Friday, June 20, 2014

Scotland: Swallows & Amazons and Beatrix Potter Part 1 (England)

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 set off on foot from Coniston, following one of the walks in Walking with Beatrix Potter: Fifteen Walks in Beatrix Potter Country. The day was sporadically rainy and sunny and there were lots of blackberries lining the path.

A field of cows in the rain:

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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Anonymous said...

So interesting! Love the pictures too!

southseaislandhome said...

Beautiful! This is what I have been waiting of. Lovely rainbows. It's just as I pictured it all, too, in the books.

BJF said...

Thank you for showing me more of my own country - me, homesick? never. Your children were really game to happily participate in such a long walk and in such drizzly weather - but that's a true English experience. :-) I really lapped up the Swallows and Amazons series as a child, and loved knowing children in Finland still living that way! best of all perhaps was that you saw the sheepdog doing his work. Aren't they phenomenal? Total obedience. A few whistles and - job done!

Everydaythings said...

what lovely views and photos, I feel as if I have been on that walk with you through the photos! I'm also amazed that your children walked for so many hours, amazing, but so worth it! I'm looking forward to your next installement now!

Pom Pom said...

Wow! Your family is strong! That's a long hike, but I'm sure you were all nourished by the gorgeous green views!

Pom Pom said...

Wow! Your family is strong! That's a long hike, but I'm sure you were all nourished by the gorgeous green views!

Judy said...

I don't think I've commented before though I visit often (via Brenda at coffeeteabooksandme).
This time, I couldn't resist expressing my delight at seeing 'Swallows and Amazons' country. My children are now 17 and almost 21, but when they were younger we read through many (maybe all) of those books. They inspired play and adventure for years - a cave discovered near an island cabin we holidayed in once was 'Peter Duck's' -of course, they practiced semaphore, added cross-country skis to a go-cart (after removing the wheels!) for sledding, and made 'Swallows and Amazons' flags to attach to various row boats and canoes at our friends' summer cottage - all variations on the books. All the while, my role, (as was the mother's in the stories) was to ensure the right food supplies were provided!
My daughter (the 17 year old) and I have the little book of walks around Beatrix Potter country - but as yet, travelling there remains a dream.
Thank you for the 'wander' - lovely.

Anonymous said...

What a great walk! Both the sights you've shared with us, and also your family. One of the best compliments I ever received was my husband's Irish auntie telling someone, about me: "Aye, she's a brave walker!" Good for you to raise a family of brave walkers.

I never got into Amazons and Swallows, but have some friends who adored it and lived out the stories. Their father once sent them a postcard wishing them well on a sailing holiday which read: "If duffers, better drowned; if not duffers, won't drown"!