6 ISSUES FOR £6 Subscribe to Lancashire Life today click here

School children find Swallows and Amazons style adventures on Coniston water

PUBLISHED: 11:16 03 May 2012 | UPDATED: 19:09 13 April 2016

Instructor Alex Stothert on a voyager canoeing experience with children from Barrow St George’s Primary School

Instructor Alex Stothert on a voyager canoeing experience with children from Barrow St George’s Primary School

Youngsters from across Lancashire are being given the chance to live the Swallows and Amazons lifestyle at Coniston. Paul Mackenzie reports Photography by John Cocks

Steamboat on Coniston Water Steamboat on Coniston Water

To many people the childhood enjoyed by John, Susan, Titty and Roger seemed idyllic. They spent their days sailing on the lake, having adventures on the island, playing with friends and revelling in the great outdoors.

But for many children now the pirate games Arthur Ransome imagined for the young characters in his Swallows and Amazons series are as far removed from everyday life as the Amazon itself.

The stories were set on and around Coniston Water and now a generation of children who have known only the bricks and mortar of urban life are being given the chance to experience the thrills the Walker children had.

A charitable trust created by Preston-based building firm the Eric Wright Group, funds residential visits to Coniston by youngsters from across the North West, including those from disadvantaged backgrounds. The trust was launched in 1986 and opened the Water Park on Coniston’s south eastern shore in 1999.

Water Park Lakeland Adventure Centre Water Park Lakeland Adventure Centre

Roger Ward has been at the centre, which occupies a 65 acre site and has a mile of shoreline, since it opened, and is now the centre manager. He said: ‘We teach outdoor activities to young people who might otherwise not have the opportunity to try these things.

‘They can come here, either for a week or a weekend, and we have a range of things they can have a go at – sailing, canoeing, kayaking, wind surfing, ghyll scrambling, climbing and other outdoor pursuits.’

The centre can cater for 37 people and each group who books has exclusive use of the building and facilities. A week’s stay costs £8,500 but where groups struggle to meet the fee, the charitable trust can step in to make up the shortfall. Last year their contributions were around £180,000 and that figure is expected to rise in 2012 to around £200,000.

‘Eric has always been involved in the outdoors and was an accomplished wind surfer, skier and sailor and I think he saw the benefits of the outdoors and wanted as many young people as possible to be able to enjoy those benefits,’ Roger added.

The youngsters from Barrow negotiate the low ropes course at Water Park Lakeland Adventure Centre The youngsters from Barrow negotiate the low ropes course at Water Park Lakeland Adventure Centre

‘Local authority funded outdoor centres are finding it tough at the moment – they are seen as soft targets for cuts but once a centre is closed it will never re-open and that opportunity is denied to future generations of children.’

The centre is based in a former family home where Prince Albert is reputed to have once stayed, although it’s not known if he went wind surfing or ghyll scrambling. It is open 49 weeks a year and has closed for just one weekend in 13 years – because snow blocked the narrow winding lanes. ‘We’re out there in all weathers,’ said Roger, a former Liverpool John Moores University student who worked at outdoor centres around the country before taking the job at Coniston and moving to Grange.

‘This is me now, though, I’ll stay here until I retire. I couldn’t wish for a better place to work.’

And thousands of holiday makers agree – although they are there to rest and play. Coniston is a perennial favourite with tourists and the village’s narrow streets can be clogged at peak times with coaches, while the pavements throng with day trippers browsing the shops and walkers preparing for, or recovering from, treks up the Old Man.

Coniston village Coniston village

The mountain – the highest point in Lancashire at 2,633 feet – looms over the village and it once dominated industry here, too. The hillside is riddled with tunnels and shafts left behind by the copper mining and slate works which were big business for generations of villagers.

Their story is told at the village museum, alongside those of some of the famous names associated with Coniston including John Ruskin, who lived just across the water and is buried on the village churchyard, and Donald Campbell, who died on Coniston Water in 1967 while trying to break his own world water speed record.

His boat, Bluebird K7, was recovered from the depths in 2001 and the long-running campaign to return it to Coniston continues. Vicky Slowe, the museum’s curator, said it could now be next year before the re-built boat is on show.

Restoration work is well underway at the Tyneside workshop of Bill Smith, the man who rescued Bluebird from the depths and Vicky said: ‘There’s no point doing the job quickly just to get it finished but not doing the best possible job.

St. Andrews Church St. Andrews Church

‘The dream is to get Bluebird back out on the water for some test runs before she goes on display and obviously she has to be in the best condition for that to happen so it’s a painstaking job which will simply take as long as it takes.’

When work is finished, almost all the materials used in her construction will be original and until she takes her place in the Bluebird wing of the museum a life size footprint of the boat gives visitors a sense of its scale.

0 comments

More from Out & About

Wed, 00:00

Hearty breakfasts and delicious dinners are just two reasons for walking in this stunning area, as John Lenehan discovers

Read more
Bowland Walks
Wed, 00:00

There are few finer thing than exploring the countryside surrounding the many rivers situated across the county.

Read more
Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Victoria Smith always loved horses but her high pressure job meant she had little time to ride – until she met a deer in the Forest of Bowland

Read more
Equestrian
Monday, May 14, 2018

Developments underway and planned around the city are celebrating its proud heritage and building for the future

Read more
Preston
Wednesday, May 9, 2018

For almost 25 years, outdoor writers and photographers Dennis and Jan Kelsall have produced guides and articles covering many of the country’s popular walking destinations. Here, Dennis picks five of his favourites.

Read more
Lancaster
Friday, May 4, 2018

Ramsbottom is well known for its food and drink scene, but Rebekka O’Grady meets some arty residents that will inspire your creative side.

Read more
Ramsbottom
Thursday, May 3, 2018

A devastating riding accident may have saved Katherine Beaumont from a life of anxiety and stress. Now she is sharing her experience.

Read more
Equestrian

A unique community musical in Wigan is taking one of George Orwell’s most famous works from the page to the stage and making a song and dance about social inequality.

Read more
Wigan

When photographer Emma Campbell fell in love with Lakeland’s fell ponies she decided to raise their profile with a special project.

Read more
Equestrian photography
Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Our walking guide John Lenehan takes us on a towpath where you can see one of Lancashire’s great engineering feats.

Read more
Canals Chorley
Monday, April 9, 2018

A selection of walks in and around Bowland for outdoor types who like to end their hike on a high note – with some great food and drink.

Read more
Monday, April 9, 2018

From specialist soap to awarding winning ale, Staveley is proving to be a magnet for small businesses and visitors

Read more
Wednesday, April 4, 2018

The joy of spotting owls is described by The Lancashire Wildlife Trust’s Alan Wright who tells us where to find them and how to identify these elusive creatures.

Read more
Monday, April 2, 2018

It stretches the length of the Liverpool suburb, and over the years has hosted many shops and businesses. Rebekka O’Grady chats to those who currently call it home

Read more
Liverpool
 
Great British Holidays advert link

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter


Subscribe or buy a mag today

Local Business Directory

Lancashire's trusted business finder

Job search in your local area



Property Search