Now for the second part of our Swallows and Amazons adventure! After our hike we made our way down to the Coniston Launch for our boat tour of the lake, specifically for Swallows and Amazons fans!
Arthur Ransome lived in the Lake District for much of his life and he used bits and pieces of the countryside and the people he knew to invent his Swallows and Amazons stories. So, you can't go to any exact places mentioned in the books, only places that seem as if Ransome was inspired by them. Although, there are a few places that can be relatively sure to be what Ransome had in mind.
Here is a map of the Lake District with the places that inspired Ransome and showed up in his stories.
Right across from the Coniston Launch are three houses, from left to right: Tent Lodge (known as Beckfoot), Lanehead (Beckfoot), and Bank Ground Farm (Holly Howe). You can see the little boat sheds down by the bank of the lake.
A better glimpse of "Holly Howe":
Very exciting to see the very places we read about!
Closer view of the boat landings -- off to the right is a small boat with a pirate's flag -- owned by our incredibly knowledgable tour guide.
Now we turn around back towards Coniston Launch and we see the large hill/mountain known as The Old Man of Coniston but in the books it is known as "Kanchenjunga".
We continued sailing down the narrow lake and on the east side we passed a house called The Heald -- this is where Arthur Ransome wrote Picts and Martyrs and it is the forested country round about in which the story takes place. Certainly one of my favorites in the series.
Our guide stopped part way through to give the kids some rope tying lessons.
Everyone got a try:
Then our guide reappeared in pirate's costume for the rest of the journey -- he knew all kinds of trivia about the books -- obviously because he loved the books, not just because this was his job.
And now "Wild Cat Island" looms on the horizon.
If you look closely you can see the fir tree that the Arthur Ransome society planted at the top of the island to mimic the books. In real life this island is known as Deel Island.
Coming around to the other side of the island you can see the "secret harbor" that plays such an important role in the stories (to the left side of the island).
Across the lake is another house which is a possible contender for "Holly Howe" but has been ruled out for a number of reasons. I can't remember but this might have been the house used in one of the movies of Swallows and Amazons.
And now our boat is pointed to the south of the lake and the place where "River Amazon" flows out of the lake.
The map lists this as the Amazon Boathouse and Swainsons Farm:
Another island which may be similar to "Cormorant Island".
Now heading back up the lake we were greeted with a lovely rainbow.
The beauty of the place is just indescribable. It's no wonder that so much outstanding literature and art flowed from this place.
I did ask our guide if Arthur Ransome and Beatrix Potter would have known each other since they lived so close to each other and they both wrote children's books. But our guide doubted they would. Beatrix Potter was not known as an author so much as a landowner and sheep raiser. Perhaps her ownership of large tracts of land in this area was not broadcasted around.
Our guide let David help steer us back home. It was certainly one of the best and most enjoyable boat tours and it was so very perfect for our family. Now I want to read all the books all over again. I think Swallows and Amazons is for our family what Anne of Green Gables was for mine growing up.
Now, the only thing we had missed of great importance was seeing the Amazon boat herself. We intended to visit her on our day in Windermere but then found out too late she had been moved temporarily to Coniston! So, we gave up on seeing Amazon but on our last day Michael decided we should detour back to Coniston and finish what we had set out to see.
So, we drove all the way to Coniston (which was quite a short distance really, but the tiny roads make for a long journey) and pulled up in front of the museum. It was still open! So we parked our car and headed back only to find the museum closed! Help!? Surely we couldn't come this close to seeing our beloved boat? We looked in the windows and spied a man at the counter and knocked hopefully on the door. He was so kind and let us all in to see the boat!
So here she is after all!
Doesn't every kid need a boat like this?!!!
Ransome did base his stories on real children who really played in these parts of the country and really had boats like this.
And there were plenty of books for sale about Arthur Ransome, as well as the map we came home with.
And when the kids got back to the cottage they rummaged in the barn and came up with their own sailing craft. :)
And that is our Swallows and Amazons adventure! Next up will be Beatrix Potter and Wray Castle.
Last week I finished my crocheted summer bunting and it is now hanging on the hutch. I also started a sweater for Laura for the fall, which I have not yet photographed.
I've spent more time sewing than I normally get and have made a few more knitting project bags, including this one made from a vintage tea cozy in Christina's birth year -- the other side shows the other half of the tea cozy.
While we are on the subject of knitting, my sister, Christina, recently introduced me to Knitting Podcasts. Really, at first I couldn't understand how people could sit and listen to random people drone on and on for hours at a time about knitting. But then I tried it one day while I was ironing. Actually, if you find one you like, it's pretty fun!!! Like having your own personal knitting group on your computer screen. I've listened to several so far and I always come away inspired and eager to knit!!! Of the few that I have tried I have two to recommend:
Bakery Bears: Their most recent podcast can be found here. The Bakery Bears are a young couple from Yorkshire and their posts are too fun -- probably because they both knit! And they include local scenery and history too!
And now for books. After 9 months of having all the books I brought back from the UK stacked up on the floor in my bathroom waiting for a bookshelf I realized the bookshelf was not going to materialize soon. But I also realized that if I got rid of some "twaddle" on my own shelves and moved a few things around I could fit all my new books. Yay!!!
Now when I sit in my own little corner of my closet I have all my precious books surrounding me.
If you click on the photos you can seem them up close -- since I know I have one friend at least who routinely does that for book photos. :)
Many of the books I have yet to read. Sadly, I almost like the anticipation of keeping the books unread over reading them!
Part of the Enid Blyton collection I brought back:
And part of the other bookshelf which sits behind my chair. That's my Scottish great-grandmother in the picture.
So here's an overall view of my favorite shelves of all. I'm so glad they are off the floor and in plain sight now!
As for books I've been reading.....
Maisie Dobbs (Book 1) by Jacqueline Winspear was a terrific read! How is it that I have never heard of Maisie Dobbs before??!? Someone was holding out on me!!! This is the first in a series that features a lady detective and is set mainly in 1929 London, though there are flashbacks to World War I. What I liked about this mystery was that it was not gory murder but more storytelling with a case to solve thrown in. And the descriptions of daily English life were lovely!! Book Two is on order at the library!
Gladys Taber Still Cove Journal by Gladys Taber was the first of her Cape Cod books that I've read. It took me awhile to love it just as much as the Stillmeadow volumes (set in a CT farmhouse). Currently I used Glady Taber to relax me before bedtime. She's become a ritual....
One of the two highlights of our trip to the UK last year was our hike around Coniston in the English Lake District. It was a day in which we melded our love for Beatrix Potter and Arthur Ransome's Swallows and Amazons.
We carried provisions with us, including Romney's Kendal Mint Cake -- that famous food of British hikers. In fact, Kendal Mint Cake has climbed Mt. Everest.
The hike was to take us around five different farms belonging to the Monk-Coniston tract of land that Beatrix Potter purchased in 1930. Our first major landmark was Boon Crag Farm where we watched the farmer send his sheep dog out and bring in his entire herd of sheep, take them across the road and up into their pen. Quite an awesome sight.
Here you can see all the sheep safely in their pen.
I guess they were about to be sold:
Around the bend from the farm was another tempting blackberry bush.
Laura had height to her advantage.
A little snack for the road:
Looking over our shoulders to Consiton Lake -- all the area around here is what our guide later in the day called "Pure Arthur Ransome Country". Ransome lived on these shores and wrote his books (which begin with Swallows and Amazons (Godine Storyteller))
set in the much of the countryside roundabout.
I can never get enough of the green, the sheep, the constantly changing light.
Every so often we had to consult our guide book for phrases like "Immediately after passing a clump of mature beeches on the left, the track is indistinct for a short distance. Bear a little to the right....."
Such a glorious day!
It's no wonder this scenery features in storybooks -- it is so idyllic!
Rainbows appear often in this weather (can you see the one at the center of the photo?):
Once in awhile we met other hikers.
And eventually we came to the Tarn Hows Cottages, another of Beatrix's holdings.
Beatrix owned all this land but she continued to rent it out to the tenants and farmers who did all the actual work of the farm. This is still how the National Trust operates. They own all these places (including the house we were staying at) but continue to rent them out.
In the back of the Tarn Hows Cottages this gorgeous rainbow greeted us.
With another shower coming on we sought shelter under a large tree to enjoy our lunch.
Around the next bend we caught an excellent view of the Yewdale Fells, otherwise known as Slater Bob's Quarry and the Coppermines in Ransome's books.
The views with the sun shining, and rainbows glistening, were just breathtaking.
Another view of the "copper mines".
Sometimes there were surprises around the corner:
Always nice to get right up close to the sheep!
Looking down into the valley:
Another glimpse of the rainy fog mixed with sunshine:
At the bottom of the hill, in the valley, we came to Yew Tree Farm. You may recognize it as "Hill Top" in "Miss Potter".
Such a beautiful, beautiful setting! And another one of the farms owned by Beatrix from the Monk-Coniston estate.
Our path took us behind the farm and across this "Beck" which actually may be a possibility for the "River Amazon".
Next we came to High Yewdale Farm:
Lots of lovely buildings and check out the vegetables in the garden out front!!
On through a field of sheep:
And down toward Low Yewsdale Farm, otherwise known in Ransome's works as "Dixon's".
Dixon's Farm features in Winter Holiday
-- a perfect book for reading during winter vacation.
Looking down the lane in front of the farm:
You can see the "copper mines" in the background:
And get a feel for the location of the outbuildings and barns which also feature in the story.
It always amused me that the gravel and stones were gray but the puddles had the exact color of a strong cup of tea!
Coming up from Dixon's Farm heading back toward Coniston.
A mossy area of the woodlands. Perhaps in "Swallowdale" there were scenes such as these.
In the outer areas of Coniston we passed by some lovely cottages:
And how do you like this for a house name?
Such neat and tidy back areas:
By this time I think we had been on the trail for nearly four hours but we were almost back to Coniston.
And when we reached the town, ice-cream for everyone was in order! We had just enough time to enjoy it before heading down to the boat launch for our Swallows and Amazons boat tour.
More about that next time!!!!
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