The Nancy Blackett

My husband did something rather wonderful last week – he chartered a boat for a day’s sailing. Now, I’ve always wanted to go sailing and any boat in the world would have made me happy, but he hadn’t booked just any old boat – he’d booked the Nancy Blackett!


The Nancy Blackett is a beautiful 1930’s cutter which belonged to the author Arthur Ransome. He called it his ‘best little ship’ and named it after his much-loved character from the Swallows and Amazon books.

02bAnd the Nancy Blackett was the boat that featured as ‘Goblin’ in my favourite Ransome novel, We Didn’t Mean to go to Sea, so it was a really special experience to be part of the crew along with our skipper and mate.

IMG_5149One of the most wonderful things about sailing is that you get to see things you wouldn’t normally see – like little glimpses of churches and beautiful homes by the water’s edge, as well as seals, cormorants and the occasional Thames barge. You are truly in a different element when you’re out on the water.

11When it came time for me to take the tiller and steer the boat, I was filled with both excitement and nerves. I’m not sure I did a very good job, but I had enormous fun.

P1250030Sailing down the River Orwell to where it meets the River Stour, we moored and had lunch in the cockpit, the September sun streaming down on us as the water lapped the sides of the boat. Then Roy took the tiller for the journey back, skillfully tacking upriver, passing Pin Mill and spotting Alma Cottage where the Walker children in Ransome’s book were staying before their big adventure out at sea.

P1250115As we arrived back at Wolverstone Marina where Nancy is moored, I couldn’t help thinking of the line from We Didn’t Mean to go to Sea: ‘Grab a chance and you won’t be sorry for a might-have-been.’ Yes, we certainly managed to do that, I think!


Today was probably the first warm day of May and very timely it was too for a meeting of The Arthur Ransome Society on the beautiful Ashridge Estate.  The event was ‘Picnic, parley and patterans’ and, after the picnicking and the parleying, it was time to head into the woods where the children had laid a series of patterans for the adults to follow.

Patterans on the Ashridge estate



It was great fun looking out for the patterans and I particularly liked the triangular ones indicating a warning which might well have saved the gossips in the group getting bogged down in mud!

Having made it safely back to the carpark, I left my fellow adventurers and the husband and I went on to explore the beautiful Ridgeway in our own particular ways: husband painting it and me and Molly walking it! 

The Ridgeway

And it was the perfect spring day with the sun shining, a little breeze blowing and the fields full of dandelions and cowslips.




Molly adored rolling in the fields and sniffing for rabbits and I enjoyed a day away from the desk and laptop.  Back to it tomorrow, though, because I really can’t leave my hero wearing nothing but a towel for much longer!

Happy Birthday, Mr Ransome!

On Sunday, I had the very great pleasure of being the guest speaker at a lunch held by The Arthur Ransome Society to celebrate the great man’s birthday.  It was held at the Norfolk Arms in Arundel – a fabulous coaching inn – and there were over forty members all of whom made me very welcome.  I gave a talk about ‘Writing Rules’, looking at those which Arthur Ransome sticks to and a few he breaks as well, and then read a passage from Winter Holiday – that magical scene where Dorothea wakes up to the first snow of the year.

Norfolk Arms

The afternoon rushed by but there was just enough time to pop into Kim’s Bookshop – a fabulous place with wall to wall books on three floors!  I could happily lose a few hours there.

Arundel Castle

March 2009

I was out and about a lot this month. First, there was a writers’ day in London when I met lovely author Sam Mills who is staring in a film adaptation of her amazing children’s book, The Boys Who Saved the World. Watch the fabulous trailer here. We then went to meet with best-selling author Carole Matthews who was part of a panel giving a talk about promotion. And then, to round off the day, it was off for a hot chocolate with author Juliet Archer who had just done a mammoth book signing at Borders on Oxford Street for her debut novel, The Importance of Being Emma, which I’m really looking forward to reading. We both share a love of Jane Austen, and Juliet is writing wonderful updated versions of Austen’s novels.

Another trip took us to the Suffolk coast. Here’s Molly and me in front of the Butt and Oyster at Pin Mill – the setting of one of my favourite Arthur Ransome novels, We Didn’t Mean to go to Sea.

Pin Mill, Suffolk

It’s always a magical feeling visiting somewhere that you’ve read about in a novel and I got very excited when I discovered Alma Cottage, believing that I might just bump into the Walker children or dear Jim Brading.

Our big trip of the month was a week on the Pembrokeshire coast where hubby painted and I made good progress on my new novel, Connie Gordon’s Clan. But it wasn’t all work and, doing our best to dodge the gales, we had many gorgeous, gorse-filled walks along the coast, spying the sweet violets, primroses and celandine.