DORSET’S FA­MOUS FIVE

English au­thor Enid Bly­ton loved it. Seventy-five years on, you will too

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - Escape - - DESTINATION ENGLAND - KERRY PARNELL

“The chil­dren looked out for it as they drove along the coast. Then Ju­lian gave a shout. ‘There it is – that must be Kir­rin Bay’ … Anne was star­ing out over the blue bay. At the en­trance to it lay a cu­ri­ous rocky is­land with what looked like an old ru­ined cas­tle on the top of it. ‘Isn’t that a funny place?’ she said. ‘I won­der what it’s called.’

‘It’s called Kir­rin Is­land,’ said George, her eyes as blue as the sea … ‘It’s a lovely place to go to. If I like you, I may take you there some day.’”

Seventy-five years af­ter Enid Bly­ton in­tro­duced us to the Fa­mous Five in Five on a Trea­sure Is­land, George’s in­vi­ta­tion still stands along the Dorset coast.

Bly­ton hol­i­dayed on the Isle of Purbeck in Dorset on Eng­land’s south coast three times a year un­til she was el­derly. It’s lit­tle won­der it in­spired so much of her writ­ing. With its rolling green hills, thatched cot­tages, ru­ined cas­tles, glit­ter­ing blue coves and sandy bays, it’s the stuff child­hood dreams are made of.

And so they were, once the pro­lific Bly­ton be­gan her Fa­mous Five se­ries. Al­ready a suc­cess­ful au­thor, by the time she pub­lished Five on a Trea­sure Is­land in 1942, she was at the peak of her ca­reer – she would write 700 books and sell 600 mil­lion copies world­wide.

“I don’t think that I use any­thing I have not seen or ex­pe­ri­enced. I don’t think I could,” Bly­ton con­fessed.

Con­se­quently, it’s easy to find the real life places that in­spired her and step into your own Fa­mous Five ad­ven­ture for a lit­tle while.

CORFE CAS­TLE

Kir­ren Cas­tle is Corfe Cas­tle and you can still catch a steam train there from Ware­ham or Swan­age. The re­stored line is charm­ing, com­plete with ticket of­fices, wait­ing rooms and smartly dressed porters.

It’s im­pos­si­ble not to feel a thrill when the whis­tle blows and you chug away in your first class car­riage.

They even of­fer a cream tea train and train driver ex­pe­ri­ences.

But there’s no time for that when Corfe Cas­tle is wait­ing to be ex­plored.

Built by Wil­liam the Con­queror and blown up by Oliver Cromwell, the ro­man­tic cas­tle sits atop a hill over­look­ing the quaint vil­lage of Corfe, con­structed of Purbeck lime­stone.

Now owned by the Na­tional Trust, not George, it’s nev­er­the­less still full of mys­tery.

The vil­lage is crammed with cream tea shops and cosy pubs.

And yes, you can buy lash­ings of gin­ger beer.

SWAN­AGE

At the end of the steam train line is the sea­side town of Swan­age, and as you pull into the sta­tion you could be ar­riv­ing for your hol­i­days in the 1950s, so lit­tle has it changed.

Enid Bly­ton was a reg­u­lar visi­tor, stay­ing at the Grand Ho­tel, a Vic­to­rian ho­tel with a pri­vate sandy beach on the Juras­sic Coast – Eng­land’s first nat­u­ral World Her­itage Site.

You can just imag­ine her sipping a pre-din­ner G&T on the ter­race.

Bly­ton was a keen golfer and bought the Isle of Purbeck Golf Club, which ap­pears in Five Have a Mys­tery to Solve.

Although the book­shop she would sign her nov­els in is now a newsagent, much of the rest of the town is the same, with cafes and ice-cream par­lours crowded around the bay.

It’s an Eng­land a gen­er­a­tion of Aus­tralians left be­hind in the 1950s, and is heart­en­ing in a way that it’s still there.

BROWNSEA IS­LAND

From a pi­rate hideaway to mil­lion­aire’s play­ground, by the time Enid Bly­ton saw Brownsea Is­land it was owned by recluse Mary Bon­hamChristie who let its cas­tle and lands run wild and banned vis­i­tors, in­spir­ing the au­thor to re­name it Whis­per­ing Is­land in Five Have a Mys­tery to Solve.

Now owned by the Na­tional Trust, it’s a na­ture re­serve.

Full of red squir­rels, it’s a lovely place to take a trail. The boat ride there is fun, on the bright yel­low Brownsea Fer­ries from Poole or Sand­banks across the bay.

LULWORTH COVE

Kir­ren Bay is the beau­ti­ful Lulworth Cove, along the coast be­tween Swan­age and Wey­mouth. This tiny lit­tle cove with its peb­bly beach, sparkling sea and fish­ing boats could be a Greek is­land.

It’s lit­tle won­der it, and neigh­bour­ing Dur­dle Door with its rock arch for­ma­tion in­spired Bly­ton; it’s un­likely any­one could fail to be en­chanted by Lulworth.

Crammed with more tea shops and inns than you could imag­ine along the wind­ing lit­tle lane to the beach, it makes for a mem­o­rable place to stay. The Lulworth Cove Inn, with its eclec­tic rooms and fine din­ing is a stand­out.

STOBOROUGH HEATH

Be­tween Stoborough Green and Corfe lies the moor­land that fea­tures in Five go to Mys­tery Moor, which is an at­mo­spheric place to ram­ble through the heather and stop for a pic­nic.

The Fa­mous Five loved to feast in the fresh air – they fa­mously said, “I don’t know why, but the meals we have on pic­nics al­ways taste so much nicer than the ones we have in­doors.” In­deed they do, es­pe­cially if you pack sand­wiches and “great slices of cherry cake”.

KNOLL HOUSE HO­TEL

Bly­ton stayed in this clas­sic English sea­side ho­tel from the 1960s un­til her old age and it’s still go­ing strong, 80 years af­ter it opened.

Set on the Na­tional Trust-owned beach at Stud­land, it feels like lit­tle has changed since the au­thor’s day, with its swim­ming pools and ten­nis courts, chil­dren’s teatime and strict adults-only din­ing room.

In­evitably, the hol­i­day has to end. And as you drive away from the un­du­lat­ing hills and chalky paths that prom­ise all sorts of ex­cit­ing ad­ven­tures, you can only hope, like Ju­lian, Dick, Anne and George that you’ll be back again next sum­mer.

PIC­TURES: ISTOCK

DUR­DLE DOOR With its windswept, craggy coves and ru­ined cas­tles, dis­cover the mag­i­cal English coast that in­spired Enid Bly­ton’s Fa­mous Five se­ries 75 years ago.

VIL­LAGE VIEW

CORFE CAS­TLE

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