Follow the brown signs
This is the view from above the White Horse Hill in Uffington, Oxfordshire. Apart from deserving the Random Brown Sign of the Day accolade for it’s gorgeous views over the beautiful Oxfordshire countryside, having an excellent quirky name and being over 3000 years old, this horsey hill also holds a special place in my heart.
In a former life as a travelling marketing consultant I spent many hours in my car driving all over the south of England listening to radio 4 and audio books which, needless to say, started getting a little bit depressing. In order to combat the monotonous hideousness I used to turn off the road whenever I saw a brown sign to help me engage with where I was and to feel like I’d done something more with my day than talk about a company brand I didn’t care about and get annoyed with the Afternoon Play. I lived in Oxford at the time and as much as I love discovering new places I found myself turning off at the brown sign for Uffington White Horse on the way home again and again. I’d park at the bottom of the hill and walk up to the horse’s big head and admire the views. It’s windy up there and one day I thought I’d buy myself a kite to fly (I hadn’t done this since I was 8), so feeling like a bit of an idiot (luckily there weren’t too many people around) I put my kite together and after a few failed attempts (running desperately down the hill to retrieve my tangled and flapping kite) I started to get quite good.
I remember times sitting up there when I was completely alone, with just the sky larks singing and the huge white horse behind me, and as much as I hated my job and knew I’d have to get back to it pretty soon, it just made everything a little bit better to be there.
White Horse Hill is owned by the National Trust but it’s free to visit. There’s a lot of information about archaeological finds and discoveries from various digs up there over the years and it’s something the locals are very proud of. Every few years a troop of volunteers get together to maintain the horse and give it a good old spring clean, clearing the debris and packing new chalk where it’s been weathered. Here is some of the history about it taken from the National Trust website:
The internationally-renowned Uffington White Horse can be seen for miles away leaping across the head of a dramatic dry valley in the Ridgeway escarpment. But this is only part of the unique complex of ancient remains that are found at White Horse Hill and beyond, spreading out across the high chalk downland. The stylised form of the White Horse, an icon of the English landscape, has been a subject of discussion since the 17th century. Written records date back to the 12th century but do not give proof of the Horse’s age or why it was there. The mystery of why the horse was created still remains. It can only be seen fully from the air, so perhaps it was a sign to the ancient gods, or a mark of territorial ownership.
I love that fact that no-one really knows why the white horse is there or what motivated our ancestors to build it over 3000 years ago. It’s unbelievable how this highly stylised gigantic chalk horse was designed and marked out and can only to be viewed properly from afar. It intrigues me but to be honest I quite want the Uffington White Horse to keep it’s secrets, it’s enough for me that it’s just there, bounding across the ridge way behind you as you fly your kite or have a picnic or simply stand and admire the lovely views listening to the birdsong on a sunny day.
*Punches chest* Oh how I miss you Uffington White Horse.