Wednesday, 24 July 2013
The White Horse at Uffington and more..
It's no secret that I'm a fan of ice-age art, prehistoric sites and our earliest history. All that contributes to the story of the journey that our human species took as we evolved from the tree-dwelling apes to who we are now.
Anything that could be called "Making Us Human".
So as soon as I returned to England from France I set off to search for some local sites that would feed my need to dwell, from time to time, in the past.
Here's the first, The White Horse at Uffingon.
First the Wikipedia bit:
The Uffington White Horse is a highly stylised prehistoric hill figure, 374 feet (110 m) long, cut into the turf of the upper slopes of White Horse Hill in the parish of Uffington, Oxon.
It is located some five miles south of the town of Faringdon and a similar distance west of the town of Wantage. The hill forms a part of the scarp of the Berkshire Downs and overlooks to Vale of White Horse to the north.
We set off walking along The Ridgeway path in search of Wayland's Smithy, a neolithic long barrow and chamber tomb site.
During my two years living in central Brittany I developed a deep love of standing stones, burial chambers, megaliths, menhirs and dolmens. Encountering this unexpected treasure was a real delight, I felt at home instantly...
Wayland's Smithy is one of many prehistoric sites associated with Wayland or Wolund, the Norse and Saxon god of blacksmithing. The name was seemingly applied to the site by the Saxon invaders, who reached the area some four thousand years after Wayland's Smithy was built.
According to legend, a traveller whose horse has lost a shoe can leave the animal and the smallest silver coin (a groat) on the capstone at Wayland's Smithy. When he returns next morning he will find that his horse has been re-shod and the money gone. It is conjectured that the invisible smith may have been linked to this site for many centuries before the Saxons recognized him as Wayland. The Ancient Britons may have been accustomed to making votive offerings to a local god. (Wikipedia again)
Around the burial mound there are majestic beech trees.
Being somewhat of a tree-hugger and having suffered recently from withdrawal symptoms due to an absence of arboreal adventures, I couldn't resist lying under a tree and gazing, in silent admiration, up into it's branches.
Isn't this the most amazing view of a tree?
Can you imagine climbing up into that leafy, green canopy?
I spent most of my childhood sitting in trees and a great deal of my adulthood wondering if I had grown too old to climb them again.
This is the Ridegway National Trail
The Ridgeway National Trail, 87 miles (139km) through ancient landscapes. Over rolling, open downland to the west of the River Thames, and through secluded valleys and woods in The Chilterns to the east, following the same route used since prehistoric times by travellers, herdsmen and soldiers.
Back to the White Horse. As a group of volunteers with yellow buckets were earnestly cleaning the horse to our right, we could hear the commentary of a nearby horse show broadcast on loud speakers.
It seemed very fitting somehow that the White Horse should have a 'seat in the stalls' as flesh and blood horses performed on a grassy stage.
There is a great deal to explore along The Ridgeway. We only dipped our inquisitive toes in the shallow water of this special place. One day, before I return to Brittany, it would be nice to walk its length. I am making plans...