The children’s author Enid Blyton was born in south London and holidayed in Dorset three times a year for about twenty years. These happy trips inspired the ‘Famous Five’ series about siblings Julian, Dick and Ann, plus George (a tomboy who refused to be known as Georgina) and her dog, Timmy.
The series is sometimes criticised as escapism and for portraying a safe, middle-class world but as 3 million children were evacuated from London during the war, times were tough and children needed stories like these. Enid Blyton died in 1968 but affection for her stories has not waned, especially as nowadays it is no longer possible to allow children to go exploring on their own but when the books were written this was commonplace.
Enid Blyton’s 115th Birthday Party
I visited Dorset for an Enid Blyton birthday celebration at Corfe Castle. There was storytelling in the castle grounds, children’s activities and fairground music in the background. There were families everywhere – outdoorsy, barefoot-on-the-grass, unbrushed hair, homemade-picnic type families and not the supermarket-bought-sandwiches, expensive brand name picnic blankets and fear-of-dirt urban families I know well in London.
Corfe Castle is a 21 metre (69ft) high ruined Norman castle perched on top of a 55 metre (180ft) mound. (For a London connection, the Tower of London is the only surviving Norman castle in London). Corfe Castle was destroyed in 1646 and many of the surrounding buildings were built from the stone. Corfe Castle is now managed by the National Trust and was the inspiration for Kirrin Castle in the Famous Five series.
The 70th anniversary of Enid Blyton’s Famous Five books has brought the launch of The Famous Five Adventure Trail which includes locations she knew well such as Swanage Pier, Swanage Steam Railway and Blue Pool. The trail is an extension of the 1948 book Five on Kirrin Island Again.
Swanage Pier was built at the end of the 19th century and has been voted Pier of the Year 2012. This English seaside town with a sandy beach and Punch & Judy is where Enid Blyton liked to holiday with her family and the sleepy town is still in a happy time warp. (Photo credit: jackharrybill)
Swanage Railway opened in 1885 and closed in 1972. Since then it has been restored by enthusiasts and a steam train connects six miles of beautiful countryside from Swanage to Norden, passing Corfe Castle.
The Ginger Pop Shop in The Square at Corfe Castle village is a small but well-stocked shop for Enid Blyton fans and lovers of English nostalgia.
The lovely lady at The Blue Pool & Tearoom is in her 80s and bakes hundreds of scones every day. She estimates she makes 10,000 scones a year and all are mixed by hand as she doesn’t like the sound of a food mixer. We enjoyed a Dorset cream tea with her misshapen scones, clotted cream and strawberry jam (preserve) in the Tearoom before a walk around the Blue Pool which is a lovely location for some quiet time with nature that has been popular for generations. It was a hand-dug clay pit but is now full of rainwater which is a stunning deep turquoise.
Dorset is a wonderful part of the world (I know Jonathan and Jackie will agree!) and I hope to return again soon for more lashings of ginger beer and nostalgia.
Key Info about Corfe Castle
Time: March: 10am-5pm / April to Sept: 10am-6pm /
Oct: 10am-5pm / Nov to Feb: 10am-4pm
Address: Corfe Castle, Wareham, Dorset BH20 5EZ
Phone: +44 (0)1929 481294
Costs: Adult £7.72 /child £3.86 / Family ticket: £19.31 / Family (1 adult): £11.59
Getting there: Train from London Waterloo to Wareham is under 2.5 hours, then get a cab for the last 4.5 miles. If you choose to drive, there’s a park and ride at Norden station then you can catch the Swanage Steam Railway for 5 minutes to Corfe Castle station.