Many people around the world are aware that the chalky plains and hills of southern England are famous for neolithic stone-circles, burial mounds, barrows and chalk-horses but there are few monuments as enigmatic as the Cerne Abbas Giant.
He stands at 180 feet tall and is the largest chalk hill figure in these islands. His origins are lost in the mists of time. Is it an ancient symbol of spirituality? Or a likeness of the Greco-Roman hero Hercules? Or a mockery of Oliver Cromwell? Local folklore has long held it be an aid to fertility which perhaps is understandable when you see him.
Above the Giant is a rectangular earthwork enclosure, known as the Trendle. Like the Giant, the Trendle is of unknown origin, but is believed to date back to the Iron Age. The most likely theory is that the giant depicts Hercules, the god with super- human strength and was possibly created as a pagan idol during the Iron Age period of Britain.
There is some evidence that the Giant may once have carried a cloak over his left arm and a severed head in his hand.
The Giant was given to the National Trust nearly 100 years ago, in 1920 and like those famous white horses needs to be regularly maintained for it is is created by the green turf being pulled away to reveal the natural white chalk beneath. Left uncared for then the white chalk would become full of weeds and grass and be totally lost in just a few decades which makes it all the more remarkable that he has survived to this day.
Over the weekend it’s become clear that the giant is now wearing a white mask in public and no doubt is club will come in hand in dealing with other giants who don’t maintain social-distancing.
It should be said that the giant is a protected and extremely precious ancient monument and though the mask has been added for the best of reasons and can likely be easily removed; defacing or modifying historic monuments is usually a terrible crime.
**Incidentally, Saturday 25h April saw my largest number of readers in a day with 2100 people reading. I might be self-isolating but the blog certainly isn’t. Thank-you for lending me a few minutes every now and then these last 7 years!**