The star-crossed landscape of England

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Give that scenery an Oscar. The Lake District was the extra star in Miss Potter, the movie based on the life of the great children’s author. And now the BBC is to adapt Arthur Ransome's much loved children's tale Swallows and Amazons set in the Lakes. Gareth Huw Davies selects the best in this luscious landscape. Photo - Coniston Water from Coniston Boating Centre, by Paul Reynolds,

Swallows ahoy

The Lakes will have a starring role in a new BBC adaptation of Arthur Ransome's much loved 1930s children's books, Swallows and Amazons. The saga features two sailing-mad groups of children who meet up during the school holidays. They camp on an island and go fishing, exploring, swimming and try a little piracy. Expect some sumptuous location photography in this unchanged landscape. Head of BBC Films Christine Langan said Ransome's book presented a world far from today's health and safety obsessed society.
She said there is a sense of freedom in the book and a sense of innocence that people perhaps miss. The Swallows (the four Walker children) and the Amazons (two Blackett children) would be shown as they were in the book, so they will not wear lifejackets.

Don’t miss Potter.

Beatrix mania has always been strong in the Lakes, but it was boosted by the release of the movie Miss Potter in 2005. You will meet crowds at the main sites associated with the famous children''s writer, particularly Hilltop, her home in the village of Near Sawrey. As ever, go early, or late, to beat the coach parties.

A helpful website (see below) lists the locations where they filmed in the Lakes. So if it’s busy at Hilltop, why not drift over to another location, the easy to walk around Loweswater in the Western Lakes. Or Whitehaven, where they filmed William Heelis’s office in the old Rum Shop. If you have time, visit the Settle to Carlisle line where they filmed the railway scenes. Two of the production team from the movie run Lake District Film Tours, and will take you to the major locations, show you original scripts and lay on lunch in a pub at Loweswater.

Take the Iron Road

I will always remember the moment, in the twilight long ago. It was my very first view of that startling Lakeland landscape, the great brooding heights reflected in the still of Derwent Water. We did some wonderful walking, from easy strolls around the 15 Lakes, to serious hikes into the 24, over-2700 feet, mountains. (Routes on the website below.) In 2007 they opened the first ‘iron road’ or Via ferrata, - in the Lakes. These high-level footpaths, widespread in the European mountains (dating from the First World War, they were made to help troops move around the peaks) use a combination of ladders, chains, cables and bridges to guide walkers safely to the top. The new iron road follows a Victorian miner’s route along the craggy cliff-face of Fleetwith Pike to the 2,126ft summit. It is open to visitors of all ages and abilities. Take your time. The view from the top is awesome.

Get the goat.

When the summer traffic builds you want an alternative to driving in the Lakes and finding somewhere to park. Time to hail the Mountain Goat. This local bus company (using 16 seat minibuses with big picture windows), offers services all over (including the Beatrix Potter tour, joining up all the main sites). Their all day trip takes in the Hardknott and Wyrnose Mountain Passes (the steepest and among the most exhilarating in England), the Ravenglass Steam Railway in the Eskdale Valley, Hardknott Roman Fort, the 14th Century Muncaster Castle and Wastwater (England’s deepest and moodiest lake). A half day tour connects many parts of the northern lakes, including Wordsworth’s Dove Cottage, the 4,000 year old Castlerigg Stone Circle, Derwentwater, Buttermere, Crummock Water and the Moss Force Waterfall.

Beatrix’s B&B

Now you have the chance to live, and sleep, Beatrix Potter’s conservation dream. Using the income from her books, she pioneered bed and breakfast in the Lakes, as an alternative income for hard-pressed farm tenants in the 1930s. They were struggling to maintain their Herdwick sheep flocks, so vital to keep the fells in trim. In 2007 the National Trust celebrated Beatrix’s legacy, offering B&B in one of the places she saved, Yew Tree Farm. (They used it in ‘Miss Potter’ as the location for Hill Top). The trust has furnished and decorated it with 1930 detail, including oak panelled walls and floors. There are four-poster beds with goose down duvets. Breakfast is served in the dining room Potter designed herself. Naturally, there is no television. Soaps and toiletries are local and handmade. And, outside, the hardy Herdwicks she sought to save munch on.

Lake Steamers.

Meet the lady of the Lakes. Ullswater is now home waters to the refurbished 1950s Totnes Castle, moved from its old beat on the River Dart, and renamed the Lady Wakefield. It’s a fine thing to take to the water in the Lakes, and an increasingly sensible way to travel as the jams built up on the roads around. For the authentic sound of the good old lake steamer, as that spectacular landscape unfurls around you, try Windermere Lake Cruises.
But for the ultimate in tranquillity on water, nothing beats the solar-powered boats on Coniston Water. They call at a new jetty, giving walkers a fresh point of departure into the lakeside countryside. For the most elegant voyage in the Lakes, catch Coniston Water’s National Trust owned Victorian steamship Gondola.

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