In Arthur Ransome’s Footsteps

Arthur Ransome, author of the “Swallows and Amazons” novels adored the neighbourhood of Coniston, adapting that lake by mingling it with Windermere as the setting for his Lake District novels.

The Dog's Home (c) John Bainbridge 2014

Our walk through the Heald Wood on Coniston’s eastern shores headed through some iconic Ransome settings.

We set out from the forestry car park

Robin in Heald Wood (c) John Bainbridge 2014

at Machell Coppice, strolling for a half mile along the lakeshore road to see The Heald, where Ransome lived during the Second World War, with his Russian wife Evgenia, whom he met during the Russian Revolution when she was Trotsky’s secretary.

It was here that he wrote his novel “The Picts and the Martyrs”, which has some beautiful portraits of Lake District life.

Following a steep and rocky path up through the old Heald Wood we soon came to the Dog’s Home, where his two characters Dick and Dorothea Callum camp out in hiding during the story.

It had been renovated since I was last there, with a new door and window, but it still much as Ransome illustrated it in his book.

The Heald Wood itself is featured in two more Ransome books, “Swallows and Amazons” and “Swallowdale”, where his charcoal burners live in a wooden wigwam as they pursue their ancient profession.

Footpath near Brantwood. (c) John Bainbridge 2014

We wandered on to Lawson Park, now the Grizedale Arts Centre, and then took a delicious old path around the boundaries of Ruskin’s old home at Brantwood, before returning along the lane to our start.

The Lake District has changed a great deal since Ransome’s time, but you don’t have to step more than a few yards off the busy roads to get back to his pre-war world.

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