Here in England, we’ve got a bit of a thing about images of a white horse cut into the hillside. There are well over 20 of them, from the South Downs to Wiltshire, via Leicestershire and even as far north as Tyneside. We like to think many of them are pretty ancient, like this one, the Uffington White Horse, first carved into the hillside chalk of Oxfordshire: probably in the Iron Age, possibly as long ago as 800 BC. But they’re not. Most of them date from the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries.
We’ve got our own white horse here in North Yorkshire, near Kilburn. It’s really rather modern. Back in 1857, a Kilburn-born man, Thomas Taylor, who’d become a provision merchant down in London thought that his home village should have its very own version of the Uffington White Horse. He got John Hodgson, who was the local schoolmaster, together with the schoolchildren and a band of volunteers to cut a horse shape from the turf to reveal the sandstone beneath. Six tons of lime were used to whiten the image, which can be seen from many vantage points in North Yorkshire, and on a clear day, from as far away as Leeds, 45 miles away, and even North Lincolnshire.
And that’s where we went yesterday for an energetic nine mile walk. Our path took us along scenic Beacon Banks. Once it had a beacon at its summit to alert the country when danger threatened. It warned of the approach of the Spanish Armada in 1588. It was a watching point for the Home Guard during World War II. Now it’s simply a lovely place from which to survey the countryside. Our route took us past three of the prettiest villages in this part of the world – Coxwold, Husthwaite and Kilburn – through woodland, through farmland with views across to the Vale of York, the Hambleton Hills and North York Moors, passing ancient Norman churches we couldn’t call into because it was Sunday. And the White Horse – often there as a backdrop to the scenery. Here are some picture postcards of our day.