Until July 2017, documenting the seasons of coastal Dorset. I'm a complete amateur so don't trust I'm always right. If ever you see I'm wrong - whether with identifications or in anything else - do say! Meanwhile . . . I've now moved to Halifax in West Yorkshire. Click on the link below to collect the new URL. Don't forget to follow there!

Sunday, 24 July 2011


Last year some time . . . a man talking on the radio . . . an English  journalist who’d worked as a reporter in Afghanistan and had made friends with an Afghan journalist . . . who, when he later needed to flee the country . . .  came to stay with him in London . . .

. . .  The British journalist explained what happened when he decided to deflect his friend's mind from the terrors of war and exile by taking him on a trip into the lovely English countryside. Where better to go than Dorset? Where better than Corfe - 

Even in Celtic and Roman Times there was probably a castle on this site.
The first castles would have been made of wood but
William the Conqueror built it in stone here at the end of
the 11th Century.

1635 - 1646 the castle was owned
by the Bankes family which took
the Royalist side
during the Civil War.

where castle ruins perch dramatically high on a conical hill 

After its fall to Parliamentary forces in 1646,
the stones of the castle were used for building
houses in the village.
and where seventeenth and eighteenth century cottages are still grouped around its toes? 

Where fields and woods stretch into the distance, 

the lanes are narrow, the parking adequate and the National Trust has a pleasant tea-room?

It’s a long trek from London; not really advisable in a day but just about manageable when it matters  . . .  even when the sun shines and everyone else has decided this is just the right moment for a holiday jaunt. The roads jam and the cars go slower and slower . . . and drivers and passengers alike grow weary . 

. . but when they see that castle, the jagged ruins against the sky . . . wow! Fatigue is drowned in awe. The heart lifts. There’s beauty! There’s history! There will be cream teas, ice-creams, ginger beer. This is Enid Blyton country. Remember Kirrin Island with its ruined castle? Rooks? Dungeons? Childhood adventure? Corfe Castle and the coves and moors of this part of Dorset were what inspired the Famous Five stories

Click to find out about the Swanage Railway

You won’t have time to take a ride on the steam train if you’re only here for a couple of hours but you can watch it puff in and out of Corfe Castle station on its way between Swanage and Wareham and simply seeing it will take you back to the childhood you probably never had . . . back to the atmosphere of the original Thomas the Tank Engine illustrations . . . it will be tantalising, you’ll want to come again . . . but for the moment . . . as you come round the bend in the road and suddenly see what’s there, you will experience a wonderful a gasp of surprise, of exhilaration, of pleasure

The castle was
blown up from the inside
by military engineers
when Parliamentary
forces took it in 1645
after laying siege for
six weeks.
 . . . of horror . . . !


“What have you brought me here for? Is this it?”

The shock of seeing through someone else’s eyes.

This man had escaped Afghanistan - a land of war, of explosions, of ruins. For him, ruins do not refresh the soul.

We forget what war is.

The National Trust banners on the bridge between the tea rooms and the fortress say ‘Romance’ ‘War’ ‘Treachery’ ‘Betrayal’. Oh yes! All very jolly!

I'm giving an Amazon link for The Famous Five books because I'm uncertain what would be better. The Famous Five, as well as giving great delight to several generations of children and giving many the motivation to learn how to read, have been hi-jacked on the internet by some very odd people (with strange approaches to sex) and sites which seem ok at first glance turn out not to be . . .

In the 1960s some librarians took against The Famous Five books because the vocabulary is limited. Some people were also concerned because children in it come from middle-class families which sent their children to boarding school and employed a cook. They were also concerned that Enid Blyton's approach suggest racist attitudes and that the children she wrote about 'looked down' on travelers and the poor.

My own opinion is that children need stories - not just 'education', that if they can identify with wizards and fairies there's no reason why they should have problems with people who employ cooks and that unless we know how people used to behave towards each other, they will not be able to understand where we have advanced as a society nor what is left to be achieved.

For Thomas the Tank Engine . . . so far, I'm stuck because I'm not finding links to the original drawings, only to photos taken from more recent books in which they were replaced with models from the television series.
* * *

Welcome to Corfe Castle  - is a good site for finding out about the castle, the village and the surrounding area.

The National Trust Site about Corfe Castle  - includes information about opening times and entrance fees as well as about the castle's history.

The Swanage Railway Site - tells you about the engines, history, timetables . . . and more.

Here is the Historic Towns Survey of Corfe Castle - topography, building types, archaeology etc.

A touristy page with a map to show where Corfe Castle is. (Which might be quite handy!)


Pat Tillett said...

To me it's a wonderful and beautiful thing, but I understand. I'd love to see this in person.
Great and thought provoking post Lucy.

Mark Willis said...

My degree is in History, and I was once in the Army, so you just know I am interested in castles! I am always fascinated by the way in which "destroyed" buildings often get recycled into more humble dwellings. This happened a lot after the dissolution of the monasteries by Henry the Eighth.

Elephant's Eye said...

The stone version of - kings as cabbages re-enter Rome.

Dimple said...

Interesting post, Lucy. I find ruins fascinating, although I do understand that others don't. But now you have shown me that sometimes, to some people, they are horrible.

Carver said...

Great post and perspective. The shots of this beautiful place are fantastic. All I see is the beauty of the ruins but I totally get why others with different experiences wouldn't see it like that.

Ali said...

ooo you don't have to convince me that the UK is the most fantabulous place - I adore it there... oh for some holidays and dollars :)

I grew up reading the famous five, and of course as a child have no recollection of sex, limited vocab, or classist attitudes... I do however remember fabulous adventures, and collecting heather to sleep on. I still don't know exactly what heather is.

Rowan said...

It's a good thing to occasionally see things through another person's eyes. Poor man, I hope the rest of the Dorset scenery made up for the shock of seeing the Castle. As for the Famous Five - they were the first books I really remember reading and I loved them, still do. I have a decidedly working class background but I never had any problem with reading about familis who had servants and children who went to boarding school. In fact reading Malory Towers and the Chalet School books made me really want to go to a boarding school myself. I spent a lot of time pretending that I did when I was 8 or 9 years old:) Children these days don't seem to do much 'pretending', they are too busy messing about with computer games and mobile phones. They miss a great deal!

TheChieftess said...

I really like that second shot of the castle...the clouds, sky and the angle of the hillside with the castle ruin all work together for a great composition!!!

magiceye said...


Anonymous said...

Really enjoyed this post! It looks like a spectacular spot.

Bridget said...

It's all about your perspective on life. I think it's beautiful, but I love ruins and I have not been through a war-zone. So, yeah, it's all about perspective.

PatioPatch said...

Lucy, enjoyed this tour so much with its history plus a salutory lesson thrown in. Every shot a winner. And I agree about Enid Blyton - inverted snobbery is part of so much PC. Children need adventure to fire their imaginations and set their footsteps outdoors. I was with the Famous Five and Secret Seven all the way.