The Walton Backwaters was a favourite location of Arthur Ransome’s and he visited them frequently on his yacht Nancy Blackett. He used them as the inspiration and setting for one of the books in the Swallows and Amazons series – Secret Water. Given that 2017 is the 80th anniversary of his book We didn’t mean to go to sea, we decided as a project to do some special days out on our wheelyboat as part of the celebrations. After joining in with the Pin Mill Jamboree in May, we decided to follow it up with some days out in Secret Water.
So on Friday 22nd September we headed over to Titchmarsh Marina. They kindly allowed us to load up on the outer pontoons which were ideal for our wheelyboat. From the marina we headed up the Twizzle (named Swallow Creek by the Swallows and Amazons) and round into Hamford Water. The tidal world of the salt marshes is a home for a wide range of wildlife and we were delighted to spot egrets among the various birds – spotting egrets from the Egret seemed appropriate! It is also an internationally important breeding ground for Little Terns and a wintering ground for Dark-bellied Brent Geese, wild fowl and waders.
From Hamford Water we headed round into Oakley Creek past the island named Peewit Island by the Swallows. With Tony Burrows as our local expert, we found some of the local seal colony basking in the sun on the mud banks at the edge of the creek. They seemed remarkably laid back (literally) around us and also were totally unperturbed by the fact that they were basking close by the edge of a gunpowder factory! We drifted slowly past them on the tide and towards the head of the creek turned slowly round to head back to Hamford Water. We turned right back into Hamford Water and then carried on round Horsey Island (Swallow Island) by following Kirby Creek (Goblin Creek). At the bottom we drifted slowly past another group of seals and then slowly started our crossing of the area named the Red Sea by the Swallows and Amazons. This large area is very shallow and spends more time as mud than water. The Swallows called it the Red Sea because of a causeway which runs across between the mainland and Horsey Island – they crossed this to find the native settlements and almost got stuck by the rising tide. We managed to cross the Red Sea fine, though most of the way across we could have walked given the depth of the water!
We stayed overnight at Titchmarsh Marina and then on Saturday repeated the trip for some more members and friends. While the weather wasn’t quite as good, we still had a great trip and the seals once again obliged watching us carefully as we headed past.
Thanks to Tony, David, Carl and Kate for crewing us for the two days and particular thanks to Titchmarsh Marina for generously hosting us for the two days. The marina was an ideal base for us to explore this beautiful area.