The 45th Anniversary of filming the original film ‘Swallows and Amazons’ on Derwentwater, when Ronald Fraser was obliged to walk the plank in a solar topi in July 1973, was marked by a special screening of the film at the Alhambra in Keswick.
Kerry Derbyshire, who played Vicky’s nurse came on stage and we demonstrated how one of the visual effects was achieved.
I brought one of the original arrows that the Amazon pirates fired over my head. It looks so dangerous on film that the shot was cut from the television version but is included in the re-mastered cinemascope edition that we are now able to watch on the big screen. You might be able to spot a few other things that went wrong while we were filming, such as the time I inadvertently slipped up to my waist in water.
Nick Newby from Nicole End Marine came along to tell us how the elegant Lakeland steamer, the Lady Derwentwater, had been converted for her starring role as Captain Flint’s houseboat. She was appropriately dressed for the part by the award-winning set designer Ian Whittaker, who went on to receive an Oscar for Best Art Direction on ‘Howards End’ starring Sir Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson. His astonishing list of nominations can been seen here.
Swallow, the 1930s sailing dinghy used in the original film, was at the lakeside for Arthur Ransome enthusiasts to admire. She is looked after by Rob Boden, from Kendal, who is happy to take people for a sail by prior arrangement via the SailRansome website here.
Sophie Neville with Swallow on Coniston Water, Cumbria
Nick Barton of Harbour Pictures, in collaboration with BBC Films, launched a new adaptation of Swallows and Amazons on 19th August 2016.
I had joined him and his wife on the first recce to the Lake District back in 2011, staying at Bank Ground Farm, sailing Swallow on Coniston Water and taking a boat trip down Lake Windermere in Cumbria. He went on to find locations on Derwentwater and in Yorkshire with his director Philippa Lowthorpe who developed the new script with Andrea Gibb.
To see a clip of the opening scenes, starring Kelly Macdonald and Andrew Scott – please click here
‘It would make a superb lighthouse,’ but not for a good few years yet. The scots pine planted by The Arthur Ransome Society on the northern end of Peel Island was growing well when I last paid it homage. I hope I don’t spoil the magic if I explain that the pine used in the 1973 film of ‘Swallows and Amazons’ is on a promentary above Derwentwater. An appropriate tree was chosen that overlooked the location we used for Houseboat Bay.
If you can avoid being distracted by Bavid Bracknell’s trendy two-tone trousers you can see a bit more of the lighthouse tree location with the lake beyond. I’ve been told it is Friar’s Crag. Can anyone tell me more about the bay on Derwentwater where Captain Flint’s houseboat was moored for the film?
As a child reading Swallows and Amazons I was always deeply impressed that Captain John managed to climb the pine tree in Arthur Ransome’s drawing. Simon West was able to use branches but he really did climb quite high. The camerman had a scaffold tower.
Suzanna wrote that, ‘In the late afternoon the Amazons were filming on the pontoon. Kit wasn’t feeling well.’ Lesley was feeling a bit better. There was a ‘flu-like bug going around. Neither of them look that well in the resultant photograph but they survived.
If you would like to read more, upload a copy of ‘The Secrets of Filming ‘Swallows and Amazons'(1976)’ for sale on Amazon Kindle and other e-readers for £2.99