I headed further into the heart of England. As I drove along a winding road, I saw, high on the side of a hill, a carving of a white horse. I had heard of the white horses of Britain, cut into the white chalk of the hills so long ago that no one knows who made the first of them, or why. Many believe they were put there to make the land fertile. I thought perhaps it was true, for the hills were lush and green, and as I drew closer to the horse I saw many sheep grazing.
I followed the winding road up the hill, and left my wagon in a field at the top. I was now higher than the horse, and could walk to the edge of the hill and look down at it. It was far larger than I had expected. I realized that I could probably lie down in the eye of the horse, with room to spare.
The hilltop was crowded, for it was the holiday season, and was the first day without rain, or at least without much rain, perhaps in years. I asked about the horse, and was told that it is called the Westbury White Horse. It was recut in the 1700's, by the lord who owned the land at that time. Apparently he looked at the horse and said, "That's not what a horse looks like!" So he cut his own impression in the chalk, and no doubt it is much more like a horse now, but perhaps less powerful. Some of the white horses, I hear, have been left alone, as far as anyone knows, and resemble dachshunds more than horses. I can see how much difficulty people would have had carving them realistically, for it is difficult to see the whole of something so large at once. Then again, perhaps the carvers were not trying to be realistic. Or perhaps they were not carving horses at all, but some other beast that was common in their day but has since become extinct.
On the same hill, only a few steps from the head of the horse, there is an ancient fort called Bratton Camp. It was built many thousands of years ago, and the earthwork walls remain to this day, though now they are merely hills. Perhaps the makers of the camp were also the original carvers of the white horse. Perhaps it was a mystical creature which protected their fort, or perhaps it was the symbol of their lord.
As I walked the ramparts of the fort, I saw many sheep and was reminded that the locals believe that the horses were carved to ensure fertility. All the sheep I saw in that area -- and there were many -- had twin lambs!
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