Finding the Famous Five

As a child I was fascinated by Enid Blyton’s books. Back in the days where video games didn’t exist and children played outside during the endless (and actually hot!) summers until the sun went down, I loved the Adventure Series books and Secret Seven for their mystery solving and The Magic Faraway Tree and The Wishing Chair for their instant transportation into a fantasy world.

On a recent trip to Dorset then, it went without saying that my friends and I would channel our inner child-detective and explore some of the countryside that inspired Enid Blyton’s most popular books and my personal favourites, the Famous Five stories.

Deciding to focus on the Isle of Purbeck (which is not actually an isle at all but accessible by road as well as by chain ferry), we opted for the more adventurous mode of transport to start our quest and took the four minute ferry crossing from Sandbanks to Swanage. Then it was just a short drive before arriving at Swanage station where we continued our journey by steam train. (The Famous Five would have travelled by bike to get to the railway station but the uncharacteristically freezing March day put pay to that idea.)

The six mile/20 minute steam train journey takes you to Corfe Castle, now a ruin and said to be the inspiration for Kirrin Castle (fans of the stories will know what I mean!) which is fascinating to wander around as it was built by William the Conqueror in the 11th century. But the train journey itself is the real treat, people waving from the streets below, buffet carriage, vintage trunks piled up in the stations. It is the Railway Children meets every train enthusiast’s dream.

The village of Corfe Castle is delightful with a pub, the Greyhound Inn, proclaiming to be the most photographed pub in England in its centre. Expecting to see a certificate from the Guinness Book of Records we went in for lunch and in the spirit of the day, a ginger beer. We couldn’t see anything to back up the claim, but the pub is cosy and the food is great.

With tummies full of fish finger sandwiches, we bought penny chews from the old-school sweet shop and chatted about our favourite childhood Enid Blyton memories with the owner of Gingerpop, a shop dedicated to Ms B herself, before heading back on the steam train.

We didn’t solve any mysteries on our day or meet any smugglers, but we explored a ruined castle, had a lovely lunch washed down with lashings of ginger beer, sucked on pineapple cubes and lemon sherberts out of paper bags and went on a steam train which was adventure enough for our group of 30 somethings!

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