Image copyright Kevin Knight

One of the most famous of all hillside chalk figures in England has been adorned with a face mask to prevent him from the coronavirus.

The mask mysteriously appeared overnight on the giant in Cerne Abbas, Dorset, and the identity of the person responsible is unknown.

Local resident Kevin Knight, who tweeted the photo of the alteration, said it had “really lifted villagers’ spirits … and put a smile on the faces of some of the older people who are self-isolating.”

But the National Trust, which manages the protected site, was not amused and said it did not encourage defacements. “Any such action may damage this fragile site … The giant is protected as both a Scheduled Ancient Monument and as part of a Site of Special Scientific Interest because of its important chalk grassland which supports wild flowers, butterflies and other wildlife.”

The 180ft (55m) ancient naked figure is not normally accessible to the public, in order to avoid damage and erosion. Nevertheless, this is not the first time that the giant has been unofficially altered. In 2019 the penis was adorned with petals and leaves, while two years earlier the club in his right hand was replaced by a tennis racquet.

Text Alun Harvey (April 2020)

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