Bettina and the Broken Boat

Welcome to Story Quest, a weekly podcast where we bring your stories to life!

In this episode we bring Seren’s story – Bettina and the Broken Boat- to life.

If you have a story idea, you could be like Seren and have it turned into a Story Quest. All you have to do is send us your story idea here. We know you have the best imaginations and together we can create the most brilliant stories!

That’s just what Seren did. You can watch the story they suggested come to life below, plus they tell us all about the inspiration behind the story at the end.

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Read along to Bettina and the Broken Boat here!

You can read along to the story while you listen. Just follow the text below. Don’t worry if you find a word tricky – you can pause the video whenever to give yourself more time

Bettina and the Broken Boat 

“Turn baaack!”  a ghostly voice seemed to say “Turn baaaack!” 

Bettina shook her head and knocked on her head with her fist. 

“Don’t be daft!” she scolded herself again.  “There’s no such thing as ghosts!” 

Do you believe in ghosts?  I’m not sure if I do or not. I mean sometimes you just can’t explain things – strange noises in the night, catching sight of something that isn’t there – or is it? There might be a ghost – or two in our story but you’ll need to look out because, like most ghost stories things aren’t quite as they seem. 

Bettina didn’t believe in ghosts. She was a sensible “get on with it” sort of girl who didn’t even like reading stories about ghosts – to be honest she didn’t even like reading at all. She loved playing outside and as she had seven brothers and sisters – yep, you heard me right, she was pretty much allowed to do what she wanted after school and so could set up dens in the wood, and generally not doing what she was told. She just wasn’t the kind of kid to be told what to do.  Well not usually. 

So why did she think she was seeing a ghost? 

Bettina’s family had just moved to Cumbria and a little rowing boat had been left in the garden of the new house. Bettina’s mum and painted it and moored it up by the jetty of Ravenseye Water. 

“No one’s to sail in it yet – we need the old warden to have a proper look at it first.  It’s important to stay safe,” she warned.  They’d heard about the warden and apparently you didn’t do ANYTHING on the lake without them saying so or they got very very cross indeed. 

Bettina couldn’t wait.  Whilst her mum was busy, and distracted by the noise of the other children ran across the field and down a small fell to the lake.  A mist seemed to spring up around her and a shiver went down her spine.  What was that?!  She felt something brush her shoulder – she turned – nothing was there.  She crept down to the jetty and once again she felt something stroking then gripping at her shoulder – she yelped and turned – again, nothing to be seen. 

“Stop being such a baby!” she scolded herself.  “There’s nothing there!” and stepping into the boat grabbed the oars and started to row.  It was a delicious spring evening and the wind rippled the water and mists danced.  She could hear the wind – whispering.  Hang on – was it REALLY whispering?? 

“Turn back. Tuuuuurrrrn back” it said. It really did sound like a ghost and a little shiver went down Bettina’s back. But she was determined. She could see an island in the centre of the lake and was itching to explore so she carried on rowing, and rowing in the hope that the spooky voice would disappear as quickly as it arrived. 

Now it was a pity that the boat hadn’t been seen by the warden because unknown to Bettina and her family there was a thin crack on the hull – only something an expert eye might have spotted.  And it was a pity that Bettina hadn’t had a chat with the warden because then she would know that the island was out of bounds.  There were large signs on the jetty about this but Bettina wasn’t the kind of kid to be told what to do, well, not usually. 

After what seemed like an hour she reached the island shore – boulders bumped on the underside of the boat making it rock.  She tried to steer around them but then there was a “CRACK” and the boat lurched, making water spill in – she was going to capsize!  Yelping she scrambled out of the boat into the water that turned out to be much much deeper than she realised.  In a panic she grabbed at the bracken at the edge of the marshy shore and pulled herself onto the land.  Except it wasn’t very “landy” land. 

It. Was. A. BOG! 

Her feet stuck gloopily into the wet soft undergrowth.  She thought she could hear goblin-like giggles, as if someone thought she must look very funny but it wasn’t funny at all for Bettina.  She was scared.  She couldn’t lift her feet and the more she wrestled to lift them the deeper she began to sink.  “Help!!” she cried into the misty sky,  “I’m sinking!” 

It was no good  – the marshy earth seemed to be pulling her down – and even as she grasped at bracken and branches it was stronger – like muddy quicksand – she shouted “help!” as loud as she could over and again but the lake remained silent and still. 

Just when she thought all was lost she heard the pull of oars in water and who should appear by the warden.  At least he fitted the description.  A description that could best be described in two words.  Not. Happy. 

“What on earth do you think you’re doing young lady?  You’re lucky I saw you and that runt of a boat!  Taking to the water without a life preserver?  And that boat would never pass an inspection on my watch!” 

Bettina was so relieved she momentarily didn’t notice that the bog was now past her knees and moving towards her waist – “Are you the warden? 

“Who else do you think?  Father Christmas? The King of England?!”  he almost chuckled at his own joke then went back to being cross. 

Please help me!” 

He was manouvring his boat towards Bettina, using one oar to dig into the soft soil. “And setting off on a journey without provisions – not even water and I’ll wager you don’t even know what a compass is!” 

“I’m sorry!” she panted. 

Just as the boggy water began to rise to her chest the warden leaned over, grabbed her with his strong hands and pulled and pulled and pulled her into his boat with a THOCK! 

She might have been muddy but she was very relieved.  She lay panting as the warder guided his boat away from the bog and marsh and began to slowly row around the island.  

“No bogs on this side.  We can wait for more help there.” He said in that gruff voice.  “Goodness only knows what your mother will make of this!” 

“I’m so so sorry!” Bettina gasped. 

The boat touched on smooth sand on the other side of the island, and Bettina and the warder stepped out.  The sand was strewn with pine needles and not a hint of a bog.   

“You stay here – I’ll go and find help.  There’s a wind picking up and you’ll be safer going back to shore in a bigger craft.” 

And so Bettina laid down and fell into an exhausted doze.  She thought she heard mermaids sing and then crackles in the undergrowth as something scampered around – it seemed like the “something” was cackling and giggling and whispering. 

She woke abruptly with flashing lights everywhere – The hum of an engine – a motor boat – and then people in uniforms shining lights at her. 

“We’ve found her!” someone exclaimed. 

“Found who?” Bettina thought grogilly then remembered she’d just had a lucky escape with a bog and was on an island in the middle of Ravenseye Waters and she was about to get into a WHOLE TON of trouble. 

“You’re covered in mud – are you alright?” 

“Where’s the warder?  He told you I was here right?” 

One of the crew looked confused. 

“Noooo.  We had a report that you were missing and as the boat wasn’t on the jetty – your mum had a feeling you’d not listened to a word she’d said about staying safe” she said kindly, wrapping a blanket around her and passing her a bottle of water to sip. 

“I got stuck in the bog.   The warden pulled me out.  He was pretty cross.” 

The crew looked at each other.   


One of them looked as if he himself was going to laugh. 

“Did someone say warden?”  A stern voice cut through the dusk.  A female voice.  And then a tall thin elderly woman in uniform strode towards Bettina.  

“I think you’ll find I’m the warden on this lake! I have been for twenty years as was my mother and her mother before!” Then her face softened a little.  “And I’m not cross, just glad we’ve found you.  Goodness knows how you managed to get out of that bog, it’s claimed many lives – that’s why the island is out of bounds.” 

“But the man – an old man in a boat – he saved me“ 

But in the bustle of getting Bettina back to shore no one seemed to want to ask her anything more.  Once back on land, sat on the jetty waiting for her mum, one of the crew patted her hand and said “The mind can play tricks you know. There’s not been a male warden on Ravenseye for over a hundred years.” 

The ACTUAL warden – the tall thin lady, hearing this, chimed in.  “They do say the ghost of old Joe patrols the lake – never off duty!  Perhaps you’ve seen a ghost.  I remember my mother telling me a similar story once.” 

“But I don’t believe in ghosts!” she said.  But what else could it have been? 

Bettina was, as you can imagine in SO MUCH trouble, and was grounded for what seemed like a year.  In time the boat was repaired and checked over and deemed fit to sail and Bettina and her brothers and sisters had many happy times sailing on the lake.  But she never saw the mysterious old warden again and never EVER went to the Island again, even though she wasn’t the type to be told what to do.  Well, not usually! 

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