After living in Oxfordshire my whole live, Royal Navy service apart, I’m now about to move to Cumbria on the North West coast of England. The change of scene has got me thinking about the fiction that has been, and still is being, created in the area I’m moving to.
One of the most famous authors to have lived in Cumbria was poet William Wordsworth (7 April 1770 – 23 April 1850) . He was born in a village called Cockermouth and then later lived in Grasmere with his wife and children. His most famous collection of poems (The Prelude) wasn’t published until after his death by his wife, Mary. At the time, very little was thought of these poems, but since then they have been considered some of his best work. Visitors to the area can go to both the house he was born in, and the cottage he lived in as an adult.
Children’s author and illustrator, Beatrix Potter (28 July 1866 – 22 December 1943) Beatrix Potter is well known for her Peter Rabbit books. After living in London, Beatrix and her family began holidaying in Cumbria and Beatrix became taken with the countryside and the wildlife she found there. In her adult life, she wrote a range of books that were illustrated with her watercolour paintings of animals, insects and their environment. When she died at age 77, she left almost all her property to the National Trust. She is credited with preserving much of the land that now comprises the Lake District National Park.
Another fictional work based in Cumbria is Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome (18 January 1884 – 3 June 1967). As a small boy, Ransome had holidays around Coniston and attended preparatory school in Windermere, which gave him an early taste for the Lakes. Ransome wrote a series of children’s books that were based in the Lake District. Swallows and Amazons was the first in the series and centres around a group of children on holiday and the adventures they have whilst sailing and exploring the lakes. A film of the book is currently being filmed.
Mystery thriller author Val McDermid set her book The Grave Tattoo in The Lake District. It features the legend of a pirate who was, so the legend says, friends with William Wordsworth. A modern day investigation into the identity of a body found covered in tattoos leads some to think the body is that of the pirate.
There has also been a range of TV programmes set in Cumbria. One of the most famous was the comedy series ‘Porridge’ staring Ronnie Barker as Norman Stanley Fletcher or ‘Fletch’.
It was set in the fictional prison HMS Slade in Cumbria and “Doing porridge” is British slang for serving a prison sentence.
The well known and long running children’s series, Postman Pat, is based in the area of Longsleddale but in the fictional village of Greendale and the nearby town of Pencaster. Written by John Cunliffe, the inspiration for the series came from the post office in the town of Kendal, where Cunliffe lived as a child. Postman Pat Clifton and his cat, Jess, deliver mail to the residents of Greendale and the surrounding area whilst also helping them with their problems.
I’ve been lucky enough to live in the same town as Agatha Christie, who is one of my favourite writers. I’m really pleased to be going to a place where so much fiction has been inspired by the beautiful surroundings. I’m both nervous and excited by such a big move and as soon as I get my internet up and running again I’ll let you know how I’m settling in.
As always, thanks for reading.