Coniston Water is the site of the world water speed record bids of Donald Campbell (23 March 1921 – 4 January 1967) which culminated in his tragic death at 8.42a.m. on 4th January, 1967, whilst attempting to reach a speed of 300 mph.
In attempting to break his own water speed record of 276.3 m.p.h., Campbell reached a speed of 297m.p.h., on the first of two obligatory runs. On his return run travelling at a speed estimated to be in excess of 320m.p.h., his boat, Buebird K7, somersaulted and plunged back into the water, nose first, disintegrating on impact. Campbell was killed instantly.
The remains of the Bluebird were located after over four years of diving and surveying, by Bill Smith, an underwater surveyor from Newcastle. The remains lay at 150 feet half buried in silt. The wreckage of Bluebird was recovered from the lake on 28th March, 2001 , the cockpit was completely crushed.
A body, found near to the remains of Bluebird, assumed to be that of Campbell himself was retrieved from the lake. In August 2001 the Barrow in Furness coroner came to the decision that based on DNA evidence the remains were those of Donald Campbell. After a funeral service at Coniston Village, attended by his wife and daughter, Gina Campbell, he was finally laid to rest in Coniston churchyard within the village.
Coniston is one of the most imposing and beautiful of the English lakes.
The third largest lake in the Lake District, Coniston Water sits in a U shaped valley scoured out by a glacial action in the last ice age. Known as Thurston Water until the Victorian era, the lake is now a popular holiday resort.
Coniston Water provided inspiration for Arthur Ransome’s famous children’s book ‘Swallows and Amazons’, the southern island, Peel, has been identified as the ‘Wild Cat Island’ in Ransome’s book.
The lake is dominated by the Old Man of Coniston which rises to 803 metres (2,635 feet) and offers excellent views from its summit. The fell is a favourite with hill walkers and lies to the west of Coniston village. The Old Man of Coniston is the inspiration for Kanchenjunga, the mountain in Arthur Ransome’s ‘Swallows and Amazons’.
The area between Coniston and the Old Man is greatly scarred by slate quarries and copper mines. The fell is generally climbed from the village via Church Beck and the mines. There are alternative routes, which include the south ridge, which rises up the fell from the Walna Scar Road. Dow Crag offers a challenge to climbers with its 183 metre wall of rock.