Coniston Water


Purple Loosestrife, Water Head Pier

A RAINY DAY so instead of walking we try a Cross-Lakes route, taking the small passenger ferry from Bowness to Ferry House, the Mountain Goat bus to Hawkshead and the Stagecoach bus to the Waterhead Hotel at the top end of Coniston Water. At Water Head Pier we waited for the ferry Campbell which makes a round trip of the northern end of the lake, stopping at Hoathwaite Landing, Brantwood and Coniston village.

This damselfly nymph was climbing along the handrail at the landing stage at Waterhead. It still had its featherlike tail gills. On this damp, drizzly day life out of the lake must have seemed almost as wet as in it.

This pondweed (below) with filmy dull green leaves about 2.5 inches long and a yellow green stem was growing from one of the timber piles of the landing stage.

Steam Launch Gondola

Passengers are asked to raise their hand if they want the ferry to stop, so when we saw one sailing by we tried to flag it down. It continued full steam ahead. It turned out that this was another ferry, the National Trust’s steam launch Gondola; a replica in modern materials of the Victorian original which sailed on the lake from 1860 to 1960 when it sank in a gale.


I had a brief chance to draw Brantwood, the home of John Ruskin (1819-1900), as we returned to Coniston village.

3 pm; Hawkhead from the Poppi Red cafe.

Guide dog on the ferry.

Link; Steam Launch Gondola


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.



WE JOINED my sister and her family (including her latest grandchild, Ivy, left) at their holiday cottage, a barn conversion, at Applethwaite near Keswick. The barn is built into the hillside so Amelia, one of two sows that live in the adjoining field, can poke her snout into the sitting room window, at ground level on her side, windowsill level on ours.

Seeing her from this angle, I immediately guessed that she was a Pot-bellied pig, which she isn’t, then seeing her lying down in the field Gloucester Old Spot came to mind but looking at a book on pig breeds which the owners of the cottage have helpfully left for the use of guests I realised that wasn’t likely to be her breed either. And she could be a cross-breed.

It might have helped if I could have drawn Amelia’s porcine companion, Wilma. Don’t tell Amelia that I said this but Wilma is actually better looking, however she’s also less sociable. She won’t come over for a chat and instead she sat herself down out of view behind a water-tank in the field.

Travel Booklet

Bowness on Windermere, Cumbria, 5.35 pm 1/7/12 OS REF. SD 402967

VIEW FROM our 2nd floor room at the Belsfield, looking south to Storrs (108 metres above sea level), the little knoll below the Jackdaw to the left of centre of my sketch, two miles (3km) away, on the eastern shore of Lake Windermere. I’ve heard it said that Storrs means ‘the stony place’ but the Old Norse storõ refers to a young plantation or wood, a common element in Pennine hill-country. It makes sense here because this Storrs is flanked by Birk Head wood on it’s eastern (here left) shoulder, Black Beck wood on its western (lake) side slope.

A Jackdaw flying over the flat roofs of the apartments doubles back and drops down to join two more Jackdaws on the top branches of a sliced-off conifer. One of them turns to it in begging pose, lowering its head and wing-flapping. This begging bird appears from this distance to be an adult so perhaps this is a female demanding food from her mate.

Gargrave & Grasmere

We stopped at Gargrave (left) for lunch where I drew the view towards the river from the Dalesman Cafe. I was just starting to add colour when I noticed the ink ran immediately as I started adding the grey wash for the sky. I realised, luckily before I washed any of the pen and ink away, that I’d drawn with the ArtPen I keep loaded with ArtPen ink (water soluble) cartridges, not the one I keep filled with waterproof Noodler’s ink.


We stopped at Grasmere in the afternoon where I bought a couple of Hahnemüehle Travel Booklets from the Heaton Cooper Studio. These are to fit in my latest, and smallest ever, art bag; a small format camera case-sized Lifeventure Passport wallet. Even so, one of these 9x14cm stitched booklets only just zips into the case.

You can see in this wobbly first sketch, of the chimney of the Lamb Inn, drawn from the shelter of the Miller Howe tearoom, Grasmere village, that the ‘High Quality Sketch Paper, 140 gsm’, isn’t as white as the cartridge in the Pink Pig sketchbooks that I normally use. A suitably mellow background for my holiday sketches.

 These booklets are an indispensable companion for retaining notes, thoughts, stories, impressions, sketches and anything unusual that comes your way.

Says the label. It makes you want to pop one in your pocket and set off on your travels.

This is the view from our table in the dining room at the Belsfield, overlooking the landing stage at Bowness. You can see why we keep coming back!

Links; Hahnemuehle sketchbooks, Belsfield Hotel, Heaton Cooper Studio.