Amazons in Ambleside ~

Kit Seymour, Lesley Bennett and Sophie Neville at the Ambleside Rushbearing Festival in July 1973

Kit Seymour, Lesley Bennett and Sophie Neville at the Ambleside Rushbearing Festival in July 1973 ~ photo: Daphne Neville

What with all the buckets of water being flung about after yesterday’s filming, Mummy had lost Lesley’s ring. It was a gold ring. Since it would not have been appropriate for an Amazon Pirate of 1929, Lesley couldn’t wear it with her costume. Mum slid it onto her little finger to keep it safe for her. It slid off. We looked and looked, but couldn’t find it anywhere.

And what with all the nocturnal pushings-in Graham Ford our production manager, had broken his ankle.  Although we were up and about it became clear  that the entire film crew were comatose after the Wrap Party. There was certainly no sign of the director. Since it was also raining, an unexpected day off from filming was called. Instead of heading for Derwent Water we went exploring the Lake District – in different ways. I made a discovery about Rio, or at least the origin of its name.

It seemed normal to have lunch at the Waterhead Hotel. It would be a great treat now. We split up into two groups for the afternoon, which is how I came to explore Rio with the Amazon pirates.

It was so sweet of Gareth and Jean to give us presents. I wonder what happened to the pendant with the cross?  It would be the height of fashion now. I remember Jean explaining that she wanted to give us a little bit of the Lake District to take home. This came in the form of a bedside lamp made out of a chunk of slate. Mine had a pink shade on top. I had it for years.

Ambelside Rushbearing Parade

The Ambelside Rushbearing Parade in 1973 ~ photo: Daphne Neville

The Ambleside Rushbearing Parade was amazing. I can see exactly why Arthur Ransome thought of Rio as the town on Titty’s chart. The festival was like a colourful Rio carnival. Crowds came out to watch as the procession came down the hill. If you click on the snap-shot Mum took above, you will find photographs of what it must have looked like when he was a boy with a brass band and everyone out in their best hats as they walked down to St Mary’s Church.

Ambleside Rush Bearing Christian Ceremony

Again, if you click on the shot of above, you will find details of what happens today. The wonderful photographs on the Visit Cumbria site show rushbearing ceremonies held on Saint’s days at different churches in Cumbria throughout the summer.

Traditionally the children of Ambleside are given a piece of homemade gingerbread if they have carried one of the rushes. We hadn’t done this but we did join in with the hymn and the kind neighbours living nextdoor to Mrs Price and the Oakland Guesthouse gave us some gingerbread for tea.

 a festival celebration associated with the ancient custom of annually replacing the rushes on the earth floors of churches

St Mary's Church Ambleside Rush Bearers' Hymn

This leaflet was indeed ‘retained’, pasted into my scrapbook

We met the Price family at the festival. The two girls where both carrying dressed reeds. You may recognise Mr Price. He  appeared in Swallows and Amazons as the Native who came up to Roger at the jetty in Rio and said, ‘That’s a nice little boat you have there.’ Roger said, ‘Yes.’

The Price Family of Oaklands Guest House in Ambleside, Cumbria

Mr Price who played the part of the Native in Rio with his family in Ambleside. They ran Oakland’s Guesthouse where we stayed for 9 weeks ~ photo: Daphne Neville

Mrs Price must have worked so hard. She had three children ~ a little boy as well as the girls ~ and a number of students from the Charlotte Mason College of Education staying at the guesthouse while cooking our breakfast and high tea. I expect the demands of the filming, what with drivers coming and going, was a little more that she had originally imagined. We never really knew what would be happening next. Although most of the crew were leaving ~ going away from Rio ~ we knew we had to be back on location the next day.

Here is a snippet of footage Mum took of the festival. Blink and you’ll miss me ~

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Filed under 1973, Acting, Arthur Ransome, Autobiography, Biography, Cinema, Claude Whatham, Cumbria, Diary, Film, Film Cast, Film crew, Film History, Filmaking, Lake District, Memoir, Movie stories, Sophie Neville, Suzanna Hamilton, Swallows and Amazons, truelife story

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