This weekend we have been visiting Shotley, nestling conveniently on a promontory between Harwich and Felixstowe. What does that have to do with Falmouth you might ask? Hang on, I’ll get to that. Never seen so many containers, or lightships: so far I have counted seven lightships either moored-up or being used as museums. Of course, the nearby Goodwin Sands was where they used to live.
We came to celebrate Arthur Ransome as it is 50 years since he died. If you are my age you may have heard of the books Swallows and Amazons, We Didn’t Meant To Go To Sea, and Secret Water. If you haven’t, well, Arthur wrote them all and he was rather famous for a while. All the stories start at Pin Mill, where yesterday we sailed in our Wayfarer to join in the celebrations. Today we sailed down to Walton on the Naze. We had lunch at Frinton Yacht Club then sailed across the “Red Sea” and between “Swallow Island” and “Mastodon Island”, all locations named in Secret Water, a super book that was set here.
On our return journey, as we approached the shared entrance to Felixstowe and Harwich, we could clearly see the famous mast of HMS Ganges in Shotley. A Royal Naval training base for many years it was famed for its mast and the young men who stood on the top of it during parades, the very brave Button Boys. Ganges is now closed, after operating ashore for over 60 years from 1905, but before that it was run onboard the real HMS Ganges, a wooden haulk, that was moored here. The connection with Falmouth is that although HMS Ganges was moored here for 30 years or so, the 30 years before that it was moored in Falmouth doing the same job, and a small naval dockyard grew up to support it at Mylor. In fact, this dockyard, now a marina, was once the smallest navel dockyard in the UK. As people who love Falmouth, we have really enjoyed our time here too. Nothing better than being by the sea and watching the passing boats: that’s why we love The Captain’s House so.