With the 50th anniversary of Arthur Ransome’s death this year, we celebrate his wonderful novel – Swallows and Amazons – which has captured the imaginations of so many over the years, and has its own very special link with Norfolk…
Image: The Vintage Children's Classics cover of Swallows & Amazons by Arthur Ransome
Image: The Broads
Born in Leeds in 1884, Arthur’s ancestors were from East Anglia. His family holidayed in the Lake District regularly when he was a child, leading him to develop a fascination and love for the area, particularly the lake. Arthur was a big reader and as a young adult moved to London with aspirations of working in publishing; unfortunately this only lasted a short time and he then went on to write articles for literary magazines – whilst still devouring novels by the bucket load!
He went on to publish a number of books which were generally quite unsuccessful, until 1909 when, having got married that year to Ivy Constance Walker, he published History of Story-Telling, in which Ransome discussed “the development of technique, the conquests of new material, (and) the gradual perfecting of form”, and which was better received than previous work.
Ransom travelled a lot, visiting Russia and writing Six Weeks in Russia, about the country during the time of the Bolshevik takeover. He submitted a synopsis and 50 pages of the story Swallows and Amazons in the spring of 1929, and the book was published in 1930 to positive reviews. It led Arthur to concentrate on writing children’s stories and published a sequel called Swallowdale in 1931. Various books in the series followed and he published Coot Club in November 1934, which was set in the Norfolk Broads, as was later novel The Big Six, which was more of a detective story with the Callums who also featured in Coot Club.
Arthur died aged 83, on 3 June 1967, but his twelve Swallows and Amazons books have lived on as children’s classics. They’ve been published all over the world in various formats, and in many languages.
Image: the film poster for the 2016 Swallows & Amazons film
Quite a few of the Swallows & Amazons series of books were set in, or featured, the Broads, and the corresponding drama adaptations also included this locations - the mains ones being Swallows & Amazons Forever!:Coot Club and Swallows & Amazons Forever!:The Big Six. The characters explore the North and South Broads and seemed to really charm many viewers, with calls for additional books in the series to also be made by the BBC; unfortunately they never were. Local actor Simon Hawes was one of the children cast in The Big Six and Coot Club, and is a born and bred Norfolk boy!
Of course, last year saw the release of a brand new film adaptation of the original Swallows & Amazons book, which was produced by Norfolk film producer Nick Barton!
Image: get out on the water with Herbert Woods
The Broads are so close to Norwich (the gateway to the Broads is actually at Whitlingham Country Park in Norwich!) that you can visit the Broads whilst staying in the city - for just a few hours if this is all you can spare. Or you can add a few of nights to your stay on the water!
Recreate your own S&A trip by hiring a boat and taking to the water yourselves; this could be for a day, a long weekend or longer! Herbert Woods and Norfolk Broads Direct have plenty of choice of models to suit the type of holiday (a family trip, romantic break or perhaps a holiday with friends), with a thorough range of facilities available ranging from plenty of on-board space with Wi-Fi and full-size cookers, through to flat screen TV/ DVD players and PlayStation 4s!
If you’d prefer to take to the water just for a short period of time then why not hire a day boat instead; you can explore the Broads and perhaps take a picnic with you too! You can stay right by the Broads in one of the waterside cottages offered by Norfolk Broads Direct and Herbert Woods – find out more about each fantastic provider on our website. Herbert Woods in addition have lovely picnic boats available which come equipped with a little kitchen with a gas hob, fridge and sink, seating for up to 10 people, a lovely sundeck and even an on-board WC! They're available for full day hire; visit their website for more details.
If you're staying at the lovely Norfolk Mead hotel you'll want to take advantage of their dayboat hire. This way you can stay on land but play on the water! Plus you can order delicious picnic hampers especially made to take with you on your boat trip! Find out more here.
Finally, you can't miss the opportunity to see Swallows & Amazons performed at the Maddermarket Theatre. Showing from 18 August - 2 September, it will bring the children's classic to life beautifully and is well worth planning a trip for! Find out more about the production here.
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