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Sailing 'Swallow' in Cumbria and Norfolk during 2014

by Sail Ransome 10 Aug 2014 18:06 BST 10 August 2014
Star of the 1974 film 'Swallow' is still sailing today © Peter Willis

'Swallow' is the star of the 1974 film Swallows and Amazons adapted from Arthur Ransome's book. She was hidden in a boat shed after filming, but was restored in 2010 thanks to the donations of hundreds of fans. She is available for you to sail, just like in the books.

Back in the Lake District for 2014

Swallow has been lying at Glenridding, Ullswater, all this year and made a few trips out in the Spring. August has been crammed full of last-minute bookings, some of which involved a quick transfer to Coniston for the pilgrimage to Peel Island.

We were expecting to stay in Cumbria all year but one particular event is too good to miss. With any luck (i.e. a helpful towbar) Swallow will make it to the Arthur Ransome Broadland celebration in Norfolk (Fairhaven Gardens) on 6th September. If you want to get sailing on the Broads in Autumn then do ask us about other dates as we will be there for two months.

Swallow toured relatively few locations in 2013 compared to the big tour in 2011, but she did make it to some very Ransome-ish spots on the south coast (Buckler's Hard) and visited inland sailing clubs to spread the word. We even met up with an 'Amazon' (not the film original).

Quotes

Next to the sound of water under Swallow's forefoot, one of the most delightful things about working on this project is reading the excited emails that come from other Arthur Ransome fans. Nobody emails us calmly to ask about a day out sailing! Instead we have comments like:

  • "I can hardly breathe with excitement at finding your website..."
  • "I've wanted to do this since I was 12 years old."
  • "The highlight [of our holiday] was our awe-inspiring sail in Swallow."
  • "I cannot tell you how amazing the experience yesterday was...seriously it was mind blowing."

This makes all our hard work worthwhile; to know there are people out there just as mad keen as us, who have discovered just what Swallow can offer them.

The movie

We have no news to report of the new S&A film, sadly. It has not died; there is just a lack of progress reports! Speculation continues on how much of the plot will be changed to appeal to modern viewers; this is unavoidable really if the producers want a successful movie to differ from its predecessors. We all need to take some calming breaths now, to prepare ourselves for future news of 'heresy'!

As for the old (1974) film, it has been spruced up for Blu-ray release, and many small cinemas across the country are showing it again this summer. Sophie Neville (the actress who played Titty) will be present at some screenings. See her website for dates and locations: www.sophieneville.net

Also see her website for details of her new book about the making of the 1974 film. She has written about her childhood experiences, using behind-the-scenes photos and the original diary entries of several stars. Find out what went in to the making of the film. The book still manages to interest those who have already read Sophie's blog entries; there are more photos and maps.

Touring again in 2015?

After alternate years of Lakeland sailing, we usually share Swallow fairly out amongst the rest of the country, just like we did with the big tour in 2011. This is by no means decided for 2015 yet, but send us a 'black spot' and make your demands anyway, if you want a certain little boat to visit a location near you. (Any email featuring the words "I have a towbar" will be reviewed most favourably!)

There are often events which we think are right for Swallow, but we find that nobody comes forward to ask to sail, and we decide not to attend. The annual race around the island at Secret Water (near Colchester, Essex) is one such event where the lack of requests surprises us every year. That event has now passed, but remember July next year. See www.sailransome.org/events and get in touch!

Calling all experienced sailors

The usual problem facing us is a lack of volunteer skippers and drivers with towbars. We need to find several more sailors who are capable in a vintage dinghy, to take out novices. Curiously, staying in one spot during last year seems to have made it harder to find people to help. We would still like to hear from potential skippers in the Lake District, as well as all across the UK. Please consider if you can donate a day of your time to our project. Skippers do get a nice day out themselves; the fun is not all reserved for the visiting crew!

If this isn't you, please can you stop for a moment and consider if you know of anyone you could forward this request on to. We need to try all possible tactics to track down what is essentially a very small group of people capable of sailing older dinghies, who have free time. Also, we'd love to hear from anyone within 20 miles of a Lakeland shore with a towbar/empty garage/driveway space. Thank you for helping!

Calling all Susans

Are you a dab hand with a sewing machine and strong canvas? We think a very sturdy needle will be required to make some covers for the modern buoyancy bags which Swallow has to have. Whilst 1930s boats never had these, there was a different attitude to sinking and drowning in the those days. Don't joke about duffers until you've read an account of what happens when these traditional boats tip over. Wood may float, but science doesn't dictate that any of it has to float above the surface when 3 people are clinging on to it...

The faces behind the association

Magnus Smith worked like mad to organise Swallow's 2011 tour, but has had to scale back his involvement since then in order to work like mad on moving house instead. Still 300 miles away from Coniston, he can't help feeling he's picked the wrong location, but the DIY is keeping him from tears. Magnus occasionally sails a wooden Merlin Rocket with his brother, who is also mad on S&A.

Rob Boden has been taking people out sailing often in the Lakes, but we really must solve the volunteer drought in order to relieve him. Only then can he cope with the many roles he takes on, such as being the saviour of The Dog's Home. This reference you will hopefully recall from The Picts and the Martyrs story; it is a real building which was in danger of falling down last year, but now repaired.

Another Ransome fan who was instrumental in our original fundraising stage is Peter Willis. Over the last couple of years Peter has retired from Classic Boat magazine and from the Nancy Blackett Trust ...and then gone back to work for both of them again! Nancy is hoping to (possibly, maybe!) visit the London Boat Show in January 2015, and if that does happen there's a chance Swallow will be her tender.

Sophie Neville (mentioned earlier, and our 'patron' in some ways) has been honoured by The Arthur Ransome Society; she is the new president.

Getting afloat

We want to hear from you; when and where do you want to sail? We can't always guarantee to get you afloat, because of the Great British weather (too much wind, too little wind) and because of limited availability of our volunteer skippers, but we try our hardest to arrange matters so you get a chance to sail just like the Swallows and the Amazons. This project was always about getting people on the water. Do call us before turning up to an event, if we haven't already communicated with you.

Thanks for all your support in the last 4 years!

Find out more at www.sailransome.org (Sail Ransome is the non-profit association which looks after Swallow) or email to ask a question or sign up for the annual newsletter. Find us on Facebook too: www.facebook.com/TheSwallowFromTheFilm

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