Mr Steve checks out two very ancient sites
JJ Note: These are two sites I am very keen to have a look at, with the White Horse one I have passed countless times in the car but never stopped to have a look.
When our annual day of stifling heat came around again last week I thought it only fair that this year I generously shut down Mr Steve’s Mansion and allow the servants to have the day off (without pay).
Where could I go to keep myself entertained?
Well, many years ago I had walked around the famous White Horse which is carved into the hillside at Uffington ,(to the east of Swindon, north of the M4), however I hadn't taken any photos so there was a good reason to go back plus I wanted to see another site close- by which I have never visited before.
How old this horse is has been debated for many years; is it Bronze Age or even prehistoric? Was it carved by Alfred to commemorate his victory at Ethendun over the Danes or is it just a Victorian folly.
The only things we have that might help is a mention in the medieval Welsh book The Red Book of Hergest (1375–1425)
“Near to the town of Abinton there is a mountain with a figure of a stallion upon it and it is white. Nothing grows upon it."
Also a Roll from Abingdon Abbey compiled between 1072 and 1084, refers to "mons albi equi" at Uffington ("the White Horse Hill").
Finally the analysis of soil taken from the figure in the 1990’s dated to the Late Bronze Age.
After taking a few photos of the horse I started walking to the next site which is called Wayland’s Smithy but on the way I stopped to look at Uffington castle and is something that normally gets missed by most people who come just to see the horse.
The horse is actually carved into the hillside that the Iron Age hill-fort is sited on so if the horse is Bronze Age and therefore pre-dates it then you were not going to forget which hillfort was yours after a night out on the mead. The fort is nothing special; it is a reasonable size and has two earth banks and a ditch that are still quite substantial. More importantly is that the ancient trackway which we now call the Ridgeway passes right in front of one of the entrances so its importance lies in its location.
I was keen to get on as I really wanted to find Waylands Smithy, a place that some people have suggested is what inspired the popular TV programme ‘The Simpsons’ which also originates from before recorded history.
Waylands Smithy is a Neolithic long barrow and chambered tomb and is apparently just over a mile from the white horse (really? longest mile I ever walked!)
It is well signposted from the White Horse and you will join up with the Ridgeway after a brief walk either from the Car park or from the Horse and Castle (this is not a nearby pub). Once at the Ridgeway another signpost points you down the track, this is the last one you will see until you actually arrive at the site and is very annoying because after an eon of walking you are seriously beginning to wonder if you have somehow missed it.
|Here the Ridgeway is a chalk track|
My advice for anyone wanting to visit is to just keep walking until the chalk road eventually changes to grass, ignore any other side roads or paths and keep walking.
Eventually to your relief you see another signpost and the site is a few yards off from the track.
It is well worth the walk as on the day I went it was a fantastic view as you hopefully can see.
Its name I suspect was probably given to it during Saxon times as Wayland was the smith for the Germanic gods. Why he is linked to this site I have no idea perhaps Wikipedia or my picture of the English Heritage sign will say if you really need to know more.
Then you have the long walk back however there is usually an ice cream van waiting for in the car park which really helps.
Parking is Pay & Display but isn't expensive and there are two well signposted routes from the main road up to the White horse either side of the hill.
This has been a day out with Mr Steve