sawrey (From The Westmorland Gazette)
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Beatrix Potter inspires romantic bethrothal: Marriage proposal made in Mr McGregor's garden at Near Sawrey
On Valentine's Day 1913, Beatrix Potter was engaged to William Heelis, though a formal announcement had not been made because her parents did not entirely approve of their daughter marrying a mere country solicitor.
Fast forward 100 years and an unsuspecting Beatrix Potter fan was to play her own part in a story of romance at the author’s former home at Hill Top Farm, Near Sawrey.
Jason Birch and Vicky Boyes from Gisburn, Lancashire, had discussed getting married before Christmas, but she had no idea where the prospective proposal would take place.
It had been a whirlwind romance for the couple - Jason a garden centre manager and Vicky a carer, as they only got together in September after two years of ‘noticing each other’ but not speaking at the garden centre.
One day he plucked up the courage to give her his telephone number and the rest is history.
"When I met Vicky she was really into Beatrix Potter and we have both always loved the Lakes," he said.
"She watched Miss Potter, the film about Beatrix Potter’s life, quite often so I had the idea to go to Hill Top to propose on Valentine’s Day.
"She knew we were going somewhere to get engaged - but she had no idea where.
"As we got the ferry over Windermere she clicked. She had been there once before years ago and had wanted to go back. I had phoned the National Trust and worked out I could do it in Mr McGregor's garden at noon.
"After I’d done the deed the staff were waiting with pink champagne and a bag of Peter Rabbit goodies. Vicky absolutely loved it."
Following in Beatrix and William’s footsteps, the happy couple went for a walk round Moss Eccles Tarn before returning for an overnight stay at the Tower Bank Arms - the pub next to Hill Top was used by Beatrix Potter in The Tale of Jemima Puddle-Duck.
The proposal was a far cry from the traditions of Beatrix Potter’s own 100 years ago.
Vicky told her dad after the engagement that Jason had wanted to ask him for his blessing but he had said his blessing was not needed and he was just happy for the couple.
And in carrying out the most romantic act of his life, Jason has committed himself not only to Vicky but to a lifetime of Beatrix Potter.
"She has been listening to all the songs from the film since we got back, and she wants to see more of the places where it was filmed in the Lakes,” he said.
"We already have a summer break planned in the Lakes. Who knows, one day we might even be able to move up to the Lake District, we would both love to."
Joanne Hudson, Visitor Experience Manager at Hill Top, said: "When Jason's request came through, we thought it was such a romantic proposal we couldn't wait to help him out.
"When he explained that Vicky was also a big Beatrix Potter fan, it made it even more special, as it's 100 years this year since Beatrix had accepted her proposal from Hawkshead solicitor William Heelis and began preparing for her own marriage in October 1913.
"Beatrix wrote one of her last books, The Tale of Pigling Bland, while planning her wedding and this year we'll be telling both of those stories.
"Pigling ran away with Pig-Wig to be a farmer and grow potatoes; though Beatrix never admitted that the story was autobiographical, she too 'ran away' from her London society to farm in the Lake District.
"We hope Jason and Vicky have as happy a marriage as Beatrix and William and enjoy Hill Top forever as their special place."
And Jason would not rule out coinciding their wedding day with that of Beatrix and William on October 15.
He said: "We didn’t realise it was the centenary of Beatrix Potter’s own engagement and marriage until after, but it makes it all that bit more special. Maybe we will get married 100 years to the day after they did."