|“Did you doubt us?” asked Nikki Jenkins, deputy scout leader for the Weymouth East Scouts and ‘Houlding’ Explorers, fixing me with a steely glare. “No, of course not!” I lied as I looked in astonishment at the progress they had made on the Horse’s tail since I had left barely a couple of hours earlier. But to be honest, at the start of the day, I really did doubt that they could achieve what they had.
This morning, as I walked across the fields, I thought how appropriate it was that Paul and Jan Critchell’s “White Horse Farm” should be hosting a horse show on the very day we made the final push to complete the cutting out of their own White Horse. But rain was threatened and I knew that this was the steepest part of the hill. And I knew, only too well, that what looks from a distance like an elegant tail, is more like a road up a mountain when you are on it!
Because of the show, I took a different route across the fields and was thinking that the Scouts may well need reinforcements to do this huge job. Then I heard a sound behind me and turned to find that I had some enthusiastic followers in the form of about fifty cattle following me in single file up the slope. I felt a bit like the Pied piper! Sadly they were more interested in food than helping, so I left them at the gate and went on to meet the scouts and Explorers who were arriving from above.
Rangers John Hayes and Nick Tarrier gave the safety briefing to the team, and then they set to work. With a couple of Explorers joining us from across the fields, we ended up with seven Explorers, ten Scouts, Scout Leaders Chris and Nikki Jenkins plus three volunteer parents. And one of those parents was John’s wife Ruth, so watch out for her story in the Echo. Reinforcements did come from the Osmington Society in the form of Teresa and Michael Seall. Teresa is our District Councillor, who has been a champion of the project from the start, and Michael is our Web-master who puts all of my ramblings on the site.
There was no shortage of enthusiasm, but the task was huge. They tried trugs to take the turf and soil down, both by hand and on the ‘fish wagon’ used earlier in the project, and I even tried taking it up to the quarry (a bad idea!), but it came back to the dumpy bag routine. With strict supervision, this proved to be highly effective and so I left them to it as I headed home to process the morning’s photos.
It was while I was away that Web-master Michael came to grief. Now Michael assures me that he is a man who never puts a foot wrong (I’m not sure if Teresa agrees…!), but on this occasion he did and with a ‘twisted’ ankle, had to retire hurt. Not wishing to be a bother, he insisted on walking the ¾ mile down to their car and then was whisked to A&E by Teresa. There he was officially told that he couldn’t walk with a broken ankle and so got plastered. But White Horse folk are made of stern stuff and the fact that you are reading this means he is already back at his post!
So it was when I returned to the Horse after lunch that Nikki tackled me with her question, and I confess that I was very impressed indeed – and even more so by what happened next. They were down to the bottom of the tail, which was now groomed to Royal Navy standard, but the pile of soil was much bigger than it looks in the photos. It included turf and roots too, just to make it a little more difficult, and they would have been forgiven for losing the will to dig – especially as a particularly nasty squall of rain came sweeping in from Portland. But, if anything, they worked even harder as the dust turned to mud and the full trugs stacked up.
Regular readers of this blog will know that these Scouts and explorers can shrug off a little driving, horizontal rain, especially when they have the honour of shaping this historic monument. So they soldiered on with a final effort and then the sun came out, and the job was done – much to the relief of all. After a rapid tidy up, we gathered the team together for a group photo that I think gives some idea of the scale of their achievement. And then they went their various ways – some up the hill and some down and across the fields to home to a well-earned rest.
As I walked home I felt very proud to look back on the completed figure that has been worked on by so many wonderful young folk over the past fourteen months. Among the many who have helped, the Weymouth East Scouts and Houlding Explorers’ name is certainly ‘writ large’ in this history of the Osmington White Horse and I now know that the true answer to Nikki Jenkins’ question at the beginning of my blog is: “Well for a short while I did doubt them – but I never will again!”
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