"To see a world in a grain of sand,
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand
And eternity in an hour."

From "Auguries of Innocence"

by William Blake

Monday, 8 July 2013

Holiday - Cerne Giant, Cerne Abbas, St Mary's Church, Dorchester, Maiden Castle (Sunday 30th June)

On Sunday we visited the Cerne Giant - a very famous hill figure. It is almost 60 metres high and 51 metres wide. Its one of 3 ancient figures cut into English chalk downs. The other two being The Long Man of Wilmington in East Sussex and the Uffington White Horse. The Cerne Giant is a Scheduled Ancient Monument and was handed over to the National Trust in 1920 to secure its long term protection.

To be honest we were a little disappointed that so many of the chalk lines (although not all!!! :) ) on the figure appear to have obscured by vegetation. In fact, we abandoned plans to walk up to the figure. The viewpoint is some distance away.

The age of the Cerne Giant and its origins are still shrouded in mystery. Some believe it is over 1500 years old and represents the Roman god Hercules whilst others think it is a caricature of Oliver Cromwell and only 350 years old. The first historic reference to the Giant dates back to 1694.

Above the Giant (though probably not visible in the photos) is a feature called the Trendle - a rectangular bank and ditch. Again its origins and purpose are unknown. Suggestions as to its use vary from it being an ancient fortification, to an Iron Age temple or burial ground or again that it is far more recent and was created in the late 1700's to be used as a maypole!

The countryside surrounding the chalk figure was beautiful.

We stopped off at Cerne Abbas village for a while which was very picturesque.

The village originally grew up around the Benedectine Abbey founded in AD 987. For 500 years the Abbey thrived but it was largely destroyed during the Dissolution of the Monasteries by Henry VIII in 1539.

Thomas Hardy called the village "Abbot's- Cernel"

Up until 1300 it is believed villagers worshipped in the Abbey Church. The monks built the new church round 1300 and dedicated it to St Mary the Virgin.

The interior of the church is full of light and very beautiful and the building is mainly built of Hamstone - a yellow limestone from Somerset.

The actual font dates back to the fifteenth century and stands on a modern pillar and the decorated font cover was added when the church was restored in 1963.

The church contains medieval wall paintings which date back to 1360 and 1380 and they were restored in 1960.

This painting depicts scenes from the life of John the Baptist.

This circle contains a 6 pointed star and is believed to be one of the consecration marks of the original church.

The wall painting below is more faded and represents the Annunciation.

East Window

Seventeenth century pulpit

Unusual 17th century painted wall texts

This interesting piece of stained glass which looks like a face with a tongue sticking out!! is actually a lion's head which has its origins in English patriotism during the Hundred Years War with France. It probably dates back to the mid 14th/early 15th century.

After lunch we visited Dorchester.

We spent an hour or more in the Tutankhamun Exhibition and if you ever visit Dorchester it is well worth a visit. It was established in 1987 following the Treasures of Tutankhamun Exhibition shown in London at the British Museum in 1972. The Exhibition visited many countries and the Egyptian Goverment made the decision that the major treasures should not leave Egypt again in order to preserve them. So the current exhibition was designed to overcome this problem and all the exhibits have been carefully crafted and recreated using the originals for reference. No photos allowed so sorry no pictures.

Where to next? Well I was hoping to visit Max Gate - former home of Thomas Hardy but also on the agenda was a visit to Maiden Castle and we hadn't got time to visit both. I was outvoted 3 to 1 and so we visited Maiden Castle!

According to English Heritage Maiden Castle is the finest, largest and most complex Iron Age Fort in Britain. It dates back to 600 BC and was built over the remains of a Neolithic settlement.

The hill fort was extended and additional defences built in the centuries following the original construction.

Ramparts enclose an area as big as 50 football ptiches. The site was home to several hundred Iron Age people from 800 BC to 43 AD. In AD43 it was captured by the Roman Army and its inhabitants were taken to the new Roman town of Durnovaria (modern Dorchester).

Sheep grazing provides an environmental friendly way of keeping the vegetation short!

The last seven photos were taken by my son David using the ancient Fuji finepix which still performs well!! Sometimes I get fed up of clambering up hills with both binoculars and camera strung round my neck and leave my camera behind!!!!


Em Parkinson said...

I spent all my childhood holidays in Weymouth and Dorchester so what a lovely walk down memory lane for me - thank you!

Countryside Tales said...

I've climbed up that hill to the giant and you feel every single step it's really steep! A lovely part of the world.

SeagullSuzie said...

What a lovely day out. Great pictures and interesting facts. I love the old wall paintings, it's amazing they have been able to restore them. I'd have voted for Max Gate too! I have passed through Dorchester and it looks very nice, so we must visit sometime.

Wendy said...

I love the ancient history in this part of the world, there's so much to see here (although it is interesting that the age of some of it is so uncertain) Hope you get to see Max Gate soon!

Ragged Robin said...

Em Parkinson - Thank you so much - glad you are enjoying and its bringing back lovely memories for you :) We stopped in Swanage a couple of times when I was a child but never been to West Dorset and it was all completely new to rest of family. Beautiful part of the country :)

Countryside Tales - yes, it looked pretty steep to me - wasn't too sad to give it a miss :) Although I was hoping to look at some downland flowers and butterflies!

SeagullSuzie - Many thanks - so glad you enjoyed. The wall paintings were amazing and the restoration worked looked brilliant. Bit miffed about Max Gate although to be fair I really enjoyed the Iron Age fort. Too much to do in one place and not enough time!!!

Ragged Robin said...

Wendy - Many thanks. Such a timeless feel to the landscape there. We will certainly return :)

Bovey Belle said...

Many happy memories for me too, as I used to live in Piddletrenthide, my Doctor was in Cerne Abbas, and I worked in Dorchester!

I know it all so well and still miss it. Looks like you had a lovely time.

Ragged Robin said...

Bovey Belle - Thank you - so glad I am reviving happy memories for so many :) It is such a beautiful part of the country. I would miss it all very much too if I had lived there - it is all so beautiful.

Great holiday thank you - I really do hope we can return.

Chris Rohrer said...

What a wonderful trek along the countryside! The King Tut exhibit would be one of my favorites! Did you see lots of birds flying around here?

Ragged Robin said...

Chris Rohrer - Many thanks Chris - The Exhibition was brilliant - just a few birds - linnet was a new tick for the year :) Not really a birdwatching holiday.