The Uffington White Horse – also known as White Horse Hill, lies in the parish of Uffington, Oxfordshire. It is approximately six miles west of Wantage and five miles south of Faringdon.
The Uffington White Horse is a stylised Bronze Age hill figure and is approximately 3000 years old. The oldest hill figure in the country. Situated on the upper slopes of White Horse Hill, it forms part of the scarp of the Berkshire Downs overlooking the Vale of the White Horse.
Constructed from meter deep trenches cut into the hillside and filled with crushed chalk. The hill figure is 110 meters long and therefore dominates the hillside.
Oddly, the Uffington White Horse is best viewed from the air. However the best vantage points from the ground are around the Longcot, Coxwell and Fernham areas.
The most significant nearby feature is Uffington Castle, an Iron Age hill fort with earthwork/ ditch, set above the White horse on the highest point of the scarp. This also marks the highest point in Oxfordshire.
Below the white horse lies Dragon Hill, a small natural chalk hill with a flat top. A good portion of the top of Dragon Hill is bare chalk. Local legend has this as the place where St George slew the dragon. The legend says, the dragons blood soaked in to the top of the hill, consequently the grass there no longer grows.
A few tens of meters to the south and behind the White Horse and Uffington Castle is the Ridgeway National Trail. Dating back over 5000 years to prehistoric times and therefore Britain’s oldest road! The Ridgeway is 87 miles long, starts at Ivinghoe Beacon in Buckinghamshire and ends near Avebury in Wiltshire.
Another feature a mile or so to the west along the Ridgeway is Waylands Smithy. A neolithic chambered long barrow. One of the best preserved and famous in the country. Believed to be older than the pyramids in Egypt, archaeologists have found burials dating back to 3500 BC. Legend has this as the home of Wayland, the Saxon god of metalworking. Another local legend says if you left your horses at the long barrow, each with a piece of silver overnight, they would be freshly shod by Wayland by the morning.
The National Trust owns and manages White Horse Hill and the other features mentioned above, apart from the Ridgeway.
Historically, the horse was “scoured” every few years during fairs and festivals. This maintained the hill figures appearance. Scouring the horse was done regularly. Scouring involved hammering new pieces of chalk to a paste over the chalk surface. This helped preserve and maintain the hill figure. The national trust still holds scouring events regularly to this day.
Visitors to the area who are looking for light refreshments can visit the Uffington Community Cafe as well as many of the other fine pubs, cafe’s and restaurants in the area.