Monday, June 4, 2012

Hike to White Horse Hill

The White Horse, on the left third of the photo
We live in a region of Oxfordshire called The Vale of the White Horse, after the Bronze Age chalk figure carved into a hill overlooking the valley. It is the oldest chalk figure in the country, some 3,000 years old. Our village of Longcot has a perfect view on a clear day. We are surrounded by all these modern conveniences–cars, electricity, plumbing–with this constant reminder of the ancient past. No one knows exactly who carved the figure, or why, but it must have been an important religious or cultural symbol. It makes me feel part of a human continuum, here in this little valley surrounded by green hills. 

I’ve now lived here for almost four months (!) and have yet to actually visit the site. It’s one of the pitfalls of being a local and not a tourist–you don’t make an effort to see the interesting things closest to you, because you assume you have all the time in the world. We finally went exploring and hiked to the base of White Horse Hill. It took us a bit longer than we expected, as the footpaths through the fields were quite muddy, and we weren’t able to make it all the way to the top. We’ll save that for another day. It took us two hours to go more than 5 miles, from our cottage to the White Horse Inn, a 16th century pub at the hill’s base, and back. Our plan next time is to start from the Inn, make the ascent, and then return to the pub where we will reward ourselves with lunch–the carrot in front of the (white) horse so to speak (sorry, couldn’t resist!)

The view from our village–the White Horse is clear and visible on a sunny day, at the very top of the hill. A 3,000-year-old white, squiggly line.


Old and new: a hang-glider soars over the White Horse

Ta-da! Next time: the top.

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