The Fell Farm Books

Marjorie Lloyd

Fell Farm Holiday, Fell Farm for Christmas, and Fell Farm Campers are set in the early 1950s in the Lake District of England, where five of Arthur Ransome's Swallows and Amazons books are set. These books are about the Browne family, two sets of twins and a younger sister, and the first two books are narrated by the children themselves.

They are very much of their period and the degree of independence enjoyed by the Browne children seems even more surprising than the independence enjoyed by the Walkers and Blacketts. The places in the books are all real, and the reader can follow their adventures on the maps in the books or (even better) on the Ordnance Survey maps. The Browne children are adventurous and amazingly hardy hikers, and think nothing of adventures I would have been doubtful of as an adult. If you can find the books I recommend them very much, as Arthur Ransome devotees will enjoy them as a quite different perspective on the same places they know so well from Ransome's books.

I was lucky enough to inherit a set of the books in Puffin Editions (very old paperbacks) and decided to donate them to the TARS Library. Here is the review I wrote for the Library.

(NB: the information about Marjorie Lloyd comes from a Ransome enthusiast who met her in the 1970s, and says she has no reason to believe it's not fairly accurate.)

Fell Farm Holiday
Fell Farm for Christmas
Fell Farm Campers

by Marjorie Lloyd

The Author: Marjorie Lloyd was born in 1909 in Haydock, Lancashire. She was educated at Cowley Girls' School, St. Helen's, from 1920-27, and at Birmingham University, where she read Mathematics, and took a teaching diploma, from 1928-32. She also studied at the City of Liverpool College of Art. A teacher for a number of years, she was variously employed at Haydock, Macclefield, Wigton (in Cumbria), and at the Princess Mary High School in Halifax. She retired in 1948 in order to devote herself to writing, going to live with a younger sister.

Fell Farm: The "Fell Farm" of the books is actually High Arnside Farm, between Skelwith Bridge and Hawkshead,

The Books: The books cover three holidays by the Browne children at Fell Farm right around 1950; the long holiday, the Christmas holiday, and the next Easter. Unlike the Ransome books, the focus of these books is almost entirely fell walking and camping. The Brownes are two pairs of twins (each a boy and a girl), 15 and 13, and an eight-year old sister. They are all campers and fell walkers; they think nothing of tackling Wrynose Pass and Eskdale as part of a longer day jaunt.

The books seem evocative of the Lake District at the time insofar as I can tell at this remove, and the relative safety and simplicity is nearer the 1930s than present day (the children think nothing of hitching rides, or being out overnight by mistake, and the adults seem complaisant). The first two books are narrated in the first person by one of the children (in the first book the speaker changes nearly every chapter; in the second book the narrator is the 13-year-old girl Hyacinth, who is the best at it anyhow). The shift in perspective works better than the shift in writing style at least for this reviewer; it all reads pretty much the same. The third book, written years later, is in the third person, and I found it less compelling than the first two.

Notes: These are the Puffin editions, and were printed in 1951 (this is the 1959 reprint), 1954 (first edition) and 1960 (first edition) respectively. The illustrations in the first two books are by the author and are wonderful line drawings which capture the individuals remarkably (the covers are by someone else). The third book, is illustrated by someone else throughout, and the illustrations, while competent, don't have the simplicity and charm of Ms. Lloyd's line drawings.

These books came from Ellen Tillinghast's collection and I know she would be delighted at their winding up in the Library. I enjoyed reading them and know they were among Ellen's favourites, and I liked the Brownes.

Reviewed by Dave Thewlis, March 2008 and September 2009. Updated February 2015.

This article is ©2009 by Dave Thewlis, and posted on All Things Ransome with permission.

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