Viewing Point opening ceremony photos here

It now seems a very long twelve months since Princess Anne came to White Horse Farm to celebrate the restoration of the Osmington White Horse. No sooner was that over, than our thoughts returned to the final task that had been at the back of our minds for some time, namely the construction of a public View Point so that all could enjoy our newly restored monument. However, having had several false starts trying to agree a suitable spot with local landowners, we were becoming very frustrated by our lack of success.

It was at this point that Paul and Jan Critchell offered an old reservoir site near the road but, on advice from ‘Highways’ and our Royal Engineer friends, we had to decline that helpful offer.  They then offered an area adjacent to their farm entrance. I initially felt that it was not ideal, due to the shared access with the farm, but they pointed out that cars often stopped in the entrance to the farm anyway, and that having a View Point car park would be advantageous for everyone.

So far so good, but what about funding?  Some funds remained from the Natural England funding of the monument restoration, but that was only available if fully utilised before the end of September. We also realised that further significant funding would still be needed, together with considerable volunteer time and effort, if we were to complete the project within the tight time scales imposed by the Natural England deadline.

The next few months were taken up with the bureaucratic hurdles associated with the ‘Highways’ and ‘Planning’ processes. At times I found it difficult to keep in mind that they were simply doing their job, and not being awkward, but eventually all was amicably agreed and we were cleared to proceed. In the meantime, canvassing for help and for further funding had become urgent, because without further resources the project was not viable and we couldn’t commit to anything.

During the following months, Ian Drummond – CO at Wyke Regis RE Training Unit –  facilitated Royal Engineers help with the construction, David Crowhurst facilitated a County Council grant of £10,000, Albion Stone donated Portland Stone for the information plinth, AONB gave a grant of £1.000, and WDDC a grant of £1,036 which, together with Natural England funding of £11,500, provided total funding of £23,536.  We were at last ready to commit.

Given the tight time scale, there was not sufficient time to negotiate a formal tenure agreement for the site, so the project proceeded on the basis of the good will and trust that existed on all sides. There were two main tasks – firstly for the RE to construct the car park, which would then need surface contouring, fencing, hedge planting, and the building of an information plinth, and secondly the grading and resurfacing of a new combined entrance for the View Point and White Horse Farm.

With the funding deadline only weeks away, the Royal Engineers constructed the car park with much help and advice from yours truly, and from Paul Critchell who devoted much time to ensuring that materials were scheduled efficiently and that advice and help were available.  Later, Fenia Vitali from PGL organised much needed help with wheel barrowing crushed limestone, and a group of village volunteers planted the hedging and barrowed more limestone and top soil to finish off.

The Lord Lieutenant had earlier agreed to formally open this new facility for us, and so confident were we that we had provisionally agreed a date in November. However, our plans were thrown into confusion when – out of the blue – the electricity distribution company declared that the car park could not be used because of the height of the overhead cables. After much anxiety and pleading of our case, the company decided to lay the cable underground, and Paul worked with them to ensure that this was done without adversely affecting our new car park area. Finally, the information plinth was built by Paul, who also completed the erection of the fencing and gates to finish off the project.

And as we subsequently prepared for HM Lord Lieutenant to come and open our new View Point on 12th March 2013, we reflected on some of the emotional challenges that had come our way over the past year, such as when the farm was effectively blockaded over several crucial hours, due to View Point construction activities. Such upsetting incidents must surely have caused Paul and Jan to doubt the wisdom of their offer of this facility in the first place.

I was of course also highly conscious of those who had shared our conviction about the worthwhile nature of this final project, and who had backed us to the tune of over £23,500. We also felt deeply indebted to all those who had contributed in excess of 2,040 volunteer hours in the construction of the View Point alone, and of course to Paul and Jan Critchell whose generous offer of a site made it all possible.

Geoff Codd

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