Arthur Ransome discovered St. Paul's Church Rusland about 1956 whilst exploring the nearby Ashes Beck at Rusland Strand during a summer holiday at Hill Top, a house just beyond the Rusland beeches which became his last home.
Arthur thought the churchyard, green and isolated, was one of the most peaceful places on earth. He expressed the wish to the then vicar of the parish, the Rev'd J.S. Boulter, that he would like to be buried there, in an especially nice spot under the Corsican pine, with the sound of the wind in the pine needles. Stand by his grave and survey the surrounding countryside, you will see nearly everything Arthur Ransome held dear about this area.
The small river, Ashes Beck, flows below the hill on which St. Paul's stands and joins the stream which runs down to Rusland Pool a few hundred yards to the south-west.
Woodland and fellside are all around, the only thing missing in this beautiful valley is a lake. The two most important stretches of water in his life, Coniston Water and Windermere are only three miles away as the swallow flies. The wild life he loved is abundant. Buzzards can be seen soaring, their plaintive cries echoing round the valley: jays and spotted woodpeckers, and in the summer, redstarts, curlew and cuckoo abound. In the evening red and roe deer feed on the edge of the woodlands At night the valley is alive with the sound of owls Coincidentally, the origin of the name Rusland is Rolf's Lands or Runulf's Land, the origin of the name Ransome is Runulf's Son.
Apart from the fact that Arthur Ransome found this churchyard in such a beautiful situation, it happens to stand almost in the centre of the circle of his Lakeland homes. Low Ludderburn at Cartmel Fell where he lived from 1925 to 1935 and wrote 'Swallows and Amazons', 'Peter Duck', 'Winter Holiday' and 'Coot Club'. High Nibthwaite where his childhood holidays were spent and the Swallow stories had their genesis. Close to Nibthwaite, The Heald was his home during the Second World War by the shore of the lake. Arthur has been in love with this area since childhood.
A short distance to the north of The Heald is Lanehead which was the home of W.G. Collingwood and his family, and Arthur's second home and family in his early manhood. The Collingwoods had a profound influence on Arthur, encouraging his passion for writing and teaching him to sail. Arthur said that the whole of the rest of his life was happier because of them.
Though mainly remembered by generations of children for his Swallows books Arthur Ransome led a fascinating and varied life. Besides being an author he was an outstanding fisherman and sailor, writing books on both subjects. He was also a leading journalist. He spent the summer of 1913 in Russia learning the language in order to collect folk-tales, went back in May 1914, and in 1915 he was appointed Russian Correspondent to the Daily News. He lived in Russia throughout the Revolution sending back regular reports to England.
It was during the Revolution that Arthur met such people as Lenin and Trotsky, actually playing chess with Lenin and defeating him. At this time he also fell in love with Trotsky's secretary Evgenia Shelepina, who eventually became his second wife, life-long support and the sternest critic of his work. Her ashes were placed with those of her beloved Arthur in the April of 1975.
On one occasion during the Revolution Arthur and Evgenia became separated, she being stranded in Moscow behind the fighting front. Unable to get permission to cross the lines, Arthur set out by himself walking towards the trenches smoking his pipe and carrying his typewriter, and certainly risking death. Amazingly he came to no harm and eventually reached Moscow, was reunited with Evgenia and returned with her with equal audacity to safety in Estonia.
Arthur and Evgenia moved to England and bought Low Ludderburn. It was during this period of his life that he was able to give up full-time journalism to concentrate on writing the stories he had always wanted to.
One of Arthur's proudest moments came when he took delivery of his favourite boat Recundra, especially when he saw the ship's papers handed to him on departure by the Lettish Customs Office:
'Master and Owner of the RECUNDRA'
In his book 'Recundra's First Cruise' Arthur Ransome penned these words:
Although these words do not appear on his grave, it is fitting that they should be recorded here.
Although the Ransomes were to move away from the Lake District on several occasions, Arthur himself worked not only in Russia but in China and Egypt, it was here he really wanted to be. This is where he is, and always will be.