Cerne 6: The Reporter

Marketing and Communication asked me to meet a reporter early one morning in June. It was about the National Trust’s decision to rebuild the Giant’s nose.

I arrived in the car park just as another vehicle pulled in and a woman got out. She introduced herself and talked about the radio interview to take place on the Giant.

She explained that it needed to be very early to cut out the sound of cars on the road and the noises of the village waking up. I showed the way and we chatted as we ascended the hill.

Looking along the outstretched arm toward Cerne Abbas village

We climbed over the stile and stood just below the Giant’s feet. I was quite new to the Giant… and media. I honestly thought that the news angle was about his new nose (all those boring discussions on whether or not it was the right thing to do). She was very engaging and the interview started to go off message “was there anything else that the National Trust might want to restore?” she asked innocently.

“Didn’t he once have a navel ? “

“Yes that is true, he is rather larger now than he used to be, it sort of got absorbed some time between 1897 and 1924” I said “we could restore him but it would be quite a delicate operation”

She smiled and put her recorder away “Is it true” she said “that he is still seen as a fertility god; that couples actually make love on him.”

” well, yes… so I’ve been told ”

That’s the problem with media and the Giant. His asset is rather …obvious.

And that was 27 years ago and now it is a cold March day in trench D at the elbow of his outstretched arm. I have reached the chunky chalk layer 0.5m down, prising out lumps of chalk with the point of my trowel trying to keep my section straight and vertical.

Excavating the chunky chalk layer

A huge block of chalk juts out of the section and I work round it digging down until it peels off onto a level layer. Another crust, another older time of re-chalking.

Was this the one commissioned by the pioneer archaeologist General Pitt-Rivers in 1886 or perhaps Lord Rivers in 1868.

This layer was thin… it caved in and my trowel sank into a soft silty chalk. How many chalks were there?

We were running out of time and we were nowhere near the bottom. How could a steep chalk hillside have so much depth to it. The OSL and soil scientists were arriving on Friday and we needed to be ready for them.

Let us roll our strength and all Our sweetness up into one ball And tear our pleasures with rough strife Through the iron gates of life: Thus, though we cannot make our sun Stand still, we can make it run.

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