A drawing by Winnie-the-Pooh illustrator E. H. Shepard has been brought to life by local literary fans a hundred years after it was first created.
The picture, of two boys sailing a boat on Coate Water, was originally drawn by the world famous artist for the book ‘Bevis: The Story of a Boy’, a children’s story about two boys and their adventures around Coate, by local Victorian nature writer Richard Jefferies.
Inspired by the simple line drawing, volunteer manager at the Richard Jefferies Museum, Mike Pringle, thought it would be good to see if it could recreated, for real. A request to local sailing clubs led to the donation of an old sailing dinghy from Whitefriars Sailing Club at Cotswold Water Park, and an offer of help from the sailing club based at Coate Water itself.
Mike then set about transforming the boat to look like the one in the drawing by changing the sails, and painting it blue to match the description given by Jefferies in his book. After a bit of patching up, sorting out ropes, rigging and buoyancy, and a couple of coats of varnish, the boat was ready. The final touch was painting its name on the stern: Pinta II. In ‘Bevis’, the two boys (Bevis and his friend Mark) call their boat ‘Pinta’ after one of the ships that sailed with Christopher Columbus to America.
The moment of truth came when the boat was hauled on its launching trailer from the museum to Coate Sailing Club by volunteers Mike Sheehan and Darren Pettit, and pushed gently into the water on a calm, overcast day. Skippered by James, from the club, the boat sailed out onto the lake and posed gracefully for local photographers Richard Wintle and Jennifer Berry, and the moment was captured, just as it had been all those years ago by Shepard, and just as it had originally been conceived by Jefferies when he sailed himself on Coate as a boy.
Mike said: “It was very unnerving, not really knowing how the boat would get on, with all the chopping and changing I’d done. And of course when you do these crazy things, the weather and photographing does not always go quite how you might hope. But on this occasion everything came together, thanks to the fantastic efforts of everyone involved, and we have captured a moment from our history that now becomes a bit of Swindon’s history itself, for the future.”