Wednesday, 28 August 2019

White Horse Hill

It's a long gradual climb to the top of White Horse Hill, but the higher you get the more spectacular and rewarding are the far reaching wide views across several English counties.
Dragon Hill
This extraordinary shaped hillock is a natural outcrop from the main downland escarpment, which was scoured by meltwater during the Ice Age. It was later quarried and the top was levelled by the Dobunni (a Celtic tribe living in Britain before the Roman invasion) making it the shape we see today.
Its striking appearance led to its being forever linked in legend as the site where St. George fought and slew the ferocious fire-breathing dragon. The white mark that can just be seen on the top of Dragon Hill is said to be where the dragon fell down dead, its blood so poisonous that grass has never grown there again. 
A less exciting explanation is that the very high levels of potash found on its summit are as a result of the site having been used by pagans for ceremonies which involved ritual fire and sacrifice. During the 1950s Dragon Hill was also witness to a meeting that took place between atomic physicist Klaus Fuchs and the Russian Secret Service when he passed secrets to them about the hydrogen bomb.
As we near the summit of the hill, the landscape slowly reveals itself in all of its undulating glory, a landscape that for thousands of years has been steeped in mystery, mythology, legend, archaeology and history. 
Having now climbed to the brow of this ancient hilltop we can now see the oldest chalk figure in the country which dates back 3,000 years to the late Bronze Age. Its exquisite linear form dominates the brow of White Horse Hill, and yet no one really knows how it was made. To give some idea of the scale of the horse it measures 110m (360ft) long, and in my photo you can see one large round white circle which represents the horses eye.
via wiki
This unusual octagonal church tower was originally surmounted by a stone spire, which was "beat down by tempest, wind, thunder and lightning on 2nd December 1740".
Should time permit then it is worth paying a visit to Uffington which nestles beneath White Horse Hill - a pretty village with small lanes and pathways lined with chalk stone cottages, thatched roofs and roses round the doors. It is where John Betjeman, English poet, broadcaster, and founding member of the Victorian Society made his first home. He was the churchwarden at St. Mary's church known as the 'church in the vale'. When electricity was first introduced into the church in the 1930s, John Betjeman insisted that the old church oil lamps be preserved and converted to take the new electrical supply. 
Many of the rooftops in the village display straw finials, highlighting the skills of the local roof thatchers.

46 comments:

  1. I love the way that our ancestors wove stories from what they saw in the landscape. Nowadays we have so much more understanding but it's still the mysteries - like who made the White Horse, and how, and why - that remind us that we still have a lot to learn.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The mysteries surrounding this beautiful white horse add greatly to its appeal. How on earth did they know what the end result would look like, when it is only possible to fully appreciate it from the air as we can today? It was only possible for them to be able to see a small version of it from several miles away. How did they manage to sculpt it in such a sinuous way that it flows perfectly across the various contours on the hill? The mind marvels at their ingenuity.

      Delete
  2. The painted horse looks so modern done in a way, not primitive at all, very elegant. Those straw finials are very pretty on the roofs to look at.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It is an amazing piece of landscape sculpture that does look very modern - I agree.

      Delete
  3. Wonderful views. I particularly like the view looking down at the undulations on the hill and, of course, the horse.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Those undulations in the landscape are fascinating and beautiful too.

      Delete
  4. Beautiful! When we lived in Weymouth we would often picnic at Cerne Abbas, home of the Cerne Abbas Giant or at the Osmington White Horse ( this is only a couple of hundred years old and represents George III ) Family holidays on the south coast always took us to see the Long Man of Wilmington. When we lived in Somerset, John's job often took us into Wiltshire where there are many white horses carved into the hillsides. I've never been to Oxfordshire, but those thatched rooves look fantastic! Best, Jane x

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. All of the other hillside sculptures are more recent as you have mentioned i.e. within the last two to three hundred years. This one in Oxfordshire has so much mystery surrounding it - how did the Bronze Age people manage to make it? did it have a purpose? and if so, what?

      Delete
  5. Those views are just beautiful. X

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for visiting Jules - I am pleased that you enjoyed seeing the post.

      Delete
  6. Did you use a drone to get that beautiful photo of the White Horse of Uffington? Its minimalist design is so ancient and yet seems so modern too.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. A drone would be a useful tool at times like this, but I had to depend on wiki. You can see the horse in its full glory on the brow of the hill, but only if you manage to find a clear spot from several miles away, a distance too far for most cameras to be able to cope.

      Delete
  7. Thanks so much for sharing such beautiful photos.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Your part of the world is so beautiful. My favourite thing is to climb a hill to get the view. If I lived near I would be forever sitting up at the top of that hill. Fascinating history and curious as to why they created the white horse in the first place. A lovely post. B x

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. If ever you are passing this way then do try and visit White Horse Hill, I am sure that you would enjoy it.

      Delete
  9. What spectacular views and landscapes. I cannot imaging living somewhere so rich is history and beauty. You could spend a lifetime exploring your surroundings in the UK.
    I love those animal finials on thatched rooftops. They are so charming.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It is surprising how long you can live in an area, and yet still be able to find, and visit new places, and discover things of great interest.

      Delete
  10. I fell in love with thatched roofs when in the UK and, of course, have always been passionate about roses. But the best of mystery and drama seem to be the ancient hillside sculptures. Your photos this morning took my breath away. Now that I no longer travel I am so enjoying the photos and information. Thank you!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you Regina for your very kind comment - I am pleased that you enjoyed the photos, please do return again.

      Delete
  11. The mystery surrounding the White Horse has intrigued me for a long time. Who and why? I guess we'll never know, and it's interesting to read of the many ideas people have about the origins of the hill sculptures.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. There are many fascinating facets to the white horse mystery, ones that keeps us all guessing, and you are right, I also guess that we will never know.

      Delete
  12. Beautiful views and landscape! So that's where the horse is!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes William, this lovely white horse has been prancing across this hillside for 3,000 years,

      Delete
  13. Have you read the Victorian book, 'The Scouring of the White Horse'?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. No, but I read about it in the Tom Brown's Museum in Uffington and I understand that Hughes was the son of the local vicar in Uffington.

      Delete
    2. A high-altitude village fair in essence.

      Delete
    3. Held at Uffington Castle.

      Delete
  14. Great post. I love that type of rural landscape more than mountains due to the history, culture, the way the landscapes have been transformed by communities over time and the underlying geology. Rich in every way. Many years since I last visited that area though- early 1980s.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Although I still love mountains, they do not love me in return as climbing them is too much these days. This type of landscape is still accessible and long may it remain so, it was a pleasure to walk and be in this mysterious landscape with its long history.

      Delete
  15. So much history around the English countryside. Lovely panoramas Rosemary. Worth the climb, I imagine.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It was a very satisfying climb Betty which I am glad that I can still manage.

      Delete
  16. Hello Rosemary, Those vistas are beyond magnificent. I thought that the explanation for the hills was going to be some kind of prehistoric earthwork, like the American Indian burial mounds and figures found in Ohio and other states. The geological explanation is just as interesting, especially as modified by all the human interactions that transpired on the site.
    --Jim

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hello Jim - it is over 20 years since I last visited White Horse Hill and I had to some extent forgotten just how magnificent those vistas are. However, last week the distant views were helped very much given the clear, bright weather on that particular day.

      Delete
  17. I love it round there - there's something timeless in the downs and valleys. Isn't the horse magnificent?! It looks modern. You've got the fort above it, the Ridgeway passing by and Wayland's Smithy a short hop away. Fabulous. Loved your shots - and had never heard about the Fuchs connnection.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You are right Mike it is a lovely area to visit, and so much more to see than I have actually shown. By the way I never seem to get any notifications of your posts these days - are you still blogging?

      Delete
  18. Such an interesting post and lovely photos of your walk.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you Rosemary - it is a lovely place to visit and having such a fine day to walk up White Horse Hill made it even better.

      Delete
  19. What an amazing view and so much history ! When the horse is revealed to your eyes as you get up high enough it must be a true eye opener , what a treat !

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The horse is such a mystery - how did they make it, and what was it for? but you are right - it is a treat.

      Delete
  20. Dearest Rosemary,
    That is a lovely spot to climb up for the view and White Horse Hill looks very special.
    Love also the thatched roof finials!
    Hugs,
    Mariette

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you Mariette - White Horse Hill is indeed a lovely spot which we really enjoyed climbing.

      Delete
  21. I love your nice pictures. I love your blog and follow you. Have a nice weekend hugs Nina

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dear Nina - thank you for your very kind comments and welcome. I look forward to seeing you here again.

      Delete
  22. The white horse is enigmatic indeed and has no doubt fueled both speculation and serious study, but I suppose we will never conclusively know its significance. In the meantime, I would be thrilled to see it should the chance ever present itself.

    ReplyDelete

❖PLEASE NOTE❖ Comments made by those who hide their identity will be deleted

“You can't stay in your corner of the forest waiting for others to come to you - you have to go to them sometimes”
― A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh