Well today was the second day of the Dorset Army Cadet Force’s help on clearing the gravel from the monument and I learned quite a lot up there on the hillside.

Once again we were lucky with the weather – warm but cloudy. I got up early with good intentions of being up there well before the team arrived, but it somehow didn’t happen like that and they were already lined up by their transport when I arrived at the foot of the slope. This was D Company I learned (Monday had been C Company) and they were from the Poole and Bournemouth area. They very soon had the same shock that everyone has on their first climb up to the horse.  And it was no easier for me, even with a trusty thumb stick…..

There are allegedly many ways to skin a cat, and it seems the same applies to a White Horse. After their briefing from Major John Bradshaw, the morning team decided to tackle the head and neck using a cadet bucket “chain” to shift the gravel down to the bottom of the body. With so many of them in action, it was extraordinary to watch – with the full buckets descending on one line and the empties returning up the other. It worked surprisingly well – assisted by a fair amount of shouting and even some singing.

Meanwhile, up near the King’s body, the organising team assembled to meet any press who might be visiting. In the event it was more of a chance to catch up on the project progress and consider additional methods for removing the gravel as it has now become clear that the Navy helicopter will be tackling the difficult bags at the top. It was great to see the Dorset Echo photographer who arranged us for a photo – and told me off (very nicely) for trying to photograph him photographing us!

By lunchtime, the head and neck were clear and the team were well pleased as they headed off for their lunch and their next activity at Bovington. We walked down and across the bone dry fields where the farmer was haymaking. Home for a quick bite and a look at the morning’s photos – some of which you will see here.

After lunch, I beat the cadets up onto the Horse as they had been delayed by their morning activities. It gave me a chance to talk to one of the volunteers who organise and supervise them. The cadets come from all backgrounds and clearly enjoy the many and varied activities – which is hardly surprising considering the effort and dedication put in by these men and women who seem to give up huge amounts of their spare time. It was quite an eye-opener.

The afternoon team from D Company arrived on the Horse, puffing and gasping at the climb, and were quickly organised into groups. For the first hour they went with the bucket “chain” method but it became clear that bolder tactics were needed for the vast amount of gravel on the body. They returned to the shovelling, scraping and “treading” tactics – helped by the South West breeze which blew most of the dust up and away from us. There was still plenty of it though and all those smart, clean uniforms were caked in dust before long. This was seriously hard work and despite the late start, they shifted a huge amount!

Meanwhile, down below, Major John Bradshaw had arrived with the materials to construct a gravel shute (courtesy of the CO of Chickerell Camp). So if you glance at the Horse and think we are adding an extra leg, then fear not – it is just a clever way to shift a lot of gravel.

All too soon the mini-buses arrived and it was time for off. I felt sorry for the lad who got to the bottom and remembered he had left his beret at the top!
I bet he won’t do that again!

I was also thick with dust by then and headed home, very satisfied with the progress and very impressed indeed with the members of the Dorset ACF.

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