Elfrida Vipont and Cartmel

As we were driving back from a day out on the Furness Peninsula last weekend, we had a quick detour to Cartmel.

Cartmel is a very pretty large village with a stunning Priory, lovely shops and excellent pubs and cafes. There are also plenty of walks in the area which means we visit fairly often. On this occasion, however, we weren't here for any of these attractions but rather for an Elfrida Vipont pilgrimage! I discovered Elfrida Vipont many years ago, long before we had moved north, and I had visited Cartmel and grown to love it. The novels are excellent with a depth and charm of their own.

Elfrida Vipont was the author of many books for girls, published in the mid Twentieth century. She was a practising Quaker and lived much of her life in Yealand Conyers where there is a strong Quaker presence. A couple of her novels - The Spring of the Year and Flowering Spring - are set in Cartmel. the heroine of these novels is Laura Haverard and it is her father, Professor Haverard, who uproots the family from Oxford to help found a new university in the north of England - Lancaster? On a visit to the area he sees a signpost to St Merlyon and the family take a detour to visit the Priory.

St Merlyon was a big village with cobbled streets and a cobbled square with a preaching cross in the middle of it. A broad, shallow stream ran through it, and you could lean over the old stone bridge and watch the fish darting to and fro, and hiding in the swaying water-weeds on the pebbly bottom.

The family visits the Priory " a very old church, and when you pushed through the heavy doorway you felt swallowed up in the silence". As they wander round Cartmel/St Merlyon they all reach the conclusion that "somehow it all belongs".

As we wandered through Cartmel in the early evening sunshine we noted the stream, the winding streets, the old-fashioned houses, the Priory Gatehouse and the Priory Church with its strange towers and thought how little had changed over the centuries.

I've always loved Elfrida Vipont's books but knowing they're set in Cartmel makes them even more special and I'm feeling a re-read coming on. She also wrote a number of books which she set in and around Yealand Conyers, including the very first two Vipont novels I read: The Lark in the Wing and the Lark in the Morn. These will need to feature in my r e-read as well!