The Ridgeway

Here are some touristy photos of the Ridgeway, Uffington White Horse,Uffington Castle, and Wayland's Smithy.

The Ridgeway is one of Britain's most ancient roads. As its namesuggests, it differs from most modern roads in that it runs along a ridge ofhills. Originally it would probably have been used for driving sheep, andso on; above the surrounding land for much of the way, it avoided thedangerous forests below. The Ridgeway has been in continuous use for aslong as anyone knows. You can walk along it and indeed camp on it -- whichI did when I was a teenager.

On or near the Ridgeway are numerous prehistoric sites. The highestconcentration is around Uffington, with Uffington White Horse, UffingtonCastle, and Wayland's Smithy.

I provide some archaeological information below.

First, here's theWhite Horse as I didn't see it and as you won't either: the way it appearsfrom above.

I'm grateful to Dr Mark Hows for hispermission to use this image from his excellent page on UffingtonWhite Horse.
[horse as seen from a helicopter]

My own pictures (below) are pretty feeble. Blame me forunimaginativeness, poor composition, deviations from the level, etc. But"the bad workman always blames his tools": the awful camera I used for most of these photos (insummer '98) gave me very little control over exposure and none overfocus.

[horse from afar]Approaching UffingtonWhite Horse from the car park. The horse is at the horizon in the photo onthe left; we can see its two rear legs and the underside of itstorso.[sheep][sheep]
[horse foreshortened][horse foreshortened]The horse from closeto its head. We see much of its head, including one whisker and its eye,and at least part of three of its legs. (As for the sloping horizon, I'dlike either to say it was deliberate or to blame it on the camera -- butneither would be true.)
Afront hoof and its leg, and an enigmatic bit of the WhiteHorse.[leg shot][anatomy test]
[the Manger][the Manger, dark]Attractive scallop ofland ("the Manger") just in front of and below the horse .. . and the ame again, dramatically dark. It's underexposed simplybecause the sky fooled the exposure meter (and I forgot to provide thecompensation that the camera allows). This is one of several photographshere that I've digitally doctored somewhat -- it looked even more ominousbefore. (The reddish blur on the right is not a mystical aura or UFO butjust a lens reflection.)
Uffington Castle, an earthwork closeto the White Horse. The castle is surrounded by a wall that's surroundedby a ditch. Here we're looking inward from the outside. Note again thereddish blur in the foreground -- a lens hood would have helped. AndUffington Castle, from outside the ditch.[outside looking in][Uffington Castle]
The Ridgeway, onthe way to Wayland's Smithy. [theRidgeway][the Ridgeway][the Ridgeway][the Ridgeway]
[Wayland's Smithy] [Wayland's Smithy]

These five (left and below) show the front of "Wayland's Smithy".
[Wayland's Smithy] [Wayland's Smithy] [Wayland's Smithy]
[Wayland's Smithy] [Wayland's Smithy]
Wayland's Smithy viewed from the back, one side of it viewed from the rear, the other side viewed from the front.
[Wayland's Smithy]
Up toward UffingtonCastle from the Ridgeway, and along the Ridgeway on the way back to White Horse hill.[up toward Uffington Castle from the Ridgeway][the Ridgeway]
[White Horse hill from below]
[White Horse hill from below] White Horse hill from below.

One year later (late August '99), I returned. The camera was abetter model this time around, and I was in excellent company -- but unfortunatelyit was late in a very overcast day. . . .
[Uffington White Horse][Uffington White Horse][the Manger][Dragon Hill]

You see the horse'swhiskers, three of the horse's legs, the Manger, and Dragon Hill.

Uffington White Horse is about three thousand yearsold, making it by far the oldest of Britain's chalk hill figures as wellas the most beautiful and -- since it can only be viewed properly from ahelicopter -- mysterious.

The other chalk horses are mostly about two hundred years oldand some are a lot newer. Of the older hill figures, the Cerne Giant is particularly remarkable. (Sensitive young ladies should not take thatlink.)

The horse was made by digging trenches and filling these with chalk. Olderphotographs show the horse with slightly narrower or fatter lines, but thepositions of these lines has not been changed.

The horse needs and gets regular maintenance. If you visit it, pleasedon't walk on it or closer to it than the fences imply.

The Manger is naturally made, by glacier erosion during the last iceage. However, the terrace on one side is the result of intensive plowingduring medieval times (before the Black Death). Its name derives fromthe belief that the White Horse comes here to feed at night.

Dragon Hill, so improbably symmetrical as to resemble a richEnglishman's folly re-creation of Mt Fuji, is thought to be a naturalchalk outcrop shaped by man. St George is said to have slain the dragonon top, and the seepage of the dragon's blood is what has poisoned theearth and presented grass from growing at the top.

Uffington Castle hill fort (about three hectares) is around 2700 yearsold. It is an earthwork, surrounded by a wall, then a ditch, and then alower wall. It originally had wooden fortifications; these were laterreplaced by stones (which also are long gone). In historical times theCastle has been used for fairs, sometimes in connection with the WhiteHorse.

Wayland's Smithy is over a kilometre west of Uffington White Horse. Theoriginal mound dates back five thousand years, but in neolithic timesthe mound was enlarged and sarsen stones were placed in front. Accordingto local legend, a horse left there overnight would be shod by Wayland.

derived most of the information here from the excellentnotice -- dating from 1993 or later -- placed next to the WhiteHorse. My thanks to the anonymous writer(s).
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