When we were in Dorset at the start of the year one of the things on my list to see was the Cerne Giant, an ancient naked figure sculpted into the chalk hillside above the village of Cerne Abbas. I'd worked out it was about thirty minutes from where we were staying and as I'd not seen a chalk hill figure close up (seeing one from the car as we drove past doesn't count in my book) one chilly day we made our way to Cerne Abbas.
We drove through the town, and although it's most likely a lively hubbub of tourists during the warmer months, it seemed pretty sleepy on the day we visited so we headed on towards the Giant.
I'd read that the best view was from the car park, not the one shown on the map - although we did go there first and realised it was the wrong one so drove on - there's one directly opposite the giant too. And that information is right we did get the best view from there.
The Cerne Giant is Britain's largest chalk hill figure, The Times says it's quite possibly the most authentic and the National Trust says it's their most controversial. And as with any controversy there's plenty of theories about its identity and purpose. These include a classical image of the Greco-Roman hero Hercules, a mockery or up-yours to Oliver Cromwell or as local folklore says an aid to fertility.
Whichever it's an amazing sight and the earliest recorded mention of it dates to the 17th century. And the National Trust have quite a job keeping him tidy - on their website they say that involves a giant haircut using a streamer as well as re-edging the online using spades in a similar way we'd keep the edges of our grass tidy. The chalk is also cleaned and vegetation removed and is done annually, plus there's the repairs to the rabbit proof fence which surrounds the Giant. That's quite a beauty routine!
We knew we wouldn't be able to get up close to the Giant (because of that rabbit proof fence) but we headed off down the green dotted line you can see on the map above and towards Giant Hill and for a closer look at the surrounding area.
It was a pretty chilly day and Giant hill was pretty steep. It was a bracing countryside walk (read very cold!) and we didn't hang around for long. Had it been warmer we'd have been tempted to take the river walk towards the village but instead we headed back to the car park for a last view of the Giant.
It's definitely worth stopping the car and having a look!