25th May ~ When I first started drawing maps

I did not know it at the time but Titty’s chart had a profound influence on my life.

I loved drawing the map. I had prepared it earlier with Simon Holland, the Art Director, and always regret pressing too hard. If you look very carefully you can see that I had already written ‘Rio’ and rubbed it out, only to write Rio again when it came to the take.  I also wish that I had been taught the song Away to Rio before this scene as I would had said that line differently. Never mind.

 I think that the map on the end papers of Arthur Ransome’s book of Swallows and Amazons, originally drawn by Steven Spurrier, are an inspiration to millions. I’ve gazed and gazed at it.

When I grew up and went to university, I took a course in cartography that was to stand me in good stead.  In the spring of 1992 I migrated to Southern Africa with the swallows and soon started drawing decorative maps. These were all very much like Spurrier’s. I added small pictures of settlements, trees, animals, and always a compass with a black and white border to give the scale. In the process I was able to explore the most wonderful country. Most of my commissions have been of game reserves or great swathes of Africa. I have mapped areas of the Okavango Delta in Botswana, the Waterberg Plateau in South Africa, one of the Malilangwe Conservation Trust in Zimbabwe and a map showing how to cross the Namib Desert on a horse. I’ve mapped Jembisa Game Reserve, Triple B Ranch  and Ongava on the Etosha border. I have also drawn maps of military zones, ski resorts and stately homes.  Some have been for charities such as Save the Rhino Trust, others for books, others for marketing holidays. They all gave me the excuse to go on living a Swallows and Amazons life, camping in wild places and exploring wilderness areas – uncharted territory. My final map – for I don’t think my eyesight will let me draw any more – was to direct guests to my own wedding, not so very long ago.

As I expect Titty would have done, I am now writing about these maps and the adventures I had in making them, currently putting everything together in a travel book call Ride the Wings of Morning. I have a couple of very early maps in my first book Funnily Enough. These were just sketched in my diary but one is of Windermere, where I went with my father and the Steam Boat Association, so I think it would be of interest to Arthur Ransome enthusiasts.

A map of Windermere sketched in Sophie Neville’s Diary of 1991 that has been recently published as the book ‘Funnily Enough’

6 Comments

Filed under 1973, Acting, Arthur Ransome, Autobiography, Biography, Cinema, Claude Whatham, Cumbria, Diary, e-publication, Film, Film Cast, Film crew, Film History, Filmaking, Lake District, Memoir, Movie, Movie stories, Richard Pilbrow, Sophie Neville, Swallows and Amazons, truelife story

6 responses to “25th May ~ When I first started drawing maps

  1. Caroline Assheton.

    Marvellous map! Got paintings in an exhibition Chelsea old Town Hall Upstairs Gallery Nov 22-Dec 4th with 7 others, later some will be in Tomtom Coffee House Elizabeth Street XXXXCaroline.

    • It was the first, rather clonky one, but of Windermere, which I thought would be of interest. Your influence is evident in many of the others.
      Wonderful to hear of your art exhibition in Chelsea- well done! I could try to come to your art exhibition on Tuesday 29th November. Will you be around that day?

  2. Matthew Jones

    Framed above my fireplace I have my own Ransome inspired map of my youthful carryings-ons on the Ottawa River, Ontario, Canada. I think it is fair to say that the Ransome books provided a blue print for celebrating my own childhood “at sea”. Sailing around the Ottawa River renaming, mapping, and exploring provided endless entertainment while fuelling a self-confidence that I am sure has shaped who I have become. I must confess, that I cannot believe my parents were so willing to give me such free reign on the “open seas” – much like the Walker children in the books. My father remembered the books to me fondly – perhaps he had an appreciation for the freedoms provided in the novels and had something to do with crafting my own freedoms on the Ottawa.
    I have just begun reading the first novel to my 6 year old son; the edition from puffin books you wrote of earlier in your blog with the screen shot from the movie. It is well read and appropriately tattered for a much-loved guide to my happy childhood rompings. I am delighted that my son has taken to it like wild fire. Perhaps another Ransome generation has been born! Unfortunately for my son, he grows up inconveniently marooned in Northern Ontario far from “my” Ottawa River or anything that could suffice. We will find other ways to engage the books.

    Your above article makes me think you could probably have an amazing exhibition of Ransome inspired maps from devoted readers from around the world. No doubt there would be fabulous stories behind each one. Perhaps there are others out there who look above their fireplace hearth and see a piece of their childhood in a picture frame.

    You are generous with your blog. It is a tantalizing window into a story and a film that has such an important following. I think Swallows and Amazons most definitely rival Harry Potter and friends for its ability to engage those amazing youthful imaginations and energies. The simple fact that what the Walkers and Blacketts accomplished is attainable, wholesome, and repeatable by anyone who wishes to engage the experience puts it in a class of its own in my opinion.

    Swallows and Amazons FOREVER my dear!
    Matthew.

    • Are you a member of the Arthur Ransome Society? I am sure they would sail with your idea to mount an exhibition of Ransome inspired maps. You could start by doing it on-line. There are various Arthur Ransome Group Facebook pages, including one originalted in Canada. I don’t think I can post all the links here but you’ll find them in my Blog. Are you writing from Northern Ontario?

  3. Matthew Jones

    Indeed, I am writing you from Northern Ontario; a small city with gold mining at its heart – I guess that puts us more in tune with Pigeon Post! I happen to conduct the Symphony Orchestra here rather than mine for gold… simply gold of a different kind I like to say.

    As proof of our distance from Toronto (and London), we had a black bear in our garden last night! I am amazed that when the bush is dry and the berry crop not so productive, such a majestic creature would be reduced to foraging in my compost for food – but I digress.

    My son (the six year old) and I have ordered a copy of your movie Swallows and Amazons from the UK to watch – albeit a VHS copy. I had a copy recorded off the television years and years ago, but some idiot (probably me) tragically recorded over the first third with some nonsense that doesn’t matter any more. It has long been an ambition to secure a copy. I have had many frustrations with “version control” on DVD’s that are available in the UK but unplayable in Canada. I am hopeful that I can still hook up our old VHS so that my son and I can enjoy that fabulous film (the result of such hard work!) together. He insisted on DEVOURING the book in less than a week!

    In light of reading your blog, I have come across the many opportunities that are available on the internet to celebrate one’s love of the Ransome stories and film. I believe there must be many more maps out there that would, at the very least, be of interest to those of us who have created our own stories in cartographic form. (for my own part, I ended up with a degree in music (performance cello) and a minor in CARTOGRAPHY… GO FIGURE!)

    Should time away from the Symphony allow, I am inspired to seek out the work of others. Thanks for the nudge.

    Again, your blog has been a lovely gift and your response to the previous post very special to my son and I.

    Take good care,
    Matthew.

    PS If I were in charge of a British Symphony, I am SURE I would book your talk as fundraiser! It sounds a delight. Too bad for the Atlantic Ocean (and version control!)

    • I took Cartography as a minor subject at university and ended up using the skills extensively. I’ve included quite a few of the maps I drew in Southern Africa in my new book ‘Ride the Wings of Morning’. Do you have a Kindle app? I’ve made it available there quite cheaply (it’s a big fat paperback) http://www.amazon.com/Ride-Wings-Morning-ebook/dp/B007RONM52/ref=la_B005DEVKQQ_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1345280550&sr=1-3

      I hope the VHS proves good quality. I have to say the DVDs are better. You could always contact your broadcasters and ask for the film to be shown on TV. They put it on here on Bank Holiday Monday. There are also VHS tapes available of ‘Coot Club’ and ‘The Big Six’ under the title of ‘Swallows and Amazons Forever!’ I worked on the series.

      If I ever come to Canada I’ll bring my Memory-stick and we can put on a talk for the gold miners.

      I lookforward to you comments on the Blog-posts, Sophie

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