Tag Archives: traditional craft

Sailing the Nancy Blackett in the Netherlands

This summer, I grabbed the chance to sail Arthur Ransome’s favourite little ship, the Nancy Blackett. If you recognise her it might be because she was his model for the Goblin in ‘We Didn’t Mean To Go To Sea‘, possibly the most exciting and touching of the Swallows and Amazons series of books. I re-read it while we were in Dutch waters aboard the main character herself.

   ~ Nancy Blackett under sail on the Veersemeer in Zeeland this June ~

~ Beach End Buoy at the mouth of the River Orwell in Suffolk ~

In the story, the Swallows – John, Susan, Titty and Roger Walker – promise their mother that they will not go to sea, but disaster strikes when the Goblin slips her anchor in thick fog, while her owner is ashore, and gets swept out past the Beach End Buoy at Harwich. The wind rises and the children find themselves sailing across the North Sea in a terrific storm before a friendly Dutch pilot guides them into Flushing.

~ Nancy in the old lock at near the medieval port of Veere ~

This year we joined Nancy when she had already made the crossing to the Netherlands but we did take her through an old lock built in the same style as the one the Swallows encountered, all be it at the other end of the canal. It was as if we had sailed into the pages of the book and lived out the adventure ourselves, learning about ropes and reefing each nautical mile.

Mooring up could be tricky, especially since Nancy is an old lady with a bow-sprit, but unlike Susan and Titty, I never felt sea-sick for a moment.

~ Learning how to hoist the mainsail ~

~ The Nancy Balckett undersail on the Veersemeer in the Netherlands ~

~ Sophie sailing in salt water ~

~ Looking out for Dutch barges ~

Local author Veronica Frenks came out with us one morning, taking us up a creek to see the traditional Dutch barges that she often writes about. Here she is at the helm:

To read about sailing Nancy on the River Orwell in Suffolk, where she is based. please click here.

To read about sailing Nancy on the Beaulieu River and the Solent, please click here

If you would like to grab a chance to sail Nancy or find out more about the Nancy Blackett Trust, please click here

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photographs by Veronica Frenks of Ma Plume, Judy Taylor and Sophie Neville

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Filed under adventure, Arthur Ransome, Autobiography, boating, Sophie Neville, Titty in Swallows and Amazons, Travel, truelife story, Uncategorized

Charcoal burning in the Lake District

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Brian Crawley has emailed sending these unique photographs of his charcoal burn in Cumbria, telling me:
‘I am a ‘retired’ charcoal burner and we still do an occasional traditional charcoal burn in the same area of south Cumbria.’
He says that this burn was, ‘…done at Hay Bridge Nature Reserve only about a mile from the site where your charcoal burn took place.’ This was when Richard Pilbrow produced the film of Arthur Ransome’s book Swallows & Amazons on location in the Lake District in the summer of 1973. ‘As you can see there is a charcoal burner’s hut on the site like the one used to be on your site.’
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I was fascinated to see how the turf had been laid.
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Brian also sent photographs of the dip in the woods where I was shown around a similar hut in 1973 . He tells me, ‘I was shown the site by an acquaintance who lives close by and watched the filming as a young boy.’
Brian sent a photo of our old film location in the woods, taken about ten years ago, when you could still see the stones of the fireplace once set inside the hut. I remember the fire well. It was very smoky.
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Brian also sent me a scan of the postcard published by J Salmon showing the burn site, taken in 1972 about a year before Swallows & Amazons was filmed, featuring the same collier who helped us. ‘The postcard photo was probably taken by a local photographer and I also have other copies of charcoaling photos, taken about that time, from a book by the same photographer but they will be covered by copyright.’
Fortunately Simon Hodkin has just sent me this article that he’d kept in a scrapbook with a programme from the cinema:
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Charcoal Burners article probably late 1973
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I’ve also found two of my mother’s shots of filming the sequence in 1973 that haven’t been published before. The continuity girl’s typewriter stands on a folding table in the foreground and a section of camera track can be seen to the right.
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Behind-the-scenes on the film set of Swallows & Amazons (1974)

 
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We were busy shooting the scene when the Swallows are being shown the charcoal burner’s adder, kept under the bed for luck.
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Charcoal Burners- with Sophie

Director Claude Whatham, John Franklin-Robbins, Sophie Neville and Jack Woolgar. The 35mm Panavision camera can be seen to the left of shot.

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For earlier posts describing the filming of the charcoal burner scenes please click here
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‘…we still do an occasional traditional charcoal burn in the same area of south Cumbria.’ Brian explained adding, ‘The DVD that I have is also copyrighted but a video of one of my burns is on YouTube and can be viewed via our Coppice Association website.
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Stepehn Sykes, who lives at Hill Top, where Arthur Ransome once lived, has sent this link to a picture of Charcoal Burning near by at Bouth by Alfred Heaton Cooper. Please click here

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Brian told me, ‘Our next traditional charcoal burn will be done on 13th-15th June this year at the English Heritage Stott Park Bobbin Mill, only a couple of miles from Hill Top.’  A date for the diary. For further details please click here.
Brian’s son, who is a keen Swallows & Amazons fan will be doing a charcoal burn at Bank Ground Farm for the Coniston Regatta on Wednesday 28th May. ‘He will not be doing a traditional burn like we will be doing at Stott Park on 13/14/15 June but in a metal drum, still charcoal and smoke and possibly a snake.’
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Filed under 1973, Arthur Ransome, Autobiography, Claude Whatham, Cumbria, Film, Film crew, Film History, Filmaking, Lake District, Memoir, Movie stories, Richard Pilbrow, Sophie Neville, Swallows and Amazons, truelife story