Dark Dorset Online Scrapbook is an archive of current and past events relating to local history, folklore and mysteries that can be discovered in the English county of Dorset.

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Monday, 29 June 2009

Happy 89th Birthday Ray Harryhausen

When it comes to motion picture special effects, there is only one name that personifies movie magic - Ray Harryhausen. From his debut films with George Pal to his final film, Harryhausen imbued magic and visual strength to motion picture special effects as no other technician has, before or since. Born in Los Angeles, the signature event in Harryhausen's life was when he saw King Kong (1933). So awed was 13-year-old Harryhausen that he began researching the film's effects work, ultimately learning all he could about Willis H. O'Brien and stop-motion photography - he even contacted O'Bie and showed an allosaur short he made, which caused O'Bie to quip to his wife, 'You realize you're encouraging my competition, don't you?' Harryhausen tried to make a stop-motion epic, titled Evolution, but the time needed cut it short. The footage he completed - of a lumbering Apatosaurus attacked by a belligerent Allosaurus -made excellent use as a demo reel, and as a result Harryhausen's first film job came with George Pal, working on Pal's Puppetoon shorts for Paramount, before a stint in the Army using his animation skills for training films. After the Second World War Harryhausen acquired over a thousand feet of unused military film and made a series of Puppetoon-flavored fairy tale shorts, which helped him land a job with O'Brien and Marcel Delgado for Mighty Joe Young (1949). Some 85% of the actual animation was done by Harryhausen. But Harryhausen's real breakthrough came when he was hired by Warner Brothers to do the special effects for _Beast From 20,000 Fathoms, The (1953)_ . Forced to make quality effects on a film budget of just $200,000, Harryhausen learned a technique called split-screen (rear projection on overlapping miniature screens) to insert dinosaurs and other fantastic beasts into real world backgrounds. The result was one of the most influential sci-fi films of the 1950s. From there Harryhausen drifted to Columbia and teamed with producer Charles Schneer' , the tandem becoming synonymous for the remainder of their respective careers. After three sci-fi monster films and work with Willis O'Brien on the 'Irwin Allen (I) documentary The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (1958), Harryhausen's first split-screen film shot entirely in color, highlighted by Harryhausen's mythological monsters interacting with Kathryn Grant, and Torin Thatcher and the rousing score of Bernard Herrmann. Because Harryhausen worked alone on stop-motion animation, filming usually took some two years, and the most famous example of the infinite patience needed came with the skeleton swordfight sequence in Jason and the Argonauts (1963), a sequence where Harryhausen often could get no more than 13 frames of film (one-half second of elapsed time) shot per day. The 1960s were Harryhausen's best years, highlighted by his most popular film Jason and the Argonauts (1963) and his reunions with dinosaurs in Hammer Films' One Million Years B.C. (1966) and The Valley of Gwangi (1969). His pace slowed in the 1970s but nonetheless saw three more masterworks, The Golden Voyage of Sinbad (1974), Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger (1977), and Clash of the Titans (1981). It was not until 1992 that Harryhausen finally achieved film immortality with an honorary Oscar, a long-overdue tribute to the one name that personifies visual magic.

Source: http://delirium-vault.com

Sunday, 28 June 2009

Peter Bowles's heaven on earth: Wessex

Peter Bowles describes how he is inspired by the ancient sites and countryside of Wessex in southern England. I love the part of southern England that once comprised the Kingdom of Wessex.

When I was a bit younger I used to get up at about five in the morning or earlier and drive down to Silbury Hill – the tallest prehistoric man-made mound in Europe – from London and climb to the top in time to see dawn breaking.

Another favourite spot is Maiden Castle in Dorset – the largest and most complex Iron Age hill fort in Britain, which has the most fantastic earthworks.

The views from both are amazing. Plus, I've always been fascinated by these ancient sites and sometimes, when I was restless and depressed as a younger man, I would find going up them quite inspirational. Often I'd be the only person around.

READ MORE - Source: The Telegraph 28th June 2009

Saturday, 27 June 2009

English Heritage reveals most haunted sites

From riderless horses disappearing through castle walls mischievous spirits apparently barging into visitors, English Heritage has compiled a new survey of "hauntings" and unexplained events recorded at its sites.

The so-called “spectral stocktake” reveals a series of mysterious occurrences, many of which have prompted investigations by staff.

Some incidents are said to have led staff to resign. At one castle, employees have established protocols on how to deal with suspected sightings of ghosts or unexplained events.

One medieval palace is even said to be haunted by a former member of staff.

Many of the events involve staff and visitors seeing mysterious figures, while others involve complaints that people were pinched or pushed, when there was nobody standing near them. Some reports involve items being moved around sites.

At Castle Rising, a 12th century keep in Norfolk, which was once the exile place of Queen Isabella, widow – and alleged murderess – of Edward II, “paranormal investigators” were called in by staff to conduct tests following sightings by visitors, many of whom claimed to have seen figures dressed in monks’ clothes.

Others said they had been pushed or nudged while looking around.

Norman Fahy, head custodian, said: “The most common phenomenon seems to be people getting pushed about. They seem to be prodded and poked. We seem to get these reports about once a week.”

Similar accounts of visitors complaining about being barged into, pinched or even slapped while there is apparently no-one around them have been made at Portland Castle, in Dorset, and Scarborough Castle, in Yorkshire, which, according to legend, is haunted by the ghost of Piers Gaveston, the favourite of Edward II.

Read More: Source - The Telegraph 27th June 2009

Friday, 26 June 2009

Doris survey of English Channel seabed finds traces of ancient river

An ancient river channel, shipwrecks and giant underwater gravel dunes are among previously unknown features discovered during the most detailed survey to date of the Channel seabed.

The survey, covering 500 square miles off the Dorset coast, is being carried out in advance of the 2012 Olympics. Sailing events will take place off Weymouth and Portland, and organisers are anxious to avoid any unpleasant surprises, such as uncharted rocks, that have holed small boats in the past.

The £300,000 project has already led to the redrawing of marine charts in use for nearly 75 years. It will also enable marine conservationists to record the variety of habitats in the area.

READ MORE - Source: The Times June 26th, 2009

Ancient river found beneath the Channel during Olympics survey

An ancient river bed that has lain unseen for 185,000 years has been uncovered by scientists mapping the parts of the English Channel in the run up to the 2012 Olympics.

The groundbreaking discovery was made during a two-year £300,000 project to map 500 square miles of seabed off the Jurassic coast in Dorset.

Using new and incredibly accurate mapping techniques, experts traced the river that may have once been used as a watering hole by woolly mammoths that roamed the area.

READ MORE - Source: The Daily Mail 26th June 2009

Lightning strikes over Dorset

Lightning strikes caused fires at four homes in Dorset as severe storms battered the county throughout the night of Thursday, June 25.

The Met Office issued a severe weather warning for the area, advising of localised thunderstorms with “very heavy rain” – up to 4cm falling within three hours in some areas. The warning remained in place throughout the next day.

Read More: Source - Bournemouth Daily Echo Friday 26th June 2009

Thursday, 25 June 2009

Lightning hits house roof and causes fire

Lightning strikes set two homes alight as severe storms battered the county on Thursday night.

The Met office issued a severe weather warning for the area, advising of localised thunderstorms with "very heavy rain" - up to 4cm falling within three hours in some areas. The warning remained in place throughout Friday.

Reader Robin Griessel took this photo of lightning from Boscombe beach

Read More: Source - Bournemouth Daily Echo Thursday 25th June 2009

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Secrets of the seabed

An ancient riverbed has come to light off Dorset’s coast in an exciting new survey which has revealed a wealth of underwater treasures.

Seabed mapping has provided fascinating images including a clearly visible meandering river channel cutting through bedrock eight miles south of Lulworth Cove.

READ MORE - Source: Bournemouth Daily Echo Wednesday 24th June 2009

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

NEW VIDEO! - Wimborne Folk Festival 2009

Enjoy this movie of just some of the Folk Dance sides that performed at the 2009 Wimborne Folk Festival, Dorset (see previous blog entry Minster town enjoys feast of folk!).

In order of appearance: Ironmen,
Wicket Brood, Powderkegs, Old Palace Clog, Fox Morris, Yetminster Irish, Sarum Morris, Hips and Hawes, Hong Kong Morris, Holt Morris and Ironmen and Severn Gilders together

Seth Lakeman playing at The Lighthouse - Poole's Centre For The Arts

Seth Lakeman, the West Country born singer songwriter credited with taking folk to a new audience with his rhythmic, urgent performances and lyrically engrossing albums, is heading off on the road again up and down the UK this Autumn.

Seth’s critically acclaimed third album ‘Poor Man’s Heaven’ charted at number 8 in the UK on it’s release last year, an unprecedented achievement for a so-called ‘folk inspired’ artist. The album boasts the closest representation on record of Seth’s live show – perfectly capturing the rhythmic, raw energy seldom seen in any other acoustic artist.

This year you will have the opportunity to see him perform live in Dorset at Lighthouse - Poole's Centre For The Arts on 7th November 2009. Tickets are on sale now and are available via www.lighthousepoole.co.uk or www.bigwheeltickets.com

More details of other tour dates are available via Seth's website at www.sethlakeman.co.uk

Dorchester resident calls for better access to Maiden Castle

A Dorchester resident is calling for better recreational access to Maiden Castle before someone is hurt.

Dave Green, who lives on Maiden Castle Road, says his road is the only access route for walkers, joggers and cyclists from Dorchester to access the historic castle and surrounding countryside.

But they are having to share the narrow route with an increasing number of vehicles, making the journey out of town a perilous trip.

Read More: Source: Dorset Echo Tuesday 23rd June 2009

Monday, 22 June 2009

Love is in the air for rare marsh harriers

Love is in the air at a Weymouth nature reserve to the delight of enthusiasts.

Workers at RSPB Radipole Lake are celebrating after discovering a pair of marsh harriers have begun to breed – the first in Dorset for nearly 50 years.

There are only 250 breeding pairs in the country and Weymouth is one of only three breeding sites in the South West.

The reserve’s unique location, just 10 minutes walk from the town centre, means the harriers are also the only ones in the country to breed in an urban setting.

Read More: Source: Dorset Echo Monday 22nd June 2009

Saturday, 20 June 2009

Row over protection plans for Dorset's seahorses

A row has broken out over a protection zone to save seahorses off Dorset.

A voluntary anchor-free zone is being introduced at Studland Bay which is home to the country’s largest breeding seahorse colony.

Wardens will then patrol and photograph the area to create a map of boating activity during the busy summer season.

READ MORE - Source: Dorset Echo Saturday 20th June 2009

Friday, 19 June 2009

Haunted Harbour Tour around Weymouth

Take a ghostly walking trip (lasts approx 2 hours) around the Old Harbour and Melcombe Regis and discover the long forgotten haunts of history in the area. Many of the Inns have reputed haunted happenings and sightings. We take you back into the murky past to reveal stories from local folklore and archived material that will excite and open a whole new avenue for you to explore, IF YOU DARE!

Tour Starts and finishes at The Old Boot Inn, Weymouth (Behind the Fire Station, near Asda) Wednesday Evenings at 7pm

Cost - £5:00 per person

CALL 01305 785747 to book (Office hours 09:30 - 17:00)

Please CLICK HERE to enquire about Tour

Other dates arranged by agreement - please mail for information

For more details visit the website at www.paste.org.uk

The Ghost Walk of Old Weymouth

Dare You Find Out What Lurks In The Shadows Of A Happy Holiday Town?

Follow in the footsteps of our experienced ghosthunter guide and discover the unquiet former residents who still roam the streets and buildings of old Weymouth and delve into a dark history of disease, death and a famous, (or should we say 'infamous') serial killer!

2009 Season Starts 1st July - Meet by our sign beside front entrance of Brewers Quay, Hope Square on Wednesdays at 8:00pm. The route covers approx 2.5 miles. There is no rough or unmade ground but it does involve a few hills. The duration is approx 90mins including stops, with the walk finishing at the Nothe Tavern.

NB: Walks are subject to weather conditions and will not take place in heavy or persistant rain. If in doubt please call us before setting out.

For more details visit www.weymouthghostwalk.webs.com

Dolphins caught on film

Nigel Bryant, field technician and diver with Bournemouth University's archaeology department filmed a pod of around a dozen dolphins while accompanying a group of students on a dive on the Swash Channel Wreck outside Poole Harbour.

READ MORE - Source: Bournemouth Daily Echo Friday 19th June 2009

Thursday, 18 June 2009

Bronze Age axes going on display at Dorset County Museum

A hoard of Bronze Age axes discovered in Dorset are set to go on display at the County Museum in Dorchester.

More than 400 bronze and tin axes, which were discovered at pits in Langton Matravers, near Swanage have been secured by the Dorset County Museum after lengthy fundraising efforts.

The final touches of the display are underway before the rare find is opened to the public on Saturday June 20, following a private preview tomorrow.

READ MORE - Source: Dorset Echo Thursday 18th June 2009

Siege of Lyme re-enacted

For 56 long days the women dressed as men, the dead were buried at night and the church used as a makeshift hospital as the townsfolk of Lyme Regis withstood the best efforts of 6,000 Royalist troops to force a surrender.

So steadfast and valiant were the burghers of Lyme in their fight to remain a Roundhead stronghold during the bitter civil war in 1644 that when the siege was lifted an act of Parliament was passed decreeing an annual national day of fasting and prayer on June 16 to commemorate the longest siege in that bloody conflict.

READ MORE - Source: Bridport and Lyme Regis News Thursday 18th June 2009

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Royal Mail Stamps: Mythical Creatures

A set of six stamps depicting Mythical Creatures will be issued by Royal Mail this summer.

Fantasy and myth are popular subjects for both films and books. Here fantasy artist Dave McKean (who worked on the Harry Potter movies) takes a look at some of the most popular and unusual creatures from legend.

The UK has a rich and diverse folklore around mythical creatures: some famous nationally and others regionally. This set features: unicorn, mermaid - legends very common around UK coast inc northern isles of Scotland), Giant (inspired by Finn McCool associated with the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland), Fairy queen (in a chariot pulled by birds), Pixie (which feature in Cornish folklore), and Dragon (emblem of Wales).

The stamps in detail

1st Class – Unicorns
Traditionally represented as a horse with a single horn, a billy goat’s beard, cloven hooves and a lion’s tail, perhaps the unicorn made sense of travellers’ descriptions of the rhinoceros? Two unicorns support the Coat of Arms of Scotland, while one together with a lion the Coat of Arms of the United Kingdom.

1st Class – Dragons
Common to the mythologies of many countries the dragon has a reptilian body, traditionally breathes fire or spits poison and often has a pair of bat like wings. Often the guardian of treasure hordes, and frequently the terror of fair maids. Apart from the famous associations with St George and the red dragon of Wales, dragons also appear in the Mabinogion, a series of 12 medieval Welsh stories.

62p – Giants
Legend has it that the Northern Ireland’s Giant’s Causeway is the remains of a pathway between Scotland and Northern Ireland created when the Scottish giant Fingal hurled the first clod into the Irish Sea and the Irish giant Finn McCool hurled more back.

62p – Pixies
Or Piskies as they are known in their native West Country look like old men with wrinkled faces. They are small in stature with red hair and dress in the colours of the earth especially green, usually cheerful and helpful, but they also like playing pranks.

90p – Mermaids
Part woman and part fish the Mermaid would often entrance sailors with their song causing them to run ships aground or jump overboard, then carry them off to their undersea home forgetting that they breathe air.

90p – Fairies
Sometimes good and sometimes bad, the fairy folk come in many forms; here Queen Mab takes to the air in her hazelnut chariot. Queen Mab is described in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet as a tiny fairy who drives her chariot across the faces of sleeping people.

Source: www.royalmail.com/creatures

Meteors cause flare alert calls

Reports of strange lights in the sky and distress flares being fired in the English Channel actually turned out to be a meteor shower, coastguards say.

Calls were made to coastguards across England's south coast, including Cornwall, Devon and Hampshire, reporting white and green flares.

Reports were also made to coastguards in Jersey and France for about 30 minutes from about 21.30 BST on Monday.

Solent coastguards said three such showers had been forecast.

Read More: BBC News Tuesday, 16th June 2009

Strange lights 'were meteor shower'

Reports of strange lights in the English Channel overnight have been put down to a meteor shower, coastguards said.

Calls were made to stations from Hampshire down to Brixham in Devon and across to Jersey and France at about 9.30pm on Monday, with people saying they were seeing white and green flares in the sky.

A Solent Coastguard spokesman said: "There were reports of flares all down the coast which went on for about half an hour but there was a forecast for a meteor shower."

Read More: Bournemouth Daily Echo Tuesday 16th June 2009

Sunday, 14 June 2009

World Stinging Nettle Eating Championship attracts record crowd

In a sunny garden in deepest Dorset yesterday 65 people – their faces rigid with pain and disgust – gathered in a quest to be crowned the King of the Stingers.

There is no easy route to winning the World Stinging Nettle Eating Championship, held each year in the village of Marshwood near Bridport. It takes skill, it takes endurance ... it takes great blistering chunks out of what used to be your taste buds.

READ MORE - Source: Telegraph 14th Jun 2009

Minster town enjoys feast of folk!

Hit me with your rhythm stick could have been the theme song for the 29th Wimborne Folk Festival as hundreds of bell-jingling, stick-bashing morris dancers filled the streets.

Around every corner, shady or in the full burning sun, there were gatherings of musicians and brightly-clad people ready to break into a dance at the drop of a hat.

Speaking of hats, there were some pretty interesting specimens to be found, mostly on the heads of male morris dancers.

“They’re a fertility symbol,” said one breathless dancer.

For a time yesterday afternoon, there were four morris sides dancing in unison in the Square: Wicket Brood from Bricket Wood, Herts; Foxes Morris from Worcestershire; Powder Keg from Derbyshire; and Exmoor Border Morris. They danced the Worcestershire Monkey followed by Just as the Tide was Aflowing With a combined roar and a hefty clash of sticks they got the crowd going and earned a solid round of applause.

Read More: Source Daily Bournemouth Echo Sunday 14th June 2009

Friday, 12 June 2009

New Pictures: Archaeologists uncover unique burial pit

Archaeologists working on the Weymouth Relief Road have discovered a burial pit of dismembered skeletons thought to date between late Iron Age to early Roman times.

The extraordinary burial site was uncovered on Ridgeway Hill.

Oxford Archaeology project manager David Score said: “We have counted 45 skulls so far, these are in one section of the pit, and several torsos and leg bones in separate sections of the pit.

“It is rare to find a burial site like this one. There are lots of different types of burial where skeletons may be aligned along a compass axis or in a crouched position, but to find something like this is just incredible.

“We’re still working on carefully recording and recovering all of the skeletons, which will be taken back to our offices in Oxford for detailed analysis, and trying to piece together the extraordinary story behind these remains.

More pictures via the link below

READ MORE - Source: Oxford Archaeology

Dorset grave site reveals dark side of Romans

With their central heating, fancy flooring, hot and cold running water and drinkable wine, it’s not hard to see what the Romans did for us.

And 2,000 years on, as we unearth pots, jewellery and the footings of luxury villas, as well as continuing to use the roads and aqueducts they built for us, it seems their PR machine is still cranking out the good publicity.

But it wasn’t all mosaics, music and orgies because the Romans had their dark side. Before they started building cities, creating parks and installing decent lavvies, they first took time to butcher many of our ancestors.

READ MORE - Source: Bournemouth Daily Echo Friday 12th June 2009

The Phantom Army of Ridgeway Hill

There has been great media interest of the recent archaeology discovery of forty five bodies found in a pit during the construction of the Weymouth Relief Road (see previous blog entry Archaeologists find evidence of mass execution in burial pit near relief road). As it may be a surprise to some people, there has been a long local tradition of that area of the Ridgeway Hill being haunted.

A footpath formerly the old Roman road that runs parallel to the A354 at Ridgeway Hill, Upwey, Weymouth. Is said that in times of national crisis a phantom army of Roman soldiers is said to appear.

In the late Summer of 1918 (during the Great War), quite near the current excavation site, a Mrs F. Carré, was walking her dog along Ridgeway Hill. When she suddenly heard the distinct sound of soldiers marching and loud chanting that she recognised as being Latin. As she waited on a nearby barrow for them to appear the sound abruptly ceased. Confused, she panned the horizon, but the soldiers never appeared.

As it is not determined whether these are the bodies of Roman or Iron Age. One wonders if these could be the bodies of the phantom army?

Mass Roman war grave found by 2012 Olympic road builders

A mass "war grave" containing the skulls of 45 people dating back to Roman times has been uncovered as work begins on a new road being built to a 2012 Olympic venue.

READ MORE - Source: The Telegraph 12th June 2009

Archaeologists find evidence of mass execution in burial pit near relief road

Evidence of a mass execution of young men thousands of years ago has been unearthed in a ‘remarkable’ archaeological find during the construction of the Weymouth Relief Road.

Experts are staggered by the discovery of the dismembered skeletons which are thought to date between late Iron Age to early Roman times.

Oxford Archaeology – contracted by Dorset County Council to undertake all the archaeological work throughout the relief road scheme – expected to uncover some artefacts because preliminary survey work had been undertaken before the earthworks began.

READ MORE - Source: Dorset Echo Friday 12th June 2009

Ancient mass grave found on Olympics site

An ancient burial pit containing 45 severed skulls, that could be a mass war grave dating back to Roman times, has been found under a road being built for the 2012 British Olympics.

Archaeologists, who have only just begun excavating the site, say they do not yet know who the bones might belong to.

READ MORE - Source: LONDON (Reuters) 12th June, 2009

Thursday, 11 June 2009

Archaeologists find skulls on route of new road

The skulls of scores of young men have been found in a burial pit on the route of a new road in Dorset.

So far 45 skulls, believed to be almost 2,000 years old, have been found, and more may be found as the pit is emptied. Archaeologists have called the discovery extraordinary, saying it could be evidence of a disaster, a mass execution, a battle or possibly an epidemic.

READ MORE - Source: The Guardian Thursday 11 June 2009

New Video: Loadstone Morris & Mayflower Morris - Wessex Folk Festival 2009

Loadstone Morris and Mayflower Morris gave a very pleasant performance at the 2009 Wessex Folk Festival at Brewers Quay in Weymouth.

New Video: With Bells On - Wessex Folk Festival 2009

Enjoy this short movie of just some of the Morris sides that performed at the 2009 Wessex Folk Festival held in Weymouth, Dorset. Loadstone Morris , Pigsty Morris, Mayflower Morris, Alton Morris, Frome Valley Morris, Bettlecrushers, Dr. Turbevilles Morris, Boghoppers & Bushbeaters and Dorset Buttons.

Dismembered skeletons discovered

At least 45 dismembered skeletons have been discovered in a burial pit by archaeologists digging on the site of a planned £87m relief road in Dorset.

The burial site on Ridgeway Hill near Weymouth is thought to date from late Iron Age to early Roman times.

Skulls, rib cages and leg bones, thought to be from young men, were arranged in separate parts of the pit.

Archaeologists said they appeared to have been victims of a "catastrophic event" like an execution or disease.

The skeletons were discovered during the earthwork operation for the Weymouth Relief Road.

David Score, Oxford Archaeology project manager at dig, said it was a "remarkable burial pit".

READ MORE - Source: BBC News Thursday, 11 June 2009

Dozens of decapitated bodies found in mass Roman war grave unearthed on the route of Olympic Highway

A 2,000-year-old war grave crammed with up to 50 headless bodies has been uncovered by workers digging a new road for the Olympics.

The Iron Age victims found in the ancient burial site are thought to have been slaughtered by the invading Romans in about AD43.

All of them had been decapitated and some had their limbs hacked off. It has been discovered in the heart of Thomas Hardy country, on Ridgeway Hill near Weymouth, Dorset.

The site is being dug up to make way for a so-called Olympic Highway, an £87million relief road in time for the 2012 games.

READ MORE - Source: Daily Mail 11th June 2009

World Stinging Nettle Eating Championships 2009

If you think you can survive a tongue lashing join the locals in the small Dorset village pub 'The Bottle Inn' Marshwood, near Bridport, Dorset. on June 13th. Here, brave contestants compete to be the one capable of scoffing the most stinging nettles.

The craze started in 1986, when two Dorset farmers had exhausted their regular topics and after a few moments of awkward silence in the pub one evening, Giles shifted uncomfortably in his seat and grunted, 'I bet my stinging nettles are longer than yours'. 'What?' replied Farmer Joe with an incredulous look on his face. A deathly silence fell across the pub, the other drinkers could sense the air of excitement. A challenge was laid down and the pub established a Longest Nettle Night.

One day, a young upstart barged in on Longest Nettle Night wielding a nettle over 15 feet in length and boldly claimed that if anyone could beat his feat, he would eat his nettle. His misplaced confidence left him a little shamed as a holidaying American couple subsequently produced a longer nettle. True to his word, the man gobbled up his nettle and the World Stinging Nettle Eating Championships were born.

Today, the Championships form part of the weekend Beer Festival held annually at the Bottle Inn between Dorchester and Exeter and attract contestants and spectators from all over Europe. The Beer Festival includes 30 West Country Cask Ales, Live Folk Music and a Barbeque Hog Roast but the highlight is undoubtedly the nettle eating which kicks off early on Saturday evening. Around 50 challengers, equipped with nothing more than their teeth and a brave smile, have one hour to eat as many leaves from a two foot long nettle as possible. The winner is the person with the longest length of empty stalk. Thank goodness for dock leaves.

The weekend is also a celebration of the Summer Solstice and handy fields nearby the Bottle Inn have been set aside to welcome happy campers. The cost is £5 per tent or van and visitors are welcome from Friday night.

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Medieval village to appear for county festival

A Medieval community will be springing up in a Dorset village this summer with a new festival celebrating life on the middle ages.

The first ever Dorset Medieval Festival is being held at Winterbourne Came near Dorchester on July 18 and July 19.

The event will feature duels between knights, minstrels, a tented medieval village and a medieval market place.

Jerry Bird organised similar festivals in Sussex before moving to Dorchester around 18 months ago and was keen to recreate their success in this area.

He said: “It’s really the first of its kind in Dorset. I have been working with one or two local groups and there will be people from all over the south of England coming down.

“It’s going to be a grand spectacle for adults and children.”

The festival will take place at the old Dorset County Showground at Came House and Mr Bird is predicting a large turn out for the event.

He said: “I think if the weather’s fine we are almost guaranteed a good turn out.

“We have got an excellent location and there is an awful lot going on, such as jousting, swordmanship between knights in armour and archery contests.

Mr Bird said the event was all about bringing the medieval times back to life, with a number of living history groups running workshops in medieval crafts to offer a learning experience as well as entertainment.

He said: “There is also an educational aspect to this and we have already got one or two school groups coming along.”

Mr Bird said that the two-day event would attract many visitors from further afield who want to make a weekend of it, bringing associated benefits to the Dorchester area.

“Dorchester does need to do a bit more in the way of activities and a medieval festival is a great way of inducing people to the town and it’s good for the area.”

Day tickets for the festival cost £10 for adults and £6 for children, with family tickets available for £28.

Tickets are available at the Tourist Information Office in Antelope Walk, Dorchester.

For more information or to book online you can visit www.dorsetmedievalfestival.co.uk.

Source: Dorset Echo Wednesday 10th June 2009

Shark sighting off Swanage sparks 'Jaws' fears

It could be a real life sighting of a great white shark.

Commercial fishermen Ian and Annie Gilbert say they have never seen anything like the giant animal they spotted off Swanage while out working and reckon it could be a great white – made famous in the Jaws films of the 1980s.

Ian, 48, and Annie, 45, of Wareham, have been fishing the waters for the past six years and were in their boat Happy Hooker 2 on May 31 when they saw the shocking sight.

READ MORE - Source: Dorset Echo Wednesday 10th June 2009

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

A monster effort for Weymouth Carnival

A Local legend is being resurrected for this year’s Weymouth Carnival.

Craftspeople who have signed up to a new carnival skills class at Weymouth College are making a giant replica of the Chesil Beach Monster known as Veasta which will be paraded through the town in August.

It’s all part of a drive to create a new and inspirational float-free carnival procession with a distinctive local signature, drawing on the area’s history and unique selling points.

It will lead up to 2012 when it is hoped Weymouth will be one of five places in the UK to host a major festival of arts and culture.

READ MORE - Source: Dorset Echo Tuesday 9th June 2009

Monday, 8 June 2009

Woman Escapes Corfe Castle Lighting Strike

A woman is lucky to be alive after a lightning strike started a fire which burned two caravans to the ground close to where she had been sleeping.

Cindy Ramm, 51, was woken by a huge explosion at around 12.30am on Sunday.

She went into the lounge of her caravan and stamped out a fire caused by stray electricity.

READ MORE - Source: Bournemouth Daily Echo Monday 8th June 2009

Wimborne Folk Festival 12th - 14th June 2009

Friday 12th to Sunday 14th June sees the annual Wimborne Folk Festival. A colourful spectacle of traditional folk dance and music was first held in August 1980 as a one day event. It was such a success that it became a local point for the largest gathering of dance teams and musicians in the south of England.

For the old town of Wimborne Minster, held in the shadow of the 12th Century Minster Church of St Cuthberga it is considered by many to be the major event of the year.

As the title suggests, the event if a folk affair with well-known guitar-wielders like Lau, Kris Drever and Grada preparing to appear this June. There is also plenty of alternative entertainment to tickle your fancy from Ceilidhs to Morris Dancing displays.

For more information visit the website at www.wimbornefolkfestival.co.uk

(Below highlights of 2007 folk festival)

Friday, 5 June 2009

From Africa to Dorset: the zebra being trained to be a racehorse

Bonkers racehorse trainer Bill Turner has stunned the equine world by learning to ride a ZEBRA.

The 61-year-old bought the African animal to fulfil an ambition to see if they could be trained to race like horses.

Bill takes the striped animal around his village and locals are stunned when they see the zebra crossing.

After just a few weeks he has already got the zebra named Zebedee up to a canter and hopes in future that he might get him jumping. He works with the 14-month-old zebra on his 300 acre farm for two hours a day and says he is coming along well.

READ MORE - Source: Bournemouth Daily Echo Friday 5th June 2009

Thursday, 4 June 2009

New Video: May Day Procession at Cerne Abbas

Every May Day (see previous blog entry
Maypoles and Mayhem - The Traditions of Mayday) morning at dawn, the The Wessex Morris Men climb up to the top of Giant Hill, above the famous chalk figure and fertility symbol 'Cerne Abbas Giant', to welcome in the coming of Summer with a set of traditional morris dances on the site of an ancient earthwork enclosure known as the ' Trendle', where once a May Pole was erected. This is also the one time of year when the horned Dorset Ooser is brought out from the Dorset County Museum to make its annual appearance. The morris dancers then process into the village of Cerne Abbas to perform more dancing in the square outside the Royal Oak.

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

Wessex Folk Festival gets bigger and better

After years of steady growth, this coming weekend sees Weymouth harbourside hosting the fourth Wessex Folk Festival.

Musicians and dancers from all along the south coast are coming to the town for three days of traditional entertainment.

The headlining acts are the Martin Simpson Trio on Saturday and Martin Carthy with Norma Waterson on Sunday.

READ MORE - Source: Dorset Echo Tuesday 2nd June 2009

Monday, 1 June 2009

Wessex Folk Festival 5th - 7th June 2009

On Saturday 6th June 2009, icons of the folk world Martin Carthy and Norma Waterson will be coming to Weymouth to headline the Wessex Folk Festival 2009.

This will be the fourth year that this free folk music festival has taken place against the glorious backdrop of Weymouth Old Harbour and Hope Square. As well as music, Folk Dancers and Morris Dancers will be performing throughout the town, From traditional whites with bells to weird and wonderful, the highly dramatic and colourful!

Judging from the success of Wessex Folk Festival 2008, the whole Weymouth weekend will be a “not to be missed occasion”! It's a great fun day for all the family.

Folk Dance Teams

Saturday 6 June 2009

Mr. Wilkins' Shilling
Frome Valley Morris
Lodestone Morris
Dr. Turberville's
Mayflower Morris
Alton Morris
Pigsty Morris

Sunday 7 June 2009

Mr. Wilkins' Shilling
Frome Valley Morris
Lodestone Morris
Dr. Turberville's
Sarum Morris
Dorset Buttons
Stampede (Appalachian)
No Mean Feet (Appalachian)
Boghoppers and Bushbeaters

Further program details can be found on the website www.wessexfolkfestival.co.uk

The Museum of British Folklore

Fascinated by the history of British Folk customs and traditions, designer and artist Simon Costin is planning to open The Museum of British Folklore. He has just started his fund raising activities by recently purchasing a vintage 1976 Castleton caravan. Simon is currently looking for premises in which to bring together a wide-ranging collection of objects and artifacts from all around Britain, and he is using the caravan as a travelling preview of his ambitious project. He will be touring this year's folk festivals the length and breadth of the United Kingdom, including Weymouth's Wessex Folk Festival to raise interest in, and awareness of the project.

Here is what Simon has to say:

"I intend to establish a permanent collection and national exhibition centre that celebrates and promotes the Folk Culture of the British Isles. In 2008, I actively met curators, small museum directors and archivists responsible for existing folk collections throughout the country. My research also bought me into contact with the Charity Commission, several fundraising consultants and individual practitioners, writers and musicians, so as to gain a fuller understanding of what might be involved in the programming and day-to-day operation of a small museum. I have drawn up a number of diverse policies and agendas, which would affect the operation of such an institution, ranging from Health and Safety issues to Child Protection, Equal Opportunities to Financial Management Control in addition to the crucial Mission Statement for the museum. The year 2009 marks an exciting stage in the progress toward the opening of the museum. At the present time, it would appear that the museum would operate as a Community Interest Company. Fundraising will begin in earnest in April of this year, as I take to the roads of Britain in a converted 1976 Castleton caravan, adapted specially to be a traveling Folk Museum in miniature. A taste of what is to come. I shall be touring the country to attend Folk festivals and events countrywide to raise awareness for the project. During my travels, I will compile a mailing list, discover what visitors to the caravan could donate to the collection, share their oral histories and experiences, and generally promote the future museum via coverage in local and national newspapers, television and radio. A full itinerary of the tour will be posted in the news section of the website, and will be updated as I progress around the country. Reports from each event will be posted on the website's journal in due course."

Keep an eye out for the touring Museum of British Folklore Caravan at the following festivals:

Wessex Folk Festival, Weymouth, Dorset: 5th-6th June
Leigh Folk Festival, Essex: 24th-25th June
Crawley Folk Festival, West Sussex: 26th-28th June
Hebridean Celtic Festival: 15th-16th July
Festival on the Edge, Shropshire: 18th-19th July
Cambridge Folk Festival: 31st July- 3rd August
Broadstairs Folk Festival, Kent: 9th-12th August
Green Man Festival, Glanusk, Wales: 21st-23rd August
Towersley Festival, Oxfordshire: 27th-31st August
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