Camping Inspiration: Discover the Famous Five's Dorset
Josh Sutton explores the Dorset of Famous Five author Enid Blyton, where great things come in fives… with lashings of ginger beer!
Dorset boasts more than 1,000 square miles of quintessentially English countryside and over 70 miles of spectacular Jurassic coastline.
There’s definitely something in those coastal waters that brings out a sense of adventure and derring-do. And nothing illustrates that more vividly than the work of children’s author Enid Blyton.
She was a frequent visitor to the county, and it was here that she based five of her most famous characters: Julian, Dick, George, Anne and Timmy the dog.
The Famous Five first set out on their adventures in 1942, when they came across a stash of treasure on their beloved Kirrin Island.
Blyton wrote a total of 21 stories in which the intrepid adventurers bested smugglers, spies, thieves, kidnappers and a host of other ne’er do wells in a series of adventure that still has young readers enthralled today.
The Famous Five camped, hiked, cycled and travelled in horse-drawn gypsy caravans all across Dorset and even further afield.
The equipment described in Five Go Off To Camp (1948) might be a little antiquated by today’s modern standards, but it all performed, pretty much, the same function.
Anne’s little petrol fuelled Primus stove would be replaced with a double gas ring grill these days, and the heavyweight canvas tents would give way to lightweight modern fabrics to repel the worst of the weather.
One thing is for certain, though, the campsite fees would have been a lot cheaper back in those days.
Corfe Castle (courtesy Kevin Eaves/stock.adobe.com)
Much of the landscape described in the books was drawn directly from the Dorset countryside.
The famous Kirrin Island, where treasure was found and smugglers thwarted, is said to be inspired by Brownsea Island, which lies in Poole Harbour.
The ruined Kirrin Castle itself, which sits atop the tiny island is thought to be based on Corfe Castle.
As well as their appetite for adventure, the Famous Five also had an appetite for a picnic and a jolly good feed.
They managed to chomp their way through a feast of pies, cakes, salads and “lashings” of hard boiled eggs and, of course, gallons of ginger beer.
Such was the Five’s appetite for good home-made food, that I suggested a Famous Five recipe book might be a worthwhile project and much to my delight, I was commissioned to write the book Five Go Feasting in 2018.
Here I’ve hand-picked five feasts that you could rustle up on a Dorset campsite (with the exception of the ginger beer, which is best brewed at home), as well as a bunch of five things I also love about this great county.
FIVE FAMOUS FEASTS
PEA & HAM SOUP
For the stock:
2 celery sticks
1 ham hock
6 whole black peppercorns
2 star anise
For the soup:
1 large onion
1 knob of butter
225g red split lentils or split peas
Freshly ground black pepper
To make the stock, halve the onion, leaving the skin on, and chop the celery. Throw the onion and celery into a large stockpot with the carrot. Add the ham hock, peppercorns and star anise and cover with plenty of water. Bring to the boil then turn down the heat, cover with a lid, and simmer gently for one hour. Remove from the heat and lift out the ham hock with a slotted spoon; set aside to cool. Sieve the stock into a jug for use later. Once the ham hock has cooled enough to handle, cut away the skin and discard. Next, strip the meat from the bone and roughly chop.
Peel and finely chop the onion for the soup and fry gently in the butter. Add the chopped meat from the hock. Throw in the lentils or split peas and stir well, seasoning with black pepper. Pour in 500ml of the reserved stock and 500ml water. Bring to the boil then turn down to a gentle simmer. After 20 minutes or so the soup will thicken as the lentils cook through. Add a drop more water to loosen if necessary.
(Photo courtesy of Magdalena Bujak/stock.adobe.com)
SAUSAGE AND MASH WITH ONION GRAVY
1kg King Edward potatoes
50ml double cream or milk
2 large knobs of butter
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
8 fat pork sausages
1 large white onion
1 tbsp plain flour
Pinch mixed herbs
1 beef stock cube
500ml potato water
Vegetable oil, for frying
Peel and quarter the potatoes, place them in a large saucepan with a litre of salted water and boil until soft. Drain the potatoes, reserving 500ml of the cooking water in a measuring jug. Return the potatoes to the pan with the cream or milk and add a large knob of butter, a pinch of salt and a hearty grind of black pepper. Cover and leave to sit off the heat. While the potatoes are cooking, fry the sausages for 10 minutes or so in a deep-sided frying pan. Turn them regularly to ensure the skin is a lovely brown all over.
To make the gravy, remove the cooked sausages from the pan and place them in a low oven to keep warm. Peel and chop the onion. Add the remaining knob of butter to the pan and fry the onion until it begins to turn golden brown. Add the flour and stir well. Continue to cook for a minute or so longer then add the mixed herbs and stock cube, and stir in a little of the reserved potato water. Continue adding the water, stirring well as you do so. Simmer the gravy until it begins to thicken.
Returning to the potatoes, remove the lid from the pan and mash thoroughly by hand. Spoon onto warm plates, top with two sausages each and serve covered in the onion gravy.
(Photo courtesy of David Smith/stock.adobe.com)
TOMATO AND ROASTED RED PEPPER SOUP
2 red peppers
1 onion, finely chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
8 tomatoes, peeled and chopped
1 litre boiling water
2 tsp paprika
Salt & pepper
1 tbsp plain flour
1 tsp boullion
1 tbsp chopped fresh chives (optional)
A small pot of single cream (optional)
Char-grill the peppers by placing them directly over the flame on the camping stove. Turn regularly until the peppers become blackened on all sides. This will take five minutes or so. When done, place the peppers in a zip-lock plastic food bag and allow to cool (this will make it easier to remove the blackened skins). Heat the oil in a saucepan and add the onion. Simmer until the onion begins to turn translucent and then add the garlic. Simmer gently until the onion turns a lovely golden colour.
While the onion and garlic are cooking, peel the tomatoes by cutting a small ‘x’ on the bottom of each one, place them in a bowl and cover with a litre of boiling water. Allow to stand for a few minutes until the skins begin to peel away. Remove the skins from the tomatoes and discard, but keep the tomato water. Chop the tomatoes. Add the flour, the paprika, the bouillon and a good pinch of salt to the onion and garlic and stir well. Cook for a couple of minutes, stirring continually to prevent it sticking on the bottom of the pan. Next add the chopped tomatoes to the pan together with some of the reserved ‘tomato water’ and stir.
Remove the peppers from the plastic bag, and using a knife, scrape off the charred black skin. Halve them, remove all of the seeds and discard. Finely chop the peppers and add them to the saucepan together with the rest of the tomato water. Place a lid on the pan and simmer very gently for thirty minutes. The soup will thicken and take on a beautiful deep red colour. Season to taste and garnish with a few chopped chives and a swirl of single cream.
CHICKEN & CHORIZO CASSEROLE
1 large onion (finely chopped)
2 cloves of garlic (finely chopped)
Half a chorizo ring (chopped)
1 heaped tsp of paprika
1 heaped tsp of plain flour
Six joints of fresh chicken (drumsticks or thighs or a mix)
1 red pepper (chopped)
1 yellow pepper (chopped)
1 small glass of red wine
1 tin of chopped tomatoes
1 litre of vegetable stock
Salt and Pepper to taste
Put a kettle of water on to boil for the vegetable stock. Heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a stockpot over a good flame. Add the chopped onion and garlic. Simmer for four or five minutes, then add the chopped peppers and the chicken joints. Turn the chicken so it begins to brown all over. As the onion begins to turn translucent, throw in the flour and paprika. The whole thing will turn a glorious orange colour. Now add the chopped chorizo and marvel as the colour deepens. Chuck in the small glass of red wine and the tin of chopped tomatoes.
Give it a good stir and bring back to the simmer. Stir in the vegetable stock and add salt and pepper to taste. Place a lid on the pot and turn the flame to low and simmer for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally so as not to let the thing stick and burn on the bottom of the pot. Serve with either boiled potatoes or rice, or just consume with hunks of crusty bread for dunking!
(Photo courtesy of Atlas/stock.adobe.com)
(Makes about 6 litres)
40g root ginger
Juice and rind of 1½ lemons
25g cream of tartar
6 litres boiling water
25g brewer’s yeast
You wil also need 12 x 500ml sterilised glass bottles with stoppers
Wrap the root ginger in a tea towel and wallop it with a rolling pin to bruise it well. Place it, the sugar, the juice and rind of the lemons and the cream of tartar in a large heatproof glass mixing bowl. Pour over the boiling water and cover with a tea towel. Allow to cool until lukewarm.
Next, stir in the yeast. Re-cover the bowl with a cloth and allow to brew at room temperature overnight. In the morning, skim any yeast from the surface and carefully decant into sterilised glass bottles with ceramic swing-top stoppers. Leave for 3 days in a cool dark place, after which the ginger beer will be ready to drink.
FIVE PLACES TO EAT IN DORSET
Hive Beach Café
The Boat Shed
FIVE DORSET CAMPSITES
GOLDEN CAP HOLIDAY PARK
Mill Lane, Seatown, Bridport DT6 6JX
Golden Cap is a great place to pitch up. Just a stone’s throw away from the splendid Seatown Beach and the award winning Anchor Pub a short stroll from the site. Golden Cap is open to tents and tourers from March to October, but there is also has a large overflow field ‘Big Berries’, which is open from 19 July to 26 August to cater for the busiest of periods.
Golden Cap campsite (Picture by Richard Faulks)
Tom’s Field Road, Langton Matravers, Swanage, Dorset BH19 3HN
This campsite sits just a little inland from the famous ‘Dancing Ledge’. A short walk through corn fields and open countryside will see you taking a dip in the famous hollowed out ‘swimming pool’ in the base of the Dorset cliffs. Open from March, this small campsite has a perfect family feel to the place and is ideally situated for exploring nearby towns and villages.
Rempstone, Corfe Castle, Dorset BH20 5JH
01929 480 570
Burnbake is a little wooded wonderland situated just north east of Corfe Castle, it’s open from Easter until the last weekend in September.
CORFE CASTLE CAMPING AND CARAVANNING CLUB SITE
Bucknowle, Wareham, Dorset BH20 5PQ
Splendid accommodation on a well set-out site. The site is open from March through to the beginning of November and bookings are open to members by phone:, or via the Camping and Caravanning Club website.
FROME MEADOW CAMPSITE
Moreton, Dorchester, Dorset DT2 8RA
07717 717 181
For a real camping treat, getting back to nature, then take a look at Frome Meadow, a true farm-run campsite with a river running alongside where you can paddle and dip in the hot weather. Frome Meadow is a seasonal site, so it’s only open in August.
FIVE THINGS TO DO IN DORSET
Thought to have been the inspiration for Blyton’s Kirrin Castle. The castle has a rich history dating back beyond the civil war.
At Dancing Ledge, you’ll find a rectangular swimming pool carved from the Purbeck stone sometime in the early 1900s.
TOLPUDDLE MARTYRS MUSEUM
The museum tells the story of the farm workers who formed the first workers union and laid the foundation for the Trade Union movement in Britain.
WIMBOURNE MODEL TOWN
Re-visit the 1950s town of Wimbourne (in 1/10th scale). Open March through to October
THE ENID BLYTON TRAIL
No visit to Dorset would be complete without taking in the Isle of Purbeck Enid Blyton Trail. Visit Dorset, the official tourism website for the county have produced a useful leaflet available to download and follow.
FIVE GREAT DORSET BEACHES
A perfect semi-circular cove, like something from a pirates treasure map.
The spectacular limestone arch jutting out into the English channel.
Extends east of Lulworth cove. If you are lucky you can find fossils in the cliffs at the back of the beach
WEST BAY BEACH
The fine shingle of West Bay Beach makes for a splendid place to settle down for the day. With an RLNI Lifeguard Beach Patrol during the summer months this is the perfect family beach spot.
The National Trust Beach at Studland is one of Britain’s most popular beaches and well worth a visit.
Studland Beach (courtesy Pitamaha/stock.adobe.com)
Looking for more advice on campsite cooking?
Have a look at our article on how to set up your dream kitchen
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