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Pin Mill (c) John Fielding

Arthur Ransome's Suffolk

As VisitEngland celebrates its Year of Literary Heroes in 2017, the Shotley Peninsula in Suffolk will be hosting The Arthur Ransome East Coast Celebration, to commemorate the life of the English author and journalist who moved to the county in 1935.

It's the 50th anniversary of Ransome's death this year and coincidentally, is also 80 years since his book We Didn't Mean to Go To Sea (1937) was published.

Arthur Ransome East Coast Celebrations

Arthur Ransome is best known for his Swallows and Amazons series of children's books, and it was during the five years he lived in Suffolk that he wrote two of them. The first, We Didn't Mean to Go To Sea, is a story about the adventures of a group of children aboard a small boat called the Goblin, “a little white cutter with red sails” which is said to be inspired by his boat at the time, the Nancy Blackett.

Under strict instructions from their mother to stay within the boundaries of the River Orwell, one calamity leads to another and the children inadvertently drift out to sea. It all ends well of course, but not before they endure a hazardous trip through thick fog in the North Sea, as they make their way to Holland and to safety.

Arthur Ransome did actually make that journey across the sea to Holland in the Nancy Blackett (which was his favourite of all the boats he owned in his lifetime), as part of his research for the book.

The second book he wrote while living in Suffolk was Secret Water (1939). It's a more gentle tale of the children's exploration of the Walton Backwaters in neighbouring Essex. It too features the Goblin and opens in Pin Mill on the Shotley Peninsula.

The Nancy Blackett (c) The Nancy Blackett Trust
The Nancy Blackett (c) The Nancy Blackett Trust

Arthur Ransome sold his beloved Nancy Blackett in 1938, after which she had several owners and eventually ended up in Scarborough Harbour. Fifty years after Ransome sold her, Suffolk resident Michael Rines found her there, in a near-derelict condition.

At the time, Michael was unaware of her connections with Aurthur Ransome and he brought her back to Fox's boatyard, on the River Orwell, to be restored. The coincidences don't end there: when Michael went back to work and told his assistant of his purchase, he discovered that her family had owned the boat when she was a child!

Some years later she was bought by the Nancy Blackett Trust for the sum of £25,000 and now, Arthur Ransome's favourite boat is available to hire for sailing trips and overnight stays.

The Trust is 20 years old this year - another significant anniversary, which will be included in the Arthur Ransome East Coast Celebrations.

The Arthur Ransome East Coast Celebration

Festivities start on the 13th of May with the Arthur Ransome Jamboree at Pin Mill Sailing Club, which will be opened by Sophie Neville, who starred as Titty Walker in the 1974 Swallows and Amazons film.

The Nancy Blackett will be on display, as well as another boat once owned by Arthur Ransome, Peter Duck.

Pin Mill in Suffolk (c) tomline43
Pin Mill in Suffolk ©tomline43

There will be free sailing taster sessions, a series of talks from authors including Sophie Neville, who has written her memoir The Making of Swallows and Amazons (1974), children's author Julia Jones and others.

Photographs taken by Arthur Ransome himself will be on display, there will be Swallows and Amazons-themed games and activities, a vintage mobile cinema, Victorian swing boats and much more.

For information of further events celebrating the life and work of Arthur Ransome throughout the year, please keep an eye on our Suffolk events list.

Shotley Peninsula, Suffolk
The Shotley Peninsula © Orwell View Barns

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