I live in a small town in the South West of England, pretty much like any other town i would say except we are famous for two reasons. The first a beautiful chalk horse carved into the hillside and the second we lay claim to the oldest swimming baths in Britain, opened in 1887 and still having much of its original Victorian architecture. Interestingly these swimming baths are reputed to be haunted by a ghost named George. Some say he was a swimmer who jumped to his death from the pool balcony while the more likely claim is that he is the ghost of an old stoker. Since most sightings of him have been seen by the poolside wearing overalls most people tend to believe the latter.
Living where i do i tend to walk a lot and my favourite walk is up into the hills to sit on the white horse so i am going to take you on a trip with me on an English country hike. Usually i start from my house and walk up into the market place, typically English although the days of there actually being a market there have long since gone. Still it remains with much of its original buildings being an original part of the town.Once upon a time the building on the left was the town hall, now it is merely used to house a solicitors.
From here we turn left and head up the hill, i love this street for it has one of the loveliest houses along the way and if i were to dream of owning any house then this one would certainly be up there with the front runners. Not my usual type of house since i mostly prefer Victorian houses but this one is definitely of the rose covered variety.
Right next to this are houses i really do love, originally cloth mills until 1969 these are listed buildings and have been converted into houses. I’ve never had the chance to see inside but externally they have a most appealing character which i am drawn to.
Getting to the top of the hill you see straight infront of you the White Horse Pottery, producing the most beautiful hand made pottery in a traditional old style. You can go along and watch the pottery being made and browse the collection of unique pieces for sale. The building itself was once an old school which i believe was the Church Of England Day School dating to around 1847 and is today still called The old School.
Now this is where the real hiking begins, as you leave the houses behind the path widens with a riding school on one side and beautiful views across the fields on the left, horse sitting proudly on the hill dominating the landscape. It looks closer than it is from here, like you could almost reach out and touch it and you would be forgiven for thinking you need only run through the field and you will be there.
Rounding a corner and turning left to head up across the hills you very often encounter horses in the fields, some of these guys are oh so beautiful and very friendly. I did feel rather guilty today as i did not have a single treat in my pocket yet despite the drizzle they were more than happy to come over and say hello.
Onwards and upwards! There is of course a road that goes all the way to the top of the horse as many people choose to drive there but this is often covered by a canopy of trees which hides the view as you walk so i tend to hike halfway up and then cut along the fields. This takes you right along the front of the hill ridge and only a barbed wire fence between you and a very long steep slide down to terra firma. On the right days you can see Paragliders galore taking flight like a swam of exotic butterflies and swirling around the skyline infront of the hill face.
The hike is definitely worth it as you cut across the hills the horse peers gleaming white from between the hills as you walk, far bigger than it appears in photographs and closer than you would imagine. High above the horse itself is an Iron Age Hill Fort named Bratton Camp, now here i had to borrow a photograph since this amazing site really doesnt show well from ground level and there is seriously no chance of me getting myself up into one of those paragliders, no matter how pretty they may appear from down here..
Then as you walk along the chalk path you are face to face with that gleaming horse you saw in the distance. You can actually sit on this if you are brave enough although i content myself with sitting on his ear and looking out across the landscape at my little town below.
Above is the view sitting on the horses ear looking down into the valley. Was i tempted to slide down it?? oh no!! Actually it was very drizzly and windy and i had rather a time staying seated where i was without the wind whipping the camera from my hand. You can see why they love to glide from here cant you??
Welcome to my hike, feel free to come along and sit with me for i come here a lot. And as i sit here with the wind and rain howling around me i really do not mind at all. We are happy up here this horse and i watching the world go by and running madly through the hills just like all wild things should.