Well I guess it was inevitable really.  I mean when John Hayes looked at the two back legs yesterday – one pristine and ‘ship shape’ and the other littered with stones washed down by the recent rains, he was just going to have to make the ‘front back leg’ a priority. And by the time I joined the Rangers and the lads of 702 Squadron R.N.A.S on the hill it was sorted – the legs were already matching and probably as ‘groomed’ as they have ever looked in their 203 year history!The lads were, in fact, relaxing by picking stones from the hillside below the horse when I arrived, before the gruelling hard work on the back front leg started. And when it did start, it was as tough as anything we have tackled so far on this project. The reasons for this was that soil and turf had to go up – to cover the rather too-visible material that had been spread in the quarry behind the King’s back – and the stone had to go a long way down to the bottom of the hill.

Now the Royal Navy is world renowned for their gun team displays at the at the Royal Military Tattoo, but I think that ‘Hauling the Turf’ might just qualify as a future spectacle. Their task was to haul about a quarter of a tonne of turf and soil, in a dumpy bag, diagonally up a 30 degree slope and I think the photos will give you an idea of the effort involved by the combined Royal Navy/Countryside Ranger team. And then there was ‘Hauling the Gravel’ – where even heavier dumpy bags were pulled down the hill for spreading, followed by the weary climb back.

I had left them to it after the first turf haul (I had to check my photos was my excuse!) but I gather there were three more turf hauls, and countless gravel runs before mid afternoon when I got back. To say that they looked pretty exhausted would be an understatement, but they didn’t let up. I did join in for a bit of shoveling, but I know my limitations, and didn’t volunteer to take a handle on the bag!

So as they headed back to base at the end of two days, we have two superbly groomed and shaped back legs, a ‘polished’ boot and major progress on the back front leg. The lads of 702 Squadron will be back on Monday but were due for a well-earned rest on Friday – fixing helicopters back at their Yeovilton base!

Click thumbnails for larger image