BBC Countryfile star Matt Baker has visited Corfe Castle on a nostalgic steam train – to discover the links between Enid Blyton’s iconic ‘Famous Five’ children’s adventure stories and the Isle of Purbeck.
And in an amazing co-incidence, the rescued and restored locomotive hauling the television presenter’s train was designed in 1897, the same year that the famous author of the escapist books – also the creator of Noddy – was born.
The results of Matt Baker’s nostalgic exploration into the background of the adventure books that have delighted generations of children around the world since first being published during 1942 can be seen on Sunday, 17 June, 2012, at 6.30pm on BBC One.
The visit to Corfe Castle on a steam train by the popular BBC One Show presenter came as the Swanage Railway takes part in a ‘Famous Five’ Adventure Trail for children running throughout the summer and featuring a mysterious clue somewhere along the six-mile relaid Purbeck Line.
Dressed in 1940s clothes for the BBC’s cameras, Matt Baker and three local children – Ben White, Molly Britten and Emily Ford as well as Taz the dog – took a trip on a steam train from Norden Park & Ride to Corfe Castle station before the group explored the picturesque stone-roofed village.
The pilgrimage of the five – playing the parts of ‘Famous Five’ characters Julian, Dick, Anne, George and Timmy the dog – to the area that was home to Enid Blyton for many years marked the 70th anniversary of the ‘Famous Five’ books which are still published today.
It is believed that the jagged Medieval ruins of Corfe Castle were the inspiration for Kirrin Castle in the ‘Famous Five’ books which also mention steam locomotives hauling trains of ball clay – inspired by the narrow gauge clay mine tramways at Norden north of Corfe Castle.
The experience of taking the steam train to Corfe Castle and Swanage was well known to famous author Enid Blyton because she had a holiday home in the Swanage area for many years – and owned the prestigious Isle of Purbeck Golf Club near Studland.
It is reputed her famous PC Plod character was based on a village policeman in Studland while Enid Blyton was also a regular visitor to the exclusive Grosvenor Hotel in Swanage and the Knoll House Hotel in Studland.
Swanage Railway commercial manager Martin Payne said: “It was an amazing co-incidence that Matt Baker’s train was pulled by an Victorian M7 class steam locomotive designed in 1897, the year of Enid Blyton’s birth.
“The new ‘Famous Five’ Adventure Trail captures the adventurous and escapist spirit of the classic and timeless books – it’s ideal for anyone who has ever wanted to take part in a ‘Famous Five’-style adventure.
“The ‘Famous Five’ Adventure Trail is set around places that Enid Blyton knew well, such as Corfe Castle, the Swanage Railway and the Victorian Pier in Swanage,” explained Mr Payne.
Born in south London during 1897 the daughter of a cutlery salesman, Enid Blyton died in 1968 at the age of 71. She wrote more than 700 books over 45 years which have been translated into more than 90 different languages.
The books by the novelist, poet and teacher have sold more than 600 million copies and more than a million of the ‘Famous Five’ books are still sold around the world every year.
The ‘Famous Five’ Adventure Trail runs until Monday, November 5, 2012. Clue sheets are available from Swanage Railway booking offices – as well as other tourist locations – and also on-line at www.f5trail.co.uk.
Photo by Andrew P.M. Wright