Devizes Millennium White Horse

Newsletter 1 July 2000

A Happy New Millennium to you all!

Many of you helped to create the Devizes Millennium White Horse over that stormy weekend in September but may not have been able to take part in the other events since.

On 21st November, a good gathering of people came up to the site to help plant over 700 wildflower plugs, which we hope, will start to enable Bank field to revert to natural downland pasture. The flowers were also carefully chosen to help to attract southern chalkland butterflies and other flora and fauna to return to the area.

Very sadly, we received news over Christmas that Keith Saunders of Pearce Civil Engineering, died on 23rd December. His funeral was held in Devizes on Wednesday, 5th January 2000. Keith was the prime mover in Pearce's offering us the unparalleled and unstinting help in the construction of the Devizes Millennium White Horse. He was up at the site in all weathers with Vernon Few, the excavator driver, supervising the digging of the horse, until, shortly before completion, he was taken into hospital. He was, however out of hospital for a spell and saw his complete creation proud on the hillside from the boardroom window of Pearce's building. It was with great sorrow that we hear of his passing.

The Managing Director, Peter Dew and Richard Pearce of Pearce Civil Engineering again gave their help towards the ceremony of the Burying of the Time Capsule at noon on 31st December 1999. The capsule and tube tunnel had been donated by Wessex Water. The contents of the capsule had been painstakingly assembled by Rev. Brian Tigwell, retired vicar of St Peters Church, Devizes, Mr John Girvan, our local Blacksmith and amateur historian, John Markwell, our vice chairman and Dr Paul Robinson, curator of Devizes Museum. A list of the contents can be given if so requested, it is certainly all-encompassing.

The Mayor of Devizes, Mr Noel Woolrych and Mr Viv Alexander, Chairman of Roundway Parish Council were invited to the ceremony. Accompanied by committee members, Mr Peter Greed, Chairman of the Devizes Millennium White Horse Project, said a few words to introduce the ceremony and to tell the assembled gathering of local people the sad news of Keith Saunders death.

Rev Brian Tigwell asked for silence to remember Keith and gave a short address, ending with a few beautifully chosen ecumenical prayers and some words of the late King George VI. Keith Saunders widow, Margaret, helped by her son manoeuvred the capsule into the tunnel.

That evening, Pearce Civil Engineering erected 80 spot lights around the outline of the horse and with 4 large generators running all night, they spectacularly illuminated the White Horse from dusk to dawn over the turn of the millennium. During the evening many people came up to the site to see the illuminations and there was a good gathering of people to see in the New Millennium at midnight. That night, even though quite misty, the horse could be seen far and wide by those going to and from their new year celebrations. It could also be seen from the heart of Devizes on the green.

The Floodlit Horse

On 4th February, the committee gave a reception, by courtesy of Sarsen housing association at their premises, to thank all those who have given so much to the project, whether in deeds or donations. Certificates were presented to representatives of the groups, who have done so much towards the project. A video of the construction ran quietly in the background but, nevertheless, caused a lot of interest and Donna, a Cavaliers co-ordinator, had devised a display screen with many photographs and items of interest on it. Some members of the Cavaliers had come from far a field to be with us, which was great.

On 12th April, Peter Greed, John Markwell and Sarah and Alan Padwick were invited to attend the launch of the Wiltshire Tourism's new "White Horse Trail", a 90 mile long distance walk, taking in all (now) 8 of Wiltshires White Horses. The trail was completed and reviewed in "Country Walking Magazine" in March 2000. The walk can be taken in smaller bites, of course. They have produced a very good booklet covering the routes, wayside hostelries and local information, this is priced at 6 and is available by telephoning 01980 623255. Sadly Dot WIlliams, who, from Sarah's first conception of the project, has given so much support and hard work, was unable to be present at this event, towards which she had done so much.

The occasion started with coffee at the Black Horse Inn, Cherhill, where Angela Powell, Tourism Officer for N Wiltshire DC, welcomed everyone and introduced Clive Gunnel of HTV, who launched the trail. In the company of children from Cherhill primary school, everyone walked in pouring rain and sleet up to the Cherhill Horse and back, thereby gaining a healthy appetite for the excellent buffet lunch, which had been laid on back in the pub.

BBC Radio 4 recently recorded a programme in the series "Ramblings with Clare Balding" covering the Battle of Roundway Down, whilst walking the Battle area with Julian Humphries of the National Army Museum. This was of course included our new White Horse. John Markwell met the crew at the Wansdyke and Sarah Padwick at the stile into Bank Field. It is to be broadcast at 14.30 on Sunday 25th June on BBC Radio 4.

On April Fools Day, a prank was played upon the white Horse. It was cleverly done and amusing especially as it did no harm to the horse. Our horse was transformed into a Zebra. Someone (still unknown) fixed rolls of black polythene bin liner bags with 5" galvanised nails in stripes across the chalk horse with a black bowler hat over its ears.

Two senior Cavaliers are hoping, all being well, to walk the Sarsen Trail on the first May Bank Holiday 2001 in aid of the Wiltshire Wildlife Trust. All sponsorship donations for their efforts will be gratefully received by John Markwell and Alan Padwick. More on this later

At the request of Mrs Margaret Saunders and her family, we hope very much, in the near future to erect a memorial seat near the stile into Bank Field by our White Horse, to honour Keith Saunders, who died so sadly on 23rd December 1999. John Girvan is designing an iron seat, which will be embedded in concrete on site by Pearce Civil Engineering. We will let you know the date of this ceremony in due course.

The Way Forward

During the embryo stage of forming a committee to organise and oversee the Devizes Millennium White Horse Project, it was fully appreciated that there were two distinct goals. The construction of the horse and, thereafter, the maintenance of the horse.

At that time, two committee constitutions were envisaged: the construction committee and the Cavaliers' ongoing support group committee. Indeed two constitutions were drawn up with the intention of both having charitable status. An application to the Millennium Lottery Grant had been completed and forwarded. However, with the superb support of the local community and commercial concerns, the committee found itself with little choice but to withdraw from the grant application. This request was made over the telephone and was so unusual a request, that it had to be confirmed in writing!

The construction committee has now completed its task and that committee will cease to exist from 29th September 2000. At this time the Devizes Millennium White Horse Cavaliers support committee will be formed and the present committee is drafting a new constitution for that committee, to be accepted at its inaugural meeting on 29th September, when Officers will be elected by the Cavaliers membership. We will let you know arrangements for this occasion in due course.

Join the Cavaliers of the Devizes Millennium White Horse

If you would like to support this project by becoming a a member of the 'Cavaliers of the Devizes Millennium White Horse'.

Please contact - Donna Hutchinson,
2 Stitchings Lane,
Pewsey, SN9 6LD

Tel : 01672 851104