WE TAKE the Mallard car ferry to Waterhead then walk along the lakeside path through the woods, following a trail of snack packets as there’s a school party ahead of us, some of whom have brought their own music with them. The way through the woods must be so boring for them without the music and snacks!


For us though, it’s a break for coffee and a scone at the newly reopened National Trust property Wray Castle. The steam launch Columbine is down at the landing stage as we wait for the ferry to Brockholes.

Monkey Puzzle

While a second school party disembarks and heads for the treetop walk (now that does look fun) we decide it’s time for tea and a toasted teacake on the terrace by the house, where I draw this Monkey Puzzle. Monkey Puzzles, Araucaria, evolved at a time when dinosaurs roamed the Earth and you can appreciate that only the tallest sauropod, standing on its hind legs, would be able to browse the scaly foliage on its top branches.

Deep in the Wood

The last time that we were at Brockholes was in 1987 when I launched my children’s book Deep in the Wood. Barbara and I organised the event with the Lake District National Park, informed the local press and booked ourselves into a bed and breakfast at Hawkshead. All the publishers had to do was supply the books and we’d seen them a few days before and their top rep had promised to do that.

‘Have the books arrived yet?’ I asked in eager anticipation when we called in at Brockholes the day before the event.

‘No, no sign of them, have you got copies with you?’

I had yet to even see a copy so we phoned the publishers who told us that, yes, they were going to send them but when they went to the stock room they found that the book had sold out in the first few days of publication, so they couldn’t!

They rounded up a few copies from around the office and sent them on via overnight courier. I think this was when I realised that my future lay in self-publishing!

As it happened, it rained heavily all weekend so we had sufficient books for the few visitors who braved the weather. As a consolation, the Lakeland National Park Authority invited us to take a stall at their annual national show at Chatsworth. Princess Diana opened the show and on her tour of the marquees took a brief look at our stall. But she didn’t buy a copy of the book for William and Harry. She seemed rather shy but we’d been instructed not to talk to her unless she spoke to us first. I was equally nervous; I’d been determined to be drawing when she came to the stall but I just froze as she stopped to take a look. This awkward moment ended when a child, peeking in through a gap in the canvas behind our stall, waved at her. Diana smiled and moved on.

In fact the only person who she talked to in the whole marquee was a watercolourist, who was the only exhibitor who had her back turned to the public, as she was working on a painting. Diana leaned over to take a closer look and confided to her; ‘I’m hopeless at that!’ (unlike Prince Charles who has painted watercolours for years).

Birds at the feeding station included Nuthatch and a juvenile Great Spotted Woodpecker.

Return Trip

Langdale from Brockholes landing stage

The return ferry, taking an anticlockwise route around the northern end of Windermere via Ambleside back to Bowness gave me an opportunity to draw the landscape, and add some watercolour.

Hills to the north east of Ambleside

Western shore of Windermere, Ambleside to Bowness.


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  1. Hi Richard, I’m a big fan of your blog, particularly for your local posts (I grew up in Horbury). This weeks post made me smile because I have a signed copy of Deep in the Wood that my nana bought me when I was little – you drew me a rabbit in it. Or possibly a hare, I’m not sure! Anyway, I’m twenty seven now (time flies!), and I wokr in publishing. Trust me, we’re not all that hopeless!

    1. Well, that’s authors for you; the book sells out in the first few days and we still complain!
      I did my first signing (& drawing the child’s favourite animal, I’d seen my tutor Quentin Blake do that) session with books (they soon reprinted) at the Girls High School in Wakefield and it proved so popular that I had to rush out to Boots in the break and buy up their entire stock too.

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