Today we paddled our touring kayaks on Coniston Water. Our aim was to reach Wild Cat Island (Peel Island) before going onto the end of the lake to Octopus Lagoon (Allan Tarn). Both these spots feature in Swallows and Amazons books and are a must visit destination for Swallows fans for all ages or just anyone who wants a scenic tour of Coniston Water. For this journey we started from the north end of Coniston water. Paddling up the lake past Bank Ground Farm.
There is a new statue of Captain Flint being made to walk the plank at Bank Ground Farm; a reference to the original 1974 film Swallows and Amaons, which used this location for some of the filming.
Moving on swiftly we soon passed Coniston Hall with the bay giving shelter to the boats moored at Coniston Sailing Club. Continuing south the lake opens up with Brantwood, home to John Ruskin, in view on the eastern shore. Beyond the western shore there are striking views of Coniston Old Man and Dow Crag.
I love the way Dow Crag slowly reveals itself as you pass southwards down the lake. The views of these hills will constantly change as you move south.
Wild Cat Island is now in site, although you might need to know it’s there before you can pick it out. The cluster of trees in the middle of the lake increases in size as you approach the island. In the warmer months you will see numerous small canoes, kayaks and small sailing boats dotted around the island shore.
Wild Cat Island’s Secret Harbour is surprisingly just that. Not until you are looking directly into it from the southern end of the island can you see how neat it is; a perfectly sheltered heaven for any wood be pirates to hide in.
Lunch or a picnic on the island is a must, but please don’t camp there and certainly don’t light fires. Aside from the obvious fire risk (there was a small wild fire there last week) burning the dead wood on the ground destroys a habitat or flora and fauna. Wild Cat Island is owned by The National Trust but those who visit have just as much responsibility to look after it and not cause damage.
If you still have enough paddle strokes in your arms you can continue south towards the end of the lake and reach a tranquil spot of Allan Tarn. For those who are tired you can make the short paddle across to Brown Howe Car Park. This is a convenient spot to pick people up and shuttle them back to our base in Coniston.
For those with enough energy your journey can continue to Allan Tarn. This is a small tarn marking the boundary between the end of Coniston Water and the start of the Great Amazon River ( R. Crake). You will often see herons and lily pads on the surface of a flat clam pond. A small house boat in the field by the edge of the water might easily be mistaken for Captain Flint’s House Boat.
Access to the river is not for this trip. Local access agreements mean that this river is only paddled between November and March and even then is a serious undertaking for experienced white water kayakers and canoeists.
Well done! You have paddled around 5 miles and the return trip offers you fantastic views of the hills towards Coniston and even as far as Ambleside. For those who don’t want to make the full 10 mile round trip back to the start there is escape to Brown Howe car park. We often arrange a pick up by car to return to our base in Coniston for a well-earned cup of tea.