White horse gets its shine back
By Western Daily Press | Tuesday, March 13, 2012, 09:00
The Princess Royal at the restored chalk White Horse at Osmington, Dorset
The Princess Royal came face to face with another royal with a remarkably good seat on a horse when she inspected a newly restored Dorset landmark.
The gigantic figure of King George III on horseback was carved out of a steep chalk hillside at Osmington, near Weymouth in 1808, as a 'thank you' to the king who put Weymouth on the holiday map.
Over the years the 260ft figure's outline had become distorted and it has taken three years for local volunteers and organisations, including Dorset County Council, the Osmington Society and English Heritage to return it to its original glory.
The Royal Engineers and Dorset Army Cadets also helped remove the Portland stone chippings which had been used in recent years to cover the King and his white horse, Adonis, revealing the original chalky bedrock. Engineers from 702 Naval Air Squadron, based at Yeovilton, helped out.
Ordnance Survey research scientist John Hogan told how the map-making organisation helped identify the original outline of the figure, using GPS equipment and analysing earthworks hardly visible to the naked eye.
The figure, which overlooks Weymouth Bay was last spruced up by Anneka Rice in a Challenge Anneka TV project in 1989 – though some felt her improvements actually detracted from the monument.
Now though it will be looking its best for the world's television cameras when Olympic sailing events are held in the bay this summer.
The Princess is the King's great-great-great-great-great-grandaughter, but that is a mouthful. "Just say a relative," she advised Geoff Codd, chairman of the Osmington Society, as he welcomed her to White Horse Farm.
The Princess made sure she stood out in the landscape, arriving by helicopter and wearing a bright red coat and striking modern spectacles.
Her day in Dorset yesterday also included a tour of Durlston Castle, the centrepiece of the Dorset County Council-run Durlston Country Park, in Purbeck, which has recently undergone a £5.5 million restoration.
With a significant contribution from the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Grade II-listed Victorian building has been transformed into a visitor centre including interactive displays, rock room, exhibition gallery, cinema room, wedding facilities, restaurant and shop.
There are also new art installations and a geological 'timeline' path at the entrance to the castle, highlighting the park's position on the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site.