River Crake

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The River Crake at Spark Bridge

The River Crake is a short river in Lancashire, amongst the Furness Fells in the north of the county and within the Lake District.

The river drains Coniston Water from its southernmost point and flows for about six miles in a southerly direction before joining the upper estuary of the River Leven at Greenodd.

The name 'Crake' probably derives from the old British or Cumbric language and means 'rocky stream'.

Along the stream

The villages of Water Yeat, Blawith, Lowick Bridge, Spark Bridge and Penny Bridge are located close to the river in the Crake Valley. As well as receiving the outflow from Coniston the river also drains Beacon Tarn in the Blawith Fells above the southern end of Coniston.

Even these pretty fells could not escape Lancashire's embrace of the Industrial Revolution: in the 19th century numerous industries including a cotton mill and iron foundry flourished along the river, making use of the fast flowing water to drive machinery. A bobbin mill at Spark Bridge, which manufactured wooden bobbins for the Lancashire cotton industry, used water-powered lathes to turn the wood. The factory survived into the 1970s using Gilkes water turbines to generate electricity and turn the lathes. The factory was eventually forced to close by the punitive water usage charges levied by the North West Water Authority. Today there are no obvious signs of any of the riverside industries.

The Crake is a noted salmon river.

Swallows and Amazons

The River Crake is the model for the 'Amazon River' in Arthur Ransome’s Swallows and Amazons series of children’s novels, according to Hugh Brogan. In the books, the Amazons, Nancy and Peggy, live at Beckfoot at the mouth of an unnamed river, which the children call the Amazon, running into the south end of the (unnamed) lake, just as the Crake is at the south end of Coniston Water.

The Crake however flows out of Coniston Water while the 'Amazon' flows into the lake of the book, and the hand-drawn maps suggest a closer match with the Torver Beck, which flows into Coniston Water further north.

Taking the Crake as the Ransome's model, the Allan Tarn, a little below the river's outflow from Coniston, is portrayed as the 'Octopus Lagoon'.

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