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Saturday, 31 December 2011

Dorset's Weird and Wonderful Year of 2011

From more sightings of big cats to flying saucers, strange archaeological finds to hauntings in a North Dorset museum. 2011 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 scrapbook.


JANUARY - Thursday, 13th January 2011
  • News Clipping: Dorset 'beast' sighting near Batcombe sparks further mystery

The beast of Dorset has been spotted roaming the countryside again. This time the large black cat – said to be much larger than a domestic cat – was seen as it ran in front of a council roadworks lorry near Batcombe, outside Dorchester.

READ MORE - Source: Dorset Echo Thursday 13th January 2011

For more information on big cats in Dorset visit www.darkdorset.co.uk 
FEBRUARY - Thursday, 17th February 2011

  • News Clipping: Trebuchet returns to Corfe Castle - but there's not a cow in sight

During the Middle Ages this type of device was used to lay siege to ancient strongholds by hurling diseased cows over castle walls. But the good residents of Corfe Castle have no need to keep a watchful eye skyward for falling cattle, because today, thankfully, it is employed just for fun.

READ MORE - Source: Dorset Echo Thursday, 17 February 2011

MARCH - Thursday, 3rd March 2011
  •  News Clipping: UFO files: "flying saucers" over coastline sparked full scale alert

A “War of the Worlds” incident in the south which sparked off a full-scale military alert is revealed for the first time in newly-released former top secret files. The incident, contained in extra-terrestrial files released today by the Ministry of Defence, occurred during the 1960s when members of the public reported six small flying saucers positioned in a perfect line across southern England.

READ MORE - Source: Bournemouth Daily Echo Thursday 3rd March 2011


APRIL - Wednesday, 27th April 2011
  •  News Clipping: 'Wareham's monument is not Excalibur'

A civic leader has stepped in to clear up any confusion about the new sword in the stone monument at the gateway to Wareham. It seems some people have been jumping to the wrong conclusion and confusing the replica blade, which stands on one of the town’s main roundabouts, with the stuff of Arthurian legend.

READ MORE - Source: Bournemouth Daily Echo Wednesday 27th April 2011


MAY - Monday, 16th May 2011
  • News Clipping: Mystery over circles on Studland heath

These intriguing round marks in the heath at Studland are definitely not crop circles – but what they are remains a mystery. Nestling in the heath near Poole Harbour, the 80 circles with an average size of 20 metres across are obviously man-made and have 2ft high turf walls around them.

READ MORE - Source: Bournemouth Daily Echo Monday 16th May 2011

JUNE - Thursday, 2nd June 2011
  • News Clipping: Channel 4 show 'Four Rooms' in bidding for Gruesome Artifact

Next week, the dealers of the Channel 4 show 'Four Rooms'  have to decide how much to offer for a gruesome piece of tattooed skin pickled in a jar. This was reported last year in the Dorset Echo (News Clipping: Tatooed skin with Dorset connection turns up at car boot sale) when the tattooed skin of a would-be killer that was used to bind a Victorian pocket book was been discovered at a car boot sale at Shepton Mallet in Somerset by local author and historian Rodney Legg.

The show will be aired on Channel 4 Tuesday 7 June 2011 at 8pm 


JULY - Thursday, 7th July 2011
  • News Clippings: Fang-tastic! Viking remains reveal warriors filed their teeth to appear more ferocious to enemies.

An axe-swinging 'rape and pillage' fighter found in a Viking burial pit had filed his teeth to look more ferocious in battle. The pain without anaesthetic would have been excruciating - but it would have proved his status as a great warrior, archaeologists said. The warrior, found in Weymouth, Dorset, had grooves filed into his two front teeth.



Other Sources:





AUGUST - Saturday, 13th August 2011

  • Mapperton villagers pay tribute to 'Posy Tree' 

    Dark Dorset learnt of the sad news that the 'Posy Tree' of Mapperton has been removed due to health and safety fears.  Residents from Mapperton gathered last Saturday at the tree, with glasses of cider, to toast the historic landmark. 

    The Posy Tree, Mapperton
    This tree was planted to commemorate victims of the terrible pestilence that occurred at Mapperton, near Bridport, some four hundred years ago.

    Though the Black Death took the lives of twenty-five million Europeans between 1348 and 1351, outbreaks continued to occur in isolated villages, towns and cities throughout England for the next three hundred and eighteen years.  It was a common enough practice for the inhabitants of Mapperton to bury their dead at the cemetery of the neighbouring parish of Netherbury. Mapperton's cemetery was deemed unsuitable for burial because the soil was inadequate. In 1582 this routine of burial changed due to the outbreak of bubonic plague at Mapperton. Villagers of Netherbury gathered at the parish boundary refusing to let the residents of Mapperton bury the corpses of plague victims in their cemetery. This resulted in a bitter skirmish between the villagers but after some negotiations, it was agreed that the bodies should remain at the boundary, which the old Mapperton and Netherbury track crosses, now known as "Dead Man's Lane". The sycamore tree known locally as the 'Posy' or 'Cosy' Tree, marked the spot where the 80 dead of Mapperton were collected and buried a mile away in a mass grave within a small enclosure on the summit of South Warren Hill. After burial a copse of Beech trees was planted on the site to make sure the area was not disturbed.

    There have been several attempts made to save the tree. On 1st February 2002 it was reported in the Bridport News, "that its fate was uncertain, two years after the news was reported that is was under threat”. "But in recent years it has deteriorated, despite being severely pollarded in the vain hope that it might spring to life". But old age has taken its toll on the sycamore and safety fears meant it had to come down last weekend.

    It was reported in the Western Gazette, 11th August 2011 that Rohaise Newall, who chairs the Mapperton parish meeting, said: "It was incredibly old and completely hollow. The tree man from the council came to look and he asked us to take it down because it was really dangerous. We went through all the proper channels. "We had the whole village there to have a glass of cider and wish it well and we are going to plant another one.” It was lovely because nearly everyone walked from the village to the tree and chatted and talked about what we're going to do. We will have a ceremony when we put the new one in." 

    Source: www.darkdorset.co.uk - The Posy Tree

SEPTEMBER - Sunday, 11th September 2011
  • On this day 11th September 1685, The Bloody Assizes were opened at Lyme Regis

On this day in 1685, 'The Bloody Assizes' were opened at Lyme Regis. The next day twelve men were executed on the beach west of the Cobb and their body parts were spiked up along the railings around the church. 

Two of the men's heads were impaled on the iron gates of the great house in Broad Street, now known as Chatham House. It was here that Judge Jeffreys was said to have dined on the night before the executions. Even his ghost has been seen carrying a bloody bone in the house and gnawing upon it outside in the street.

Read More about Judge Jeffrey's www.darkdorset.co.uk/the_hanging_judge 


OCTOBER - Tuesday, 25th October 2011
  • News Clipping: Records reveal lives of Dorset's smugglers

Local Smuggler, Isaac Gulliver
The lives of Dorset's infamous smugglers have been brought to life by parish records published online for the first time. The collection of 1.5 million baptisms, marriages and burials feature on the family history website Ancestry.co.uk.
READ MORE - Source: BBC News 25th October 2011





NOVEMBER - Monday, 27th November 2011
  • News Clipping: Roman ring and Viking fragment found in North Dorset declared treasure 

A Roman ring and a silver Viking fragment found on farmland have been declared treasure and seized for the Queen. Both pieces of ancient jewellery were found last year on farmland in North Dorset.

READ MORE - Source: Bournemouth Daily Echo Sunday 27th November 2011

DECEMBER - Thursday, 1st December 2011

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