Tag Archives: Grizedale Forest

Charcoal burning in the Lake District

Charcoal HayBridgeEarthburn 004
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Brian Crawley has emailed sending these unique photographs of his charcoal burn in Cumbria, telling me:
‘I am a ‘retired’ charcoal burner and we still do an occasional traditional charcoal burn in the same area of south Cumbria.’
He says that this burn was, ‘…done at Hay Bridge Nature Reserve only about a mile from the site where your charcoal burn took place.’ This was when Richard Pilbrow produced the film of Arthur Ransome’s book Swallows & Amazons on location in the Lake District in the summer of 1973. ‘As you can see there is a charcoal burner’s hut on the site like the one used to be on your site.’
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Charcoal HayBridgeEarthburn 007
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I was fascinated to see how the turf had been laid.
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Charcoal HaybridgeEarthburn 006
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Brian also sent photographs of the dip in the woods where I was shown around a similar hut in 1973 . He tells me, ‘I was shown the site by an acquaintance who lives close by and watched the filming as a young boy.’
Brian sent a photo of our old film location in the woods, taken about ten years ago, when you could still see the stones of the fireplace once set inside the hut. I remember the fire well. It was very smoky.
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Brian also sent me a scan of the postcard published by J Salmon showing the burn site, taken in 1972 about a year before Swallows & Amazons was filmed, featuring the same collier who helped us. ‘The postcard photo was probably taken by a local photographer and I also have other copies of charcoaling photos, taken about that time, from a book by the same photographer but they will be covered by copyright.’
Fortunately Simon Hodkin has just sent me this article that he’d kept in a scrapbook with a programme from the cinema:
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Charcoal Burners article probably late 1973
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I’ve also found two of my mother’s shots of filming the sequence in 1973 that haven’t been published before. The continuity girl’s typewriter stands on a folding table in the foreground and a section of camera track can be seen to the right.
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Charcoal Burners- longshot1

Behind-the-scenes on the film set of Swallows & Amazons (1974)

 
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We were busy shooting the scene when the Swallows are being shown the charcoal burner’s adder, kept under the bed for luck.
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Charcoal Burners- with Sophie

Director Claude Whatham, John Franklin-Robbins, Sophie Neville and Jack Woolgar. The 35mm Panavision camera can be seen to the left of shot.

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For earlier posts describing the filming of the charcoal burner scenes please click here
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‘…we still do an occasional traditional charcoal burn in the same area of south Cumbria.’ Brian explained adding, ‘The DVD that I have is also copyrighted but a video of one of my burns is on YouTube and can be viewed via our Coppice Association website.
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Stepehn Sykes, who lives at Hill Top, where Arthur Ransome once lived, has sent this link to a picture of Charcoal Burning near by at Bouth by Alfred Heaton Cooper. Please click here

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Brian told me, ‘Our next traditional charcoal burn will be done on 13th-15th June this year at the English Heritage Stott Park Bobbin Mill, only a couple of miles from Hill Top.’  A date for the diary. For further details please click here.
Brian’s son, who is a keen Swallows & Amazons fan will be doing a charcoal burn at Bank Ground Farm for the Coniston Regatta on Wednesday 28th May. ‘He will not be doing a traditional burn like we will be doing at Stott Park on 13/14/15 June but in a metal drum, still charcoal and smoke and possibly a snake.’
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Filed under 1973, Arthur Ransome, Autobiography, Claude Whatham, Cumbria, Film, Film crew, Film History, Filmaking, Lake District, Memoir, Movie stories, Richard Pilbrow, Sophie Neville, Swallows and Amazons, truelife story

Desperation, music and laughter ~ the filming of ‘Swallows and Amazons’, 12th July 1973

Director Claude Whatham

Our director, Claude Whatham had a problem. Despite two attempts he had failed to shoot the key scene when the Swallows, who had just arrived at Holly Howe, discover the Peak at Darien and look out over the lake to spot Wild Cat Island for the very first time. He saw it as crucial to the motivation of the story.

Claude had shot the sequence of us running down the field at Bank Ground Farm in the evening light. He had what would technically be called our POV (point of view) of the island. He had nothing in between. There was no dialogue but without the right light the sequence would not cut together. And now it was raining, endlessly. We waited around all day, yet again,  hoping for the weather to clear. It did not.

12th July ~ my revised diary

I can’t believe that we went, what would now be termed, wild swimming in the Lake District after making such a fuss about recording the swimming scenes at Peel Island.  Even if it was raining the water must have been fairly warm. I don’t suppose we were in for that long. I’m now rather shocked that we dried our hair by sticking our heads out of the windows of the mini-bus. We could have all been decapitated.

While Claude was busy looking at the sky I spent the rest of the day industriously sticking small photographs into my scrap-book. Mum had her camera films developed by Triple Print so that she had some to give away.  This was the result:

Photographs in a child's scrapbook

Two of these tiny photographs show us sitting in the Grizedale Forest with Wilfred Josephs who composed the music for Swallows and Amazons.  He had visited us on location when we were shooting the charcoal burners scenes. If I blow up this tiny photograph you can see a little more of him.

Film Composer Wilfred Joseph

Composer Wilfred Josephs sitting next to Sophie Neville, Lesley Bennet and Claude Whatham. Stephen Grendon sits to his right ~ photo: Daphne Neville

Wilfred had written a canon with the idea that he could do something musical with our voices. Our efforts were being recorded by Robin and his assistant when Mum took these snap shots. The words went in a round, like this:

Swallows:  ‘Swallows sail the ocean-wide, Natives we can not abide.’  (Sung in a high register)

Amazons:  ‘We are the Amazons.’ (Sung beneath us in a low register)

What Wilfred soon discovered was that, apart from Lesley Bennett, we were all pretty useless at holding a tune.  Whatever was recorded on that day near the charcoal burners’ hut never made it to the final sound track – or even the LP that EMI brought out to accompany the movie.

Wilfred Josephs on location in Cumbria

Composer Wilfred Josephs with Sophie Neville, Lesley Bennett, Claude Whatham, Kit Seymour, Simon West and sound recordist Robin Gregory ~ photo: Daphne Neville

Mum was thrilled to meet Wilfred Josephs. He was fantastically talented, with a huge list of credits to his name. Born in 1927, he qualified as a dentist at the Universtity of Durham ~ where I also studied ~ before becoming a full-time composer in the early 1960s. His career was launched when his Requiem in memory of the Jews who were lost to the Holocaust won La Scala. He went on to compose 12 symphonies, 22 concertos and was  commissioned to write a number of overtures, ballets, operas and other vocal works.  In the field of television he is perhaps most well know for producing the theme music for I,Claudius, Enemy at the Door, The Prisoner and Pollyanna. He worked for Claude Whatham on the movie score for All Creatures Great and Small that starred Anthony Hopkins and Simon Ward, as well as the television drama W.Somerset Maugham and the serial Disraeli, which Suzanna Hamilton appeared in.

In the early 1970s Wilfred had also composed the theme music for Claude’s BBC play of Laurie Lee’s auto-biography Cider with Rosie, which Sten and I had acted in. Wilfred Josephs sadly died at the age of seventy, but I found that someone has put his haunting composition for Cider with Rosie onto YouTube. It was so good to hear it again. It comes with colourful cider-making images but – unless passionate about cider – you can have a look at more of my scrapbook while you listen to it. Like the film-score to Swallows and Amazons the orchestra was conducted by Marcus Dods.

Some of these tiny photographs from the contact sheets that Richard Pilbrow gave us are fascinating.

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