“Random encounters with the unusual” is a repository for the oddities that me and Mrs J have encountered on our travels, which we find interesting or amusing in some way. Have a look, maybe you will find something interesting or amusing herein.

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Maintaining the Broad Town White Horse

On the sunny weekend of the 14th & 15th of June, Mrs J had the pleasure of helping a team of local volunteers to refurbish the white horse that overlooks the village of Broad Town in Wiltshire.

The Broad Town White Horse (which I have previously mentioned in my “An Armchair Tour of Britain's White Horses”) is situated about half a mile northeast of Broad Town and is believed to date from 1864.

The Broad Town White Horse as seen from Google Maps.
The Broad Town White Horse in 1947.
So armed with a variety of gardening implements the team of volunteers from the village of Broad Town, led by local Archaeologist Bob Clarke, set off to restore the white horse. The first day of activities saw the team spend most of their time weeding the horse and trimming the horse’s outline. It seems that because the field in which the white horse is situated is not grazed by livestock that the outline of the horse is constantly under threat of becoming over grown. This unrelenting march of nature means that twice a year the horse has to be weeded and trimmed to ensure that it retains its shape and its crisp outline, otherwise after a few short years it would be lost from view. 

The Broad Town White Horse on day 1, before its make over.
Zooming it - it's not really white any more.
The horse's head - it is overgrown and the home to weeds.
The rear part of the body and the two back legs - after some weed clearing has occurred.
The body of the horse - almost clear of weeds.
The arch of the horse's back restored to a nice sharp line with the tail, yet to be weeded at the back. 
The restoration team at the start of day 1 (excluding Team Leader Bob Clarke, who is behind the camera).
Day two saw the team complete the weeding and edging activities. Once the team had finished removing all the weeds from the horse’s body and had restored its eye, body and limbs to their nature shape and size, attention turned to restoring the horse back to its natural white colour.

Originally when the white horse was cut into the hillside chalk it would have appeared a brilliant white, however over time the colour tends to yellow and on an annual basis the volunteers have to re-lime the horse to ensure it retains its former glory. Coating the Broad Town White Horse in lime required the use of over 1 tonne of powdered lime, which the team raked out over the horse’s body and limbs to give the horse a restored brilliant white appearance. As it was explained to me, once the first rains hit this powdered lime, it turns from a fine powder into a hard crust and gives the horse another year of life.

The Broad Town White Horse only seems to survive due to the dedication of the local villagers who commit a few days each year to its upkeep. The villagers also have to fund the work themselves, raising money during community events. Interestingly, the Broad Town White Horse is not a scheduled ancient monument and if it did become so it sounds like it would prevent the villagers from taking care of it in such a cost efficient and proactive manner.

Bags of powdered lime starting to be laid out.
All the bags laid out.
The leader of the restoration (Bob Clarke) opens the first bag of lime on the horses head.
The new white lime in comparison to the old (non-white) surface.
The restoration team at the end of day 2 (excluding Mrs J, who is behind the camera).
It should be noted that I only turned up to take a few photos late on day 2 - I did not really get involved in the hard work!
The restored horse seen from the track just below the hill.
Zooming in.
The restored Broad Town White Horse seen from the village school. 
Zooming in.
The information board that lives just below the horse.

On my way home from the Broad Town White Horse I also happened to pass another local white horse, The Broad Hinton White Horse. The Board Hinton White Horse (also known as the Hackpen White Horse) lies about two miles southeast of the village of Broad Hinton (on the side of the B4041). Details of the origin of this white horse are not certain, but some believe it was cut into the hillside in the mid 1800’s (possibly in 1838 to commemorate the coronation of Queen Victoria). It also seems that the local area used to be home to a third white horse at Rockley (between Hackpen and Marlborough), which was rediscovered in 1948 on land at Wick Down Farm on Rockley Down, but subsequently lost again to the farmers crops and plough. From the design of the horse it has been proposed that it dates from the early 19th Century, which neatly aligns with the dates of the creation of the Broad Town and Hackpen horses - clearly creating white horses in Wiltshire in the 19th Century was the fashionable thing to do!

The Hackpen White Horse.
The Hackpen White Horse.
The Hackpen (Broad Hinton) White Horse as seen from Google Maps.
The Rockley Down White Horse, reproduced from: The Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Magazine,  Volume 59, 1964. 
Pictures, Wiltshire (June 2014).

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