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Facts

DORSET

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FUN FACTS

Dorset is the 20th largest county or metropolitan borough in England.
Dorset has the 31st highest population in England.
Dorset is in 31st place for density of population.

  1. The Royal Connection
  2. In November 1788 George III, King of Great Britain, had a mental breakdown. Plans were made for his son, also called George and later George IV, to rule in his place as Prince Regent. However by March 1789 George III had made an amazing recovery. One of the King's many doctors, a Doctor Crane, was one of several people who at that time felt that bathing in the sea was a cure for many illnesses. One of George's younger brothers, the Duke of Gloucester, had a house in Weymouth in Dorset and offered to lend it to his brother for a seaside visit.

    King George III first dipped his toe in the sea at Weymouth on the 7th of July 1789. He made use of a bathing machine just like the one in the picture. The King would climb into the machine and undress while the machine was drawn by horses into the sea Then he would emerge and helped by a group of lady bathing attendants would duck his head under the water. Apparently a band hidden in a neighbouring machine struck up God Save the King as he ducked his head under.

    The visit was a great success. The Queen stating that the King was much better and stronger for sea bathing although, it is said, she had no interest in doing it herself. The King and his entourage returned to Weymouth in 1791 and every year until 1805, excluding 1793 and 1803. While he was there his government came to visit him and it was in Weymouth in 1796 that George signed the papers making Admiral Nelson a Lord. The King's routine at Weymouth was usually the same. An early morning bathe followed by a bit of riding, sailing or walking. He also used to talk to the locals, particularly farmers, which earned him the nickname "Farmer George."

    Although George III left Weymouth for the last time in 1805 there are still two monuments to the King in the area. The first is a statue of George III, showing him in his coronation robes, on the sea front. It was unveiled in 1810. Since 1949 it has been painted in heraldic colours and is situated just above the replica bathing machine. The second monument is the Osmington white horse. This is a carving of George on horseback in the hillside overlooking Weymouth Bay. It was reports of the King's visits which made Weymouth a popular seaside resort and also increased the popularity of sea bathing.



  3. Dorset Eats
  4. Dorset has adopted the Apple Cake as being typical food of the county and who am I to disagree. However everyone, excluding me, has their own version and so it was difficult to decide which one to use. Even Mary Berry has one.

    Basically it is just a cake with apples and brown sugar. It would appear that the apples, and you can choose any variety, can be in the cake, on top the cake, both on top and in the cake; it's entirely up to you! Although called a cake it also makes a great pudding, served with custard, cream or even ice cream.

    We made ours with the apples inside and it was really good.

  5. Dorset VIPs
  6. Seven random people who were born in Dorset in the last 100 years:-
    Serena Scott Thomas (Actor), Zara Dampney (Beach Volleyball Player), Alan Carr (Comedian), P J Harvey (Singer), Virginia Wade (Tennis Player ‐ Wimbledon Champion), Alex James (musician ‐ Bassist With Blur) and Annie Dalton (Children's Author).

  7. Now That's Weird
  8. Running for 18 miles along the Dorset coast from Portland to West Bay is Chesil Beach. It is a very distinctive part of the so-called Jurassic Coast. Essentially the beach is made up of heaped pebbles, rising to a height of about 15 metres. Behind part of the beach is an 8 mile long lagoon known as the Fleet. This runs from Portland to Abbotsbury.

    The beach's pebbles, and there are about 180 billion of them, are made up of various rock types, some ancient like flint, some newer like Crude oil conglomerates which form from when oil tankers used to clean their tanks in the channel and lumps of oil floated away and picked up small stones and pieces of rubbish on the way to the beach.

    However, and this is the weird bit, the pebbles along the beach are graded in size from pea sized pebbles to the west to potato sized pebbles at Portland. By the way, I'd love to meet the person who counted all 180 billion, if anyone really did.



  9. It Happened Here
  10. Mary Anning was born in 1799 in Lyme Regis in Dorset. Her family were poor. Out of ten children, only she and her older brother Joseph survived to be adults. Her father was a cabinet maker. In his spare time he would collect fossils from the beaches around their home and sometimes then sell them in his shop. Fossil hunting, and among the wealthy showing off a fossil collection in your grand home, was becoming very popular. By the time Mary was 6, she was joining her father on his fossil hunts. Mary didn't have any real formal education but she could read and she taught herself geology and anatomy. Geology is the study of the history, products and physical nature of the earth while anatomy is the study of the structure of living things and their parts. In case you don't know, fossils are the preserved remains or impressions of ancient living things or plants but, to most of those who bought fossils from Mary's father, they were just pretty bits of rock with patterns.

    Mary's father died when she was 11. The family had even less money coming in but her older brother, Joseph, took a job as an apprentice in an upholstery firm and her mother, Molly, encouraged Mary to keep looking for fossils and selling her finds. A year after her father's death, Joseph found a weird looking fossilised skull. Over several months Mary dug out the outline of a 5.2 metre skeleton. At the time, scientists thought it was a crocodile which had wandered off from a far off land. A man named Georges Cuvier had only recently come up with the idea that some living beings might have died off, become extinct. Eventually the specimen, after a long study, was named as an ichthyosaurus (pronounced ik thee uh saw rus), which meant fish lizard although it turned out it was neither a fish nor a lizard but a marine reptile. It lived about 200 million, yes 200 million, years ago.

    In 1823 Mary discovered a complete skeleton of a plesiosaur (pronounced plea see uh saw) which means near to a reptile and in 1828 she uncovered a jumble of bones with a long tail and wings. This became known as a Pterodactyl (pronounced tear a dac till) although at first it was known as a Dimorphodon. (pronounced dim more foe don) and is believed to be the largest ever flying creature. But despite her reputation for finding and identifying fossils, Mary didn't get much recognition. Many male scientist to whom she sold her finds would write about the fossil but not give her credit (pronounced sexist or elitist or possibly just plain jealous that someone with no formal education or qualifications could be better than them). The Geological Society of London refused to admit her and, in fact, didn't admit women until 1904.

    Mary continued to unearth finds until her death, at the early age of 47, in 1847. She was still in financial trouble despite all her extraordinary scientific discoveries. Her work created public interest and awareness in geology and indeed palaeontology (pronounced pale e un tol er gee), which means the study of the history of earth based on fossils. Today the Natural History Museum in London showcases several of Mary Anning's spectacular finds, including her ichthyosaur, plesiosaur and pterosaur. They still capture the interest of people from around the world. Another part of her legacy is that the rugged coastline in Dorset, where she made her finds, is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site and loads of people, young and old, gather every year to find the next big find.

    Yet another legacy is a form of art known as paleoart. The picture on the left was painted in 1830 by a friend of Mary's called Henry De la Beche and was called "Duria Antiquior ‐ A More Ancient Dorset" in 1830. It was the very first pictorial representation of prehistoric life based on fossil evidence. Henry sold prints to raise money for Mary, who was still struggling to make ends meet. Paintings like this helped people to better understand more about life on earth millions of years ago.

    Mary Anning was just an ordinary person with no special qualifications who was just curious. By the way she also studied fossilised poo but I don't really want to think about that.

  11. Richard Remembers
  12. The Dorset coast was the genuine end of my first trip around the British coastline. I started in June 1985 in Norfolk, went all the way up the east coast, across the top of Scotland, all the way down the west coast of Scotland, England, Wales and England again before travelling east along the south coast. We reached Dorset in April 1986 and, as I had a job waiting for me back in Essex with a mid-April start date, that was the end of the journey. However we covered the rest of the coastline during weekend camping trips through till July 1986.

    On each of my long trips we went anti-clockwise so, on that basis, Dorset begins near Lyme Regis and I remember the cliffs around Golden Gap. Next came Chesil Beach which I wrote about above and then Weymouth, also written about earlier. The Isle of Portland, which is actually connected by the eastern end of Chesil Beach to the mainland is famous for Portland stone, quarried on the non-island. Portland harbour lies behind the Isle and has a long history with the Royal Navy. The tip of the island is known as Portland Bill and has a lighthouse, which I have visited. I seem to remember driving up a winding road, with houses either side, in order to get there.

    Further east are two places that certainly made an impression on me, not just that first time but on each subsequent visit. Durdle Door is as natural arch made by the sea eating into the relatively soft rocks and leaving the harder Portland stone. It is certainly one of England's coastal wonders and I have seen it both from the sea and from the beach, reached after a long walk down the cliffs. I didn't walk across the sea but went out on a boat. Seemed more sensible.

    Just before you reach Durdle Door, if you're coming from the west, there was a very small hole in another rocky outcrop, called Bat's Head which by now may be even bigger and one day might approach the size of Durdle Door. This is one of the many reasons I want to journey again around a coast I first saw 35 years ago. How much will I notice has changed and how many of those changes will have been caused by nature and how many by humans? By the way, Durdle Door is said to have got it's name from the Anglo-Saxon word "'thirl", which means to pierce.

    The power of nature is seen again a little further along this coast at Lulworth Cove. Here nature has carved out an almost circular bay. The bay was formed by waves attacking the joints in the rocky shore, creating arches similar to the one at Durdle Door but in this case then breaking right through to attack the softer rocks behind. It was from here, on my third trip in 2001, that I took a 3 hour boat trip out from the Bay and along the coast.

    Further east and you reach Swanage which I have not only visited on my coastal trips but also had a week-long holiday in 1976. The land Swanage is on is called the Isle of Purbeck and this is an even bigger lie than the Isle of Portland as it is just part of England, no causeway, nothing. My biggest memory of Swanage is the Great Globe. It is one of the largest stone spheres in the world, being 3 metres in diameter and weighs 40 tonnes. Needless to say it is made of Portland stone. It was, however, made in London in 1887 and brought by ship to Swanage and placed on a platform cut into the solid rock of the landscape. It is actually in the grounds of Durlston Country Park. Around the globe are a set of plaques with quotations that were put there in 1891. I don't remember a fence around it when I visited.

    Before we reach the end of the county of Dorset we travel through Poole, look out into Poole harbour and see Brownsea Island where the first boy scout camp was held in1907 and reach Bournemouth. Bournemouth has a reputation for being the place people go to when they have retired, or it did when I was there, and I was greatly concerned at the long zig-zag walk up from the beach at the west cliff. My worries were removed when I found that there was a lift, which may or may not still be there.



  13. Owlbut's Birdwatch
  14. The Fulmar is related to the albatross and is an almost gull-like seabird. It is always offshore except when breeding. The fulmar can be seen flying low over the sea with stiff wings. Fulmars are at their breeding sites nearly all year, although young birds leave in late summer. At its breeding sites it will fly high up the cliff face, riding the updraughts. They defend their nests from intruders by spitting out a foul-smelling oil.

    They eat fish waste, crustaceans (shell fish) and sand eels. They will feed in flocks out at sea. There are about 500,000 pairs in the UK but over 1½ million birds breeding here. Their feathers are grey and white and their legs are grey. Their beak is black and yellow, of medium length and thickness and hooked.

    Fulmars are between 45 and 50 cms in length, have a wingspan of just over 1 metre and can weigh between 610 and 1,000 grams.

We have asked the local Tourist Board(s) for a small contribution (50 pounds) to the cost of running this project and, in anticipation of their agreement, we are providing a link to their site(s) for the next five years. I can assure you we won't see anywhere near everything when we are there, so, if you fancy taking a trip into Dorset check it (them) out for some great information. Apart from anything else it will get you out in the fresh air, walking around and one day you might be over 70 and still enthusiastically mobile.

All figures the latest available as at July 2020