The furthest that one can go back in tracing the history of a parish, is to the very creation of the earth, because this 8,312 acres of the earth's surface, now known as the parish of Bere Regis, is, of course, as old as the earth itself.
This period of time between the formation of the earth and when man first appeared on the scene is the province of the geologist, and the number of years involved is so vast as to be incomprehensible in human terms, being measured in thousands of millions of years.
It is perhaps ironic that this tremendous span of time and the far-reaching earth movements which occurred during it, although having had a more profound effect upon the appearance of the parish than anything man has done since, should receive the most cursory treatment in a parish history such as this.
After all, men, women, trees, buildings and roads have come and gone over the years, often leaving no trace, but the topographical features such as Black Hill, Bere Down and the river valleys have remained virtually unchanged in outline for thousands of years.
If one could somehow or other miraculously go back for a day to, say the year 2000 BC.
There would be no man-made features or trees which one could locate from a present day knowledge of the parish, but the familiar outlines of Black Hill & Woodbury Hill would be clearly recognizable.
The Geologist derives his information from a study of the layers of rocks or materials of which the earth's crust is formed and is bale to determine not only how the layers were formed but at what period.
Geologically there are three principal categories of materials - Igneous, Sedimentary & Metamorphic - but in the South of England we are concerned only with sedimentary materials, which are found in areas which have at some time been under the sea, and which have solidified from sediments deposited on the sea bed; they include sandstone, limestone, clay, chalk, sand and gravel.
A map of the world of 500 million years ago would look very different from a modern map - many present day land areas would be seas and vice versa.
This process of the uplift of some areas and the compensatory lowering of others was a continuous process, and many areas were alternately dry land and sea beds many times. Indeed, the process is still continuing, but so gradually as to be imperceptible even over a span of several hundred years.
Such an area was the greater part of England, and each time it became a sea bed a different type of material was deposited upon it. Consequently there are now layers of different materials lying one upon the other, some of them only a few feet thick, whilst others may be 1,000 feet (300 metres) or more.
In addition to these large movements of the earth's crust, there were smaller wrinklings, forming alternating hill ranges and lower areas, and the action of the weather coupled with rigorous climatic changes, combined to erode away some of the upper layers particularly when they lay on the tops of the hill ranges, with the result that different materials occur on the surface in different parts of the country.
Some 100 million years ago this part of the world was experiencing a tropical climate, when the land was covered with dense jungle-like forests. In these condition large reptiles flourished and roamed the muddy expanses of land freshly raised from the sea, leaving fossilised skeletons and footprints which have been unearthed in modern times from the limestone beds at Lyme Regis, Swanage and elsewhere.
In contrast to these tropical conditions there were a series of Ice Ages, the most recent ending only a few thousand years ago, when the artic ice cap reached as far south as the Thames valley.
Although the ice cap itself did not extend as far as this parish, the climate was so cold as to preclude the growth of any vegetation, and the severe temperatures would have played a large part in rounding the contours of the chalk which is particularly susceptible to frost.