IT WAS the unlikely TV hit of a lockdown summer.

Malory Towers, the story of a bunch of well-to-do girls at an English boarding school in the 1940s, was a huge success, much loved by young audiences (and their parents, and grandparents) and there was not a mobile phone or TikTok video in sight.

Glasgow Times: Programme Name: Malory Towers S2 - TX: n/a - Episode: Malory Towers S2 - ep 3 (No. 3) - Picture Shows:  Darrell (ELLA BRIGHT), Sally (SIENNA ARIF-KNIGHTS), Gwen (DANYA GRIVER), Ellen (CARYS JOHN), Mary-Lou (IMOGEN LAMB), Jean (BETH BRADFEILD), Irene

Adapted from Enid Blyton’s books by the acclaimed writing team of Rachel Flowerday and Sasha Hails, it gently and cleverly updated the original stories without losing any of their spirit and charm.

Now, Darrell Rivers and friends are back for series two, which starts on BBC iPlayer on Monday (November 22) before being shown on CBBC over the coming weeks.

Filming has also finished on series three – COVID delays meant both seasons were done at the same time – so even more episodes are on their way.

Glasgow Times: Programme Name: Malory Towers S2 - TX: n/a - Episode: Malory Towers S2 - ep 1 (No. 1) - Picture Shows:  Darrell (ELLA BRIGHT) - (C) King Bert Productions and WildBrain - Photographer: Neil Genower.

Rachel and Sasha admit to being ‘absolutely delighted’ by the response to the first series, which was brought forward to coincide with the early closure of schools across the country due to the pandemic.

“It really seemed to speak to people during what was a terrible time for all of us,” says Rachel. “We were so delighted by the response.”

The two women had worked together before – they developed and co-wrote the BBC adaptation of Wilkie Collins’ The Moonstone, starring John Thomson – and were looking for a new project.

“We wanted to do a children’s TV series, and we both absolutely loved Malory Towers, so we thought that would be an amazing thing to do,” says Sasha.

“But when we made the approach, we were told the rights had gone and we thought that was that.”

Glasgow Times: Programme Name: Malory Towers S2 - TX: n/a - Episode: Malory Towers S2 - generics (No. n/a) - Picture Shows:  Mr Parker (JASON CALLENDER) - (C) King Bert Productions and WildBrain - Photographer: Darren Goldstein.

As luck would have it, however, the rights had been bought by The Moonstone producers King Bert – and they wanted Rachel and Sasha to take on the project.

“It was meant to happen,” smiles Sasha.

Both Rachel and Sasha are lifelong fans of Blyton, whose books have sold hundreds of millions of copies and regularly topped bestseller lists since the 1930s.

Rachel explains: “I loved all the Enid Blyton books when I was growing up, but Malory Towers were my favourites.

Glasgow Times: Programme Name: Malory Towers S2 - TX: n/a - Episode: Malory Towers S2 - generics (No. n/a) - Picture Shows:  Ron (JUDE HARPER-WROBEL) - (C) King Bert Productions and WildBrain - Photographer: Neil Genower.

“It was the female friendship, I think - it was all just so recognisable. Blyton was really astute at that, with the psychology of it.”

Sasha adds, smiling: “I read Malory Towers, St Clare’s and the Naughtiest Girl in School books all the time – and well past the age I probably should have done.

“When I was doing my exams at school and supposed to be reading Dickens, I’d be hiding my Blyton books inside the Dickens books...”

Steering clear of the problem areas, such as attitudes to race and class, that Blyton’s books have often been criticised for – “we made sure none of it was anywhere near our script,” says Sasha, firmly – the two women have created a more diverse world which delves a little deeper into some of the characters and situations in the novels.

The television version of Gwendoline Lacey, for example, is much more complex than the spoiled sneak presented in the books.

“One of the things that surprised me the most is quite how broken Gwen is,” says Rachel.

“She is such a brilliant character, so selfish and mean, and readers love to hate her. But there are hints in the books about why she is that way, and we wanted to look at that in more detail.”

Sasha believes part of the enduring appeal of the stories lies in the autonomy Blyton gives her characters.

“They are out there, scrambling around, having midnight feasts, being independent - there is no helicopter parenting,” says Sasha, adding with a laugh: “And no wifi. Just imagination.

“And mothers and grandmothers are reminded what that was like. It is very liberating.”

Rachel agrees.

“Blyton was forward thinking – she really believed children could and should stand up for themselves and challenge adults over injustice, and were capable of meting out justice on their own,” she adds. “That was quite progressive for the time she was writing.”

The two women researched life in 1940s boarding schools as part of the writing process.

“The Malory Towers book paint a happy picture of that world but there was a darker shadow of war there too,” says Rachel.

“Blyton does put in little clues here and there – the headteacher Miss Grayling being a war widow, for example - but it is never explicit.

“We wanted to explore that more. It adds another dimension.”

READ MORE: Nostalgia food is all the rage - but do you really want to relive your school dinners?

The show has been filmed in Canada, with exteriors shot on the ‘sun-drenched’ cliffs of Cornwall.

“It always seems to be summer at Malory Towers,” laughs Sasha.

“The landscape is stunning – that tide pool does exist, that stately home is real. It is absolutely beautiful and I think that does contribute to the nostalgic, warm feeling of the show.”

Ella Bright plays the central character Darrell, who has to face more trials and tribulations as she returns to boarding school for her second year.

Darrell finds herself caught between fun-loving Alicia (Zoey Siewert) and the more cautious Sally (Sienna Arif-Knights), while Gwen (Danya Griver) discovers new ways to manipulate the girls in the dorm.

Meanwhile, Jean (Beth Bradfield) is kindly on hand to help new girl Ellen Wilson (Carys John) settle into Malory Towers, which she joins on a scholarship…but it takes time for her to warm to the school and the rest of her new classmates, even brave Mary-Lou (Imogen Lamb) and scatterbrain Irene (Natasha Raphael).

There is a new teacher at the school this year - Mr. Parker (Jason Callender) - and the magnificent Ashley McGuire returns as Matron.

With series two and three done and dusted, critics - who raved about the first series - and viewers are keeping their fingers crossed we will get the chance to see hot-headed Darrell, steady Sally, scatterbrain Irene, meek Mary-Lou and the rest of the gang all the way through to their final days of sixth form.

“We are also keeping our fingers crossed,” says Rachel.

“We’d love to keep it going. It has been such a joy to do, and we hope everyone watching feels that too.”