Well Monday the 26th July was a busy day indeed!

Phil met me at 8.00am to discuss the photography and then headed off to the main road for some distant photos. Mark arrived soon after and we walked across the fields to wait for the Cadets to arrive. Somehow I was imagining Land Rovers and ten ton army trucks, but the Warrior 4×4’s and white minibuses still managed to look the part as they crossed the fields in convoy.

The cattle were very impressed too – they had clearly been waiting for something and stampeded after the vehicles in great excitement. They were clearly puzzled when the vans contained cadets not food, and were more so when they found a very smart Colonel giving them their marching orders – which they obeyed!

Looking at the White Horse from the main road, or even from across a couple of fields does not give any impression of just how steep it is. The officers, cadets and photographers soon found out though. It is indeed a stiff climb and all my attempts at video were marred by the sound of heavy breathing…….

A brief rest at the summit and then an inspired briefing from Major John Bradshaw got everyone in the mood. And it was relatively easy to start with – raking the gravel and filling buckets and trugs. Even filling the bags on the  shallow slope of the head was not too bad (well it didn’t look it from where I was sitting!). There can be few finer places to work (or sit) with a pleasant warmth and magnificent views. The cadets (and the officers) rose to the occasion and bags were steadily filled until the first shift was over at lunchtime.

I headed home to my computer to check out some of the morning’s work and then, after some brief refreshment, made my way back across the fields from my house. I could already see the change in colour on the king’s head and the afternoon team were swinging into action as I neared. And was the second climb of the day any easier? No! I did approach from a different angle though and was able to get some photos of the team working on the skyline.

Early in the afternoon shift, the Sergeant Major arrive with a slight change of plan. Rather than fill the bags on the steepening slope, they would rake the gravel down the slope to fill the bags at the bottom. Although it saved all the bucketing, it was very hard and dusty work with raking, shovelling and “walking” the loose gravel down. The sun came out and the temperature rose, making regular stops for water and squash essential for all involved. The plan worked though – and by the end of the shift, the king’s head and body looked significantly better. Also, another team had worked on the horse’s rump and a large area of that was cleared.

My 7 year old Godson arrived on the horse (back from a day on the beach) just as the afternoon team were heading home. He was proud to stand on the “eye”and survey the progress made in such a short time – and so was I!

I had managed to collect a fair bit of the dust myself during the afternoon, so home for a beer and shower (in that order). Then later, I sat down to edit the photos and try to put them on to the Flickr account. Let’s say that I just about managed…..by about half past midnight!

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