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Wednesday, 30 January 2008

Big Cats in Britain Conference: Somerset March 2008

37 reports last year in the county

It is over 40 years since the first public spate of sightings hit the headlines with the Surrey Puma, yet we are still no closer to solving the mystery. Experts from all over the country will be gathering to discuss if these cats really are all black leopards? Hybrids? or a relic, indigenous species that we never knew existed alongside us, ever since the Ice Age?The Big Cats in Britain group average three sightings daily from all over the countryside including Ireland, in fact people these days are more likely to see a big cat rather than a pig.

The conference will be held at Tropiquaria near Watchet, Somerset, on the weekend of the 7th of March. Conference organiser Mark Fraser said: “Each year the BCIB group hold a conference with guest speakers, focusing on the ever increasing reports of apparent large cats in the British Isles. This years speakers include Merrily Harpur, Richard Freeman, Jonathan Downes, Chris Moiser, and Dr Darren Naish. Also in attendance will be local researchers, and Nigel Brierly will be making a guest appearance.

It is now generally accepted that there are large cats in the British countryside, the question is, what are they? BCIB logged 37 big cat reports for the county last year, and are interested in hearing from witnesses who believe they may have seen a big cat in the area. We are especially interested in any hard evidence such as photographs, casts etc. Complete anonymity will be given to witnesses.

Everyone is welcome to attend the conference and it should be a weekend to remember. There is so much interest in big cat sightings now and this will a chance for people to hear from experts, as well as the many people who have actually seen them with their own eyes.

The conference starts on the Friday until the Sunday evening. There will be book stalls, debates, quiz, raffle, stalls and a tour of Tropiquaria. Full details can be found on the website www.bigcatsinbritain.org or contact organiser Mark Fraser on 07940 016972.

A sampling of Somerset reports made directly to BCIB

February: Black cat (not sure) it was in silhouette. Tail: 2 foot long - 2 and a half feet at shoulder and 4 foot long. Seen for 45 seconds about 20 metres away.“I was walking my dog near Spaxton, I saw a deer running a full speed then realised it was being chased by a big cat. I watched it until it disappeared then heard it growl.” (Source: BCIB).

24th February: Two friends, Paul Smith and Peter Coales had been up in the Quantocks when they spotted what they say was a large black cat. (Source: BCIB).

25th April: I've had an email from a lady today that lives not to far from me (Simonsmith) about a big cat that visit’s her garden. She first saw it about a year ago, she then went and planted a catnip plant in her garden. Since then every few days it comes back to her garden it comes in smells around and then just lies there.(Source: Anthony Bevan).

2nd May: Three witnesses; Yeo Valley Foods, Isleport Business Park, Highbrige Reddish fawn - about 5 feet long - 2 to 3 high. Tufted ears - short tail. Seen for10 to 15 minutes at a distance of 100 feet - 5 feet long - 2 to 3 feet high.“I am a lorry driver on a pick up from Yeo valley foods - waiting in cab on loading bay. Opposite is scrub ground fenced in tall grass bushes. I saw movement, reddish fawn colour, then I saw its head - it was a big cat, ear short dark tips, white inside, dark tip to nose white under jaw. It just ambled away from fence behind some scrub. I got out the cab and got another driver local to the area and went to the fence, spotted it again , got another driver over local to area, We watched it as it made its way through scrub ground. It turned its head several times - cathead - moved like a cat hunting. Now it went over side of ground - went along railway bar type fence back just visible above grass too big to go through fence went under in to some marsh ground with reeds - saw it turn its head back then it was gone. When up against fence able to gauge length / height 5 feet long - 2 to 3 high didn’t look to have much of a tail. One driver local said it was a cat too. I have not heard of any reports.” (Source: BCIB).

4th May: Shortwood Lane, Litton. Dark red to dark brown, very slight barring, pointed ears, thin tail about one foot (not long). Seen for about 45 seconds at a distance starting at 100 yards closing to 5 yards. Height about 20 inches at the shoulder, small round head with pointed ears and short nose, shortish tale, long thin body, long legs, longer at the back. Not a heavy animal.“Cycling up the lane (South eastward) relatively silently at dusk with headlight on, could see something in road 100 to 75 yards ahead, as I closed on it realised it was an animal in the middle of the road with back to me, it was picking at a road kill carcase, as I neared it turned it's head and looked at me then without rush, got up and sloped off into a very thick hedge/thicket on my left. This was certainly not a fox and was far too tall to be a domestic cat. It was about 200 yards from the nearest dwelling. Apart from the thick hedge, there are open fields around the site with a wood three fields away.“I walk the area very regularly and see lots of the wildlife, I two years ago, in adjoining field saw eyes at night (with a large torch) which were not explainable as deer, fox or badger. This sighting was as a result of my sheepdog making me aware of and challenging an animal I had not seen. Dog was very aggressive and barking madly.” (Source: BCIB).

May: Frome - Somerset. Spotted a large black cat from 80 yards away, which seemed to be stalking something in fields near Frome. (Source: BCIB).

1st June: Adam Weightman - Two witnesses. A37 approaching Midsomer Norton at midnight when the cat ran out from the roadside - very fast and agile, jumped into a hedge on the opposite side of the road. Dark reddish, spots, short tail, looked very similar to a lynx - docked but wide and floppy. Pointed ears. Seen for ten seconds at a distance of 50 meters / similar size to a large dog. (Source: BCIB).

28th July: 15.30 - Two witnesses. On a footpath behind 'Old Fosse Road' Odd Down, Bath. Black - no markings. Thick and long tail. Taller and longer than a domestic cat, but smaller than a panther. Seen for10 seconds - about 30 - 40 feet away.“We were walking along a tree lined footpath, towards Odd Down, with rugby club field and new housing development to our left. The cat was moving towards us, then turned in profile, saw us and disappeared through the hedge into the rugby club field. (Source: BCIB).

24th August: 4am - Lynx-like cat spotted along Touches Lane, Chard. Could not make out the colour - lynx. Tail: short, it was only a fleeting sight, tufted ears. About the size of a medium dog, 15- 20 seconds“I was woken by a very strange sound and so I looked out the window, we have an orange light flashing outside our house and I caught a glimpse of something moving, as I looked harder it trotted into the forest next to our house a weird whooping type noise, we have also heard a screeching noise several times but have seen nothing“No other sightings really just weird behaviour from our dog and the decline in deer sightings as we used to get them in our garden all the time“If this is a lynx , we live near a wildlife park ( Cricket St Thomas) and it could be that it may have escaped from there.” (Source: BCIB).

September: Panther sighting at Colfors near Frome. (Source: Marcus Mathews).

September: Panther sighting at Colfors near Frome. (Source: Marcus Mathews).

September: Panther sighting at Colfors near Frome. (Source: Marcus Mathews).

24th December: Last night, 24th December a very reliable person was driving his car just past Tropiquaria heading towards Simonsbath when he saw two big cats in the road in front of him. He has studied photos of big cats and was able to identify them as being lynx, the cats jumped over the hedge at the side of the road as the gentleman approached. The gentleman has worked in the countryside with animals all his life, is very knowledgeable of native wildlife, and is a very reliable person. It was dark, about 7.30pm and as he came round a bend before reaching Minehead, he saw the two cats in front of him in the road, one jumped over a hedge at the side of the road and the other stayed still and looked at the car and when he got closer this cat then jumped over the hedge. He drives a Vauxhall Astra and the hedge was higher then his car. He said that their pointed ears stood out as he was looking at them from behind. (Source: Christoper Johnston & Anthony Bevan).

2007 Big Cat Stats: 675 reports


Yorkshire 64 / reports
Devon 38 / reports
Somerset 37 / reports
Leicestershire 36 / reports
Wiltshire 31 / reports
Gloucestershire 31 / reports
Norfolk 23 / reports
Kent 18 / reports
Shropshire 15 / reports
Essex 14 / reports
Buckinghamshire 14 /reports
Cornwall 12 / reports
Dorset 12 / reports
Cambridgeshire 12 / reports
Derbyshire 10 / reports
Sussex 10 / reports
Staffordshire 10 / reports
Berkshire / 9 reports
Cheshire / 9 reports
CO Durham 9 / reports
Hertfordshire 9 / reports
Lancashire 8 / reports
Northumberland 8 / reports
Lincolnshire 7 / reports
Rutland 7 / reports
Suffolk 7 / reports
Surrey 7 / reports
Northamptonshire 6 / reports
Hampshire 6 / reports
Cumbria 5 / reports
Middlesex 4 / reports
Nottinghamshire 4 / reports
Oxfordshire 4 / reports
Teesside 4 / reports
Cleveland / 3 reports
Worcestershire 3 / reports
Bedfordshire / 2 reports
Warwickshire 2 / reports
Tyne & Wear 1 / reports


Fife 19 / reports
Aberdeenshire 17 / reports
Renfrewshire 9 / reports
Angus & Forsarshire 9 / reports
Ayrshire 9 / reports
Banffshire 8 / reports
Argyll & Bute 6 / reports
Dumfries & Galloway 5 / reports
West Lothian 3 / reports
Inverness-shire 3 / reports
Caithness 2 / reports
Dunbartonshire 2 / reports
Morayshire 2 / reports
Nairnshire 2 / reports
Perthshire 2 / reports
Stirlingshire 2 / reports
Sutherland 1 / reports
East Lothian 1 / reports
Roxburghshire 1 / reports
Selkirkshire 1 / reports
Lanarkshire 1 / reports
Wigtonshire 1 / reports
Berwickshire 1 / reports


Glamorgan 6 / reports
Denbigshire 4 / reports
Monmouthshire 3 / reports
Anglesey 2 / reports
Cardiganshire 1 / report
Brecknockshire 1 / report
Carmarthenshire 1 / report
Montgomeryshire 1 / report
N Ireland
CO Antrim 2 / reports
CO Armagh 1 / report
CO Derry 1 / report
CO Tyrone 1 / report
CO Monaghan 6 / reports
CO Donegal 2 / reports
CO Sligo 1 / report

Over four decades, the Surrey Puma of the 1960s has been joined by the Exmoor Beast, the Beast of Bodmin, the Fen Tiger, the Beast of Ongar, the Pedmore Panther, the Beast of Gloucester, the Thing from the Ling, the Beast of Borehamwood, the Wrangaton Lion, the Beast of Shap, the Beast of Brentwood, the Lindsey Leopard, the Lincolnshire Lynx, the Wildcat of the Wolds, the Beast of Roslin, the Kilmacolm Big Cat, the Beast of Burford, the Chilterns Lion, the Beast of Castor, the Beast of Sydenham, the Shooters Hill Cheetah, the Beast of Bucks, the Plumstead Panther, the Beast of Bexley, the Beast of Barnet, the Nottingham Lion, the Durham Puma, the Horndon Panther, the Beast of Cricklewood, the Beast of Bont, the Beast of Gobowen ... and many more.

Wicker man to burn at festival

DRUIDS and witches in Dorset are to hold a large pagan gathering near Weymouth to celebrate the festival of Beltane.

The three-day gathering for several hundred people, at a location near Portesham, will take place from May 2 to May 4 - and the highlight will be a fire ritual, including the burning of a wicker man.
Unlike the sacrificial pyre in the cult film The Wicker Man, Dorset's version will contain wishes and spells which visitors to the gathering will be able to attach before the ritual.

The event is being organised by the Weymouth-based Dolmen Grove and will include music, maypole dancing, outdoor activities, meditation and mystic sessions, the famous Pickled Witch market, circus skills, archery, re-enactments and a bardic competition. Weymouth's pagan folk/rock band the Dolmen will be performing on the Saturday night before the fire ritual.

Early music specialists Rigantona will be organising workshops and demonstrating traditional instruments as well as performing.

Folk duo Heelstone are also among acts lined up for the event. Chris Walsh, arch-druid Melkin of the Dolmen Grove, said: "Beltane is the traditional spring festival of rebirth which is something most people can relate to.

"Anyone who is interested or sympathetic to pagan beliefs will be very welcome. We are hoping that at least 300 people will attend."

There will be camping on the site with facilities, plus food venders. Mead and cider will also be on sale.

Security will be provided by members of the Dagda, a pagan group with considerable experience at festivals and other events. The event has previously been held at a site near Corfe Castle.
Mr Walsh said: "We decided to bring the gathering closer to home for many of our members - the precise location will be announced closer to the event."

Tickets for the Beltane weekend cost £30 for adults with reductions for children. For more details visit the Dolmen Grove website or telephone 07918 143682.

Tuesday, 22 January 2008

Hammer Horror Films - These are the Damned

Damned if we know where Shirley stood

If you have a head for horror or better still can remember the filming of The Damned in 1961, perhaps you can help.

Kevin Flanagan, who sent in these stills from the 60s Hammer thriller film to be identified, said: "Can you identify where they are and if the areas have changed in the following four-and-a-half decades?"

Source: Dorset Echo Tuesday 22nd January 2008

Thursday, 17 January 2008

Paul Williams explores the fossils and prehistoric ecosystem of Lyme Regis, on the Jurassic Coast.

Paul Williams explores the fossils and prehistoric ecosystem of Lyme Regis, on the Jurassic Coast.

Baglake House Poltergeist

On the 17th January 1748 in Long Bredy, a burial was recorded of a one William Light of Baglake Farm, Litton Cheney. What surrounded his death was recounted by a Miss M. F. Billington's in her article featured in the Dorset County Chronicle in August, 1883 on " Dorsetshire Ghosts ".

"Bagley House, near Bridport, has very gloomy legends attaching to it. Tradition (for the stories are traced back to the last century) says that 'Squire Lighte, who then owned the place, had been hunting one day, and after returning home had gone away again and drowned himself. His groom had followed him with a presentiment that something was wrong, and arrived at the pond in time to see the end of the tragedy. As he returned he was accosted by the spirit of his drowned master, which unhorsed him. He soon fell violently ill, and never recovered,one of the consequences of this illness being that his skin peeled entirely off. Shortly after 'Squire Lighte's suicide his old house was troubled by noisy disturbances, which were at once associated with the evil deed of self-destruction. It was suggested that the spirit should be formally and duly' laid ' or exorcised. A number of the clergy went therefore for that purpose, and succeeded in inducing the ghost to confine itself to a chimney in the house for a certain number of years,—it is not known exactly now for how long.

" For many years after this, however, the place remained at peace ; but on the expiration of the power of the charm very much worse disturbances broke out again. Raps would be heard at the front door ; steps in the passage and on the stairs ; doors opening and closing. The rustle of ladies dressed in silk was audible in the drawing-room, and from that room the sound was traced into a summer-house in the garden. The crockery would all be violently moved, and at certain rare intervals a male figure, dressed in old-fashioned costume, is said to have made itself visible and walked about the house. The neighbours say that these extraordinary occurrences continued for many years. They believe in them most fervently ; and are of opinion that as long as the house stands it will be thus troubled. An element worthy of notice in this story is the time-honoured faith in the power of the clergy over evil spirits."

Tuesday, 8 January 2008

The changing face of Weymouth's North Quay

Dorset Echo feature more pictures from the collection of Terry Gale.

Terry is particularly interested in these images that record the changing face of North Quay.

READ MORE - Source: Dorset Echo Tuesday 8th January 2008

Monday, 7 January 2008

Nurdlers provide great entertainment

The New Year started with a hearty banging, clashing and shouts of 'Nurdle-Ho!' as our Nurdlers, led by Albert the Tall, set off on their expedition from the Old Ship to the top of the Ridgeway and over the hill cheered on by a goodly crowd on a brilliant sunny morning.

A motley crew of 20 or so they were, clad mainly in sacking and an assortment of odd garments in many colours, equipped with dustbin lids (to catch and ground the nurdle) and grouting poles to bat it about.

READ MORE - Source: Dorset Echo Monday 7th January 2008

Source: Upwey Nurdlers Website

Was 'Jelly Fish' like UFO a microlight?

The recent sighting of a over the skies over Weymouth (see Mysterious Orange 'Jelly Fish' is reported in skies above Weymouth Harbour) may have a possible explanation.

Printed in todays Dorset Echo is the following article

"A UFO seen above Weymouth Bay could have been a microlight.

Four people were standing outside the Hotel Prince Regent on the
Esplanade when they saw the baffling phenomena. Now retired drayman Joe Bevis, 78, of Horsford Street, Weymouth, thinks he may have the answer.

He said: "It was one of those microlights.

"I was sitting in the Nothe Tavern having a meal. We were right at the
back of restaurant, almost outside, and we watched it go right across.

"It was all lit up and had some sort of illumination.

"We said something like, I bet he's colder than we are and forgot all about it,but now I've read the Echo article about a UFO shaped like a jellyfish I think that might be it."

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.

Tuesday, 1 January 2008

Happy New Year

Hello and welcome to Dark Dorset Blog brought to you by www.darkdorset.co.uk - Dorset's premier website devoted to local folklore, customs, traditions, mysteries and the unexplained. As this is our first entry and may we wish you all

A Happy New Year and a Good Wassail from us .

Last year, on the 17th of January, Dark Dorset visited The Shave Cross Inn, where since 2004 they continue the tradition of Wassailing by burning the Ashen Faggot on the Old Twelfth Night.

The Ashen Faggot (sometimes called ashton fagot) is an old English Christmas tradition from Devonshire and Somersetshire, similar to that of the Yule log and related to the wassail tradition. The wassail party passes around a bundle of ash sticks, twigs or branches—the ashen faggot—bound with green ash withies, which is then placed onto the fire. As each binding bursts, the watchers toast it with a drink. Some traditions had the unmarried women each choosing a withy, and the first one whose tie snapped would be married the next year. When the bindings have all burst and the bundle has fallen loose, each person who plans to host the festivities next year takes one of the half-burned ash sticks and saves it until the following Christmas, when it will go in the center of their own ashen faggot. The tradition endures (or has been resurrected) in many places; according to an article in the Winter 2005 issue of Devon Talk. The Harbour Inn in Axmouth annually builds an ashen faggot six feet high and three feet wide for their huge pub fireplace.Some traditions held are that not burning the ashen faggot in your house brought bad luck, or that having an ashen faggot in the house kept the Devil and evil spirits away. Ash was likely to be chosen because the ash tree has a long pedigree of magical associations: perhaps the most important is the Yggdrasil of Norse mythology, also known as the World Ash Tree.

This year on 17th Jananuary 2008, Shave Cross Inn will be holding the 'Ash'n'faggot' burning once again, with performances by the Wessex Morris Men. Also there will be Music, Dancing and Singing at 7.00pm onwards.

For more information visit there website at www.theshavecrossinn.co.uk

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