Uffington White Horse – Impressive Steep Escarpment
Internationally renowned Bronze Age Uffington White Horse can be found 1.5 miles south of Uffington village toward the Berkshire downs and is situated facing NW near the top of an impressive steep escarpment beneath the Ridgeway long footpath, Whitehorse hill and the Saxon hill-fort of Uffington castle and above Dragon hill.
The Uffington White Horse can be seen for miles away leaping from the head of a dramatic dry valley in the Ridgeway escarpment where the horse is a part of the unique complex of ancient remains which are found at the White Horse Hill and beyond, spreading towards the high chalk downland. The best view can be seen from the air, though it lacks aerial capabilities and is best seen from about one mile to the North though the view from Dragon hill is also very good.
It is the largest of the horses about 374 feet in length with 110 feet in height and constructed of trenches of 5 to 10 feet in width and 2 to 3 feet in depth which is filled with chalk. This is some few feet above the natural chalk of the hill and the horse is in good condition, maintained by the National Trust.
Oldest Hill Figure in Britain
The edges are defined well, partially consolidated with concrete and the top edge reinforced with polypropylene netting,the chalk white and well compacted together with erosion repairs done whenever necessary. Convenient parking place near Woolstone hill and at the Whitehorse hill is available and this location makes the horse difficult to view from close quarters and can be seen better from most areas of the Vale of the White Horse.
This unique location with its elegant line of white chalk bedrock is presumed to be the oldest hill figure in Britain and the image is presented as a horse which dates back as far as 1000 BC during the late Bronze Age. One would find similar images which have been found depicted on coins belonging to that period and some are of the opinion that the figure could be representing a horse goddess connected with the local Belgae tribe. The goddess is believed to be one form of Epona and worshiped throughout the Celtic world.
Traditionally the horse is connected to a number of famous figures, one of which is King Alfred who is said to have constructed it to commemorate his victory in 871 over the Danes. It is also said that the horse had been cut by Hengist, who was the leader of the Anglo Saxon horde during the 5th century AD. Some other folklore state that the figure is a representation of the dragon which was killed by St. George, an event presumed to have taken place near the Dragon Hill.
The horse was maintained every seven years under the jurisdiction of the local Lord who had to fund the event. A festival lasting for over three days consisted of fun and games, traditional cheese rolling together with wrestling and other pastimes and the games were conducted in the enclosed earthen banks of Uffington Castle, an Iron Age hill fort where the White Horse is considered to be galloping when viewed from space. The horse is cleaned by several members of English Heritage, responsible for the site.