Dorset Memories

                                                                      DORSET MEMORIES BY RAY WILLS


Dorset is renowned for its great literatury works and its beautifull landscape. Most folks are aware of names like Thomas Hardy and Enid Blyton. Hardy for his romantic tales of the Wessex landscape and Blyton for her finely crafted childrens stories.There have of course been others who were influenced by the Dorset landscape as a source for thier writings or their artistic abilities.These range from Robert Louis Stevenson,William Barnes,T.E Lawrence to Augustus John the artist who roamed the heaths drawing and painting the Gypsies who frequented these landscapes.

There are are many areas of local life that have changed or long gone since those romantic days. At one time the heaths of Canford and Bourne were rich with Gypsies with their caravan homes scattered throughout the poole and bournemouth terrains.Pehaps it was these that gave local man William Knott the idea for his caravan empire Bluebird Caravans, which was to be known worldwide.William Knott was originally selling shoe laces on the streets of Upper Parkstone.Each year there would be Johnny onion men sporting their distinctive berrys, who came to poole from France with their bikes straddled with strings of onions dangling.


Poole had its large fairground each autumn which attracted many fairs from  all over  England and held boxing booths, the great wall of death,the ferris wheel,bumper cars and swishback rides and a vast number of darts,coconuts shies and attractions for local kids.There was the new speedway track of Poole Pirates and the greyhound track which is still extremelly popular though in those early days there was Pooles own local champion speedway rider Brian Crutcher.Local fairground boxer Freddie Mills was to gain notoriety in boxing circles and Londons gangster world.


In the early sixties a local girl from Poole Ann Sidney won the glamourous Miss World Contest and with it the fame and prestige of celebrity.The son of a Poole GP Tony Blackburn played in a local pop band, then became a DJ on the new pirate radio stations off the coast of England and he was soon to become a household name with BBC radio and TV with his familiar fast talking and his own brand of corny humour. At Wareham quay during one severe cold winter the river froze over and kids skated on the ice.In the summer months micky the monkey was a favourite attraction there in his cage,raising thousands of pounds each year for the national lifeboat institute. At christmas local families gathered for carols sung outside of the red lion hotel in the town square one year local mayor Jack Spiller came in a helicopter on the roof of the pub dressed as father xmas and gave sweets out to the kids.At easter on hot cross bun day local children would walk to Creech Burrow the highest point in the terrain to climb to the top and have a picnic together on the mount where one could view three counties on a clear day.The Dorset education Department set up a camp for children at Carey in Wareham with 120 children per fortnight using its facilities with activities and programme from light weight camping training to the duke of edingburgh awards schemes,with expeditions throughout the purbecks terrain.


At lulworths Durdle Door large gatherings of youths often hundreds, from all over Dorset  would congragate for folk festivals barbecues on the beach long before such events were recognised by the media.Driftwood was used for huge bonfires and live music was played by folkniks , like the popular Peter Franklin, there was a great atmosphere with no sign of trouble,many slept on the beach overnight. Children would slide down the grass slopes leading up to corfe castle on pieces of cardboard to the edge of the main road, somthing impossible to imagine in todays world of heavy traffic and safety conciousness.


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