A most beautiful relic of the Abbey is the Gatehouse, a fine stone building that has weathered to the most exquisite tint. The grand oriel window and panelled and groined entrance are justly admired. The remaining ruins, however, are almost negligible. The Perpendicular church is remarkable for its splendid tower, on which is a niche and canopy enshrining an old statue of the Virgin and Child. Within is a good stone screen and a fine oaken pulpit dating from 1640. Cerne town seems never to have recovered its importance after the loss of the Abbey. For its size, it is the sleepiest place in Dorset and its streets are literally grass grown. The surroundings are beautiful in a quiet way, and the town and neighbourhood generally provide an ideal spot for a rest cure. North-east of the town is a chalk bluff called Giant’s Hill, with the figure of the famous “Cerne Giant,” 180 feet in height, cut on its side. “Vulgar tradition makes this figure commemorate the destruction of a giant, who, having feasted on some sheep in Blackmore and laid himself down to sleep, was pinioned down like another Gulliver, and killed by the enraged peasants on the spot, who immediately traced his dimensions for the information of posterity” (Criswick). An encampment on the top of the hill and the figure itself are probably the work of early Celts. The “Giant” is reminiscent of the “Long Man of Wilmington” on the South Downs near Eastbourne. An interesting experiment in the communal life was started in 1913 near the town. After struggling along for five years it finally “petered out” in 1918, helped to its death, no doubt, by the exigencies of the last year of war.
A return may be made by way of Maiden Newton, about six miles south-west of Cerne, passing through Sydling St. Nicholas, where there is a Perpendicular church noted for its fine tower with elaborate gargoyles. The old Norman font and north porch are also noteworthy. Close to the church is an ancient Manor-house with a fine tithe barn. This belonged in 1590 to the famous Elizabethan, Sir Francis Walsingham. Maiden Newton is a junction on the Great Western with a branch line to Bridport.
The beautiful churchyard is the best thing about Maiden Newton. The village had seen, prior to the late war, a good deal of rebuilding; relative unattractiveness is the consequence. This seems to be the almost inevitable result of the establishment of a railway junction. The church stands on the site of a Wrest Saxon building, and is partly Norman with much Perpendicular work. Cattistock, a long mile north, is unspoilt and pretty both in itself and its situation. It has a fine church, much rebuilt and gaudily decorated, with a tower containing no less than thirty-five bells and a clock face so enormous that it occupies a goodly portion of the wall.