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Uffington White Horse

The Uffington White Horse is a highly stylized figure, 114 metres long, cut into a escarpment of the Berkshire Downs. It is near the Bronze Age Uffington Castle in Oxfordshire on the Ridgeway, 2.4 km south of Uffington village. The cutting exposes the underlying chalk making the horse a striking figure, although it needs frequent work by English Heritage for the figure to remain visible.

The figure has been dated back to the late Bronze Age, around 1000 BC, it has also been attributed to the 5th century AD and the 870s AD. The figure has also been described as a dragon rather than a horse and it is claimed that Saint George fought his dragon below the figure on Dragon Hill. Up until the late 19th century the horse was scoured every seven years as part of a more general local festival. When the regular cleaning was halted the figure quickly became obscured.

In August 2002 the figure was defaced with the addition of a rider and three dogs by members of the Real Countryside Alliance.

The White Horse is near a site of a battle between Alfred the Great of Wessex and the Danes. It was made the centrepiece of G. K. Chesterton's lengthy epic poem about that battle, The Ballad of the White Horse: (excerpt: Book I, ll. 1-17)

Before the gods that made the gods
Had seen their sunrise pass,
The White Horse of the White Horse Vale
Was cut out of the grass.

Before the gods that made the gods
Had drunk at dawn their fill,
The White Horse of the White Horse Vale
Was hoary in the hill.

Age beyond age on British land,
Aeons on aeons gone,
Was peace and war in western hills,
And the White Horse looked on

For the White Horse knew England,
When there was none to know;
He saw the first oar break or bend
He saw heaven fall and the world end
O God, how long ago.