Tag Archives: What’s on in Suffolk

A marathon reading of ‘We Didn’t Mean To Go To Sea’ by Arthur Ransome

On Saturday 21st October I will be joining Griff Rhys Jones, Libby Purves and Francis Wheen at Pin Mill Sailing Club on the River Orwell, near Ipswich in Suffolk, to take part in a marathon reading of Arthur Ransome’s iconic book ‘We Didn’t Mean To Go To Sea’. Authors Christina Hardyment, Julia Jones and Marc Grimstone are also reading chapters. The all-day event, beginning at 9.00am and ending at about 5.00pm, is being held to celebrate the 80th anniversary of its publication in 1937.


~Pin Mill on the Owell ~ photo: Anthony Cullen(c)~

The story begins at Pin Mill where the Swallows – John, Susan, Titty and Roger Walker, along with their mother and Bridget-the-ship’s-baby, are waiting for their father to take up a Naval posting nearby at Shotley. The four children didn’t mean to go to sea at all but somehow ended up sailing to the Netherlands in a terrific storm. I have been asked to read the last chapter.

Come if you can! You will find more details of the event in the magazine Classic Boat and on the BBC News website. It is being organised by Peter Willis of The Nancy Blackett Trust who has been speaking about the event with Lesley Dolphin on BBC Radio Suffolk.

~ Sophie Neville aboard Arthur Ransome’s ‘best little ship’ the Nancy Blackett ~

You can read about our adventures sailing Nancy Blackett this summer in Country Life magazine:

Sophie Neville profiled in Country Life magazine 12 July 2017

There are photos of our cruise through the Netherlands here on the Nancy Blackett Trust website, with more here as well as a six page colour feature in Classic Sailor magazine.

Nancy Blackett in Classic Sailor

Members of The Arthur Ransome Society alerted me to this BBC Children’s Television programme made in 1997, which shows Griff Rhys Jones at Pin Mill with Nancy Blackett, the 28 foot Hillyard cutter that Ransome bought with ‘Spanish Gold’ – his royalties from publishing ‘Swallows and Amazons’. It shows his biographer, Hugh Brogan, and Taqui Altounyan who was a great inspiration to Ransome as a girl. The Swallows were originally based on her own family who stayed at Bank Ground Farm (Holly Howe) above Coniston Water in the Lake District 1928, when two clinker-built dinghies called Swallow and Mavis were purchased so they could learn to sail. I recently discovered the secret that Taqui, who became a keen sailor, was also the model for Captain Nancy in Ransome’s well-loved books. It also contains clips from the 1963 television adapation of ‘Swallows and Amazons’, with Susan George playing ‘Kitty’. Forgive the opening titles – it is worth viewing:

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Filed under Arthur Ransome, boating, Entertainment news, family Entertainment, News, Sophie Neville, Swallows & Amazons, Swallows and Amazons, Titty in Swallows and Amazons, Uncategorized

The Arthur Ransome Jamboree at Pin Mill in Suffolk

Arthur Ransome Pin Mill Jamboree

On Saturday 13th May members of the Nancy Blackett Trust asked me to open the Arthur Ransome Jamboree 2017 at Pin Mill in Suffolk.

Pin Mill from the Water

Although Ransome is remembered for his ‘Swallows and Amazons’ books set in the Lake District he moved to the east coast of Suffolk in 1935 where he set a number of his books in the series. 2017 makes the 80th anniversary of the publication of his inspirational sailing book ‘We Didn’t Mean to Go to Sea’.

Sophie Neville with Nancy Blackett

You can actually go aboard the Goblin, since she was modelled on his own favourite little yacht, the Nancy Blackett. I jined her at The Royal Harwich Yacht Club where she was moored alongside Peter Duck one of his other much-loved yachts, named after the book he wrote that begins at Lowestoft. I met up with Octavia Pollock, a feature writer from Country Life and walked down the riverside for supper at the Butt and Oyster in Pin Mill where Ransome himself often ate.

Map of the Jamboree

Soon after leaving unversity, I worked behind the camera on the BBC TV adaptations of ‘Coot Club’ and ‘The Big Six’, Ransome’s two books set on the Norfolk Broads. The Coots also visit Beccles in Suffolk. It was the Swallows who made it to Pin Mill and Ransome set his novel ‘Secret Water’ in the Walton Backwaters nearby.

I first went to Pin Mill when The Arthur Ransome Society asked me to give a talk about making this BBC serial entitled, ‘Swallows and Amazons Forever!’. This year I gave another talk about the cast and signed copies of the new edition of ‘The Making of SWALLOWS and AMAZONS – 1974’.

Pin Mill

~The Orwell at Low tide~

Arthur Ransome’s biographer Professor Hugh Brogan was interviewed by erstwhile BBC reporter Tim Fenton at the Pin Mill Sailing Club where author Julia Jones also spoke about her children’s books.

Sophie Neville opening the Arthur Ransome Jamboree at Pin Mill~ Sophie Neville ~

This VisitEngland event was great fun. There was a geo-caching route along the footpath from Shotley to Pin Mill. Marine artists Claudia Myatt and Christine Bryant hosted drop-in sessions on the riverside where the Rabble Chorus were singing.

Nancy blackett product shop

~Mugs with artwork by Claudia Myatt sold in aid of the Nancy Blackett Trust~

There was an outdoor installation of old Pin Mill images enabling you to look back in time. These were taken by Arthur Ransome himself of the building of his boat Selina King at King’s boatyard nearby. It’s the first public exhibition of these pictures ever seen and will continue to be on show at the Pin Mill Studio.

Pin Mill archive photo

The Pin Mill Studio also hosted an exhibition of photographs from the restoration of Melissa, a barge restored to her former glory by Webb’s boatyard, with additional archive images of Pin Mill from the early 1900s.

The Vintage Mobile Cinema, as seen on BBC Television’s Reel History of Britain, screened unique archive film of Pin Mill and Shotley.

The Nancy Blackett

~The Nancy Blackett in her 85th year~

A Pin Mill ‘Wooden Boat’ race was held along the stream leading down to the river and you could take a ride on the Victorian swing boats on the Common as in years gone by. There was pirates and seafarers fancy dress competition for children and an Arthur Ransome lookalike competition (pipe and moustache!) along with stalls and sideshows from local groups, charities and organisations.

Live music, including shanties from Pin Mill favourites, High Water Mark and a performance of We Didn’t Mean to go to Sea by pupils from Holbrook Academy entertained visitors while cream teas, a barbecue and refreshments were served at the Butt and Oyster and Pin Mill Sailing Club.

T-shirts celebrating this special anniversary were sold along with gifts to generate funds for The Nancy Blackett Trust, who celebrate their 20th anniversary this year.

Do let us know if you came along by leaving a comment!

The event has a Facebook page here

To read more please visit the Nancy Blackett website by clicking here.

The Nancy Blackett by Claudia Myatt

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Filed under Arthur Ransome, Autobiography, Bestseller, Biography, boating, Dinghy sailing, family Entertainment, News, Sophie Neville, Swallows & Amazons, Swallows and Amazons, Titty in Swallows and Amazons, truelife story, Uncategorized