First things first
ONLY the village of Walditch near Bridport boasts a real place called Jellyfields.
It’s a 3-hectare Local Nature Reserve off Lower Walditch Lane, with grass, woodland, stream and small pond and it’s managed for West Dorset District Council by Dorset County Council’s Countryside Service.
Volunteers, countryside rangers and Dorset Wildlife Trust staff have all worked hard (see picture by DWT’s Emily Brown) at tidying the place up.
It’s all part of a project, says the county council, that will “see the development of the site as a local education and community participation resource”.
Ok, enough of that.
The Jellyfields Mystery
The mystery is – why is it called Jellyfields?
Margaret Milree, the assistant curator of Bridport Museum, urged me a while ago to write about Jellyfields. “It would be just your kind of thing,” she said. “And you could find out why it’s called Jellyfields.”
Well, I haven’t, not for sure, but I’ve spent quite a long time thinking about it and I’ve got plenty of ideas.
As Dorset County Council are also now asking why it’s called Jellyfields, here’s just a small selection of possibilities.
I thought it might be somewhere that somebody once found a buried hoard of jelly moulds, or built a giant jelly castle.
I thought it might be somewhere famed for its fecundity as a source of jelly-making materials.
I thought it might be somewhere that people felt scared – as if they were turning to jelly.
I thought it might have been a good spot for courting – “jelly” is old slang for a pretty girlfriend.
I thought it might have once belonged to someone called Jellaby (colloquially shortened to Jelly).
Perhaps it was just muddy and slippery like jelly.
In the end I decided that it probably had something to do with algae and falling stars.
There is an alga called Nostoc that swells up like jelly on dry soil after rain. It was called Star Shot or Star Jelly because people used to think that glutinous colonies of Nostoc were the trembling remnants of falling stars or meteors.
As Dryden once wrote: “The shooting stars end all in purple jellies.”
At the moment, I have no proof that Nostoc is the reason for the name of Jellyfields, but I like the idea for its very West Dorset combination of poetry and science.
If you have any other notions, I would love to hear them, and I am sure that thousands of readers would too.