I will not record the words that came into my head when John Hayes told me over the phone that the planned work on the Horse was going ahead. I did mention to him though that the hill was invisible under a bank of cloud and that the rain was horizontal……..

And I was definitely not alone in my misgivings, as when I approached the Horse, I saw no company of Army Cadet volunteers, but just three Rangers – John, Nick and Elliott, hard at work. The Cadets had indeed arrived, but an assessment by the instructors had found it pretty much a non-starter in such conditions (rain, wind and mud) and so they had to reluctantly call it off.

So that just left the four of us – until the “cavalry” arrived in the form of Peter Addison (from English Heritage you will remember) plus wife Jo and son George.
Now they might have looked a little wary as they descended the Horse’s body using the safety rope, but that didn’t last for long. Of course they were up for some serious work, they said, and by heavens, they certainly proved it!

John had decided that some scalpings on one of the back legs just had to be moved before we lifted the turf, and Jo volunteered to do the shoveling – indeed she had grabbed a shovel and was off before the rest of us had decided very much. In the event we soon had a great system going and it only took the six of us men to keep up with her!

In practice this meant shifting the full trugs onto Elliott’s improvised fish wagon and hauling it up the muddy slope, before carrying it the final distance up the steep slope to the quarry “tip”. Today we had the benefit of a little technology to help us as Ranger Sean had been over, early on, to set up a pulley and lock knot (learned from his tree surgery work). This meant that instead of hauling directly on the rope, we could ‘walk” down a small sheep path with it, and thus haul up the wagon. This was lucky, as the wagon wheels grew larger and larger (and harder to pull) in the mud.

What started as appalling weather soon began to improve. Suddenly we could see Portland and the brightness from the west began to spread. Waterproofs were shed down on the Horse’s leg and soon Jo was well ahead of us with the filled trugs. I went down to take a few pictures but I have to confess that by the time I got back up to the rope gang, I was beginning to feel I had had enough. Peter came up to join us and gamely (or was it rashly?) volunteered to unload the trugs and empty them. So while we pulled, he carried hundreds of kilos of scalpings up the steep slope until the job was done.

The weather was improving all the time, but we decided to conserve energy for tomorrow and began to clear up soon after 1.00pm. I confess that I thought this an excellent decision and walked home in some welcome sunshine.

Luckily more words came into my head – printable this time – so I sat down to write these Blogs……and think about tomorrow, when we will do it all over again!!

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