Description of the Uffington White Horse, a 3,000 year old hill figure cut into chalk grassland near the village of Uffington in Oxfordshire, England. One of a series of Adventures in England blog posts.
Members of the 2019 Mysteries of England tour were looking forward to a full day visiting ancient sites – including a visit to view the Uffington White Horse. The Uffington White Horse is the oldest of the English hill figures – 3,000 years old!
See related blog post: Adventures in England
It was possible to date the Uffington White Horse in the not so distant past because the figure was cut into the hill up to a meter deep, and new technology allowed the dating of the layers of material in the trench.
As a result of the contrast between the bright green hills and the exposed white chalk the huge (approximately 360 feet long and 131 feet high) minimalist figure of the horse is visible from miles away.
Hugh Newman of Megalithomania, our tour guide, explained how the ancient site is cared for. Sheep are used to keep the grass on the hills short, and volunteers periodically “clean” the horse. I was not sure exactly what this involved, but I read with interest afterwards that the ritual “scouring” of the horse figure has taken place regularly since its creation – in other words – three millennia. Absent such maintenance the hill figure would disappear over time.
Today, volunteers follow the ancient tradition. Chalk is crushed into paste and used to whiten the figure. Overseen by the National Trust, care is taken that the original outline and shape of the horse is maintained.
Up close on White Horse Hill one cannot fully see nor appreciate the figure due to its size. It is only from a distance that one can take in the whole picture. It is a mystery to me how the ancients could envision and create the Uffington White Horse eons ago.
Interesting factoid: During World War II the Uffington Horse was covered over with turf and hedge trimmings so Luftwaffe bombers could not use its location for navigation purposes.
After making our way down the hill after viewing the Uffington White Horse, about half of our group decided the make the much shorter climb up nearby Dragon Hill.
Dragon Hill is a mound with a relatively flat top. On the top of Dragon Hill there is a bare patch where nothing grows. According to legend, that bare spot is where blood spilled when St. George, the patron saint of England, slew the dragon.
After admiring the English countryside from the top of Dragon Hill, we made our way back down to the van ready to continue with the planned activities of the day.
See related blog post: Adventures in England – Cerne Abbas Giant
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