The Coniston springer spaniel that inspired the children’s book Wilson and Fay Sail the Wayfarer.
PUBLISHED: 00:00 19 March 2018
Our Dog’s Life writer Emily Rothery meets a well-known spaniel beside Coniston Water and discovers that he was the inspiration behind a book
Wilson, a sprightly ten-year-old springer spaniel, was the inspiration behind the recently published children’s book Wilson and Fay Sail the Wayfarer.
Coniston author, Fay Lakin, a mother of three, realised her dream of publishing the book after years of deliberating. ‘Initially I was inspired by the wildlife that surrounds our home but friends suggested that I write about Wilson as everyone around here knows what a star he is.’
Fay, along with her mother, runs the family-owned Pier Cottage Caravan Park on the shores of Coniston Water. It’s a magical place where kingfishers dive from the Steam Yacht Gondola that births overnight at the pier and otters have been spotted playing on deck of the smaller Coniston launch. There is history and heritage too, for the slipway that can be seen from Fay’s cottage window is where Donald Campbell launched Bluebird in his pursuit of the world speed record.
Wilson is named after Fay’s grandparents who originally bought Pier Cottage from Furness Railways in the 1950s. It is here that Wilson’s adventure begins as he takes to the water with Fay in their Wayfarer sailing dinghy. ‘The book is based on a true experience where we embarked on a sailing expedition and the weather turned as it notoriously does on Coniston Water and then we capsized!’ says Fay.
‘A bit embarrassing as Wayfarers are hard to capsize but Wilson wasn’t remotely bothered as he would rather be in the water.
‘The book is aimed at young children and has already been used as a teaching tool in one local school where the children were learning about different types of journeys.’
The hardback book is beautifully illustrated in watercolours by artist Catherine Beale. ‘I met Catherine by happy coincidence really. She came to stay in our cottage as I was writing the book so our paths crossed just at the right time and I’m so pleased with the finished result. I’ve also included a simple glossary of nautical terms and a map of the lake. Wilson has added his paw print but he wasn’t very impressed about that!’
As Wilson affectionately leans his sturdy warm body against my legs, Fay adds: ‘He’s such a gentleman; always calm and loved by everyone who meets him. When my youngest, Bobby, was little he would pull himself up on Wilson or ride on him, hanging onto his ears. He’s a much- loved family pet and will spend hours with my three children jumping off the jetty.’
A favourite spot of Wilson’s is just outside the cottage door where children from the caravan site often steal him from the steps knowing that their floppy eared friend will happily chase a stick or play ball. Both locals and visitors to the Lake District are enjoying the delights of Fay’s debut book and one of the site regulars has just ordered a copy for her 30-year-old son’s birthday as it holds evocative memories of childhood sailing holidays.
When away from his waterside home, there’s nothing Wilson likes more than exploring and bounding alongside Fay on the high fells. ‘He never runs out of energy! We also do a lot of forest walking so that Wilson’s pal, our other dog, Merlin, can come with us. Merlin went blind about two years ago but he’s full of spirit and mischief and loves to be walking or coming out on the lake in our rowing boat. He manages well because of his exceptional sense of smell and hearing but we can’t take him sailing anymore as he gets disorientated in water.’
Merlin, a five-year-old Lancashire Heeler/Jack Russell cross scampers along the lake shore with Wilson and it’s clear that the canine pair are great friends although Fay tells me that Wilson is the boss and, in his gentlemanly way, keeps Merlin in his place. ‘I’m hoping to write more books about Wilson’s adventures and I’m sure that Merlin will feature in future tales. We all love the outdoor life and I find that ideas pop into my head for writing and thoughts crystallise when I’m out walking with them.
‘Many people tell me that it is something that they would like to do. I made the decision to self-publish and used local businesses who have given me invaluable information and guidance. It felt the right thing to do. I also got involved in a monthly marketing club, Success at Marketing in Windermere, where I met all sorts of people on different ventures, setting up new businesses.
‘I’m hoping to write a blog on my experiences which might help others. Writing my first book has been a joy and I tell people if they have the itch then scratch it and give it a go!’ w
Fay hopes to make a donation from her profits to the Humans Given Institute, a charity that is close to her heart. The book is available from Fay’s own website www.wilsonandfay.com. Other outlets include: Just for Ewe, Coniston; Poppy Red, Hawkshead; the Steam Yacht Gondola and The Coniston Launch.