Keeping a legend alive - rechalking the Uffington White Horse

19 July 2016 / Categories: DA News and Events

Some three thousand years ago things were different -  King David was on the throne of Israel, Homer was writing the Iliad, the Phoenicians founded Carthage in Tunisia and in Bronze Age Britain the Uffington White Horse was being cut in to the chalk hillside.

The purpose of the White Horse remains unclear to this day.  Was it the emblem of a local tribe who had cut it as a totem or badge to mark their land?  Was it intended as a religious symbol by those worshipping either the Celtic horse goddess Epona or the sun god Belinos, who was sometimes, depicted riding a horse?  Whatever the answer, what we do know is that since the White Horse was cut in to the chalk those thousands of years ago, groups of people have, on a regular basis, taken the time and made the effort to maintain the chalk outline and so ensure that the Horse has not disappeared back into the ground and become lost to us all.  Instead it dominates the land around and has captured the imagination of all those who have seen it or heard of it.   

We can only imagine how many people have, over the three thousand years, helped with the onerous task of re-chalking the White Horse but what can be said with certainty is that on Wednesday 6 July a further 22 people from all areas of Shrivenham Station and the Defence Academy turned out to add their names to this list.  Representatives from the Military, Serco, Civil Service and MOD Police (as well as family members and friends) brought enthusiasm, a certain amount of muscle as well as sun-screen and lunch boxes and spent the day working on the rear legs and tail of the Horse in an attempt to complete the work already started by local volunteers and businesses during the course of the previous few days.

Under the careful eye of the National Trust (who manage and maintain the Horse and the surrounding areas) and armed with hammers, knee mats and buckets we set to work.  The first task was to break down the lumps of chalk already covering the Horse, turning it in to fine powder which provided a firm and solid base for further  lumps of chalk which were then laid over with the aim of covering and protecting the Horse’s outline.  This lumpy chalk will then, in turn, be broken up next year and the process repeated. .. as it has been year in and year out since 1,000 BC.

Throughout the day, we fielded a host of questions from the many visitors to the Horse and what became clear was that this historic site is of interest to visitors from all over the world.  A big thank you must go to all those who gave their time and effort on the day – it was hard work but we could all take our leave of the Horse knowing that through our endeavours we were helping to ensure it continues to be seen and marvelled at, as it has been for the last three thousand years.


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