|“Are they coming?” I asked John Hayes as I stood in the field squinting through the horizontal rain. I had not phoned before I left the house, as I knew he would be up for it whatever the weather, but now I had my doubts as I looked up at a deserted White Horse from the field below.
“Yes of course” John said, “They are on their way”. “Oh good” I said, though to be honest I didn’t really mean it – but that was before I met Chris and Nikki Jenkins with their team made up from the Weymouth East Scouts and the “Houlding” Explorers.
They were already cascading down the Horse when I arrived at the bottom and by the time I joined them, John was well into his briefing. Despite the weather, they were enthusiastic – and I soon found out why. The White Horse is the logo they use for the Scout Troup and Explorer Unit and it is very close to their hearts.
And today they had the honour of making history by shaping, or at least re-shaping the leg that we had been clearing up yesterday. They did have some help though, as Countryside Rangers John and Nick were there, together with Sean on his day off. Geoff and Christine Codd were there too, and we were even joined by Peter Addison again – alone this time – I wonder why!!
Between us we tackled the “front back leg” and what a tough task it was. The turf we needed for the revetments (okay – wooden shuttering) had to be hacked from the rubble and and the large quantity of overspill stones, carefully raked from the hillside grass. It seemed like the trugs full of stone just multiplied despite the best efforts of the hauling team – but by sheer muscle power, they got it shifted. The weather improved and waterproofs were quickly shed – until we spotted a storm coming across the bay. For a moment, I thought we were going to be lucky as the vast dark cloud suddenly veered away from us – but then another appeared from over the hill, so we got wet anyway!
The Scouts and explorers gave a superb demonstration of teamwork with ideas flowing thick and fast about how best to tackle the spoil removal. With a small team they achieved an amazing amount and as usual, between bouts of serious mattocking, I found a few moments to chat. I learned that the Weymouth East Scout troop, who meet at Scutt (yes Scutt!) Hall in Sutton Poyntz number over forty and at 14 years old (ish) they move up to become “Houlding Explorers”. There are currently fifteen in this unit, which has adopted the Houlding name in honour of one Theo Houlding, an avid international explorer and all-round great guy.
After a brief break for lunch, we were joined by two more Explorers, and the work rate continued unabated. While Geoff and Christine relentlessly cut and carried turf from the front leg, John and I filled the revetments and the Scout/Explorer team relentlessly shifted gravel. By the end of the afternoon, the leg and hoof were revealed and we were able to rake some of the natural limestone down to clearly define its shape. The Rangers had laid on a water supply, so we were able to give the turf a good soaking before we were finally done.
It had been a great day and as Chris and Nikki took their team up the hill homeward for a well earned rest, Geoff, Christine and I walked down across the fields. Looking back to the Horse we could see the leg and the hoof clearly showing the excellent work that had been done. And it was nice to think that these Scouts and Explorers had followed in a long standing tradition – I know of one 90 year old – my wife Liz’s uncle Angus – who was up there cleaning the Horse as a Scout in the 1930’s. The only question now is whether these modern day Scouts will have to update their White Horse logo to show the impressive result of their work……….
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