Myths and Oddities of Dorset

What do you do when you accidentally dig up a cadaver that, by some divine sin, hasn’t decomposed and has a rosy, somewhat jovial complexion? You assert that it is, of course, a vampire and deal with it in traditional manner, as the proper doctrine of dealing with surprisingly healthy cadavers dictates! It was not the first time that poor William Doggett, vampire or not, disturbed in the midst of his eternal slumber and hastily staked and burned to make sure he does, in fact, stay dead, was likened to some kind of spiritual entity of the night.

He is Dorset’s very own Vampyr, Nosferatu, archfiend rascal and malignant spirit! Lacking a cape, he sported knee breeches with a fastened yellow ribbon – and is known to appear in both ghost, and material form. There are many characters of myth and legend in Dorset. From the giant Mer-Chicken of Portland to the Shapwick monster (literally just a crab that a fisherman accidentally left behind in a village), Dorset has her fair share of myths and oddities, we’ve prepared a few for you below!

The Mer-Chicken

Half chicken, half salacious bearded manwoman with legs ‘halfe a yard long’. The Mer-Chicken, giant poultry – possibly the imaginings of hungry, lonely sailors, is said by Raphael Holnshed, chronicler of England, Scotland, and Ireland to have risen from the seas of Portland, ‘Hauin a great crest vpon his head, and a great red beard, and legs halfe a yard long.’ The creature is said to have stood ON the water, crowed four times and then beckoned like a pheasant frantically bobbing its head at each point of the compass before retreating back into the sea. This story was met with skepticism. We cant imagine why.

Next time you’re crossing the road that borders the sea from Weymouth to Portland, you keep an eye out.

Location: Portland Coastline – Dorset

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The Shapwick Monster (a crab)

In 1705 in the Parish of Shapwick a live crab being transported by a fishmonger from Poole to Bere Regis fell off of the cart and was found not far from East Farm. The villagers, upon finding the creature, and not having seen anything like it before deduced it was, in fact, Satan incarnate, and with the guidance of the village elder armed themselves with pitchforks to drive the beast away. Eventually the fishmonger realised he had lost a crab and returned to the village to find everything in a state of commotion. With great amusement he picked up the crustacean-satan and casually popped it back in his basket. From then on the word was spread that the villagers of Shapwick were a bit dim-witted.

Location: Shapwick – Dorset – or your local Sainsburys.

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The Moigne Down UFO

On a dark October night in 1967 two policemen in Dorset chased a huge, illuminate object that flew through the skies in the resemblance of a cross, they said that UFO was made ‘of a translucent material’ with shadows spread along the bottoms of the fuselages and center chamber. This encounter was itself the beginning of a huge range of sightings in the area, an event that would later be compared to the 1561 ‘celestial Nuremberg battle’. The official statement was that the initial sighting was just a ‘floater’ – those floaty things you see in the corner of your vision every now and then. When Brooks went to his optician who decidedly declared that such an idea was poppycock The London official, in quick riposte, stated that the floater and the recent UFO publicity simply triggered a ‘dream state’ while Brooks was asleep.

You were just dreaming, essentially.

Location: Moigne Downs, near Holworth

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The Cerne Abbas Giant

You might be familiar with the famous chalk visage lying on the a hill in Cerne Abbas, the giant measures a whopping 180 feet high, and carries a huge knobbled club, which measures 120 feet in length. Theories regarding the giant vary, from views that he is a representation of Hercules, to a prank on an Abbott by the name of Thomas Corton. Local folklore suggests that the figure is actually a representation of a great Danish giant leader, who raided the English coast before falling asleep on the hill. Local villagers immediately went to action and cut off his head, drawing a line in chalk to present where he was finally defeated. Legend has it that some nights he rises from the dead to quench his thirst in the local stream. Not in blood – just water. Quite a peaceful viking giant ghost.

Location: Cerne Abbas

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William Doggett – The Ghost and the Vampire

William Doggett, before he had a stake hastily driven through his heart, was the steward of Eastbury House in Tarrant Gunville in 1786. The tales go that he took a great deal of the house apart after his master moved abroad, then sold the building materials and shot himself upon hearing that his master was returning to England – he really hated his master. Apparently the blood stain that remained could not be removed, and soon stories were whispered that a ghostly visage had begun to stalk the village – an entity with a blood-covered face at dark, who liked opening and closing doors. Repeatedly.

A man by the name of Charles Harper wrote in In 1907 that: “Generally at the stroke of midnight, a coach with headless coachman and headless horses drives out and picks up Doggett, down the road.”

“If you see an old-world figure at such a time, stepping into that horrid conveyance, you will recognise him as Doggett by his knee-breeches, tied with yellow silk ribbon. The headless coachman asks (out of his neck ?), “Where to, sir ?” and the ghost says, “Home”; whereupon the horses are whipped up, and they drive back to the house. The shade of Doggett, entering, proceeds to the panelled room where he shot himself a century and a half ago – and shoots himself again !”

Location: Eastbury House Park Gates, Tarrant Gunville

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Greenwood Grange Shortlisted for South West Tourism Awards

Celebrations are back in full swing here at Greenwood Grange after news that our acclaimed holiday village is to represent Dorset in the South West’s Tourism Awards.

The shortlist announcement comes just weeks after our collection of self-catering cottages won gold for the third time at the regional Dorset Tourism Awards.

Manager, Zoe Belcher, said:

“Winning gold again in Dorset was a fantastic achievement in itself, but we are delighted to be attending the regional South West Tourism Awards and we hope that the judges recognise the team and outstanding facilities here at Greenwood Grange.”

The South West Tourism Awards bring together the best of the best from Dorset, Somerset, Bristol, Bath, Wiltshire, Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly.

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Judging is carried out by an independent panel of past winners, industry leaders and experts in their field. They are each chosen for their impartiality, experience and suitability for each category. Entries for the awards this year have once again broken all records, with more than 600 businesses competing across 24 categories.

Zoe said:

“We know that we will be standing alongside the very best that the region has to offer by way of self-catering accommodation and we pride ourselves in beating all expectations for our guests so we hope the judges feel the same way.”

The three finalists in each category were announced earlier this week; Greenwood Grange will once again be competing in the Self-Catering Holiday Provider of the Year category.

Greenwood Grange is a collection of beautiful stone-built properties nestled in the Dorchester countryside, just five minutes from Thomas Hardy’s birthplace.

It’s perfect for couples, families and groups and offers a range of properties sleeping anywhere from two to 12 guests. Many of the cottages are dog friendly and there is a huge range of facilities on site including tennis courts, an indoor swimming pool, badminton, a games room and a play yurt for younger visitors.

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A range of renovations and upgrades to the cottages and grounds have been undertaken over the past 12-18 months. One of the key criteria for these awards is that a business can show it is constantly striving to improve.

If we’re successful and win in this category, we will then be eligible to be nominated to represent South West England at the national VisitEngland Awards next year.

Our team are now hoping to emulate our recent success at the illustrious ceremony in Bristol on February the 2nd.

Halloween Events in Dorset

There’s a whole host of Halloween events this October half-term in Dorset. We’ve prepared a list of the spookiest!

Corfe Castle 22-30 October

Hear the tales of professional storyteller Granny Cousins at 11am and 1pm everyday throughout the half-term.  Have a go at the fearsome Zip Wire Challenge at 10am to 3pm and witness the mighty Warwolf II, their castle trebuchet in action, launching at 11.30am and 2pm.

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 Studland Beach 22nd October + 8 other dates

There’s going to be multiple Halloweeny events this half-term at Studland Bay, from explorations of the dunes and shoreline to seasonal crafts. In addition, there are more opportunities to get crafty on Sunday, October the 23rd with Woodland Walk and Draw. Children and adults can enjoy walking, drawing, geocaching and even charcoal making.

10:30 – 15:30. Beach-side Halloween Trail and seasonal crafts £2.00.

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 Halloween week – Freaky Streets

Hunt for the Freaky Streets characters from 22nd-30th October!

Follow the trail’s clues to collect the correct answers from creepy characters on walls and buildings in Weymouth’s streets and be in with the chance of winning PRIZES!

Pick up a a trail from the Weymouth BID Office, 15 St Alban Street or download a form online from 22nd October.

Drop your completed form to the BID Office by the 31st October to be in with the change of winning!

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Lulworth Castle

Scary, atmospheric fun this half term at Lulworth Castle.

There are a whole host of activities to keep you and your little ones entertained this Halloween…. Visit the fairytale Lulworth Castle and wander through the Spooky Basement. Be entranced by Merlin’s Magic Shows and get creative at the Craft Table.. Explore the Park and woods with your Quiz Book on their special Spooky Trails, stopping at Hansel & Gretel’s Gingerbread House on adventure.

Open Daily from Weds 26 Oct – Sat 29 Oct. From 10.30 to 5.00. Last entry one hour before closing. Free Parking.

You can buy tickets online here and use the pre-booked queue. Or you can buy tickets on the door.

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Sea Life Center

Weymouth Sea Life Adventure Park will be turning the spotlight on scary critters of the deep this Halloween.

Meet creepy spider crabs, batfish, ghost knifefish and other appropriately named creatures!

The Park’s special package of fright-fest’ entertainment running from Saturday 22nd to Sunday 30th October will also highlight the horrors that pollution, over-fishing and other human follies are inflicting on the marine world.

There will be lots of fishy fun too, of course…including a novel pumpkin hunt, spooky fact finding, lantern making, scary crafts and fancy dress all included in admission.

Separate tickets apply for the Enchanted Cabin Experience secure your place at the cauldron, book now.

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Farmer Palmers

Halloween Spooktacular family fun from the 24th to the 28th! Let their dressed up “BOO CREW” entertain your little ones. Daily activities, fancy dress, dancing, face painting, mini monster hunt and extra spook-tacular events throughout the week!
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Have fun from all the staff at Greenwood Grange!