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Uffington White Horse

Hill Figure


At the risk of sounding like an american tourist, the horse at Uffington wasn't as big as I expected. Ok, it is quite big, but I imagined it was going to be much more chunky. Perhaps it has taken on a symbolic magnitude in my brain over the years. Or perhaps I couldn't help comparing it to the fatter Westbury horse, which I know better, which sits above its own rippley valley in much the same way.

Whatever, this is just a fantastic spot. Sitting next to the horse you get the same kind of fresh-air-in-the-brain feeling you get looking over the sea. The figure is obviously positioned right at the point where the view opens up and you can see in a huge arc (not that the horse would be visible from the east side of it). I sat there with the skylarks trilling, swallows dive-bombing and the wind whistling through the wire fence (currently protecting the grass above the horse). It may be my overactive imagination but the model gliders seem to make a whinneying noise overhead.

It seems obvious to ask where the horse is facing - why is it positioned where it is? Looking directly out there are three wooded lumps in the middle distance of the landscape. I rather thought it was built to address these, but maybe it's more general than that. I can't quite work out what these lumps are - perhaps someone more familiar with the area knows.

When you sit by the horse you are naturally drawn to the flat-topped hill below you - Dragon Hill. This is a scheduled monument so I assume that means it was artificially levelled - or was it even artificially made, Silbury-like? I felt absolutely certain that when I reached it the horse would be plainly in view - but it wasn't clear at all: just the back, hind legs and a snip of the head. It's perched so high up on the slope. I suppose it's reasonably clear from afar, but up close it's not particularly obvious.

When you're sitting on Dragon Hill you have an excellent view of the Manger, and the siting of the horse seems to make sense in terms of this weird valley - it's on its back wall (not the flatter, steeper side wall which you'd think would make more sense was the Manger not there).

The Manger is certainly a singular place even without the horse. It has amazing undulating sides, a totally flat bottom and a narrow opening. Such a weird dry valley must surely have drawn speculation from our ancestors as to its origins or 'purpose'. It's certainly an ideal stabling spot for a gigantic horse! but as for a manger, even the Uffington horse couldn't eat that much food.

The rippling sides of the manger are rough chalk grassland, but at its far end it is smoother, and on the other side of the road turns into woodland (containing springs). As I walked back up I noticed it is like a natural amphitheatre - the voices of people behind me were carrying a really long way. I liked it a lot here. I was feeling fed up and it made things seem right again.
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
12th July 2004ce
Edited 26th April 2005ce

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