Well it is official – as the Dorset Echo has reported, some 204 years after it was created to honour King George III, the Osmington White Horse has finally received the “Royal seal of approval” from HRH The Princess Royal.

When Geoff and Christine Codd had been organizing the Princess’ visit to celebrate the creation and restoration of the White Horse, they had tried to cover every eventuality. Tents were kindly loaned by St Mary’s school, Puddletown and the Army Cadet Force to give protection from wind and rain, but there remained the one thing that could call a halt to the proceedings – fog. And what did we look out on as we opened the curtains on the 12th March? FOG!

We are an optimistic bunch though, so even as we set up the equipment, and guests and spectators arrived in the chilly damp field, we just thought it would ‘burn off’ in plenty of time.  Things at the Royal end were a little more stressed however, as the helicopter was fogged in and couldn’t even collect them.  So the timetable got pushed back – eventually by an hour and a half – but it really didn’t matter at all.

I had the TV and DVD player set up to show a three-minute video of the project and quite a few folk were able to watch that. The BBC and ITV had teams there as well as the Echo and Western Daily Press, so there were quite a few photos and interviews and the ITV reporter even had time to be taken up to the foot of the Horse to get a new angle (about 30 degrees) on the proceedings. The rest of us just talked amongst ourselves until we got word that she was due in a few minutes, at 1.00pm.

If you have difficulty viewing this video, please click here.

I have to say that it was a genuine thrill as the Royal helicopter appeared over the Horse and even more so as it landed with its polished maroon livery glinting in the sun.  Then Princess Anne emerged to be greeted by Mrs Anthony Pitt-Rivers, Lord-Lieutenant of Dorset and to be introduced first to various local dignitaries, and then to Geoff Codd, her host for the visit.

My video slideshow (which you can see here) set the ball rolling with a brief overview of the restoration on the hill featuring just some of the enthusiastic volunteers who had made it possible.  The Princess, followed by Mrs Anthony Pitt-Rivers, then went on to meet members of the Restoration Group, The Osmington Society, The Dorset Countryside Rangers, Ordnance Survey, Natural England, English Heritage and Aggregate Industries – all of whom had been crucial to the project.

Next Geoff introduced her to our other guests including Mary Kempe, a direct descendent of the original landowner, and the parents of the late Elliot Green, who had worked so hard on the restoration. Then it was time to meet representatives of the Army Cadet Force, The Royal Engineers, The Royal Navy, PGL Holiday Camps, Thomas Hardye School and finally the Weymouth east Scouts and Houldings Explorers.

The White Horse had certainly risen to the occasion and was positively glowing in the sunshine as Princess Anne and Geoff Codd headed for the engraved stone plaque. Although it will eventually be mounted on a stone plinth in the planned viewing point on White horse Hill, for this event the plaque was on an impressive wooden plinth made by Mark ‘Scratch’ Scotchmer, our resident cabinet maker. And for the unveiling, it was covered by a wonderful piece of fabric that my wife Liz had bought many years ago, thinking it would come in handy. It did – especially with some tassels that she had borrowed from a cushion.  The Princess said that she approved!

It was a proud moment for Geoff Codd when, with the White Horse as a backdrop, he formally welcomed Princess Anne and invited her to unveil the plaque to celebrate the occasion on behalf of her great, great, great, great Grandfather (to which she replied “Ancester will do!”).  I am pleased to report that this process went very smoothly – the fabric slid off (with a little help from Geoff) and the plaque on its fine plinth was revealed! Princess Anne was clearly very impressed and said so. She paid tribute to the achievement by the many volunteers and remarked that even in our world of technology, some things just need hard work. She was also delighted that this superb landmark would be ready in time for the Olympics.

Then it was time to go and as her helicopter took off and the crowd waved, no one was in any doubt that the Osmington White Horse did indeed have  the “Royal seal of approval”. And for those lucky enough to meet her, it was an occasion they would never forget.

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