Swallows and Amazons, the first book of the eponymous series of children's classics, as well as many of the later books in the series, is set in and around a lake in the Lake District of England. I don't remember whether the lake is named in the book, but it's certainly fictional, albeit based on real-life locations that Ransome knew. From Wikipedia:

the lake is a fictionalised version of Windermere but the surrounding countryside more closely resembles that around Coniston. Wild Cat Island, the location of the island camp, has elements from Peel Island in Coniston and Blake Holme (or Blakeholme) in Windermere.

However, the references are to other books, extratextual material, which doesn't seem to be available online. I'm curious about how clear these connections are from the text itself, including the maps at the front of the book. Is it obvious to anyone who knows the Lake District which lakes and islands the fictional setting is modelled on?

  • If you compare the maps in the book to google maps, you will see that the book maps bear almost no resemblance to the 'real' world. This isn't true for some of the other books.
    – Pat Dobson
    Commented Jul 12, 2017 at 7:08

1 Answer 1


It was pretty clear when I hiked on Wetherlam and along Hole Rake that that was the setting of Pigeon Post: Wetherlam = High Topps. This is borne out by the books by Hugh Brogan and Christina Hardyment cited on the Wikipedia page.

On p.344 of Hugh Brogan's The Life of Arthur Ransome is this quote from Ransome:

He [Oscar Gnospellius] had spent much of his life as a prospector, in Peru and Africa, and he gallantly threw himself into the business of my prospecting children, lecturing me on gosson, veins, reefs, pyrites and what not, demonstrating, with the tools he had himself used, the methods of panning and washing, and taking me up Weatherlam [sic] to make sure of the details of Slater Bob's activities and the ancient tunnels on the hill.

I cannot locate my copy of Hardyment's Arthur Ransome and Captain Flint's Trunk, but the local college library has a copy of her The World of Arthur Ransome, which documents (with diary quotes and illustrations, p.97) his visiting Tilberthwaite Valley gathering info for Pigeon Post. This is the gully that Tilberthwaite Gill runs down the eastern edge of Wetherlam. See this web site for an overview of the relationship between these places. The whole area is riddled with old mine workings, and more:

In the north end of the second old quarry is a cave (walled up) once used as a whisky still by the notorious Lanty Slee.

(Map "Wetherlam 4" in A. Wainwright's The Southern Fells (1960, Kendal).)


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