5 Free (and unusual) things to do in Dorset
I don’t know about you but I’m not always flush. In fact the last year has been financially challenging to say the least. We have paid for Esras immigration fees to enter the UK. We have paid for a wedding. We have paid for a training course which has enabled him to re-train with a british recognised qualification and we are about to move house. So as you can imagine, cash has been tight.
Despite that fact, the desire to travel, and in fact the need to travel, have not dimished in line with the bank balance. In these situations, what do you do? you improvise of course.
I maintain that travel does not always need to be far flung and exotic in order to hit that wunderlust button. There are so many people that live in beautiful places and yet have never seen their local attractions or beauty spots. Dorset, like many of the counties in the South West of Englad, is full of inspiring and stunning places to visit. Not only that, there are many that are free of charge.
So if you are feeling a little strapped for cash, having a tight month, or a tight few months, don’t despair. You don’t need to sit in front of the goggle box eating breakfast cereal, there are places you can go which will deliver fun, excitement and a day of fresh air and lasting memories, much more interesting than TV.
ONE – Go ghost hunting at Knowlton Church
I wrote about this church in one of my earliest blog posts. Built in Norman times the 12th century church actually sits in the centre of a Neolithic ritual henge. That means the history of this area spans a period from circa 4000 – 2,500 BCE to today. The site, owned and managed by English Heritage, like many of their sites is free to enter. As there is only a small gate next to a car parking pull-in which leads onto the site it would be possible to visit early evening, just as the light is fading, a perfect time to spot ghosts.
Whilst the church is in ruins, there is still a large part of the structure remaining. On arriving within the walls of the old church there is a distinctive melancholic atmosphere surrounding the building. There have been many reported sightings of ghosts in this area, most notably at night, but also some sightings during the day.
A ghostly rider is said to gallop across the fields and through the church in the dead of night. People have reported seeing a tall, darkly dressed man wandering the church, only to have him disappear before their eyes. A weeping woman has been seen kneeling outside the church and a ghostly face seen at the window in the top tower.
Dare you adventure into one of the most haunted churches in Dorset?
TWO – Go Fossil hunting on the Jurrasic Coast
Home to the World Heritage Jurrasic Coast, Dorset has a plethora of places to dig up your own fossils. Lyme Regis is the most prodigious fossil hunting town in the UK and still regularly gives up fossil finds. As a result it is quite competitive and in the summer months the battle to find something of interest is tough. Don’t be disheartened however, there are a prolific number of beaches all along this coast which harbour interesting finds from fish skeletons to ammonites.
Because most of the coast is classified as a SSSI the use of tools to hack into the cliffs is strictly prohibited. However many of the cliffs are quite unstable and cliff falls frequently occur, so it would be inadvisable to hack away at the rocks anyway.
If you are interested in hunting out your own little piece of history, there is a fantastic resource on this website which classifies all the beaches by the ease with which finds can be made, and equally, what you can hope to discover.
THREE – Go food sampling at a Food Market
I cannot recommend enough a good foodie market, and Dorset knows how to do it in bucket loads. From the Shaftesbury Festival to the Dorset Seafood Festival at Weymouth Harbour, most are free to attend and not only provide large numbers of local producers but will also include outside cooking classes or other entertainment.
Not only will you get to see the most amazing food and drink, but you will also get to taste samples of their amazing produce. Whilst it is free to attend, I for one really struggle not to buy at least one delighful morsel of yumminess to take home with me.
FOUR – View a giant Penis
Yes, I just wrote that! why not visit the Cerne Abbas Giant? Set on a hillside, high above the valley of Cerne Abbas stands this 180ft tall giant. Carved into the chalk hillside of Trendle hill, he has managed to keep his 36ft erection for at least a couple of hundred years. The exact date and identity of the giant are largely unknown, some say he is Hercules, others say he was carved to ridicule Oliver Cromwell, whatever his story, he certainly gives you a lot to look at.
Unfortunately, due to the real threat of erosion, access to the giant is limited. However the National Trust have provided a parking area and viewing platform for you to take in the enormity of this man and his noteworthy appendage. The best photos are actually captured from the air and despite my best efforts I was unable to provide a convincing or worthy photo of him for my blog, you could perhaps do better with a large telephoto lens (no pun intended).
FIVE – Walk an ancient Iron Age Fort
The largest Iron Age hill fort in Britain and one of the largest in Europe, Maiden Castle sits just outside Dorchester.
Originally constructed in 600bc it was, much like the other hill forts from this period, unimpressive. It would have been constructed from timber and had a small ditch surrounding it. Over the coming years the fort increased in size and complexity. Not much is known about the activities on these sites, however it is estimated that they operated as large trade areas and simple town-like settlements. The size of the fort seemed to demonstrate the settlements local power.
Today the fort is an expanse of ditches and earthworks full of wildlife. The very top affords views over the surrounding countryside. A scheduled ancient monument and run by English Heritage it is free to visit, so why not walk around a piece of ancient history?