Carol Stanier

Town Councillor, Royston South
District Councillor, Royston Heath
Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome

I’ve read and re-read so many books during lockdown that choosing just one was hard. However, after a delightful family holiday camping and kayaking in the Lake District recently I decided to review Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome, now also a favourite of both my sons.
The book, first in a series, tells the story of the Walker family children and their adventures in and around the lakes. The Swallows of the title set off to camp on an island in the middle of the lake they are staying near, unencumbered by parents or modern-day stresses. Indeed, their parents trust that the children have sufficient common sense to survive (“If not duffers won’t drown”). Their imaginations transform the landscape into an entirely different place, inhabited by natives and pirates and containing strange creatures such as octopuses and sharks.
The children capture Amazon, a boat owned by Captain Nancy Blackett and her sister Peggy. Together the Blacketts and Walkers declare war on a retired pirate and make him walk the plank, and find buried treasure. And they still get home before the end of the school holidays.
The book is not set in a real version of the Lakes but in a slightly adjusted version of the author’s creation. However, it is possible to identify real places from the book (Kanchenjunga=Old Man of Coniston, Wildcat Island=Peel Island, Rio=Bowness-on-Windermere) and to make the books come alive in your own mind’s eye when visiting the Lake District.
Imagination makes life more interesting for the Swallows and Amazons and is something we should all treasure and encourage, especially in these difficult times. Though Swallows and Amazons was written in 1930, I am sure that many children today dream of doing just what the Swallows did.