WITH 95 miles of coastline stretching from Orcombe Point in East Devon to Old Harry Rocks in Studland Bay, Dorset’s world-renowned Jurassic Coast is understandably a popular destination for those seeking breathtaking views, sweeping cliff walks and dramatic geology, not to mention sparkling seas lapping long stretches of beach affording the opportunity for some serious sandcastle building!

Yet if we are to look beyond the bucket and spade appeal of Dorset’s beaches, notwithstanding the massive dragon’s skull which ‘washed up’ on Charmouth beach in 2013 (in actual fact a publicity stunt staged by the producers of ‘Game of Thrones’), some fascinating myths and tales relating to ‘real’ monsters of the deep rising up from Dorset’s coastal waters have passed into folklore and legend.

Readers might remember the article which the Dorset Echo ran back in 2010 about choosing the names for the four roundabouts on Weymouth’s soon to be opened relief road. 'Veasta' was the winning name chosen for the roundabout linking to the Manor Round roundabout, close to Morrisons, and selected from a shortlist of nautical-themed names as it is the only one with a clear sea view, and an apt choice as, in case you were wondering, Veasta is the name given to the mythical sea monster claimed to have been sighted off Weymouth and Portland on occasion since the 15th century.

First seen in November 1457 'in the isle of Portland' and apparently witnessed by the entire population, due to its bizarre appearance, the mysterious creature was dubbed the ‘Mer-chicken’, as according to Holinshed's Chronicles it was described as a monstrous marine cockerel which rose up out of the waves, the size of four or five men, “hauing a great crest vpon his head, and a great red beard, and legs of halfe a yard long”.

After crowing four times to each point of the compass, this ‘chicken of the sea’ submerged back beneath the waves.

Though some have mooted that the Veasta has put in an annual appearance since its first sighting, the next literary reference to its breaking the waves was in June 1757, when it was sighted by the famous Dorset historian the Reverend John Hutchins. In this instance, however, not only was the monster sighted but a corpse was later washed ashore on Cogden Beach at Burton Bradstock.

Hutchins’ description of the 13ft long ‘mermaid’ thrown up by the sea ran as follows, “...The upper part of it had some resemblance to human form, the lower was like that of a fish. The head was partly like that of a man, and partly like that of a hog. Its fins resembled hand: it had forty-eight large teeth in each jaw, not unlike those in the jaw-bone of a man.” Unfortunately, the fate of this fantastical flotsam was not recorded, though had it been ‘thrown up by the sea’ in the Victorian era, it may well have been subject to the increasingly popular fad for taxidermy.

There were later tales of another ‘sea monster’ having washed ashore along Chesil Beach during the nineteenth century; described as having a very long neck and a snake-like head, the ‘monster’ however turned out to be a camel!

More recently, in August 1995, a strange creature ‘some twelve feet high, half fish and half giant seahorse’ was seen some 50 yards out to sea from Chesil Beach in Portland. Since its last apparent recorded sighting on the day of the solar eclipse in 1999 however, (a trick of the light, or lack thereof perhaps?) this Dorset leviathan, dubbed the ‘Chesil Beach Monster’ has failed to put in any further appearances, and it remains to be seen (literally!) whether this maritime myth will once again make some waves…