Sunday, 2 March 2008

A Sunday Morning Stroll - Uffington White Horse and Uffington Castle

Uffington White Horse Hill 1

Last night (Saturday)I checked the weather forecast and it said that today was going to be relatively dry and quite warm - although cloudy and windy. Perfect weather for getting up early and grabbing a Sunday morning stroll. So, before going to bed I set my alarm in preparation for an early start. Not so much because I was going to travel far, but rather to enjoy my next location in peace and solitude.

"Library Photograph"

I awoke this morning to the sound of the buzzer on my alarm, jumped out of bed and took a hot shower, before pulling on my jeans and jumper and setting off for another adventure.



Today's location is the magical and mystical Uffington White Horse and Castle (ancient hill fort) in Oxfordshire. I am fortunate that this wonderful historical site is only about 15 minutes from my house. I jumped in the car (no need for Sat Nav this time...lol). And no sooner had the car warmed up, I was driving through the picturesque winding country lanes of Oxfordshire (a county bordering Wiltshire).

I pulled into the Uffington car park and clambered out of the car, opened the old rickety gate and rambled through the fields towards the White Horse. Being so high up, the wind was blowing a gale and chilling me to the bone. But as soon as my eyes set upon the White Horse, any thoughts of being cold were soon banished from my mind.



A little of the history surrounding the Uffington White Horse

"Uffington White Horse, one of only four that face to the right, is high on an escarpment of the Berkshire Downs below Whitehorse Hill, a mile and a half south of the village of Uffington, and it looks out over the Vale of the White Horse. Though on the Berkshire Downs, it has been in Oxfordshire since county boundary alterations in the 1970s. It is cut, not on the steepest slope of the hill, but on the much shallower slope near the top, and can only really be viewed well from afar or from above.

This is by far the oldest of all the white horses, and is of an entirely different design to the others. Unlike the solid and more or less naturalistic figures of the other horses, the Uffington white horse is formed from stylized curving lines some ten feet or less wide, and its length of around 365 feet makes it over twice as long as the longest of the Wiltshire horses. Whether it is indeed intended to represent a horse, or some other creature instead, has been debated, but it has certainly been called a horse since at least medieval times. A cartulary of the Abbey of Abingdon from between 1072 and 1084 refers to "the place commonly known as the White Horse Hill" ("locum qui vulgo mons albi equi nuncupatur").

Until 1995 the Uffington white horse was thought to date from the Iron Age. However, in the nineteen-nineties, a new dating technique was developed. This technique, optical stimulated luminescence dating (OSL), can show how long soil has been hidden from sunlight. The lines of the horse consist of trenches dug in the hillside, then filled with chalk. OSL testing of soil from between the lower layers of that chalk shows that it has been buried since between 1400 BC and 600 BC, and probably between 1200 BC and 800 BC, and thus the horse is of Bronze Age origin.

The original purpose of this horse is unknown. It may have been the emblem of a local tribe, and have been cut as a totem or badge marking their land, or it may have had a religious purpose or significance. The horse-goddess Epona was worshipped by the Celts in Gaul, and she had a counterpart in Britain, Rhiannon, so the Uffington white horse may have been cut by adherents of a cult of the horse-goddess.

Alternatively, the horse could have been cut by worshippers of the sun god Belinos or Belenus, who was associated with horses. He was sometimes depicted on horseback, and Bronze and Iron Age sun chariots were shown as being drawn by horses. Conceivably, if this suggestion is correct, the horse could have been cut on the shallower slope at the top of the hill in order to be seen from above by the god himself. "



I clambered my way to the top of the hill and made my way over to the head of the horse. Folk Lore says that if you stand on the eye of the horse and make a wish, the wish will come true.



So the first thing I did was to do exactly that. I also promised a friend that I would place a pebble on the eye for them, as they live to far away to visit it. I can proudly say that I kept my word.



With so much history surrounding the Uffington White Horse, it is impossible not to feel emotional when stood by the horse on your own, with nobody else around for miles. I stood there for a few minutes, just looking at the scenery, the rolling hills, the chalk carving, the farmers fields, the streaming clouds, the birds in the sky. Everywhere I turned was a gift to the senses. Taking a deep breath to fill my lungs with fresh air, clearing my mind of all my stresses and frustrations.... The perfect way to enjoy a Sunday morning.









As I stood at the head of the horse, I could look down the hill and see "Dragon Hill". Dragon hill is an artificial mound with a flat top, to which clings the legend that it was on this summit that St.George slew the dragon. A bare patch of chalk upon which no grass will grow, is purpoted to be where the dragon's blood spilled. However scientific studies tell that this is either the site of ancient ritual activity or the site of an early Christian religious building.



I could have stayed there all day, but it was time to wander further up the hill to Uffington Castle. Occasionally stopping to take another glance at the horse.



"Uffington Castle sits on the very top of Uffingtion Hill. Despite its obvious categorisation as an 'Iron Age Hillfort' recent excavations have shown that, like the horse, it was originally constructed in the late Bronze Age, probably 800 BC - 700 BC. The fort at thos time, consisted of early ramparts and massive timber gates and an associated linear ditch. "



"The Uffington Castle we recognise today is an eight-acre double walled hillfort which once had timber box-ramparts that were revetted with sarsen stones at a later period. There is a north-west facing entrance, protected by the curving outwards of the bank along both sides and around the ditch."





"The site was occupied throughout the early to middle Iron Age period, probably at a level similar to most other excavated hillforts. Post-holes indicate not fully recognised structures and an unusal clay-lined gully may show evidence of water management. Excavated pits have shown much evidence of weaving, spinning, the keeping of animals and other activities. Coins of the Dobunni tribe have also been found in the vicinity. However, the Vale of the White Horse seems to have been an uninhabited divide between the tribes of the Dobunni and the Atrebates and Uffington Castle, with its White Horse, falls within territory of the latter, to the south of the River Ock. Permanent occupation seems to have ceased around the third to second century bc."





Walking around Uffington Castle is equally as breathtaking as the White Horse. As I wandered over the ditches and through the centre of the fort, I was trying to picture what it must have been like when it was in use. It was a weird feeling knowing that where I was stepping, people had been living thousands of years ago. A real piece of history.




I walked around the perimeter of the outer circle before making my way into the centre. As I stood in the middle of the fort, the clouds darkened, leaving only beams of light shining through - giving a really eerie feeling.



As I made my way back to the edge of the fort, the sheep came wandering in. It probably sounds weird, but it felt I was intruding. Some of the expressions on the sheep faces were very inquisitive. As I walked through them, they didn't run away - they just stood there. Some of them turned to each other and bleated. Almost like they were talking to each other. So strange, so surreal......








I began my journey back down the hill towards my car. Passing a few more inquisitive sheep on the way.



My head and my heart spinning with enjoyment and excitement from the walk over the hills of Uffington White Horse and Uffington Castle. My lungs full of fresh air. And of course my camera memory card full of photographs...lol!!!

So there ended my Sunday morning stroll around the magical and mystical ancient hill of Uffington White Horse and Uffington Castle. England certainly has a green and pleasant land!

I hope you enjoyed your whistle stop tour of Uffington. And for anybody who is planning a tour of England, I hope you are able to enjoy this wonderful place for yourself.

Cheerio for now

Graham x
Click Here to view the full set of photographs from my stroll around Uffington White Horse Hill and Uffington Castle.

26 comments:

Muse said...

thank you - it's so nice to imagine that i could be there.

What's amazing is that i can't see how dirt never covered over it and grass with the wind. Also those who made it could never really appreciate what they had made from an aerial view.

Love the sheet pics too. Especially the first 2. Those things are so funny looking to me with their bald little legs. lol

Tish said...

I think I want to move to England. :)

Great photos, Graham. And what a fascinating story of the White Horse!

I hope you had a great weekend!

Scarlett said...

Awesome pictures! Thanks for posting them. Uffington is breathtaking, It's amazing that after all these thousand years, it has remained intact.

It surely made its way to my list of places to see.

retardedrugrat said...

Hi Graham!

You've made me quite homesick! I'd forgotten how the rolling green hills and valleys of Britain can evoke such strong emotions in me. They certainly have an aura all their own that's for sure.

I used to live on the edge of the Pennines, and knowing the hills and steep valleys were only a short ride away is something I guess I took for granted. Funny how that goes.

Your photos of the White Horse and the Castle are wonderful. The Sheep ones made me laugh. They reminded me of the ones that wander freely up in the Pennine hills.

Hugs to you,
Dawn.

john lozada said...

These are what you call landscape views. Perfect for oil on canvas paintings with the winds hushing and letting the paint dry with memories and appreciation of how beautiful nature is, even from a bare scene of green grass and blue skies.

meleah rebeccah said...

you have the best adventures...and all of your pictures are making me want to travel (as much as I am terrified of flying) I would LOVE to see some of these places in person.


xxoo

Marjie said...

Beautiful shots. I've never pictured a country-side so breath-taking until you took pictures of them. You DO have extraordinary talents with the camera. I've always looked forward to your wonderful posts.

XXXXX
(big hugs)
~M

Michelle Hix said...

So much History you have right there in your back yard Graham! And it is so well preserved.

Chica said...

Suck beautiful imagery Graham, I'm really loving that tree photo. something about a cool looking tree alone, is neat. :)

Matthijs Hofstede said...

I really like to go there. Ancient art on such a scale is really fascinating.

I would also like to visit the Crazy Horse memorial in the US. Another great project with a horse. Just a couple off thousand years between them

Olga, the Traveling Bra said...

Beautiful photos! And equally enjoyable story...I will be traveling to England soon...with any luck maybe my chaperons will take me to the White Horse! Thanks for sharing!

Elise said...

I'm planning on taking a weekend trip to the country. Wiltshire seems idea. I'm glad I've got your blog to refer to for different locations and sights. xx

Getty72 said...

Muse,

The chalk needs a lot of looking after, there is a whole community of people who spend many hours maintaining it for the rest of us to enjoy. As always, they are the unsung heros.

Tish, you are welcome to move to England. Then we can chat without a time zone difference :) The white horse story is truly fascinating. Luckily around here there are soooo many mystical things. Oh how I wish I could have lived aroud the time all this was going on.

Scarlett, thanks for your lovely comment. You must come and see it, and make sure you let me know when you are coming :)

Getty72 said...

Hey Dawn. Our rolling hills are truly inspiring. It kind of explains how so many poets and authors found their inspiration.
The sheep were funny up there. They were giving me some really funny looks...LOL!

John, thanks for your kind words. I agree, these locations are perfect for any budding artist. I wish I could paint.... I might give it a go one day.

Meleah Rebeccah, awww you must brave the flight and come over. There is soooo much to see and soooo many wonderful people to meet (and the food is great too!!!).

Getty72 said...

Marjie, thanks for your lovely words as always. I have to be honest, it is not my camera skills that produce these great pictures... it is the amazing scenery that we have. All I have do is point the camera and click away. Everywhere is so amazingly stunning. I also take hundreds of photos and end up deleting most of them. Only the reasonable ones find their way onto my blog.

Michelle, we are so lucky here in the UK - everywhere is shrouded in history and folk lore. I will try and detail some of them on my post... it'll surely keep me busy...lol!

Chica, I love trees too. Their bark ad branches tell so many stories. It's like looking into the eyes of an old wise man or lady.

Getty72 said...

Matthijs, this is truly ancient art on a large scale. There are many white horse hills around the UK, but none as spectacular as this one, in my opinion.

Olga, wow you are coming to the UK? I can't wait to hear about your travels. Keep me posted!!!

Getty72 said...

Elise, the countryside is such a wonderful getaway place. So many places to stroll, to eat and drink, to enjoy and relax! I look forward to hearing all about your break.

Linda R. Moore said...

Ah yes. One of my favorite places in England. :: happy sigh ::

Carlo said...

Good Job! :)

chiltern warrior said...

Visited White Horse for first time yesterday.
I live near Chilterns and I am facsinated by the layers of ancient history beneath our feet.
The ancient Britons were not uncivilised, this was noted by both Roman and Greek visitors in centuries BC.
WE have been deprived of the knowledge of our distant pastm, and the wisdom of the spiritual nature of those peopel is lost but traces still remain.
Their monuments remind us of our origins.
Near to me is Ravensburgh Catle, a hillfort where the Pendragon KIng, Cassivalluanus (Roman spelling,) conducted his campaign against the invader Julius Ceasar in the decades preceeding Christ' birth in the Holy Land.
There is much scattered history and legend that points to Britiain beong the first Christian place outside Palestine.
It is saids the knowledge of the Druids, the basis of the English Law, medicine, Astronomy and religious practise had origins in distant settlers and traders (Phoenecians amongst others) who travelled to Britian, which was regarded as the most mysterious and holy of places ijn the ancient world.
There are similarities between Welsh lanhuage and Phonecian language.
The Welsh are the direct decendants of the ancient Britons, asd they fled there for refuge from the onslaught of the barbaric Roman invasion that saw the almost complete destruction of the Druids anfd their sacred groves of oak-ytrees.
The conquerors write the hisytory, it is said.
Britain hgas lost it's sense of identity as an ancient race, modern historians preferring to accept the Roman version of the "Isles beyond the North wind."
Albion is at the heart of the English folk.
It is our ancestral heritage, and we may gain contact with these ephemeral echoes as we walk these ancient monuments.
Britian was said to be the land where all visitors were free to walk unhindered, so long as hthey respected our ways.
It is a pity that is no longer so.
It is a greater pity that the worst of enemies now come from within those that caslll themselves British.
Glad to visit your very weell constructed blosite, and be refreshed by the marvellous photography and desciptive writing.

chiltern warrior said...

Sorry, here is my comment corrected a bit.
Visited White Horse for first time yesterday.
I live near Chilterns and I am fascinated by the layers of ancient history beneath our feet.
The ancient Britons were not uncivilised, this was noted by both Roman and Greek visitors in centuries BC.
We have been deprived of the knowledge of our distant past, and the wisdom of the spiritual nature of those people is lost but traces still remain.
Their monuments remind us of our origins.
Near to me is Ravensburgh Catle, a hillfort where the Pendragon King, Cassivalluanus (Roman version of Caswallon,) conducted his campaign against the invader Julius Ceasar in the decades preceding Christ's birth in the Holy Land.
There is much scattered history and legend that points to Britain being the first Christian place outside Palestine.
It is said the knowledge of the Druids, (the basis of the English Law, medicine, Astronomy and religious practise) had origins in distant settlers and traders, Greeks and Phoenecians amongst others) who travelled to Britain, which was regarded as the most mysterious and holy of places in the ancient world. It is further said by some, that the British were pre-disposed to accept Jesus's teachings, as they were similar to much of the Druidic traditions.
The Bronze and Iron Age Britians were much more directly in tune with their environment and regarded the existence of a spiritual world as an absolute certainty.
The best promise one could make to a friend, was to pay them back a loan or favour "in the next life."
They the teachings of Jesus as a further extension of their existing beliefs. To write them off as "pagan" is to miss the point.
There are similarities between Welsh language and Phoenecian language.
The Welsh are the direct descendants of the ancient Britons, as they fled there for refuge from the onslaught of the barbaric Roman invasion that saw the almost complete destruction of the Druids and their sacred groves of oak-trees.
The conquerors write the history, it is said.
Britain has lost it's sense of identity as an ancient race, modern historians preferring to accept the Roman version of the "Isles beyond the North wind."
Albion is at the heart of the English folk.
It is our ancestral heritage, and we may gain contact with these distant echoes as we walk these ancient monuments.
Britain was said to be the land where all visitors were free to walk unhindered, so long as they respected our ways.
It is a pity that is no longer so.
It is a greater pity that the worst of enemies now come from within those that call themselves British.
It is worth looking at place names for clues to the heritage of Royal lineage which may span back to the origins of the first Celtoi to have made this their home, and created the productive rural paradise that Rome lusted after for Centuries before they finally invaded under the Emperor Claudius, in AD 43, with his battle-legions and assorted war-elephants, and wild beasts used to strike terror into British hearts, and disrupt their horse-chariots.
Many tribes resisted for decades, and Britons were still the only foreign Freemen to walk in Rome.
They were among the most respected soldiers in later Roman auxiliary armies.
We all know of the terrible vengeance wrought upon Roman occupiers and collaborators by Queen Boudecca.
The first Christian Emperor, Constantine, was of British
Glad to visit your very well constructed blogsite, and be refreshed by the marvellous photography and descriptive writing.

Carlos said...

Good Job! :)

Anonymous said...

I sent a weekend here in the summer!! Truely a fantastic spot. I spent some time in the village pub in Uffington, The Fox and Hounds. It offers some fantastic panoramic views of the Ridgeway and the White Horse Hill. I can recommend the beer too. ;-) Thank you for bringing back some fond memories.

Monika said...

Your photos are wonderful! Love the color and composition. I'll be traveling to Salisbury and Bath and would absolutely love to see this chalk horse. Would you have any suggestions on how I can see it without a car? Any public transportation near by? Thanks for any help or suggestions you may have as I'm having a difficult time finding info on-line.

Your website makes me want to start my own...love to travel and wish I could do it for a living. Keep clicking.

Viagra Online said...

It's amazing the that shaped horse road, well if that is a road. I was wondering if that form of a horse is man made or it was just there.

Hans said...

Very interesting thanks for sharing!

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