Wednesday, 15 December 2010

ABC Wednesday - V is for Vale

Image courtesy of National Trust
The Vale I am thinking of is The Vale of White Horse in Uffington which is now in Oxfordshire but was historically part of Berkshire.

The White Horse, more than 3000 years old, is probably the oldest hill figure in Britain. The white colour comes from the chalk underlying the whole area. The Horse strides across the Berkshire Downs near the ancient Ridgeway path, which is said to be the oldest ‘road’ in Europe.

No-one really knows why the Horse was created. It was made by digging deep trenches which were then backfilled with chalk. It is 374’ (110m) long and can only be seen clearly and completely from the air, so may have been a sign to ancient gods.

It doesn’t look much like a horse and some have mused that it might be a dragon, possibly the very dragon killed by St George.  Nearby Dragon Hill has a single white circular mark, which folklore claims as the spot where the dragon slain by St George shed its lifeblood. Legend has it that the dragon’s blood so poisoned the ground that grass never grows on this spot. Others have suggested that the Horse is a representation of St George’s steed. A little further along the Ridgeway is Wayland’s Smithy, of which more next week.
The area is beautiful, mostly given to arable farming now, since the decline of its dairy business in the early years of the 21st century. It has a plethora of pretty villages through which I used to drive to my first job in Stanford in the Vale. It is where Barry and I started our married life and where our first child was born and so it has a special place in my heart.
A few years ago we travelled back to this part of the country and spent a sunny afternoon on the hill below the White Horse. We decided not to walk to the chalk figure because the notices (which were never there 40 years ago!) asked that dogs be kept on leads and our three Dalmatians needed to run and play. As they did so we watched and took in the pastoral views.
White Horse Hill can just be seen in the upper right quarter of this photo
The site is owned and managed by National Trust. 

Thank you as usual to the Vivacious Denise Nesbitt and her Versatile, Vigorous, Valiant team who organise and host this weekly meme.  Click here to enjoy more Victory Vs and maybe join in.

25 comments:

  1. Oh, yeah, an interesting bit of history about which we may never know the truth.
    ROG, ABC Wednesday team

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  2. What a fascinating post for the V Day, Janice! I love the history! This country is so young and the ancient history of the UK and Europe has always been of great interest to me and one of the things I enjoyed most about living in Europe those three years -- being able to visit those very old places, to see them and experience, for lack of a better word, that sense of history. Thanks for sharing!! Hope the rest of your week goes well!

    Sylvia

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  3. This reminds me of the "long man" I have seen when I was in Eastbourne, I just can't remember the town, but I have it on my travel blog. These formations are so strange.

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  4. So you don't believe in aliens producing the white horse?
    Nor do I :-)
    I went to Yorkshire some years ago and was really looking forward to seeing 'the white horse' on the hill (I believe it was somewhere near Thirsk? I could be confused though.), but found it quite disappointing. It wasn't nearly as big as I thought it would be. Ah well. Next time I'll be visiting the man with the big youknowwhat that's also somewhere on your island. That can't be disappointing. Can it? ;-)

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  5. This is fascinating stuff. I love the images you chose for the video. A really terrific tribute to V.

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  6. That was very interesting and The vale of White Horse does look like a white horse to me though a bit stylized.
    Loved the pretty village and the Dalmatians are a treat!!

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  7. Wow! Thanks for the post. This is the first time I've heard about the White Horse. It does look more like a dragon to me. I want to think of it as the dragon that was slain. :-) Happy Christmas!

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  8. I have seen many pictures of the white horse but never actually visited it. What a task that must have been to fill in the trenches with the chalk! Your dogs must love their run on these hills. It is a beautiful area.

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  9. Wow... Fascinating... Thank you for sharing...:-)

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  10. I found this interesting. I have never heard of this horse marking before. How wonderful to live in a country with such history. To me it looks more like a horse than a dragon, but who knows? It is fun to guess.

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  11. Incredible! This stirs a long buried memory and for that I thank you. Amazing, amazing. Your photos are wonderful.

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  12. Lovely images. I've never visited the White Horse but I love that area (we used to live in Buckinghamshire). The only trouble is the water, so full of chalk! Bleugh!

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  13. Hi Jabblog:
    I thought I left you a comment earlier on today but either you've been too busy to check or I forgot to click the "Post" button -- which I do frequently and it is infuriating. Anyway I commented on the fact that I had never seen the white horse, but had seen many photos. I also commented that it must have been quite a task to fill in the trenches with chalk. Your dogs must have loved their good run in the hills. It is beautiful countryside.

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  14. Oh how Very Vonderful is the Vale of the White Horse! I sure Do see a horse, stylized or pictogram... but I saw it before I even started read your post. What a lovely place to live or spend the day. Super V post!

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  15. A fascinating guess at history. I love the way the horse looks so 'modern'!And I'm fascinated that something was created that could only be seen from the air when no-one ever saw it at the time!

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  16. Fascinating, Janice. My husband happened by when I opened your post and he said "Oh, I just read about that!" What a coincidence. :)

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  17. I have just had a flashback to the past. I remember seeing a big white horse on the side of a hill way back in my childhood. So nice to revisit and finding out a little more about these. Thanks Janice. Beautiful photos of the English countryside.

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  18. Great video of the White Horse and reminder of the
    history of its existence. Perhaps it was just an ancient artist simply wanting to create a memorable sculpture!

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  19. And as the years have gone by the horses developed black spots and shrunk in size. The blood now runds green across the fields. i love folk lore.

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  20. I'm sure that is a cool sight to see! The fields are wonderful! Your dogs looked like they had a good trip too. :)

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  21. What a very interesting post. It is amazing that is was created. Wonderful photos.

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  22. Very interesting, it reminds me of cave paintings of horses.

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  23. incredibly beautiful photos of an amazing place

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  24. What a great feature and a beautiful area.

    Darryl and Ruth : )

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  25. I loved it there when we visited a couple of years ago-it is a magical place. We saw a hare up on the hill bounding around a man in a deck chair in the long grass. I heard a man with a strong yorkshire accent as he walked up the track talking to a very young child, saying, "It was like an ancient motorway..only..they didn't have cars...just horses" Presumably he was referring to the ancient road!

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