Last year I made a detour to have a look at the white horse at Westbury while passing through the area. It’s a bit of a disappointing white horse in my opinion. For a start, it actually looks like a horse, as does the one at Sutton Bank in North Yorkshire, near where I went to school for three years. I also went to school in the Thames Valley and an abiding memory from those years is a trip my elder brother took me on to see the white horse at Uffington. It was a grey, misty day and we struggled to see the outline cut into the chalk hillside. I was more interested in picking ears of wheat from the verges to send home with my brother for my pet gerbils, but I do remember a lithe, fluid horse that resembled animal figures in cave paintings. Well, last weekend I finally went back for a proper look at the Uffington white horse.
We’d spent the weekend with friends on the south coast, where the weather was wet and cold. But by Sunday lunchtime it was sunny and warm and we decided to take an indirect route across country rather than heading straight for the M1. We passed Lacock Abbey and would have visited it, except the National Trust wanted a £12 entry fee from each of us, plus £3 for the car park. All very well for those with half a day to spare, but if you just want a short stop to break a long journey, £27 is a lot to pay for it. So I looked at the map and saw that we were near the Vale of the White Horse to the west of Oxford. We headed that way and didn’t begrudge paying £2 to the National Trust for the car park on White Horse Hill. From there, we had a lovely walk up to the white horse itself and the Iron Age ring fort just above it, and then down to Dragon Hill where St George allegedly slew his dragon.
The horse is almost on the top of the hill, which means that it is impossible to get a good view of it from anywhere in the valley. You’d need to be in the air to see it properly. It is presumably looking at its worst at the moment because the annual re-chalking event takes place this coming Bank Holiday weekend. Volunteers will gather to manicure the outline, so that the Bronze Age horse canters across the hill for future generations to see.
I was very taken with the rippled valley sides near Dragon Hill. According to the National Trust, this valley is called the Manger and the ripples were caused by the retreating permafrost during the last Ice Age.
In need of refreshment after all this exertion in the hot sun, we drove back down to the village and followed signs to the Forget-Me-Not Tea Room. It turned out to be in Uffington village hall where we were served tea and sandwiches on charmingly mis-matched vintage china and antique linen napery.