Anyone approaching the Horse last Friday morning, bright and early, would have got a bit of a shock to find three white suited figures, like a forensic team from “Waking the Dead”, busy up there. No murders or mysteries though – just the County Rangers team spraying the creeping thistle on the body of the horse.

They were just finishing off this difficult task (the surrounding grass is SSSI so there must be no overspray) as I approached across the fields to meet John Hayes with Geoff and Christine Codd to carry out some test ‘digs”.

John had obtained permission from English Heritage to carry out this work to determine just how difficult it will be to cut out the shape. Armed with mattocks and spades we soon found the answer to that question – pretty darned difficult!!

In some places it is turf removal, which can be re-used on some of the bald parts, but in others it is digging out creeping roots in rubble. This was no real surprise to John, who has been leading working parties on the Horse for the past 19 years, and it was certainly no surprise to Paul Critchell who joined us soon after we had started digging.

Paul and Jan Critchell own White Horse farm and therefore own the White Horse itself. And Paul has been actively involved in managing the surrounding grassland for the past 11 years. In fact, if he hadn’t, we would be struggling to see the Horse in a sea of gorse!

At the end of our work and discussion we were all clear that it will be a lot of hard work for our volunteers and that those that John has already lined up will not be enough for this major task. So if you fancy helping out on the Horse in July, then watch this space for a call for volunteers. Do remember though that it is a tough task on a steep slope, and certainly not the thing for those with bad backs, knees etc.!

Before that will be the official marking out, by English Heritage and Ordnance Survey, so if you look out one day and see a painted outline on the hillside, it is not another forensic team at work – but it does show where the “body” lay. And the great news is that unlike the bodies in “Waking the Dead” we really are bringing this one back to life!

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