A Prominent historian has spoken about what he believes was a close encounter with a rare and bizarre natural phenomenon.
On Saturday 19 August at 5.15pm, Rodney Legg of Mapperton was walking up a flight of steps from the bottom of his garden with his two cats after a sudden downpour.
Mr Legg was suddenly confronted by a bright flash and a simultaneous crack of thunder. He believes he witnessed a rare incident of ball lightning.
"Ten feet in front of us was a dense oval of blue flame which burst from something not much bigger than a rugby ball," he said.
"It rolled over the site of a bonfire and disappeared through the fence into the garden of Fairview."
Next door in Fairview, Julie Paniccia was sorting through a box of bric-a-brac and looking out across her garden into the valley.
She said: "I was frightened out of my wits. I have never seen anything like it in my life.
"A big red and orange flame, pointed at the front end, flashed across the window and went into the hedge behind the chicken run."
On the other side of the hedge at East Cottage, Lorraine and Nick Allison and their family were indoors watching television.
The electricity cut out and a car alarm was set off but there was no sign of any damage inside or out.
Mr Legg, who has written dozens of books about Dorset and Somerset history said: "There was no other thunder or lightning either before or after the phenomena.
"Ball lightning is such a rarity that it was not properly described until a few years ago.
"It must come in various sizes as it has been described as resembling golf or tennis balls when it has appeared in mid-flight and rolled down the aisle of airliners during electrical storms.
"The energy from my fireball appeared to come up from the ground rather than down from the sky."
Ball lightning is photographed very rarely and remains something of a mystery.
The discharges reportedly appear during thunderstorms, sometimes issuing from a lightning flash, but large numbers of encounters reportedly occur during good weather with no storms within hundreds of miles.
Ball lightning, according to witnesses, tends to float in the air and take on a ball-like appearance.
Western Gazette - 31 August 2006