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News from Hill Top, where Arthur Ransome once lived

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It seems that not a week goes by without Arthur Ransome’s name being mentioned in the national press. Today the news is of Hill Top, the 17th century farmhouse at Ealingsheath, a tiny hamlet near Haverthwaite in Cumbria, where Arthur and Evgenia Ransome lived in the 1960s enjoying the lovely view across the Lakeland fells.

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In the Epilogue to Arthur Ransome’s autobiography, Rupert Hart-Davis wrote: ‘In 1960 the Ransomes bought the little derelict farmhouse in the Lakes which they had rented for the last four years as a holiday cottage. Repairs and alternations took longer than expected, and it was not until November 1963 that they moved into their home, Hill Top, Haverthwaite, near Newby Bridge. They both loved the house, and the buzzards, redstarts and deer by which it seemed to be surrounded… ‘ He celebrated his eightieth birthday there, although by then ‘…he was confined to a wheel chair on the upper floor of the house.’

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The present owners, Stephen and Janine Sykes, who bought Hill Top in 2012, have just finished converting the garage/barn-end into a holiday cottage. You can read the story in the Mail Online today entitled: ‘A home full of Swallows & Amazons…’ and, as they say, is a good base for exploring the locations described in book and used in the 1974 movie, which the Mail describes as, ‘A perfect adventure.’ I describe doing so myself in previous posts.

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Stephen Sykes says, ‘ The picture used was actually of “The Pavilion” – a games room. It’s now impossible to believe, but it was converted from a very substantial former kennel (600sf).’
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‘We demolished another kennel of 1,000sf (now a courtyard garden) and we’re just finishing the conversion of another to an office/store room! We’ve spent a lot of time, effort and money in “de-kennelling” Hill Top and returning it to domestic use! Needless to say, the guest accommodation, “The Cottage at Hill Top”, forms a self-contained part of Hill Top itself.’
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Stephen added, ‘Cumbria Life are coming to photograph Hill Top today for a feature in their Christmas issue.’ The house certainly looks wonderful.
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‘We’re just in the process of creating a website, in the meantime we’re marketing through Lakelovers.’ Stephen and Janine are more than happy to take direct bookings – please ring: 01539 531 452. The last three digits of their phone number are the same as in Ransome’s time.  They offer a 10% discount to TARS members.
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Stephen Sykes is  an investment analyst and author of The Last Witness who studied astrophysics at UCL in the days when men were landing on the moon.  He previously wrote to tell me that they have a number of old photographs and , ‘… a collection of most books by and about Arthur Ransome.  Obviously, we’ve made it our job to learn much about the Ransomes and… visited the Brotherton Library at the University of Leeds to look through Arthur Ransome Collection where there are dozens of photographs of Hill Top from the late 1950s to c. 1963. I now have digital copies of most of these, including a number of good quality colour slides of Arthur and Evgenia. I guess it’s rather unusual for someone to find a treasure trove of photos of their house from half a century ago and see how its then famous owner transformed it!
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‘Astonishingly, the Lake District National Park Authority indicated that they had absolutely no interest in the Ransome connection and even moaned that if Hill Top were to become a “tourist attraction” it would merely create traffic problems!’ Stephen added.
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When I last passed Hill Top with Mountain Goat no one else was using the lane that runs in front of the house even though it is not so very far from the southern end of Lake Windermere and the Haverthwaite Railway Station where the steam train comes in and the Windermere steamers dock.
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Dave Guest of BBC North West Tonight presented an item on Hill Top that went out on 6th November. The BBC liked it so much it was broadcast nationwide on BBC Breakfast at 7.50am on Thursday 7th November.
Meanwhile the sale of Esthwaite Water, where Ransome loved to fish, seems to have gone global. This article has appeared in the Indian press: click here for the Bangalore Mirror.
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Filed under Arthur Ransome, Cumbria, Lake District, News, Steam train Haverthwaite Railway Station, Swallows and Amazons, Travel, truelife story

The lake where Arthur Ransome fished is for sale on eBay

Esthwaite Water in Cumbria ~ photo: Sophie Neville

Esthwaite Water in the Lake District where Arthur Ransome loved to fish

When Peter Walker took me on his Swallows and Amazons tour of the Lake District we stopped at Esthwaite Water where Arthur Ransome often went fishing.  I wonder if he had it is mind when he wrote about Roger’s great fish, the terrifying pike hooked in Shark Bay.

‘I understand Ransome fished it with his friend the Vicar of Finsthwaite. ‘ Peter went on to explain that Ransome’s last book Mainly about Fishing is dedicated to Rev. Roland Pedder of Finsthwaite – whose father was the Rev John Wilson Pedder of Garstang.

Peter wrote from Kendal this morning to tell me that Esthwaite Water is up for sale on eBay – for £300,000.  This does not seem a great deal as it covers a huge area, some 280 acres, but I gather this is the price for a 15 year lease. Apparently the trout and pike fishing is excellent.  Please click here for the eBay site. However the full details appear to be on this lakeforsale site

Esthwaite Water photo: Peter Walker

As I looked out through the reedy habitat I could just imagine Jeremy Fisher frog also in residence. I felt sure that Beatrix Potter must have painted him there.  Although originally set on the River Tay in Scotland, Peter tells me that the final illustrations for The Tale of Mr Jeremy Fisher  were sketched from the shore of Esthwaite Water in 1906. The original cover for the little book certainly looks as if she must have enjoyed doing this.

Tom Murphy of the Westmorland Gazette says that it was indeed Beatrix Potter’s favorite lake. It is just below Hill Top, the farm where she lived.  Please click here for his article that came out today.

The Daily Telegraph have also picked up on the story: ‘Lake District lake which inspired Wordsworth’

Esthwaite Water ~ photo lent by Peter Walker

Can anyone tell me if Ransome wrote about fishing on Esthwaite Water in his book Rod and Line ~ please use the comments box below.

Sophie Neville at Slate Quay on Coniston Water

Sophie Neville at Slate Quay on Coniston Water where Arthur Ransome learnt to fish

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Filed under Arthur Ransome, Cumbria, Lake District, Landscape Photographs, News, Sophie Neville, Swallows and Amazons, truelife story