Autumn in Cerne Abbas

BLUE skies bounce off Dorset Downs. They’re a lush lime green, studded with sheep.

We’ve a yen to gatecrash the Dorset branch of Butterfly Conservation’s action day in Cerne Abbas. We park at Kettle Bridge picnic spot.

A Land Rover’s parked at the bottom of Giant Hill, and bonfire smoke spindles up and away. Hunting guns go pop-pop-pop. Crossing the river, my hazel stick switches back and forth. Ivy writhes in ancient woodlands. Dead leaves crunch and rustle underfoot.

Trees are aglow with pink and copper and amber.

National Trust signs exhort us not to cavort on the famed Cerne Abbas Giant, the chalk outline of a man with large club and impressive phallus.

The small band of dedicated butterfly conservationists are hard at work, clearing scrub and woodlands, tossing debris into the flames. It looks like hard work, so we quietly edge away.

Cerne Abbas was founded in the 9th century and refounded as a Benedictine abbey in the 10th Century. We hop over a stile and head for the church. Trees moult red and yellow into the churchyard.

According to a hand-calligraphed sign in the churchyard, St Edwold built a small hermitage by a holy spring somewhere in Cerne, and lived there until his death in 871. Next door’s a pond, where a crested duck swans around.

Cerne Abbas is too pretty for words. I spent a good deal of my teens here, so am quite immune. Not at all tempted to moon at the gorgeous cottages, or speculate how many millions I’d need to buy them.

On our way out the village, a black cat (domestic) slinks into a hedge off Mill Lane. It’s got to be a good sign.


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