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Friday, July 13, 2018

Coniston Water and John Ruskin


Sunday, May 13 - 6:50 a.m. I woke up on Mother's Day to the sound of birds and sheep out my window at the Tower Bank Arms. . . .
                       

Ken gave me this lovely card he'd gotten in the gift shop without my knowing, and wrote "Happy Mother's Day" on it. . . .

A little later this cat came strolling down the lane. . . .

 On the other side of the stone wall the sheep were enjoying their breakfast. . . .

And beyond, Castle Cottage was bathed in morning sunshine. . . .

The milk lorrie was delivering the morning dairy. . . .

Our plan for the day was to take the bus to Hawkshead where we'd catch the bus to Coniston Lake where we'd take a boat across the lake to John Ruskin's house, Brantwood.  Since we would be leaving Near Sawrey the next morning, this would be my last chance to take one more walk through Beatrix Potter's garden when it opened at 10:00.  I had 25 minutes to wander about before the bus arrived in front of Tower Bank Arms at 10:27.  You can see the rest of the photos I took that morning at the end of my previous post on Hill Top. . . .

After changing buses in Hawkshead for Coniston we were dropped off at a footpath before we reached Coniston.  The bus driver said it was a shorter walk to Coniston Launch where we had reservation for the boat that would take us across Coniston Water to John Ruskin's home, Brantwood. . . .

I first learned about John Ruskin (1819-1900) through my interest in Lilias Trotter (1853-1928) whom I was introduced to through blogger Podso.  John Ruskin, a man ahead of his time, was "the leading English art critic of the Victorian era, as well as an art patron, draughtsman, watercolourist, a prominent social thinker and philanthropist."  He took Lilias under his wing in 1876 after her mother asked permission to send him Lilias's watercolors for his opinion.  He later said, "On my somewhat sulky permission a few were sent, in which I saw there was extremely right minded and careful work."  He invited her to study with him and "quickly became convinced that she had a rare talent, which, if cultivated, would make her one of England's 'greatest living artists.'"  You can read about her connection to John Ruskin HERE and why you may never have heard of Lilias Trotter.  It was Lilias's visit to Brantwood in 1879 which led me to investigate John Ruskin and his estate.  When I planned our trip and saw how close we would be I knew I would have to include it.  Ruskin also has a connection to Beatrix Potter through Canon Rawnsley and the National Trust because of their conservation work.  Rawnsley wrote a book about Ruskin which you can read here:  John Ruskin and the English Lakes

The walk to the launch area was not very far.  There was a small restaurant/gift shop as well as boat rentals. . . .

We only had time to do the shortest route across the lake to Brantwood--the red one--It was a 35-minute ride there and 10 minutes back, completing the circuit at the end of our visit. . . .
Click to enlarge

Our boat headed away from the shore.  The mountain in the background is "Old Man Coniston". . . .

Then up the west side of the lake. . . .

Turning, it headed down the east side of the lake. . . .

Only sail, row, and electric boats are allowed on the lake so it was blissfully quiet. . . .

In doing research for this post I discovered I'd taken a photo of Ground Bank Farm--a B&B with several self-catering cottages.  In 1930 Arthur Ransome (1884-1967) published the first book in his Swallows and Amazons series inspired by his childhood visits to the Lake District.  He attended school in Windermere and later lived there for a while.  Beatrix Potter mentioned the series in a letter to Anne Carroll Moore in 1940 writing, "I am sorry I never met the author; he used to live near Windermere, but he has left the district."  Ground Bank Farm became the fictional Holly Howe in the book and was used in the 1974 version of the film by the same name.  Some scenes for the 2016 version were filmed on Peel Island and is included in a special tour by Coniston Launch. . . .


There is a sculpture down by the water commemorating the story. . . .

I was not familiar with the story or the films before my research.  I've located a copy of the 2016 video in my State's library system and am eagerly awaiting its arrival.  And after seeing the Ground Bank Farm rooms and the Swallows and Amazons Tea Room we are already planning our next visit to the Lake District.  The B&B will be the perfect location to not only walk around the lake but also to walk the paths of another Beatrix Potter acquisition just north of the lake--the Monk Coniston estate which includes Tarn Hows.  Yew Tree Farm is along that walk as well--the stand-in for Hill Top in the Miss Potter film.

But I digress!  This is a post about Coniston Water and John Ruskin!  We passed Brantwood on our way down the lake. . . .


We crossed back to the west shore at Torver Jetty then turned and headed back for Brantwood. . . .

As you can see the grounds of Brantwood are immense!  I did not leave nearly enough time to see it all--another good reason to return. . . . 
Click on to enlarge


After docking we made our way up through the lower gardens (17-19). . . .




...and up to the Terrace Coffee House & Restaurant (13).  This was our view from the terrace. . . .

Hawkshead Lager; Charbroiled Chicken;  Soup with artisan bread 
In the distance we could see the Steam Yacht Gondola.  It had gone out of service in 1936 and restored in 1979.  Arthur Ransome used it as an inspiration for Captain Flint's houseboat in his book. . . .


After lunch we went up to the house where we watched a short introductory video on Ruskin's life. . . .

Seven rooms were open to the public.  I've only included a few. . . .


The view from each room looked out onto Coniston Water. . . .

Ruskin designed the wallpaper for this room . . . .





This display was in an adjoining room. . . .






This is the view from the upstairs bedroom. . . .

His carriage. . . .

We went up these steps to begin our walk through the gardens. . . .

The view from Linton Buildin (15). . . .


The Linton Building (15) housed Ruskin's rock lithophone. . . .


You can hear these stones be played HERE. . . .

What I loved about Ruskin's garden was it was built on the hillside behind his house.  Paths took you along the hillside and then up to the next level.  Each level had its own features and view of the lake. . . . I was able to purchase "The Gardens at Brantwood" in the gift shop which has further enriched my visit to this amazing garden.  If you go HERE you can "look inside" the book....scroll to the Overview and read what happened to the gardens after Ruskin's death.  I began at the 'Professor's Garden' (4). . . .


I felt like a child discovering a hidden passageway or secret garden. . . .

Ruskin kept bees in the 'penthouse'. . . .


A beck (stream), cascading down the hillside. . . .



                       

We would pass over the beck several more times as we made our way through the ferns, wildflowers, and moss-covered stones and trees. . . .

Just beyond the bridge was 'Ruskin's Seat' (5).  From the book:  "The story goes that while strolling in the garden of his friend and correspondent Susanna Beever, across the lake at The Thwaite, in 1874, Ruskin had happened upon and admired her 'two deeply interesting thrones of the ancient Abbotts of Furness'.  The story continues that she subsequently sent her gardener to Brantwood to build a suitable throne for Ruskin near the beck, from where he could enjoy the sounds of the running water, admire the beauty of the ferns, primulas and other plants at the water's edge and study the geology of the cataract to his heart's content.". . . .

This was the view from the 'Painter's Glade' (6). . . .

A sculpture from a dead tree. . . .

A little further on was the 'High Walk' (8).  This garden, along with the lower gardens, was added by Joan Severn, a second cousin of Ruskin's who had first cared for his aging mother, then took care of Ruskin in his failing years.  She and her husband and children often visited Brantwood and once Ruskin's physical and mental health failed she and her family moved to Brantwood to care for him and look after the estate.  It was no surprise that Ruskin left his estate to her.  She continued to improve upon the gardens until her death in 1924 . . .



I made my way back down to the road and across in front of the house. . . .

....to the path that led back up the hillside on the north side of the house.   This is the view looking back. . . .

This gives the perspective of how high we climbed and were still climbing. . . .

We stopped to rest and take in the view on this bench next to the Bluebell. . . .

Then made our way back to the house on the lower path. . . .


We had a boat to catch.  We walked back through the lower gardens. . . .



We sat along the water's edge to wait for the boat. . . .

The view across the lake. . . .

It was a 10-minute ride back to the dock across the lake. . . .
Once back we had a 10-minute walk to the bus stop to take us back to Hawkshead.  We had time for a cup of a tea across from the stop.  It was too late in the day to get the bus back to Near Sawrey so we walked the 2 miles again.

Our day was not over, though.  In the next post I'll continue with the day's story and tell you how much we walked by nightfall.

Other Links of Interest:

A Brief History of John Ruskin and Brantwood Coniston video
In Our Time - John Ruskin (a 2005 podcast discussing the importance of John Ruskin today)
Many Beautiful Things trailer (Lilias Trotter documentary)
Lake District Gems

Next up:  Beatrix Potter Nature Trail

14 comments:

  1. Cathy, your post has made me want to include Brantwood in our next visit! I really like the terraced garden and especially the lovely views from the top. You had beautiful weather to enjoy Coniston Water. Our day there was drizzly, but still lovely. Your photos are great. ♥

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    1. I'm so glad, Martha Ellen, that you will return to England and visit Brantwood. Hopefully, you'll get a clear blue sky like we did. When we go next time we plan to spend at least 4 days there as our "base" and hopefully can count on at least 1 or 2 days of sunshine. I feel we were really lucky on our trip weather-wise (all the bad weather was back home!) and realize I can't count on it next time.

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  2. Another wonderful entry. I had very little knowledge of Ruskin, but this description put him in context for me and I spent about an hour googling him, and his "wife" Effie Gray. Interesting life.
    I am so excited you are going to visit the "Swallows and Amazons" area! I looked at the picture of the boat, and think Ransome must have shortened it a bit; my memory of the pictures in the books is of a smaller boat; although the shape rings a bell. They did have fine adventures there, once they met the Amazons and declared war! I must go back and re-read those books:)

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    1. I'm very pleased that I've been able to introduce Ruskin to you, Erin. There is lots on YouTube about him. There is a TV series there (Desperate Romantics) on the Pre-Raphaelites with the actor from Poldark (Aidana Turner) that I watched a few years ago that features John Ruskin's involvement with them. I'm looking forward to seeing the Swallows and Amazons movie for the scenery, but will also read the book. It sounds like it would be a great read on a summer's day with Coniston Water in my mind's eye.

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  3. Looks like you had a lovely sunny day for seeing Brantwood. A beautiful spot - I'd never heard of it or John Ruskin before. Very interesting. I loved the "rock xylophone" or whatever. Very New Age-sounding. And the countryside! I just can't think of superlatives for it that I haven't already used. Suffice to say, it's just gorgeous. And doing it the way you did it - on your own - is so much better than a tourist group, I think. Taking things at your own pace, staying in a spot longer if you really like it, etc - that's the way to travel & really see a particular area. I did a "canned" tour of Germany, Austria & Switzerland in high school and loved it. But I would have loved to have gone along at my own stride, staying longer in some places, maybe skipping others etc. But either way - travel is really broadening, isn't it? Makes you think. Makes you appreciate being home too. Looking forward to the next installment! Have a great weekend.

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    1. I agree, Janet. No tour group for me! I'm very much an adventuress on my own (with Ken along to share the experience with). I think that's all one needs--a companion and a map!

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  4. Goodness, she gasps! How incredibly beautiful. Through you, and Martha Ellen, I am learning so much about parts of my own homeland I have yet to visit. I know sometimes I have to zip over links in blogs, but this morning is a relaxing time and oh! my heart! the music made by the xylophonist playing the Ruskin Rocks is almost otherworldly! In my mind's eye I see a natural amphitheatre full of fairies and sprites enjoying the utter delight of it, on a balmy midsummer's evening.

    As to that sweet card, I think Ken's a keeper, don't you?

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    1. Your comment, Deborah, about the Ruskin Rocks is perfect--otherworldly! In the end he had psychological problems--I think people with his immense abilities and foresights often can't handle reality. They are "otherworldly" and try to fit in the best they can while remaining true to who they are, but don't always succeed. I wouldn't be surprised that a bit of him lingers up on that hillside amongst the birds and the beck.

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  5. Well done Cathy! I never knew rocks could "sing". Thank you for this informative, interesting tour!

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    1. Thank you, Sandy. My pleasure❣️

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  6. So, so interesting. I'm thrilled you got to Ruskin's house and I loved seeing in the rooms and picturing Lilias painting there. And the Ruskin Rocks! He was an amazing man. I think I told you we saw a plaque to him in a small village where he had done something with the water works. He was an engineer too I suppose. Thanks for a great post!

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    1. I was hoping you'd see this post, Dotsie! Thank you for introducing me to Lilias.

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  7. I have just been catching up with your posts about your wonderful holiday in England. I know how much this area means to you, it must have been amazing to witness first hand, I'm glad we still have the Lake District on our wish list as you details will help us with future planning! Your detailed research is outstanding. Sarah x

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    1. It was amazing. I thanked Susan Branch for having her picnic otherwise I might never have made the effort to plan such a trip. I could not have imagined beforehand how it would all look in person. I'm so glad you will visit the Lake District. You live in such a beautiful part of England, but the Lake District is different enough that I'm sure you'll fall in love with it, too.

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