Secret water

I have been re-reading the Arthur Ransome, Swallows and Amazons books over the past few weeks. They are stories that I have loved since I was a child and I have really enjoyed revisiting them. I read them in quick succession – one after the other.


My favourite book has always been Secret Water. It is a wonderful exploring adventure but on this re-reading, it is the setting that attracted me. The book is set in Hamford Water, a marshy environment in Essex. Ransome’s descriptions of the place remind me so much of the saltmarshes on the North Norfolk coast and it is these places that I have in my imagination and visit as I read.


‘The saltings below the dyke grew narrower, and were now no more than a fringe to the wide expanse of mud that stretched across from the island to the mainland instead of the bright, shimmering sea that they had seen from the deck of the Goblin when they had sailed into the creek. A ribbon of water was spreading in the middle of the mud. Tide was coming up. Soon the mud would be a sea once more.’


‘They went floundering along the saltings …  the island that had been divided from the big one by a wide channel was an island no longer. The channel had narrowed and broken up, into little streams trickling down both sides of a mudbank.’


‘Almost at the same moment, everybody saw a break in the line of sand away to the south, and a thread of water going in there, and one or two tall masts showing above sand dunes. And, as they came nearer to that round buoy with the cross they saw a much wider channel was opening before them with smooth shining water stretching to the west and low banks on either side.


the land seemed hardly above the level of the sea, just a long low line above the water, with higher ground far away behind it. But that low line of coast seemed to have no gaps in it. It looked as if it stretched the whole way round across the head of the bay.’


These photos were taken at Burnham Overy Staithe …. wonderful.


7 thoughts on “Secret water

  1. Joan McQuillan

    Wow such fantastic images of an area that I to love combined with those words from Ransome just sheer summer magic. Thank you for a great start to the day. I wish I were there too.

  2. Mike

    Great photographs – they could be the Backwaters!
    Ransome was very good on descriptions, particularly as he wrote about where he knew or had visited.
    Like you, I read them in childhood, unlike you I have read them ever since (I’m now 61) nearly all of them at least once a year. I also have the good fortune to live in the area Secret Water is set in and regularly visit the settings of We Didn’t Mean To Go To Sea (not Flushing though!)
    He was a great writer of books to be read by children, but, he always claimed, never wrote for children!


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