5 minutes with John Moffat

John Moffat, General Manager of South Lakes Property for the National Trust outside Hill Top Hill Top farmhouse near Hawkshead, home of Beatrix Potter, National Trust The National Trust's Beatrix Potter Gallery, Hawkshead

Introducing 5 minutes with… John Moffat..

Who is… General Manager of South Lakes Property for the National Trust, looking after their ownership in the Hawkshead and Coniston area. I look after the bulk of the Beatrix Potter legacy to the Trust, including Hill Top – her most special of all places; the Beatrix Potter Gallery – where we show her original artwork; as well as outdoor places such as Tarn Hows and Claife Viewing Station, where one could argue tourism in the Lakes began!

We’ve also been working with Lakes Ignite at Wray Castle where we hosted the ‘Harmonica Botanica’ display earlier this year and developing loans of our Beatrix Potter artwork to send to other places that will inspire visitors to visit us.

Tell us more… Many of our places are open all year round (our outdoors sites of course always are!). Our newest project though has been to reopen Claife Viewing Station, on the western shore of Windermere near the car ferry, the first station in Thomas West’s 1778 guidebook and really important in relation to the start of the romantic and picturesque movements.

Why is this special to you… Claife is a new place that’s not very well known as a visitor attraction in the Lake District – although it was the place to visit in the early 18th century! We are now bringing it back to life for our visitors for the 21st century. It’s been a personal project of mine to recreate the whole site and bring this place back to life with the final elements being completed as I write – and we open on 14 October. Come and see it!

What can audiences expect… You can experience Claife as you would have done 200 years ago – walking up to the Station along the winding path with views being revealed; into the station itself and up the stone stairs to the new platform which will give you fantastic views up and down Windermere.

200 years ago, visitors used picture frames to literally ‘frame’ different views; now, we see people using their iPhones instead. And they can then get refreshments at the newly opened café in the courtyard – just as visitors would have done in the past. We want visitors to come across from the hustle and bustle of Bowness – by boat and foot – and experience some beautiful outdoors in their way at this unique cultural site.

If you could name only 3 unmissable cultural hot spots or events in the Lakes – what would they be… Visiting Beatrix Potter’s Hill Top with my kids and holding the books that she wrote and illustrated in front of the very door, mirror, china, garden that she painted has such emotion; going to the Brewery Arts Centre in Kendal with its amazing selection of events; and visiting Hardknott Roman Fort in Eskdale – such an evocative place, especially when it is raining!

Hardknott Roman Fort, Eskdale in the Western Lake District
Hardknott Roman Fort, Eskdale in the Western Lake District

In a nutshell how would you describe the cultural offer in the Lakes… Far more varied than people think – it’s not just lakes and fells up here!

And after a cultural adventure in the Lakes, where would be your ideal place to eat or stay… The Tower Bank Arms in Near Sawrey for both; but if I’ve been out walking on the fells, it would be a camping pod at Wasdale campsite and dinner at the pub!

And we just have to ask.. if you could choose one view in the Lakes where would that be… From Blea Tarn in Little Langdale, looking across at the Langdale Pikes. Stunning.

Blea Tarn between Great and Little Langdale (photo by Tony West, Cumbria Tourism)
Blea Tarn between Great and Little Langdale (photo by Tony West, Cumbria Tourism)

Discover the Lakes Culture Hawkshead and Ambleside itinerary for more Lake District literary inspiration

To enjoy this Lakes cultural event and much more, book your break in the Lake District here