Yet another wet Sunday- I can see a theme developing for Summer 2011! The white horse at Uffingham has long been on my list of places to visit. This is the oldest chalk cut figure in the UK and has been dated as approximately 3000 years old. The hill below with a flat top, Dragon Hill has legendary associations with St George and is said to be where he killed the famous dragon (!).
That's a bit out of budget for me so follow this link to the National Trust page which has some lovely pictures as well as some details on Dragon Hill which it seems I completely neglected to photograph despite climbing down to it and the horrible long steep climb back up!
Directly above the horse is the remains of the Uffingham Castle, a large iron age fort.
Dodging the raindrops we walked along the Ridgeway, a chalk by way leading to Wayland's Smithy. This is a long barrow in which the remains of 14 people were found. The burials have been carbon dated to between 3590-3550 BCE which is a very short period of time.
The barrow is actually two, a later and much larger barrow was built on top and this is what we can see today. The white horse had been busy but we had the barrow more or less to ourselves other than for a couple of people trying to track down a reported crop circle near by. I hadn't been looking out for one so wasn't able to help.
There are many legends associated with the barrow. The name Wayland is said to derive from Wolund, a Germanic smith and metal working God.
This name was bestowed on the site by the Saxons about a 1000 years after it was built and subsequent foklore has it that if a traveller's horse loses a shoe he should leave the horse ovrnight at the Smithy along with a silver coin. In the morning the horse will be shod and the coin gone. Whether this tale is based on a still older folk memory of rituals and offerings at the site can only be the subject of conjecture but is interesting food for thought.
It is a truly lovely setting. Although it is surrounded by farmland it is enclosed by mature trees which lend it a secluded and peaceful air. Well worth a visit.