Page last updated at 10:25 GMT, Tuesday, 16 September 2008 11:25 UK

Fading giant brought back to life

By Alison Harper
BBC News

Cerne giant
The local community has always rallied round to help rechalk the giant

It is obvious he is a symbol of fertility. The Cerne Abbas Giant usually stands proud on a Dorset hillside overlooking the village from which he takes his name. But over the past 12 months he's been fading. So has it affected his legendary powers?

It's all down to the wet weather encouraging algae, lichen and grass to grow in the chalk trenches of his outline.

But couples wanting to test the fertility legends need not worry - a team of National Trust volunteers is at hand.

It's said that women who sit on the giant will soon become pregnant and women who sleep next to him will have many children. The question is, who would want to?

"People who want children will try anything and it's always worth a go on the giant," says Nancy Grace, archaeologist and Giant expert.

"They may try anything but this is a really steep hill. It's hard enough walking up and trying to sit down, let alone have a good night's sleep."

Huge club

As for sitting on the giant - well if the legend proves correct - there'll be one big baby boom within the National Trust offices over the next 012 months.

No-one's quite sure how this giant came to be naked and armed with a huge club, guarding the villagers of Cerne Abbas.

How to bring the chalk giant back to life

Some believe he's an ancient god and 1,500 years old. More plausible is that it was created by landowner Lord Denzil Holles back in the 17th Century as a protest against Oliver Cromwell. There certainly are no records before this time.

"It's all a bit of a mystery," admits Nancy Grace. She's been delving through archives, tracing the giant's history back and reaches 1694 - the first written record.

"The abbey here in Cerne Abbas, has a really good archive and he's not referred to at all, not even a scribble in the margin which would imply that he wasn't here."

Famous outline

Ever since the 17th Century the giant has needed re-chalking and the local community has always rallied round.

Now, it's not just the locals helping out. Even people on a break in Dorset tackle the steep climb to restore the famous outline.

Peter Howard, from Manchester, decided to help out while on holiday in Hardy country. In the hot sun, climbing up and down the steep slopes has left him with sweat pouring off his brow but he says it's worth it.

"I'll go back home and look up from the road and see exactly what I've done and that will be my own reward," he says.

Then he heads back armed with a spade to the giant - wielding a much larger club - to keep chipping away at the earth.

The giant should be restored to his full glory by 20 September.

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Wet weather obscures hill giant
10 Sep 08 |  Dorset

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