28 August 2017

Westbury White Horse / Bratton White Horse

LocationBratton, Wiltshire, UK
OS Grid RefST898516
CoordinatesLat: 51.263464N Long: 2.147571W

Tradition has it that the original white horse on this site was cut to commemorate King Alfred's defeat of Guthrun in 879. However, the earliest mention seems to be by the Reverend Wise in his 1742 book "Further Observations on the White Horse and other Antiquities in Berkshire".[1]

The present version of this hill figure was cut in 1778 by the steward of Lord Abingdon [2]. With concrete added to hold the edging stones in place during the early twentieth centure, the horse was finally totally covered in concrete in the 1950s and again in 1990s. In 2012 the horse was steam cleaned and repainted for the Queen's Diamond Jubilee [3].

I feel that the ambience at this well used site is wonderful. There often tend to be families enjoying the white horse and the field opposite the car park. It seems to be a good site for hang gliders and there's often the chance for an ice cream too!

[1] https://www.wiltshirewhitehorses.org.uk/westbury.html
[2] https://history.wiltshire.gov.uk/community/gettimeline.php?community=Wiltshire
[3] http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-wiltshire-17714006

The viewpoint.

A typical scene for this well used site.

Access is via the car park. There is a stile to get over and the ground can be uneven. Not suitable for pushchairs or wheelchairs. There is a bench close to the horse.

Additionally there is a viewpoint of the horse at the car park located on the B3098 between Westbury and Bratton (ST884516). If you turn to the left on the Street View, you will be able to see the car park.

Street View (View of the horse from the B3098 viewpoint car park)

Street View (View of access to the horse from the car park at the White Horse location)

See my Westbury White Horse page on Megalithic.com for lots of links and maps and nearby sites, click here.

21 August 2017

Kilburn White Horse

LocationKilburn, North Yorkshire, UK
OS Grid RefSE516813
CoordinatesLatitude: 54.224828N Longitude: 1.210053W

Kilburn White Horse.
In 1857 this hill figure was cut into the hillside on the initiative of Thomas Taylor, who had found inspiration from the white horses of Wiltshire and Uffington. It was completed in November 1857 by Taylor's friend, school master John Hodgson, his pupils and local volunteers.

The horse was created by removing topsoil to get to the underlying rock and then covering it with limestone chips. There was no endowment to scour the horse and it has nearly been lost many times. In 1925 there was a campaign in the Yorkshire Evening Standard which allowed the renewal of the horse. A memorial in the car park says: "The Kilburn "White Horse" This figure was cut in 1857 on the initiative of Thomas Taylor, a native of Kilburn in 1925 a restoration fund was subscribed by the readers of the Yorkshire Evening Post and the residue of £100 was invested to provide for the triennial grooming of the figure"

These days the restoration of the horse is managed by the White Horse Association charity and local farmers.

Memorial to the 1925 restoration of the white horse.

A view from the horse.

A closer look at the material used to fill the horse.

Google Street View

For more information check out the Hows website Here
See Kilburn White Horse page on Megalithic.com for lots of links and maps, click here.

18 August 2017

Tree Flowers: August 2017: Handkerchief Tree

A quick note before I delve into this post: This is a continuation of last year's 'Tree Flowers' series. I have ME, which is a fluctuating condition. This means that I have periods of very low activity due to pain, fatigue, and a bunch of other pointless symptoms that ruin my day. Unfortunately I wasn't able to finish the 2016 series in one go, but I'm hoping that I can continue it here. The previous Tree Flowers post was July 2016: Vine-Leaved Full Moon Maple, which can be read here.


The handkerchief tree, or dove tree, is the only member of the Davidia genus and has the specific epithet of involucrata. Looking in my RHS Latin for Gardener's book, I find that this roughly means "bracts surrounding several flowers". This is exactly how the flowers are displayed on the tree, which tends to be April - May in the UK.

The actual flowers resemble a ball and the whole cluster is small compared to the unequally-sized bracts that hang around them.

With the bracts being so large, the tree, while fully hardy, does need protection from the wind. I've seen plenty of these structures on the ground well before their use-by date - which is how I came to have the one above, which allowed me to take close up photographs in the comfort of home.

The bracts start life green, then over time become the showy white structures that we enjoy seeing. The bracts can take a while to achieve their full size, the longest of the pair can become around 20cm in length.

I do not know of any use for the tree other than the showing of the handkerchiefs. If growing this species, it's worth knowing that it can take up to 20 years to reach maturity and flower. This will depend on growing condition and the climate the individual is grown in.

In one of my favourite gardens to visit, The Courts, Wiltshire, the handkerchief tree is somewhat protected by a large hedge. But I've never seen it put on a fantastic display of handkerchiefs and thought a few flowers dotted around may be the norm. Then, this year (2017), I saw a tree with an amazing display - this is the photo below. I now think that it's possible that the hedge is too close as it's seems the handkerchief tree doesn't like competition.

More, David, and John White. Illustrated Trees of Britain and Northern Europe. London, UK: A&C Black, 2012.

Harrison, Lorraine, and The Royal Horticultural Society. RHS Latin for Gardeners: Over 3,000 plant names explained and explored. London: Mitchell Beazley, 2012.

01 August 2017

Book Review: The Cabaret of Plants by Richard Mabey

When I first saw this book, I thought it was going to be the average book where the author picks a bunch of plants assigns 20 pages to each regardless of whether there are 20 pages worth of interest. But then I started reading the book and remembered why Richard Mabey is held in such high esteem. He's not an average author, so I shouldn't have expected an average book.

The book is split into 7 sections, each with chapters that speak about either individual species, individual plants, or ideas that were inspired by plants. The sections and chapters are uneven in length according to what the author wanted to say. Excellently, the book isn't just a grouping of facts, but as Mabey has built up a lifetime of experience around plants, there is an autobiographical element to the book that is cleverly weaved into the fabric of the plants.

From the Fortingal Yew to cultivation, from Newton's Apple to the Fern Craze; this book inspires the reader to not only find out more, but to get out and be amongst plants. On the television programme 'Parks and Recreation' the character Ron Swanson says "I also think it's pointless for a human to paint scenes of nature when they can go outside and stand in it". I don't totally agree because there are times when I've been stuck inside ill for periods of time and artwork - whether written (like this book), drawn, or painted - have been a lifeline. But, I agree with the sentiment. I personally felt that this book was telling me the same thing. I could read about plants as much as I like, but the people - botanists, explorers, artists - described in this book were out in nature.

I've felt the pull of the outdoors more than ever in the past few months and have found places close enough to the car to be accessible. This book and my 9 month old child are both partly responsible to encouraging this return to the wild!

I had to speed read the last 50 pages as it's reserved at the library. I would have liked to spend more time with this book as there's so much in it. I hope the next reader enjoys it as much as I did.