Friday, July 31, 2015

Let's talk about: Miss Potter and Yew Tree Farm

I mentioned Yew Tree Farm in Monday's post and said I would be talking more about it today. 
Yew Tree Farm is in Coniston in the Lake District. It is about 20 minutes away from Hill Top Farm. 
Yew Tree Farm was also owned by Beatrix Potter and is still home to some of her furniture and decorations.
I want to talk about it today because Yew Tree Farm was used as Hill Top Farm in the movie Miss Potter which I talked about in April in this post

Martin Childs, the designer for Miss Potter, explained why Yew Tree Farm was used as Hill Top:
"...On our third trip to the Lakes together, Miss Potter's director, Chris Noonan, and I were trying to work out how to use Beatrix's own Hill Top Farm as the location for the movie's Hill Top Farm. Why wasn't it perfect? It had to be: our core audience would know it so well, its little slate porch has become familiar to millions, and it is still full of Beatrix's own possessions. 
Beatrix own choices shaped it. Yet when we visited it, we were frustrated; it may be great for stills photography, but for movie making it was impossibly restrictive. Such are the surroundings (barns built later by Beatrix and therefore outside our period, a wonderful but precious heritage garden) that staging any scene (and we had many to stage) forced us too close to the front door and left us with nowhere to put the camera. The National Trust, its owner, were keen for us to use it- it seemed pretty ungrateful of us not to jump at it. 
Driving to the station to catch our train back to London, we were shown one more farm to add to Beatrix's portfolio of real estate. It wouldn't have a name, it would just be part of a montage sequence. It was Yew Tree Farm and it took little time to realize that it should be our Hill Top. We were confident enough for it to be the only Hill Top candidate we'd show to our cinematographer, Andrew Dunn. 
Its disadvantages were few, and to us insignificant; we're calling it Hill Top and it's at the bottom of a hill; all Potterphiles know the real thing, and we mustn't alienate them. At risk of oversimplifying my job, both of these would be relatively easy to overcome with carefully chosen camera angles, a more historically photogenic paint finish, and the addition of glazing bars and familiar Hill Top greenery. Once these were achieved the task would be for our greensmen to take it back a hundred years to become a working garden again.
I photographed it from its most 'Hill Top' angle and took the photo home to form the basis of a concept drawing I would use to convince anyone who needed convincing, and the National Trust needed convincing. Aware that they would be disappointed that in our view Hill Top couldn't play Hill Top, I went to great lengths to show via a sheet of paper that Yew Tree could not only play Hill Top, it was the only farm that could play it at all....
The movie's art director, Mark Raggett, listed all the points we would have to negotiate with the National Trust, chiefly color (Yew Tree was too white for Hill Top), our wish to dig up the lawn, and replacing an existing wooden fence, a dry-stone wall across the entire width of the site. After many conversations, and with the enthusiastic blessing of the tenant farmers, a real wall would be built, with no showbiz plaster fakery."

The offer was accepted and it was decided that Yew Tree Farm would indeed play the part of Hill Top Farm for the movie. 

He went on to talk about how they transformed it: 

" About three weeks after the dry-stone waller started we were ready to shoot. The greensmen, all real gardeners but with a filmmaker's knowledge of how much should be living, how much should be fake, made a working farm out of Yew Tree's tea garden and, using photographs of Hill Top, fixed matching wisteria to the wall. We built a shelter for the pigs which would be taken down when we were finished, assuming the pigs didn't take it down first. A bonus was that the outbuildings at Yew Tree, unlike those at Hill Top, predated Beatrix's arrival in some cases by centuries."

Yew Tree farm can not be toured the way Hill Top can. It is rented out as holiday cottage now. (Unfortunately not one we will be staying at as they require longer stays now) 
I found a really fun clip on YouTube that gives you an insider look at Yew Tree Farm in case you would like to see more!

I think it amazing how much they were able to make Yew Tree look like Hill Top and I love that, even though it is not the actual Hill Top, it still is connected to Beatrix!


The Kings said...

So pretty!!

cheryl said...

Right? I can't imagine living somewhere so idyllic. It must be really magical. Then Doug reminds me of rats. I guess if there were rats... not so much. But in my imagination these old beautiful houses don't have them. :)