By Lake Falconer
When someone mentions Swallows and Amazons, there’s a good chance that your mind wanders off to the brooding peaks and glassy waters of the Lake District.
Though the Swallows and the Amazons did spend many a happy hour in Cumbria, their other novels see them sallying forth into the uncharted waters of Norfolk and Suffolk.
In a newly published book, Swallows, Amazons and Coots: A Reading of Arthur Ransome, Julian Lovelock visits each of these waters (novels) in turn, illuminating the creative processes and contradictory politics beneath the surface of Arthur Ransome’s writing.
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Swallow, Amazons and the floating Lutterworth Press
We thought we’d follow Julian Lovelock’s example and conduct our own exploration of
some of Ransome’s other waters. As luck would have it, an intern just happened to go sailing near the coast of Suffolk with a camera. Fancy that!
Our voyage began on a clear blue morning, with a fair wind, and plenty of ‘grog’ loaded aboard the HMS Lutterworth.
We Certainly Did Mean to Go to Sea
The good ship Lutterworth soon found herself in Harwich harbour, which had changed quite a bit since the Swallows had their seventh adventure there.
Ransome’s stories certainly weren’t restricted to tranquil northern lakes. We Didn’t Mean to Go to Sea sees the Walker children washed out to sea through a busy shipping port.
“Gosh,” said Susan. “Harwich has changed a lot since the 1930s. Look at all that shipping.”
“That’s a big ship!” Roger jumped up and down at the prow, nearly toppling over when John was forced to jibe away from the approaching container ship. “Do be careful,” Susan warned. “I shouldn’t like to get washed out to sea AGAIN. We’re not nearly as Seaworthy as the HMS Lutterworth.”
Lutterworth at Sea
Tragically, the ocean part of our voyage was decidedly uneventful. Not once were we boarded by pirates! Presumably they were all busy cavorting around on the inland waters of the Lake District.
As luck would have it, there was another Arthur Ransome location within sailing distance.
It was a treachorous sail past many propeller snagging lobster pots, but our vessel proved sound and Lutterworthy (seaworthy).
Sailing in the Secret Water
While Ransome’s Lake District setting was actually several Cumbrian locations rolled into one, his Suffolk settings are very accurately mapped. This meant that in a few short hours we were able to sail from Ransome’s 1937 novel straight into his 1939 novel.
It’s easy to see why Ransome chose the Walton Backwater, about a mile south of Harwich, as the setting for Secret Water. The intricate series of waterways would have been a warren of possibility for young explorers.
Sent off in a dinghy and encouraged to chart the backwater, the Swallows naturally manage to find fun around every corner. With the Amazons for company they discover mysterious footprints, and things take off from there. You’d have to read the book to find out how that adventure ends!
As with the Walton backwater, there’s a lot more to the Swallows and Amazons series than meets the eye. Julian Lovelock clearly thought so, and he focusses on some of their Suffolk adventures in chapters six and seven of his book.
Why not take a look at our interview with Julian Lovelock, and find out what drew him to the Swallows and Amazons series?
(Please note: Swallows and Amazons quote not taken from any published work)