Monday, 23 February 2009

Woolstone and the Uffington White Horse

Uffington White Horse Hill - viewed from a distance, the horse is not quite visible. Just a short drive from Swindon through the most beautiful of spring-line villages all with their own pond (fed by the chalk springs running off the downs) is the magnificent, ancient Uffington Castle hillfort. Although the white horse cannot be seen clearly in my photograph it can always be seen clearly from the train as it hurtles past between Swindon and Didcot. When, returning from London, I see the white horse come into view I know I am nearly home, away from the city crowds, back to my dear Swindon. People who do not know my town see the somewhat soulless centre and judge it wanting - I see its soul in the ancient landscape that surrounds it and in the very land it is built on.

The historic White Horse Inn in Woolstone - the sign is a replica of the ancient Uffington White Horse. The White Horse Inn advertises in the Swindon Advertiser every Christmas - offering seasonal fare in an atmospheric setting, I have often seen 'olde worlde' illustrations of it and have to admit to being impressed when it came into view.

The chalk water stream that runs through the village - celandines and snowdrops growing along the bank. I cannot photograph the sound of running water as it falls from higher ground - it is nature singing. A house near by the stream - it appears to have been built with chalk bricks.A friend has done some research and the bricks are probably clunch (which is a chalky limestone)

Alfred Williams talks about Woolstone in his 1913 book Villages of the White Horse:

Every village of the down-side has one or more large chalk-pits situated upon the open hill, from which material is obtained for building, or for rubble to make up the roads and farmyards. In some localities the chalk is worthless for building being rotten and crumbling for many yards deep below the surface but here and there good consistent stuff is quarried, which when dried is useful and durable.
I walked through the charming village of Woolstone yesterday while out with the Ramblers - because I was with a large group of people I was unable to explore as I would have wished. I understand there is a little old church which I didn't get to see. There was also a Roman villa on the site of the village, no doubt built there to take advantage of the clear chalk spring water which flows through the village.