Something missing on giant's big day

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The Independent Online
Where there was once a large appendage, there is now a heart. The most celebrated detail of the famously well-endowed Cerne Abbas Giant was prominent only by its absence yesterday, when 1,000 children recreated the chalk image in north-west London.

They gathered in Hampstead to form the shape of the 180-ft chalk warrior, a disputed prehistoric symbol of fertility. The notable omission was his 26ft phallus, which has increased by 7ft over the centuries.

Instead, the children added the shape of a heart for the launch of the Heart of Britain appeal, a campaign to raise pounds 1.5m for heart and lung research at the Royal Brompton Hospital in west London. The decision to celebrate the giant comes at a controversial time. He was believed to be 1,800 years old, but historians have challenged his authenticity and suggested he was a 17th-century fraud. While traditionalists insist the landmark in Dorset is genuine, the experts who challenge it say the giant was created by pranksters.

But the giant has apparently always looked kindly on children, and couples who wish to conceive them. The 6th Marquess of Bath and his second wife visited him in 1958, after months of trying to start a family. The Marchioness soon conceived, and the named the child Sylvy Cerne.