~An illustrated letter from Arthur Ransome, 1955~
I have been sent a copy of a letter written to a reader by Arthur Ransome in June 1955, revealing where some of his ‘Swallows and Amazons’ locations can be found. I was interested to read that, ‘the lake is mainly Windermere with some things stolen from Coniston.’
One summer, we spent a long weekend with The Arthur Ransome Society when we managed to find quite a few locations around Coniston Water that are featured in Ransome’s books.
~Low Yewdale Farm, near Coniston ~
The curator of the John Ruskin Museum took us on a walk around the village of Coniston and under the Yewdale Crags towards Tarn Howes. We passed Low Yewdale Farm where Arthur Ransome stayed as a young man. It is just as I imagined Swainson’s Farm in the book ‘Swallowdale’. The footpath takes you down to the beck where Ransome fished for brown trout. I could imagine Roger attempting to tickle trout there.
If you follow the path on south, then branch left up the East of Lake Road around Coniston Water, you will find another footpath leading to Bank Ground Farm.
A hand-painted sign guides you through fields, where Galloway cows maybe grazing. Look up and you will literally find yourself at Holly Howe, the long white farmhouse where Mr and Mrs Jackson live in ‘Swallows and Amazons’. You can imagine the Walker children running down the meadow to the Peak of Darien.
~ Dr Ernest Altounyan rigging Mavis on Coniston Water~
It was here that the Altounyan children, Taqui, Susie, Titty, Roger and Brigit spent one summer holiday in 1928, while visiting their grandparents who lived next door at Lane Head. They learned to sail on the lake in two dinghies: Swallow and Mavis, later re-named Amazon, who can be visited at the John Ruskin Museum in Coniston.
~Bank Ground Farm in Cumbria where the movie ‘Swallows and Amazons’ (1974) was made~
The barn, inside which we filmed some of the night sequences for the original movie of ‘Swallows & Amazons’, has been converted into self-catering holiday accommodation that can house a number of families quite easily. From here you can run down to the boatshed where John, Susan, Titty and Roger found Swallow and imagine them setting off on their voyage to Wild Cat Island leaving the Fair Spanish Ladies on the stone quay.
~The boatsheds below Bank Ground Farm, on Coniston Water~
Wooden jetties have been added recently and it is possible to either launch your own boat or hire a kyak from Bank Ground Farm.
~The northern end of Coniston Water~
We had a bedroom in the barn that looked north towards the Langdales. If you walk up the farm drive, you can look back towards Coniston Old Man, or ‘Kanchenjunga’, as the Walkers and Blacketts call it in ‘Swallowdale’.
~Bank Ground Farm with the village of Coniston beyond~
Arthur Ransome was taken up the Old Man of Coniston as a tiny baby. You can climb it today but wear more than sand shoes. Stout walking boots are called for. The task of reaching the summit should not be underestimated.
We were able to get out on the lake to find a few more locations. This red-sailed dinghy, named Peggy Blackett, is a copy of Arthur Ransome’s Cochybundhu, used as the model for Dick and Dorothea’s boat Scarab.
~Sailing on Coniston Water towards the village of Coniston~
It is a long way down Coniston Water to Peel Island but it is there that you will spot the Secret Harbour, instantly recognisable as belonging to Wild Cat Island. We travelled there in the SL Gondola, that also now belongs to the National Trust. Ransome knew the steam launch as a boy when he made friends with the captain.
~ Secret Harbour on the southern end of Peel Island, Coniston Water ~
In the cemetery of Coniston village we found the grave of Titty Altounyan, the girl who inspired Arthur Ransome’s well-loved character. I never met her but was with her niece Barbara that long weekend in Coniston, when we both thoroughly enjoyed walking, sailing and steaming along in Ransome’s footsteps.
~ Sophie Neville visiting Titty Altounyan’s grave in Coniston ~
For details of more locations at the southern end of Coniston Water that are featured in the Swallows and Amazons series of books, please click here.
Think of joining The Arthur Ransome Society and come looking for locations described in his books. You will find the details here.
There is an alternative walk in search of Arthur Ransome’s locations tying in with the Gondola’s timetable described here.
You can find illustrated maps and a chapter guiding you to some of the locations in ‘The Making of Swallows and Amazons’ and this less expensive ebook:
13 thoughts on “Exploring Arthur Ransome’s Lake District”
Thank you Sophie, another great post!
Love this! Inspiration for my next visit to the Lake District.
September is a great time to visit the Lakes – not too busy. You will find maps with more locations detailed in my ebook entitled ‘The Secrets if Filming Swallows and Amazons’, which is quite good as you can download them onto your phone. They are also included in the paperback, along with photos of the Amazon boathouse and Beckfoot – also found on Coniston Water rather than Windermere. Have fun!
So touching to learn that Titty’s grave is at Coniston.
Titty was well loved in Coniston where she lived for sometime. Her sister Taqui is with her. The gravestones belonging to her parents are near the church. They are beautifully designed as is the huge cross for John Ruskin.
Sent from my iPhone
I really enjoyed the post today – I am so glad you have managed to visit many of the TARS sites . On reading your book about filming S&A again this summer , I was reminded of the way different scenes were filmed at different times – scenes from the start of the story were done at the end of filming , and haircuts had to be constantly reviewed !! It must have been a nightmare for all concerned – especially your mother !
I hope you had , or will have soon , the chance to visit the `Dogs Home` which is EXACTLY as the book describes as you approach it ! I can`t possibly recommend a visit which is a more perfect !
Sincerely , Martin
Again, the Dogs Home is above Coniston rather than Windermere where Ransome seemed to be sending his fans. I must re-read Picts and Martyrs before going. Life is always enriched by re-reading good books. I only hope mine was up to the mark. I’ve almost enough new material for. 3rd edition of the ebook – which is easier to update.
Sent from my iPhone
Thank you for another brilliant blog, Sophie. Like another correspondent, it has inspired me to re-visit Coniston next time I am in The Lakes. I have seen the John Ruskin memorial but, again as with another correspondent, I had no idea any of the Altounyans were buried at Coniston, let alone Titty; I shall definitely visit them, and soon.
There is a lot to see and do. We were fortunate to have lovely weather and a well-organised programme.
I know about the Lake District weather!! Fortunately, with living fairly near I can quickly choose good days to go without too much trouble.
It’s always beautiful. You just need the right clothing.
You are perfectly right, on both points.