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
forces took it in 1645
after laying siege for
. . . 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!)