A few months ago, we told you about the work we have been doing with The Osmington White Horse restoration team to help them to restore the figure to its original form. So, as the winter sets in and the team are no longer on the hill, I thought you might like to hear about how it’s gone and what’s happening next.
The Osmington White Horse is a figure cut into the hill just outside Weymouth Bay. The figure of George III on his horse was originally created in 1808 and is enormous at 85 metres long and nearly 100 metres high. It’s on a very steep slope which can be seen from Weymouth Bay which will host the sailing element of the Olympics in 2012.
Although there have been a number of spasmodic maintenance and restoration projects over the years (including Challenge Anneka in the 1980s) the figure had deteriorated badly and the original figure had become overgrown and ill-defined over time.
The project to restore the figure started in 2009 by The Osmington Society – an amazing group of local people with a desire to improve the heritage in their area. They enlisted the support of Natural England, English Heritage and Ordnance Survey to help identify the original outline.
During 2010 over 160 tonnes of limestone scalpings were removed from the site – no mean feat given the steepness of the slope and its inaccessibility to most vehicles. The team were helped by an amazing range of volunteers including scouts, army cadets, volunteers from the Royal Engineers and school children and an RN Sea King helicopter which lifted endless bags of scalpings away from the site.
Along with English Heritage,we set about trying to identify the original outline by looking at a range of evidence from oil paintings, to very old photographs and mapping going back to 1883. However, using GPS technologies and on-site analysis of the earthworks, we were able to confirm the actual outline and the team set about cutting it out.
It’s taken a tremendous amount of hard work, perseverance, commitment and enthusiasm to bring the project to (almost) fruition.
So, although the figure is now looking great, the team, are busy trying to put in place a maintenance regime which will keep the figure looking it’s best and prevent future generations from having to take on a project of this scale to restore it again.
The team are also keen to provide a viewing point off the A353 (which is currently a rather precarious stopping point) where visitors to Dorset will be able to admire the monument’s artistic lines and learn about its fascinating history. So, if you are in Dorset, do take the time to visit the figure or at least look at it as you go past and marvel at the work of all the volunteers who worked so hard to make it look so good.
More information about the project is on the Osmington Society blog.