Five Go Mad in Dorset
Purbeck’s hills, heathland, heather and gorse provide the setting for most of the books. Blyton first visited Dorset in the early 1930s; her second husband, Kenneth Darrell Waters, later bought the Isle of Purbeck golf club. (A Mrs E. Darrell Waters appears on the board of lady captains in the clubhouse, for 1951.)
Corfe Castle, with its jackdaws and tumbledown towers, was the inspiration for George’s ruined Kirrin Castle. Many books begin with the cousins arriving at Kirrin Station; modern adventurers can still take the steam train from Swanage to Corfe.
Brownsea Island, in Poole Harbour, appears as Whispering (or ‘Keep Away’) Island in Five Have a Mystery to Solve. ‘Yes, the island is real, and lies in the great harbour, still full of whispering trees,’ writes Blyton in the foreword. In her day, it was owned by the reclusive Mary Bonham Christie and visitors were banned. Like Corfe, it’s now owned by the National Trust and is open from March to October.
Five on Finniston Farm is based on Blyton’s own Manor Farm, in Stourton Caundle. She bought it as an investment and never lived there, usually staying at the Knoll House Hotel on Studland Bay for her thrice-yearly golfing holidays.
Five Go to Mystery Moor is thought to be set on Stoborough Heath. The area, criss-crossed by little paths, is a nature reserve; all six native species of reptile can be found there.