Sharing a love of Dolls House Miniatures - and making time for other creative crafts and the garden.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Landscape and Legend - in my part of the world.

I'm fortunate to have grown up and still live in a beautiful area of the south of England where the counties of Berkshire, Oxfordshire and Wiltshire meet and have sometimes swapped their boundaries.  As in many areas of the country, landscape, legend and myth merge together and present us with glorious stories and fascinating historical information. 
The Uffington White Horse Hill  (now in Oxfordshire) is one of these, and a favourite family place.

A few weeks ago we spent a lovely few hours climbing White Horse Hill, walking around Uffington Castle behind it and looking over the beautiful Vale of the White Horse with the Manger and Dragon's Mount beneath us.

Legend has it that King Alfred had the stylised horse carved through the turf into the chalk hillside to celebrate his victory over the Danes.  He was born in Wantage (originally Alfredston) - a few miles up the road....actually, up the Ridgeway, the ancient trackway to the north of the hill...... But it wasn't him - probably much earlier, a bronze age tribe for whom the horse was sacred.

Just a glimpse of the horse as we walk towards it.

Whoever was responsible it has changed shape over the centuries as succeeding generations have scoured (cleaned up) the chalk carving which continues to this very day and is well documented. It is now very difficult to see it in its entirety from the road in the valley as the horse is galloping up the hill.  Incredibly this is true but is more to do with erosion, scouring and geological movement than any thing else.  Back in the children we would stand on the eye of the horse, turn three times and make a wish - no longer possible of course as rightly it needs to be preserved.

Looking down to The Manger

Looking down to Dragon's Mount
At the foot of the horse is the Manger a steep-sided natural valley rising from which is Dragon's Mount.  Legend has it that at magical times, like the full moon, the horse will gallop down the hill to feed in the Manger and then back up the hill and along the Ridgeway to Wayland Smithy to be reshod by the faerie blacksmith.  If you would like to know more about this legend I blogged  about it back in August 2016 - or go for a Google.
Historians suggest that 'manger' is actually derived from  a Saxon word meaning trader and that more likely a trading market was held here - not quite as romantic!

Dragon's Mount is properly magical!! It's a small hill at the foot of the main hill, the top of which is scarred and no longer grows grass at its centre. Back in the day it was a steep climb - now there are steps I see....
SO - St George slew the dragon there and where its blood spilled, no vegetation will grow. Fact - ancient peoples chopped the top off  the hill to flatten it and used it for centuries for fires and beacons and consequently there is so much potash in the chalk sub-soil vegetation doesn't flourish. Shame.......I like the dragon story.

Just above the White Horse on the hill is Uffington Casle an ancient hill fort, steep sided and dry-moated.  Our children flew kites and picnicked here  -  new thinking has moved from a theory of defence to simple security for people, animals,  community and trading.  To my delight, the familiar flowers that thrive on chalk were in much inevidence:orchids, wild thyme, bell flowers, rock roses and more.  Magic.
Wild Orchids
Rock Roses

A lovely old solid metal sign - must be forty years old - tells us that The Ministry of Works is in charge of safeguarding this precious site. These days it will be English Heritage, but I'm glad they've kept the old signage and that sheep may safely graze.

Click on the pics for bigger versions.

Thank you for looking


Donna S said...

I did so enjoy your post! This site is on my list of "must see" if I ever win the lottery and am able to travel to Great Britain. Ancient sites, the older, the better, are so fascinating. In Canada, if something is from the 1600's it is considered old! It sounds like you are indeed enjoying your retirement. Good for you!

Elizabeth S said...

Very Beautiful countryside Robin. I love the photo of the sign and the sheep grazing in the meadow. :D

KT Miniatures said...

What beautiful photos Robin. Having this beautiful countryside on our doorstep, it is so easy to take it all for granted. It is ages since I went over that way, must get my walking boots on! Celia

Robin said...

So pleased you enjoyed this post - I love seeing similar ones from other parts of the world too. One of the joys of blogging.