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Wednesday, 31 December 2008

Dorset's Weird and Wonderful Year of 2008

From flying jelly fish to a ghost caught on CCTV, a dead dolphin in a garden to being attack by a giant bee. 2008 has been a busy year for weird and wonderful news in Dorset. Dark Dorset looks back with a selection of twelve stories taken from our blog.


JANUARY - Friday, 4 January 2008

Mysterious Orange 'Jelly Fish' is reported in skies above Weymouth Harbour

An interesting story reported by Laura Kitching in todays Dorset Echo of a unidentified flying object witnessed by Victor Brabrook, Linda Brabrook and Jean and Philip Palmer. They describe a orange ball of light with a straggling tail resembling a jellyfish rising over Weymouth Bay.

This report reminds me of an incident that was reported in the Bournemouth Evening Echo 22nd October 1969. It was witnessed by Alastair Mackenzie, a manager of the Suncliff Hotel.

Whilst he was drinking coffee with his with wife and daughter, he observed something fluttering outside of the hotel window. They went out onto the veranda and saw something a resembling a glowing jellyfish-like shape. After about fifteen seconds, the luminous object moved out to see gathering speed as it went, at a height of 25 - 30ft.

It has been often suggested that it could have been ball lightning? However no storm was reported that day. Others have suggested it may be a type of animal rather than a alien spacecraft?

There is much speculation that there are organisms which could hypothetically inhabit the extreme atmosphere of our earth. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle anticipated these ideas in his classic short story Horror in the Heights published in Strand Magazine 1913. Where an airman discovers a previously unknown ecosystem of life forms in Earth's atmosphere, one of which includes a giant ethereal jellyfish.

FEBRUARY -
Tuesday, 5 February 2008

Beaminster Beast spotted in pensioner garden?

Pensioner Gwen Wragg from Beaminster swears she was stone cold sober when she saw a black panther-like creature cavorting about her garden.

See article: Dorset Echo 5th February 2008

MARCH - Friday, 28 March 2008

Beating the Bounds revival at Cerne Abbas

Even though its origins are still unknown, the custom of beating the bounds has been in existence for over 2,000 years. Cerne Abbas will revive this tradition for the first time this year. Traditionally performed on Rogation Sunday, it falls on April 27 this year. Cerne Abbas and Nether Cerne boundaries will be walked as they appear on the Ordnance Survey Map. The walk will start at 9.30am at St. Mary's Church and everyone is welcome. It will total 14 miles but smaller chunks can be walked for everyone who wishes not to go the full distance. Lunch will be organised half way in Nether Cerne and everyone is invited to meet at the New Inn afterwards for a barbecue. This walk not only intends to awaken an old tradition but also strives to unite land and community.

READ MORE - Source: Dorset Echo Monday 25th February 2008

APRIL - Saturday, 26 April 2008

Giant bee horror for mum and son

A monster bee left a mother and son stung and shocked after repeatedly attacking them in a Dorchester street.

The ferocious insect also attacked a woman who went to their help.

READ MORE - Source: Dorset Echo 26th April 2008

Or read about the Asian Hornet invading Britain (pictured left) in The Sun article - 'The Shape of Stings to Come' 22nd February 2007

MAY - Wednesday, 14 May 2008

Space oddity - MOD release previously unseen UFO files

The truth is out there - or is it? Previously unseen files detailing reports of unidentified flying objects have been released by the Ministry of Defence and prove that there is actually no such thing as a UFO.

READ MORE - Source: Bournemouth Daily Echo Wednesday 14th May 2008

JUNE - Friday, 20th June 2008

Cerne Abbas chalk giant turns into the invisible man

Cerne Abbas The 180ft chalk giant is disappearing into the hillside because the National Trust has been unable to borrow the sheep that usually keep it in shape during the spring and summer.

In previous years the chalk figure, thought to be a fertility symbol, has been an imposing presence on the Dorset hillside. But this year a wet start to the summer has brought a vigorous growth in vegetation and the trust has been hampered by the decline in sheep farming. The land is too steep for it to be mown safely.

Rodney Legg, chairman of the Open Spaces Society, said: “Visitors turning up have been disappointed because they can't really see it. This year the giant has gone from being a white icon, through a green man stage, into the invisible man.”

Helen Mann, of the trust, said: “We are aware that the giant is not at his best right now. We are, however, expecting to have him rechalked this September, which we hope will help him stand out once more.”

READ MORE - Source: The Times June 20, 2008

JULY - Friday, 18 July 2008

Dead dolphin found dumped in garden

Two Royal Navy engineers discovered a dead dolphin in their garden.

Gary Harvey and Mike Elliott woke up to find the dead marine mammal lying in the front garden at their home in Courtlands Road, Weston.

READ MORE - Source: Dorset Echo Friday 18th July 2008

AUGUST - Thursday, 28 August 2008

Tower saved from sea set to reopen

A historic tower was due to reopen on August 29 after it was rebuilt brick

by brick to stop it falling in to the sea.

Clavell Tower was perched perilously close to the cliff edge at Kimmeridge Bay and was at risk of a watery grave thanks to coastal erosion.

READ MORE - Source: Bournemouth Daily Echo Thursday 28th August 2008


SEPTEMBER - Tuesday, 16 September 2008

The waiting is over - St. Wite's Cross is the Flag for Dorset

Today - 16th September - votes were counted for the four contenders shortlisted for Flag of Dorset.

The results were as follows:

Total Valid Votes : 3868
Flag B : 2086 (54%) - The Dorset Cross aka St. Wite's Cross
Flag C : 856 (22%)
Flag D : 818 (21%)
Flag A : 108 (3%)

Total Valid Votes : 3868
Spoiled Votes : 222

We’re very pleased about the result – we’re glad that when it went to a vote, what we believed has been proven. We’re thankful for the process that’s got us here.

Thus and as confirmed by John Peake - Chairman of Dorset County Council - The Dorset Cross now IS the flag of Dorset!

He said: “It’s wonderful that so many people have voted and that we now have a symbol for the county we all love. I hope I shall soon see flags flying all over the county and beyond.”

Chair of the original selection panel, Graham Bartram (Chief Vexillologist of the Flag Institute), said: “Many counties are adopting their own flag to show pride in their area. Dorset has taken a very democratic approach in inviting people across the county to vote.

“It’s clear that Dorset people love their county and are keen to have a flag which represents it. I’m delighted to see that so many people voted.”
Source: http://dorsetflag.blogspot.com/

Congratulations to Dave White and his Dorset Flag Team

OCTOBER - Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Ghouls on film - Ghost caught on CCTV at Scaplen's Court, Poole.

Ghostly goings-on are sending shivers down the spines of museum staff at Poole.

They have captured images of a ghost in the machine of the CCTV at medieval Scaplen's Court, which has long been believed to be haunted.

However, this is no Civil War casualty or murdered maid, but a gent in a bowler hat, standing in the first-floor Solar Room of the old town museum.

He appeared on the CCTV screen, with his back to the camera, when the equipment was switched on at 9.45am and remained there until about noon.


READ MORE - Source: Bournemouth Daily Echo Tuesday 9th September 2008

NOVEMBER - Thursday, 27 November 2008

Did you see lights in sky over Christchurch?

Several people reported seeing a UFO over the sea south of Mudeford on Saturday night.

A Mudeford man was visiting a friend in the St Catherine's Hill area of Christchurch and saw unexplained lights in the sky over Hengistbury Head.

READ MORE - Source: Bournemouth Daily Echo Thursday 27th November 2008

DECEMBER - Monday, 8 December 2008

Mystery letter turns up after 89 years

A guesthouse owner could not believe her eyes when a letter was delivered to her address... some 89 years after it was first sent.

Jane Barrett was left baffled when the item, dated November 1919, dropped through the letterbox at Basil Towers in Weymouth.

READ MORE - Source: Dorset Echo Monday 8th December 2008

Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Ancient burial ground uncovered

More than a dozen skeletons thought to be thousands of years old, have been found by Oxford archaeologists working at an ancient burial site in Dorset.

Excavations are taking place at the site in Weymouth before builders move in to build an access road to the Olympic sailing centre for 2012.

READ MORE - Source: BBC News Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Plea to save Sandsfoot Castle

More needs to be done to preserve Weymouth’s Sandsfoot Castle and other historic sites like it, a borough councillor has warned.

Borough environment spokesman Doug Hollings said the 16th Century structure – blighted by coastal erosion and crumbling stonework – is close to collapse.

READ MORE - Source: Dorset Echo Tuesday 30th December 2008

Mummers set for traditional West Dorset tour

The Babylon Mummers will be undertaking their traditional New Year’s Day tour of West Dorset, joined by morris dancers.

You can see this merry band in Beaminster Square at 11am, Broadwindsor at noon and outside the Hare and Hounds in Waytown at 1pm on January 1.

Mummers’ plays have been performed in England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland for hundreds of years and are folk dramas based on the legend of St George and the Seven Champions of Christendom.


They were originally mime or dumb shows – the word mummers comes from the Middle English word mum, meaning silent – where all the performers were disguised and known as ‘guisers’.

All the characters were played by men who kept the same part for many years.

For more details visit www.babylon.org.uk

Source: Bournemouth Daily Echo, Tuesday 30th December 2008

Dorchester Youth Theatre presents Dark Dorset

Dorchester Youth Theatre takes you on an enchanting journey into deepest darkest Dorset, to a hidden world full of mystery and mischief.

This devised performance, set in the round, brings to life local folklore based on Robert J. Newland’s and Mark J. North's Dark Dorset Stories. Log on to www.darkdorset.co.uk to find out more about their work

When: Friday 16th Jan 2009 at 19:00 - Saturday 17th Jan 2009 at 19:00 (There will be a 2.30pm matinee on Saturday for junior performers)

Venue: Dorchester Arts Centre School Lane The Grove Dorchester DT1 1XR

Tel: Box Office (01305) 266926

Email: enquiries@dorchesterarts.org.uk

Price: £3 (tickets are also available at WeGotTickets)


Friday, 26 December 2008

Disappearing coast presents dilemma

It's a bright sunny day in Studland, Dorset. The wind catches the sand and whips it through the dunes and grasses. Helped by the tides, as each grain moves the shoreline slowly but inevitably shifts.

Emma Wright has worked for the National Trust at Studland for the past seven years.

As we walked along the beach she explained she had become used to seeing areas of the beach swept away.

In November it took just one storm for the sea to reclaim 15 metres of the beach.

Emma showed me red and white hazard tape flapping next to some wooden posts - these were all that remained of the wooden steps once used to access the car park.

"It's just the vegetation left which is holding the dune together and you can see it cracking all the way through.

"That will be just another chunk of dune grass to fall off into the sea with the next storm", she says.

READ MORE - Source: BBC News Friday, 26 December 2008

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Striking images of a long-gone Weymouth

Three striking images of a long-gone Weymouth were contributed to Looking Back by June and Eric Randall of Wyke Regis, Weymouth.

June found a Christmas card that belonged to her mother Mary Narraway depicting ‘St Nicholas Street Bridge’ (as it was then) around 1820. June, who came across the card by accident, said: “It’s amazing what you can find when you’re not looking for something.”

READ MORE - Source: Dorset Echo Tuesday 23rd December 2008

A folkcharm to combat the credit crunch 19th Century style

On this day in 1882 a farmer's wife who lived near Bridport, took a gamble with four pounds. She entrusted the money to two travelling women who claimed that they could treble money, and who asked for just a few shillings in return for their financial acumen.

They marked the coins with astrological symbols, and hid them. The farmer was having none of this and demanded to know where they had put the loot. Despite his wife's warnings that it must be left undisturbed until Easter Sunday, the farmer dragged the truth from her and discovered that the two strangers had stuck something up the chimney. The something turned out to be a cloth-wrapped, pin-stuck smoked pig's heart stuffed with polished farthings. That was that: the spell was broken, and so the four pounds was never trebled. That is the non-cynic's way of viewing it.

Monday, 22 December 2008

Giant woodlice arrive in Britain for first time

The one foot long Giant Isopods live up to 6,000ft down on the seabed where there is no light.

In the pitch black and cold they survive by feasting on dead and decaying fish and other marine animals.

Isopods have been unchanged for 160 million years and the creatures are sure to be popular attractions when they go on display.

Experts at the UK's Sea Life Centre parks organised for nine of them to be transported from the US where they had been caught in lobster nets in the Atlantic.

READ MORE - Source: Telegraph 22nd December 2008

Crooked House writer Mark Gatiss talks Maori Death Masks - Crooked House BBC Four

Clip from his new ghostly series, Crooked House which airs this Christmas on BBC Four.

Actor/Writer Mark Gatiss talks about a mysterious Maori death mask he bought from a strange stallholder in Paris.

Crooked House writer Mark Gatiss talks Ghost Stories - Crooked House BBC Four

Clip from his new ghostly series, Crooked House which airs this Christmas on BBC Four.

Actor/Writer Mark Gatiss shares with us his favourite ghost story.

Crooked House writer Mark Gatiss talks Haunted Houses - Crooked House BBC Four

Clip from his new ghostly series, Crooked House which airs this Christmas on BBC Four.

Actor/Writer Mark Gatiss talks about his very own spooky experience at a friend's home.



Thursday, 18 December 2008

Red letter day in post riddle

A woman has come forward to claim a mystery letter delivered 89 years after it was posted.(see previous blog entry Mystery letter turns up after 89 years)

Stella Pontin, 85, of Portland Road, Wyke Regis is the daughter of Percival Bateman, to whom the item, dated November 29, 1919, was addressed.

Mrs Pontin said she was surprised and intrigued to hear that the letter had been delivered to Basil Towers guesthouse in Abbotsbury Road, Weymouth.

READ MORE - Source: Dorset Echo Thursday 18th December 2008

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Mummer mia!

Don't be alarmed if you find yourself in the company of half a dozen men with blackened faces, dressed in tatters, at this time of year.

For ‘tis the season the Stourvale Mummers invade local pubs and perform short folk plays of derring-do, slaying and coming back to life.

For as far back as five hundred years, mummers have gone around the principal houses, farms and inns to perform the medieval play of St George, which follows a typical midwinter theme of death and resurrection.

READ MORE - Source: Bournemouth Daily Echo News Tuesday 16th December 2008

Mumming’s the word

Saint George will be up to his old tricks over the festive period thanks to the Babylon Mummers.

Mummers’ plays have been performed in England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland for hundreds of years and are folk dramas based on the legend of St George and the Seven Champions of Christendom.

READ MORE - Source: Dorset Echo Tuesday 16th December 2008

Saturday, 13 December 2008

Fears for future of ancient stone on A35 in Dorset

An ancient monument is being neglected and is in danger of being damaged at the side of a Dorset road, it is feared.

The monument known as Broad Stone – thought to date from 2200BC – is believed to be vulnerable as it lies unprotected in grass close to the A35 between Dorchester and Bridport.

READ MORE - Source: Dorset Echo Saturday 13th December 2008

Friday, 12 December 2008

Tonight's moon will be biggest for 15 years

Tonight the moon will be closer to the Earth than it has been for the past 15 years.

Each month the Moon orbits the Earth in an oval-shaped path, and tonight it will move past it around 28,000km closer than average.

READ MORE - Source: Bridport and Lyme Regis News Friday 12th December 2008

Appeal to keep axes in Dorchester

An appeal has gone out to keep a nationally important hoard of Bronze Age axes in Dorchester.

The collection of more than 400 axes, found last year on farmland at Langton Matravers, was declared treasure under the Treasure Act and is being valued at the British Museum.

READ MORE - Source: Dorset Echo Friday 12th December 2008

Burial ground found on Weymouth relief road route

Skeletons have been found on the route of Weymouth’s relief road.

Archaeologists found the remains of people from the Neolithic period, the Bronze Age and Roman graves in fields on the Ridgeway.

A team from Oxford Archaeology made the discoveries after being employed by Dorset County Council to inspect the area above the railway tunnel as part of preparation for the road.

READ MORE - Source: Dorset Echo Friday 12th December 2008

Frome Valley Morris Mummers at Weymouth

Tomorrow, Saturday the 13th the Frome Valley Morris will be meeting at around 1.30pm by Debenhams to perform their Mummers Play (see previous blog entry Frome Valley Morris Mummers for details)

Adventure in "The Land of Legends" with Col Blashford-Snell

There is a rare chance for someone with an adventurous spirit to visit the "Land of Legends" in Bolivia next summer with the famous explorer, Col John Blashford-Snell, who lives at Motcombe, near Shaftesbury.

This major scientific expedition is going to the remote, little explored area of Lago Roja Aguado in Bolivia..The aim is to seek evidence of the impact of a giant meteorite that may have wiped out the people of the area many centuries ago. At the same time aid is being given to the few small and very poor settlements in the area today. This aid includes the provision of wells, medical and dental assistance and help to the village schools.

The region is pampa, jungle, lakes and swamps. It will be extremely hot. Movement will be by canoe, horse and on foot.4WD vehicles will also be used where conditions are suitable. Accommodation will be in tents and food will be typical expedition rations. All expedition costs (apart from international flights) will be paid in return for 10-12 hours a week at Motcombe (starting as soon as possible) to assist with the administration and setting up of simple power point presentations and some additional, related, IT work.

The ideal candidate will also be an experienced horse rider and/or geologist. For more information, contact Anne Gilby on 01747 854456

Source: Western Gazette Friday, December 12, 2008


Thursday, 11 December 2008

More Mumming and Morris events

Here are a list of more Mummers Plays and Morris Dancing events around Dorset

The Wessex Morris Men

Sat 13th Dec.
10:30 am, Meet at The George, Sherborne.

Fri 26th Dec. Boxing Day
12.00pm, Meet at the New Inn, Cerne Abbas.

Thurs 15th Jan 2009 - Twelfth Night Faggot Burning.
7.30pm, Shave Cross Inn, Shave Cross, Nr Bridport

Stourvale Mummers

Sat 13th Dec.
12.30pm Save the Children -- Wimborne
9.30pm -- The Megabop (Nursling)

Wed 17th Dec.
8.00pm Elm Tree -- Hightown, nr Ringwood
8.30pm The Foresters -- Frogham
9.15pm The Horse & Groom -- Woodgreen
10.00pm The Cartwheel -- Whitsbury

Thurs 18th Dec.
8.30pm The Vine -- Pamphill
9.00pm The Crown & Anchor -- Wimborne
9.30pm The Horns -- Colehill
10.00pm Royal British Legion -- Wimborne

Fri 19st Dec.
8.30pm Drucillas Inn -- Horton
9.00pm Horton Inn -- Horton
9.30pm Barley Mow -- Broomhill
10.00pm Cross Keys -- Mannington

Sat 20th Dec.
8.00pm The Bull -- Wimborne St. Giles
8.30pm The Drovers -- Gussage All Saints
9.00pm Grand Christmas Ceilidh the Village Hall, Tarrant Keynston, Dorset

Sun 21st Dec.
12.30pm Red Lion -- Sturminster Marshall
1.00pm Botany Bay -- Winterbourne Zelston
1.30pm Coventry Arms -- Corfe Mullen
2.00pm Holme Bush -- Corfe Mullen

Babylon Mummers

Fri 12th Dec 2008
8.00 pm, Chetnole Village Hall
Mummers play performance as part of the Whitevine ceilidh (band The Reel Thing, caller Ann Hinchliffe).

Wed 17th Dec 2008
Walking tour of Sherborne

8.00 pm The Swan
8.30 pm The White Hart
9.00 pm The Plume of Feathers
9.30 pm The Weavers Club
All times approximate (meaning we'll probably be late)

Thu 1st Jan 2009
Babylon's traditional New Year's Day tour. Babylon will be dancing as well as mumming. We will have guest morris teams with us as well

11.00 am Beaminster Square
12.00 noon Broadwindsor Square
1.00 pm The Hare and Hounds, Waytown

Cash boost for Lyme Regis fossil festival and club

Fossil fanatics and fencing fans in West Dorset are celebrating after the latest round of Lottery payouts.

Lyme Regis Development Trust has received a £10,000 Awards for All grant towards staging its £60,000 fossil festival next spring.

READ MORE - Source: Dorset Echo Thursday 11th December 2008

Mummers bring an old English play

Symondsbury Mummers will be taking an olde English Christmas to Broadwindsor on Friday, December 19.

They will be performing their traditional mumming play at the Comrades Hall in an evening featuring folk music from The Village Band, a group put together by record producer and guitarist Simon Emmerson, who lives locally.

The event has been organised by Broadwindsor Jubilee Group to raise money for the annual village fun day. Proceeds from that event are split between village causes.

Towards the end of the 19th century many English villages had a band of Christmas Mummers. The Symondsbury Mumming Play has 11 characters – Father Christmas, Room, Anthony King of Egypt, St George, St Patrick, a doctor, four warriors and Dame Dorothy. One of the strongest mummers takes the part of Tommy the Pony.

Tickets cost £3, which includes a glass of mulled wine and a mince pie. To book, call 01308 868532 or 868288.

Source: Dorset Echo Thursday 11th December 2008

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Power lines to be cleared near Chesil Beach

Electricity lines and wooden poles are to be removed from along Chesil Beach to improve views of the Dorset coastline.

One of the largest projects Southern Electric engineers have worked on this year will see 10 kilometres of overhead powerlines cleared away from the Jurassic Coast.

READ MORE - Source: Dorset Echo Wednesday 10th December 2008

Monday, 8 December 2008

NEW BOOK ! "Weymouth Through Time" by local historian Debby Rose!

"Weymouth Through Time" by local historian Debby Rose,
details the history of Weymouth and the surrounding area as it takes a visual tour of how it was and how it is now. Illustrated in old sepia-toned pictures with modern day colour photographs, the changes that have occurred over the last hundred years or so are evident throughout.

Some of Weymouth's earliest photographs are included along with more unusual scenes that illuminate little-known facets of its history. The people and the events that have shaped Weymouth's history are not forgotten and are recorded within.

With over 180 pictures and more than 13000 words, this book is sure to be of interest, not only to those who like local history, but also to those who like to see the changes of Weymouth through time.

Details of how to purchase a copy will be available soon via this link http://www.weymouth-dorset.co.uk/weymouth-through-time.html

Mystery letter turns up after 89 years

A guesthouse owner could not believe her eyes when a letter was delivered to her address... some 89 years after it was first sent.

Jane Barrett was left baffled when the item, dated November 1919, dropped through the letterbox at Basil Towers in Weymouth.

READ MORE - Source: Dorset Echo Monday 8th December 2008

Sunday, 7 December 2008

A chance to meet Dorset authors of "The Wessex Astrum" at Avebury.

Here is more news on Peter Knight’s latest book, The Wessex Astrum – Sacred Geometry in a Mystical Landscape, including a winter solstice event.

This book presents an astounding new discovery of an ancient hexagram encoded onto the Wessex landscape, involving Stonehenge, Avebury, Glastonbury, as well as several sacred hills, holy springs and wells, Knights Templar sites, and many other sacred places, including some newly discovered megaliths, sites of ancient abbeys, wells and springs and ancient burial mounds.

“The Wessex Astrum is an absolute must for all dowsers”
(British Society of Dowsers)

The book is either in stock or can be ordered from any branch of Waterstones, as well as good bookshops across the South.

Signed and dedicated copies can also be ordered by credit card direct from Peter via Amazon.co.uk (look for the seller Stoneseeker2) in time for Christmas.
Signed and dedicated copies can be obtained, again in time for Christmas, direct from Peter, via cheque payment or cash, from his home address (visit www.stoneseeker.net).

Lots of book launches and talks are to be held this winter and throughout 2009. See the website for details.

MEET THE AUTHORS AT AVEBURY ON THE WINTER SOLSTICE

Peter and co-author Toni Perrott will be signing books and showing people the Wessex Astrum Map at the Henge Shop in Avebury on Sunday Dec 21, from 11.00am to 2.00pm. No obligation to buy – just come for a warm, a chat and a chill out. Then, at 3.00pm, we will be leading a one hour tour of the Avebury stones (cost £5). See you there!

Friday, 5 December 2008

Dolphins frolick in Lyme Bay

These are the magnificent scenes captured in Lyme Bay featuring some of the rarest creatures on the planet.

Beautiful white-beaked dolphins are rarer than polar bears and tigers but they have been delighting fishermen and sightseers.

READ MORE - Source: Bridport and Lyme Regis News Friday 5th December 2008

Giant is a top 10 road draw

The Cerne Abbas Giant has been named as one of the country’s top 10 roadside attractions.

The TripAdvisor website produced the list, featuring sculptures, castles and a mountain summit, to mark the 50th anniversary of Britain’s first motorway on December 5, 1958.

The 180ft giant, carved into chalk bedrock on a hill overlooking the A352, was ranked at number 10, hot on the heels of the Cherhill White Horse, which sits alongside the A4 in Wiltshire. Stonehenge topped the list.

READ MORE - Source: Dorset Echo Friday 5th December 2008

Frome Valley Morris Mummers

Every year since 1978 the Frome Valley Morris Mummers have performed an action packed mummers play which up until 1936 was originally performed at Broadwey near Weymouth. Their bright costumes with colourful streamers hanging down over the face for disguise are based on the actual costumes worn at the time.


The Mummers, as remembered by Thomas Hardy for the Mummers' play in the 'Return of the Native' performed in Dorchester in 1920. The Frome Valley Morris based theirs costumes, on the ones used by the Hardy players, originally designed from a sketch by Hardy.

The Frome Valley Morris Mummers specialise in turning up at a venue, entering and performing the play. The first the surprised audience knows is the unexpected entrance of the Announcer, followed by each character in turn introducing themselves Father Christmas, Saint George, A Turkish Knight, A Doctor, Beelzebub, Jack Vinney (A Village Idiot). This does not usually stop anyone watching joining in with the spirit of the play with interactive cheers and good humour.

Last year Dark Dorset followed the Frome Valley Morris Men as they performed there end of year Mummers Play at a variety of venues in Dorset. The video below was taken at the White Horse, Litton Cheney on 22nd of December 2007.



This year events in which the group will be appearing:
N.B. More dates and times will be available later

December 6

'Going The Rounds' a biennial event at Stinsford with the Thomas Hardy Society. An experience not to be missed, a chance to follow in the footsteps of the old Mellstock Band as described by Thomas Hardy in Under the Greenwood Tree.

The Frome Valley Morris Group will meet around 6.30pm at Thorncombe Wood Woods Car park to sing West Gallery Carols a la Hardy, round Higher Bockhampton, Upper and Lower, finishing at the Church at Stinsford around 8-8.30ish.

December 13th

Island Voices concert in Fortuneswell Church 4pm followed by a party in Pennsylvania Castle at 7.00pm

December 18th

Performing at the Sunray Folk Club, Broadmayne at around 10.15pm.

Thursday, 4 December 2008

Dorchester's 2008 Cracker goes with a bang

Festive cheers went out as snowflakes fell on the streets of Dorchester at a cheery Cracker night that marked the start of the Christmas season.

Where Mother Nature failed the organisers of the Dorchester Cracker Night triumphed with pretend snow shooting into the night sky and on the main stage.

READ MORE - Source: Dorset Echo Thursday 4th December 2008

Below: The Dolmen perfoming one of their numbers on stage at the Dorchester Cracker Night.

NEW BOOK: English Holy Wells : A sourcebook by Jeremy Harte

What happens if you track down the earliest known reference to every holy well in England? The vivid traditions of these sites, many of them hitherto unknown, cast a new light on whether holy wells were taken over from pagan precursors, and what the Reformation meant for sacred landscapes. Colourful tales of saints, sprites and charlatans reveal the lively side of medieval popular religion.

With this book the study of English holy wells moves out of the realms of romanticism and myth-making into the light of history. Jeremy Harte draws on maps, miracles, legends and landscapes to present his detailed discussions in a readable and often witty manner.

Jeremy Harte is a folklorist with a particular interest in sacred places and supernatural encounters. His other books include Explore Fairy Traditions, Cuckoo Pounds and Singing Barrows: Folklore of Ancient Sites in Dorset, Legends (Discover Dorset), The Green Man, Research in Geomancy and Alternative Approaches to Folklore. He is curator of Bourne Hall Museum in Surrey.

Forthcoming December 2008

English Holy Wells comprises three volumes, published by Heart of Albion. Volume One is supplied with a CD-ROM of Volumes Two and Three to make the complete work available at an affordable price.

Volume One (includes CD-ROM of Volumes Two and Three): ISBN 978-1-905646-10-4, 245 x 175 mm, 168 + xvi pages, 24 b&w line drawings, paperback. £14.95

Volume Two: ISBN 978-1-905646-13-5, 245 x 175 mm, 210 + iv pages, paperback.
£19.95

Volume Three: ISBN 978-1-905646-14-2, 245 x 175 mm, 158 + iv pages, paperback.
£19.95

Gardener Jim dies aged 105

A 105-year-old man who only gave up working as a pub gardener last year has died just weeks short of his next birthday.

Jim Webber, a lifelong resident of Stoke Abbott, passed away peacefully at Broadwindsor House residential home on Sunday after battling cancer.

READ MORE - Source: READ MORE - Source: Bridport and Lyme Regis News Thursday 4th December 2008

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Copies of Dorset's historic documents could brighten your home

People will be able to buy copies of Dorset’s historic documents online as part of a cash-generating move to take the county’s joint archives service into the 21st century.

The facility to buy copies of eye-catching documents will come as part of a decision to stump up more cash from the Dorset History Centre in Dorchester.

County Archivist Hugh Jaques welcomed the proposal as a way forward for the archives service, which is funded by Dorset county and the Poole and Bournemouth councils.

READ MORE - Source: Dorset Echo Tuesday 2nd December 2008

Monday, 1 December 2008

NEW ALBUM from The Dolmen - WINTER SOLSTICE : Yule Tide Songs Celebrating the Winter Solstice

Dorset based Pagan/Celtic folk rock band, THE DOLMEN are bringing the outside in with a blistering collection of tracks to keep toes tapping and ears buzzing throughout the winter months and beyond.

With stunning cover art by Semi Vine, and music that's elicited an overwhelmingly positive response on recent live outings, this is possibly the one and only album of its kind and deserves to take up a place in everybody's cd collection this Yuletide.

If you want to see The Dolmen, they are performing at the Dorchester's Christmas Cracker event, near memorial statue on the 3rd December 2008 at around 7.00pm.



The Album is available from there website at www.thedolmen.com or availaible at 7digitalindiestore to download, preview below.

Sunday, 30 November 2008

TV archaeologist to lead school on treasure hunt

An archaeologist known to TV viewers will lead Blandford children in an excavation that could yield treasures from the Bronze Age.

Julian Richards, the presenter of BBC television’s Meet the Ancestors, will help local children get first hand experience of an archaeological dig during a two-week excavation in January.

READ MORE - Source: Bournemouth Daily Echo Sunday 30th November 2008

Lawrence of Arabia’s motorcycle letters sold

Letters by Lawrence of Arabia in which he says how well his Brough Superior motorcycle is running and speaks of his love of book collecting have sold at auction for £10,000 – almost three times their estimate.

READ MORE - Source: The Times, 30th November 2008

Saturday, 29 November 2008

2008 meeting of Friends of the Museum of Witchcraft

Next weekend is the date for the 2008 Friends meeting. Speakers will be Joyce Froome who is the museum's historian, and the ever popular & interesting Professor Ron Hutton. It will be held at The Wellington Hotel on Saturday 6 Dec & drinks will be had at The Wellington on the evening of Friday 5th, with music from the Dorset group 'The Dolmen' to support. Anyone who needs information should contact houseoftheoldways@talktalk.net . Hope to see some of you there & I may have some fab photos of the 'do' next week.

Source: Museum of Witchcraft Diary Saturday, November 29, 2008

Christmas Magic at Lulworth Castle

Between Sunday 21st December 2008 to Friday 2nd January 2009 Lulworth Castle will be bringing the magic of Christmas alive this year when we welcome Merlin the marvellous Magician to enchant and charm you over the festive season.

Whilst Merlin sprinkles his magic over the Castle, you and your family can enjoy traditional games, ‘Hunt the Cracker’ and make a star, Wizard’s hat and wand at the themed activity table. There will also be face-painting* and Christmas quizzes to puzzle over with prizes to be won!

The Castle will be dressed in fine Festive decoration and you can help too! Everyone will have the opportunity to help make the longest ever paperchain to adorn the Castle.

So come along, wave your magic wand and enjoy a sparkling and spellbound magical Christmas time at Lulworth Castle from Sunday 21st December 08 to Friday 2nd January 09 (Closed 24th & 25th December). Gates open 10.30am until 4pm. Activities included in normal admission price. Family tickets available, under 4’s go free. For more information call 0845 450 1054.

Wuff Waters (Epic doggy paddle turned out all Wight)

It must have been the scariest doggy paddle of his life. But Bailey the Labrador proved he was far from wet behind the ears when strong currents dragged him a mile-and-a-half off out to sea.

The salty sea dog had gone for an afternoon dip off the beach at Milford-on-Sea when he got in to difficulties. Before long the tide had pulled him so far out that he had almost reached the Isle of Wight.

READ MORE - Source: Bournemouth Daily Echo Saturday 29th November 2008

Friday, 28 November 2008

Dorset adventurer sails into pirate-infested seas

A Dorset adventurer is preparing to sail through the pirate-infested waters off Somalia in his quest to recreate the first circumnavigation of Africa.

Philip Beale of East Chaldon is leading the Phoenician Ship Expedition, which departed from Syria in August. The crew has now reached Port Sudan in the authentic replica of a 600 BC Phoenician ship.

READ MORE - Source: Dorset Echo Friday 28th November 2008

Thursday, 27 November 2008

Did you see lights in sky over Christchurch?

Several people reported seeing a UFO over the sea south of Mudeford on Saturday night.

A Mudeford man was visiting a friend in the St Catherine's Hill area of Christchurch and saw unexplained lights in the sky over Hengistbury Head.

READ MORE - Source: Bournemouth Daily Echo Thursday 27th November 2008

Iconic visitors seen gliding over reedbeds

Visitors to Weymouth’s Radipole Lake and Lodmoor nature reserves have been on the lookout for winter residents including marsh harrier and the elusive bittern.

The harrier, a beautifully marked female, is frequently seen gliding over the Radipole reedbeds on low hunting flights or perched in the crown of a willow, while there are believed to be at least three bittern using both reserves that have been showing obligingly throughout November.

READ MORE - Source: Dorset Echo Thursday 27th November 2008

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

To explore the surface of Titan, you should start on Chesil Beach

Three o’clock Sunday afternoon, we leave Milton Keynes with the car loaded up with equipment.

"We" are John Zarnecki, Professor of Space Science, and Karl Atkinson, PhD student, both from the OU’s Planetary and Space Sciences Research Institute.

"The equipment" is an aluminium contraption about two and a half metres high, of tripod shape with a horizontal arm that can drop a sensor from various heights.

We are off to Chesil Beach, on the coast of Dorset. Why are two planetary scientists going to the Dorset coast?

Obviously, because Chesil Beach is like the surface of Titan, Saturn’s largest moon!

READ MORE - Source: Open University - The Material World: On Chesil Beach 25th November 2008


St Catherine, St Catherine, O lend me thine aid - The Traditions and Customs of St. Catherine's Day

Today is St. Catherine's Day, and it is customary for unmarried women to pray for husbands, and to honor women who've reached 25 years of age but haven't married.

St Catherine was renowned as a virgin Martyr, hence the reason for her being a patron of unmarried maidens. The St Catherine’s Chapel at Abbotsbury was once a popular place of pilgrimage for girls seeking their true love. Many would visit the chapel on St Catherine’s Day, where, inside the south doorway, there are three ‘Wishing Holes’. The girls would put their knee in the lower hole and their hands in the other two above and wish for the man of their dreams, saying as follows:

‘A husband, St Catherine
A handsome one, St Catherine
A rich one, St Catherine
A nice one, St Catherine
And soon, St Catherine’

or

St Catherine, St Catherine, O lend me thine aid
And grant that I never may die an old maid.


Wishing or praying to St Catherine for a husband was also a popular custom at Cerne Abbas, where there was once a ruined S
t Catherine’s Chapel on Cat-and-Chapel Hill. With the chapel now gone the custom has since switched to St Augustine’s Well, where there is a ‘Wishing Stone’ upon which is the wheel of St Catherine.

WEATHER LORE

Similar to
St. Martin's Day on November 10, St. Catherine’s Day also marks the arrival of winter. like St. Martin’s Day, St. Catherine’s Day is basically a secular holiday and is even somewhat pagan. Generally, St. Martin’s Day and St. Catherine’s Day are described by their differences: St. Martin’s Day is primarily a holiday associated with men and St. Catherine’s Day is associated with women, which means that the latter day has acquired a strongly feminine meaning.

‘As at Catherine foul or fair,
So will next February’.


Below, Extract taken from the Chambers Book of Days November 25th 1864, details the traditions of St. Catherine's day.
ST. CATHARINE

Among the earlier saints of the Romish calendar, St. Catharine holds an exalted position, both from rank and intellectual abilities. S
he is said to have been of royal birth, and was one of the most distinguished ladies of Alexandria, in the beginning of the fourth century. From a child she was noted for her acquirements in learning and philosophy, and while still very young, she became a convert to the Christian faith. During the persecution instituted by the Emperor Maximinus I, St. Catharine, assuming the office of an advocate of Christianity, displayed such cogency of argument and powers of eloquence, as thoroughly silenced her pagan adversaries. Maximinus, troubled with this success, assembled together the most learned philosophers in Alexandria to confute the saint; but they were both vanquished in debate, and converted to a belief in the Christian doctrines. The enraged tyrant thereupon commanded them to be put to death by burning, but for St. Catharine he reserved a more cruel punishment. She was placed in a machine, composed of four wheels, connected together and armed with sharp spikes, so that as they revolved the victim might be torn to pieces. A miracle prevented the completion of this project. When the executioners were binding Catharine to the wheels, a flash of lightning descended from the skies, severed the cords with which she was tied, and shattered the engine to pieces, causing the death both of the executioners and numbers of the bystanders. Maximinus, however, still bent on her destruction, ordered her to be carried beyond the walls of the city, where she was first scourged and then beheaded. The legend proceeds to say, that after her death her body was carried by angels over the Red Sea to the summit of Mount Sinai. The celebrated convent of St. Catharine, situated in a valley on the slope of that mountain, and founded by the Emperor Justinian, in the sixth century, contains in its church a marble sarcophagus, in which the relics of St. Catharine are deposited. Of these the skeleton of the hand, covered with rings and jewels, is exhibited to pilgrims and visitors. A well known concomitant of St. Catharine, is the wheel on which she was attempted to be tortured, and which figures in all pictured representations of the saint. From this circumstance are derived the well kown circular window in ecclesiastical architecture, termed a Catharine wheel window, and also a firework of a similar form. This St. Catharine must not be confounded with the equally celebrated St. Catharine of Siena, who lived in the fourteenth century.






Saturday, 22 November 2008

Holy Wells, Shitcocks and Piscombe: Folk history of the Bincombe and Upwey area



With with the ever changing landscape within the Weymouth area, and construction work already started on the Weymouth Relief Road (see previous blog entry The route to history). I thought I would share a couple of articles from the late Audrey Johnson's column Dorset Diary (Dorset Evening Echo March 10th 2004). Discussing the nearly forgotten folk history and stories of the Bincombe and Upwey area.
"Bincombe's Link to ancient spring
More information flows in following ex-pat's query over village.

Last week Sally Morgan, an ex-pat Dorset woman, sent me an e-mail from her home in Normandy asking about Bincombe where she grew up (Diary, March 5). She said she is "interested in trying to gather together some of the hamlet's anecdotal past, in particular relating to around 11 cottages that have now disappeared, with their inhabitants".

I quoted from a Topigraphical [sic] Dictionary of England, written in 1831 by Samuel Lewis, who said that the River Wey runs through the parish, in which are quarries of fine stone and a mineral spring. Numerous barrows are visible on the neighbouring downs.

Mark North, author of Dark Dorset, was quick to reply, saying he believes "that Lewis may have been referring to either the spring at the Wishing Well or the Spa at Nottington as the mineral spring. Ronald Good gives a good description of this in his book Weyland, the story of Weymouth and its countryside.

He says: "the southern boundary of Broadwey parish took a very wandering course by which it enclosed the hamlet of Nottington. This place also has a mill, but its leading feature is a mineral spring that rises on the margin of the Wey. The water of this spring is sulphurous, and its medicinal virtues, especially in cases of skin disease, have been known at least since 1700.

"We are well aware that the course of the river doesn't divert through Bincombe. However, there was once a mineral spring in the parish of Bincombe, near the hamlet of Elwell at the base of Ridgeway Hill as mentioned in Jeremy Harte's article on Dorset Holy wells.

"He points out that 'the hamlet of Elwell in this parish is Helewill in 1212, and is derived from haele, safe, haelu, health, or hael, omen - so that it was either an oracular or a healing well.

WELL LINK: (above) The Royal Oak Inn, circa 1910, once situated at the bottom of Ridgeway Hill on Dorchester Road at Upwey and demolished in 1968 to improve traffic visibility at this point. The bus stop at the bottom of the hill now marks the site of the inn

"In recent times it was known as the Healing Well, 'a spring in a field at the bottom of Ridgeway, behind where the Royal Oak Inn used to stand. Healing properties,especially in connection with eyes, were attributed to this spring'. This folklore connection with healing of sore eyes has also been connected with the Wishing Well waters as well.

"References to the name of Elwell (Heal Well) can be found on a map of Bincombe Parish in the Royal Commission for Historic Monuments Books of Dorset which clearly states the valley, since destroyed by the railway embankment, as Hellwell Bottom, though it fails to mention the location of the well behind the Royal Oak Inn, now demolished. It does, however, highlight a spring on top of the hill as well as the ancient Celtic field systems and one humorous name for a valley, which has, I expect, long been removed by OS maps."

Above: segment of map of Bincombe Parish taken from the Royal Commission for Historic Monuments Books of Dorset. Below, Shitcocks and Piscombe as it appears today prior the construction of the Weymouth Relief Road.


It's certainly deleted from my 1:25 000 map, as is Hellwell Bottom which also appears on the early map from the Historical Monuments book. The small valley lies just south of Lower Bincombe Farm and rejoices in the name Shitcocks and Piscombe - though why it was so named I can't imagine, unless it was the site of the village midden. Do any locals still use this odd name?"
An article followed up the interest in the holy well in Elwell - Dorset Diary (Dorset Evening Echo March 22nd 2004).
"The melancholy tale of military execution
Shallow mounds could mark last resting place of two corporals shot in 1801

The Bincombe story (Diary 5/3,10/3, 20/3) seems to be drawing to a close, unless you know more.

Sally Morgan, who asked the original question, has e-mailed with 'a little more information I picked up from Dad (Brian Dibben) and Ken Pashen (an elderly farmer from Bincombe) who was able to give me quite a list of villagers who once dwelt in the cottages.

Mr Barter lived in a cottage that is still there, opposite the church, and walked to Portland every day - but was it to work in the quarries or not?

Particularly relevant to your article from Mark North, about the springs in Upwey, Walt Tizard, who I remember had a rich Dorset accent and dialect and died some years back now, told my father that a field called Bat-hays, behind the old chapel off named because the locals used to bathe their eyes there and that the water was rich in iron.

Apparently, the spring behind the Royal Oak went to a water trough for the horses to drink and the steam engines to fill up before the haul up over Ridgeway.

The Royal Oak was the watering hole for one Bincombe inhabitant, a Mr Bullock, who Ken Pashen tells me was a carter who walked to Upwey every evening for a quiet drink. 'It was his evening constitutional. Not so for one poor man who is said to have over-indulged and drowned in a ditch on his way back to Bincombe. The man who drowned would have been coming back into Bincombe from Broadwey.

'Unlike Mr Bullock, who would have walked back up across 'Biscombe' or 'Piscombe'. 'I understand 'Shitcocks' has become 'Shitrocks', which for the younger generation may have something to do with the dangers of driving very big tractors down very steep hills, but for older villagers is because in a field running from Lower Bincombe to Bincombe Village there is a line of rocks inhabited by a large rabbit population that deposits its droppings all over the rocks.'

Holy Trinity Church, Bincombe

Military historian Ted McBride also wrote to remind us about the story of the deserters, mentioned in an earlier Diary, and he sent a cutting from the published just after the event.

'On the Downs above the rural hamlet of Bincomb (sic), a military camp was set up, where desertion wasn't an option - a little story of that period ...

'On Tuesday, July 3,1801, were shot on Bincombe, near Weymouth, two Corporals of the York Hussars, pursuant to the sentence of a general court martial held on them for desertion. They, together with four privates of the regiment, took a boat from Weymouth Harbour and proceeded towards the enemy coast.

'They went as far as Jersey, which they mistook for the Continent, and were then taken by a King's ship and sent home as prisoners.

'On this melancholy occasion the whole line of the garrison, and all within ten miles, were present, and formed at the same time one of the most martial, as well as awful, scenes ever witnessed in Dorset. The prisoners were taken to the parade ground in a mourning coach, followed by their regiment.

Attended by Mr Brooks and Mr Stanley, two priests from Lulworth Castle, they alighted from the coach dressed in white and, with the priests praying to them, passed in slow time in front of the whole line and returned as far as the centre where their own regiment formed in front of the grand line.

'The prisoners advanced to the front for a little distance, and after a few a dozen carbines at about ten paces distance. Both fall instantly, like Christians and heroes; more fortitude and resignation had rarely been witnessed.

'The bodies laid on the ground till the whole line had passed them in slow time, after which they were put into their coffins and interred in Bincombe churchyard. The four privates were sentenced to be flogged, but owing to their good characters were forgiven.'

Ted wonders if the graves are marked. There are two schools of, thought on this. Most locals say that the graves are each marked by a stone slab, proof being the outline of an Iron Cross - a sure German connection.

The Hussar Graves? at Bincombe

But there is a snag - two, in fact. The Iron Cross is a prestigious decoration awarded for distinguished service, so the two deserters would certainly not qualify for its use on their graves.

More significant is that the 'Eiserne Kreuz' was not introduced as a Prussian military decoration until 12 years after the executions. It was solely for the Prussian War of Liberation, but its use was revived by William I for the Franco-Prussian War of 1870, recreated in 1914 for World War I, and last revived by Adolf Hitler on September 1,1939, the same day that German forces invaded Poland.What the icon in Bincombe churchyard marks I know not, but it certainly wasn't the last resting place of two corporals from the York Hussars. The story is well-known as the basis of Thomas Hardy's short story The Melanchcholy Hussar which, the writer avers, was quite factual and told to him by an old lady (who had an emotional involvement to the story) when he was in his midteens, though he was urged to silence by the teller until she was dead,buried and forgotten.

So this poignant love story was 'put on hold' for over 30 years, during which time Hardy's own rather melancholy mind had kept it secret,and who knows what effect that had on the writer? '

Suffice it to say that it is a powerful and sad love story, no doubt emroidered by a fertile mind.

In the story Hardy mentions that the two were buried near the church wall. To this day two unmarked, shallow mounds can be seen by the wall beside the track leading up to Bincombe Bumps. Could these mark the graves? Only an excavation will reveal what secrets are held there.Of course, we mustn't forget the Bumps, simple Bronze Age tumuli in an ancient barrow cemetery, and believed locally to be the Music Barrows, traditionally home of the fairies. According to folklore, it is possible to hear fairy merrymaking if you place your ear to the barrows at noon."
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