Letter to Britain : My three favourite White Horses

Letter to Britain : My three favourite White Horses

Within walking distance of the village where I live, is a hill figure called the White Horse of Kilburn. It is a little wonky, and is carved out of the hillside turf, revealing the limestone below, and can be seen for miles around. I learned that there are many more white horses around Britain, with 13 concentrated in the Wiltshire area. I took a driving tour of these horses a few years ago, and found most of them, although some were lost in the undergrowth.

I mapped them out using a website called the Wiltshire White Horses, which unfortunately doesn't seem to exist any longer. 

I've chosen three of my favourites, one in Oxfordshire, one in Wiltshire, and my local, in Kilburn. 

The first one is called the Uffington White Horse, and is in Uffington, (Oxfordshire, SN7 7UK). It is the oldest known in Britain, being constructed in the Bronze Age. It is run by the National Trust and here is the website to view it from the air. As you can see, once you are on the ground, it is hard to get a good photo of it. 

Uffington White Horse chalk hill figure on top of a hill near Oxford, UK

This one is my very favourite (shhh, don't tell Kilburn!), mainly because of its age and style. It is beautifully abstract and flows across the landscape. 

The second one is the Westbury White Horse in Westbury, (Wiltshire, BA13 3EP). While it is located below an Iron Age fort, it wasn't built until the late 1600s. It is run by English Heritage, and here is the website for a little more history.

Westbury White Horse chalk hill figure, near Oxford UK

Information board for the Westbury White Horse hill figure

The third one has to be my local white horse, the Kilburn White Horse, Kilburn, (Thirsk YO61 4AN). It was constructed in 1857, by a local schoolteacher and volunteers. Here is a bit more information on the local town website. It is now under the care of the Forestry Commission, who give it a new whitewash every so often.

Image of the White Horse of Kilburn chalk hill figure, in Kilburn, North Yorkshire, UK

Image of White Horse of Kilburn information plaque

Theories abound as to why they were built, from appeasing the gods to commemorating a battle to one-upmanship. Following the trail in Wiltshire is like a big treasure hunt. There is also a 94 mile walking trail that takes in many of the hill figures.

(Photo credits : all Kimberli Werner)

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