Coniston walk

A ramble with Ruskin around Coniston

A ramble with Ruskin around Coniston

First published in Walks in the Lake District Lancashire Telegraph: Photograph of the Author by

JOHN Ruskin was born in 1819, the son of a wealthy London sherry and wine merchant.

Ruskin became one of the world’s most renowned art critics but his intellectual abilities spread over both the arts and the sciences.

John Ruskin spent holidays in the Lake District but he was a somewhat strange and solitary man. His marriage to Effie Gray never worked and she ran off with the painter Millaise.

In 1869 Ruskin was appointed as the first professor of fine arts at Oxford University but he was already working far too hard and his health deteriorated.

He always found solace in the Lake District and in 1871 he bought Brantwood without ever seeing it - except he knew that the then modest building overlooked Coniston Water.

Ruskin spent all the rest of his life at Brantwood and extended the house and wrote overlooking the water until his death in 1900.

Brantwood is now owned and managed by an independent charity, the Brantwood Trust. It receives no public subsidy and relies upon visitor income and the generosity of individual donors and volunteers.

The surrounding woodlands are a joy and this week’s walk captures scenes which Ruskin would still recognise and be inspired by their beauty.

There is also a Ruskin Museum in Coniston itself (015394-41164).

How to get there – Brantwood is just over three miles to the south of Coniston. This walk starts nearby at Machell Coppice car park by Back Leven Foot and is reached via the B5285.

1 From the car park go right along the road and enjoy the wonderful views of Coniston Water down to the left. Look out for the steam launch Gondola, which tours the water and has a landing stage opposite Brantwood.

This means that this walk could be done from Coniston by embarking on the Gondola. Approach Ruskin’s home at Brantwood on the right and it is worth spending time and money to explore its splendours.

Just beyond Brantwood pass the drive at Low Bank Ground to the left and then look out for a public bridleway sign on the right.

2 Here pass through a gate into the mixed woodland where naturalists do not know whether to look down at the flowers or upwards to study the birds.

I did this walk in June following a sharp shower of rain and saw a frog basking in a pool warmed by the sun.

Pass through an open area called Pen Intake and then another plantation of trees through which there are impressive views of Crag Herd.

3 Approach Lawson Park following a fairly steep ascent and here enjoy panoramic views of Coniston Water overlooked by Dun Crag, the Old Man and Wetherlam.

4 Pass close to an old farm and begin a gentle descent through trees and in an area of an old shepherd’s cottage.

This area has a fascinating literary connection and is featured in Arthur Ransome’s book Swallows and Amazons written in the 1930s.

Arthur Ransome (1884-1967) was born in Leeds and worked as a reporter for the Manchester Guardian. He spent time in Russia and married the wife of Trotsky after he was assassinated.

I was lucky enough to meet Ransome in the late 1940s and he gave me a copy of Swallows and Amazons and also one of his old fishing rods. I was obviously fascinated by the man and still am and have spent time searching out many locations in the Coniston area which he referred to in his book.

5 Approach the road close to Cock Point. I can’t prove this, but many areas so named relate to the fact that Woodcock occur in this area. This is a wading bird but which is resident in areas of damp woodland.

Its long bill probes for food in the soft damp soil.

Turn right and return along the short distance along the road to the car park.

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