Wiltshire Publications

Town takes on White Horse clean itself

VOLUNTEERS could start cleaning the White Horse this month, if plans are approved by English Heritage.

Although the maintenance of the White Horse is the responsibility of English Heritage, the organisation says it does not have the funds or resources to clean the horse. But, in a project compiled by the Rotary Club of Westbury, it is hoped local volunteers will be allowed to step forward and undertake the work themselves.

Grubby state

The grubby state of the ‘White’ Horse has been a cause of much indignation across the town, resulting in a drive to get the town’s icon cleaned in time for the Diamond Jubilee. The Rotary Club of Westbury has put together plans for the clean with the support of the town council, and hope that a site meeting with English Heritage will result in approval to start work shortly. It is planned that volunteers will attend training sessions before scaling the White Horse and cleaning it over a series of weekends. It is anticipated that the clean could be completed by the beginning of May.John Ridgers from the Rotary Club explained, “It’s in everybody’s interest that it gets back to looking more like a white horse than a grey mare! Although it’s their responsibility, English Heritage don’t have the money. The town council have some funds and the Rotary Club, led by Steve Carrington, has put together a programme and identified resources.“There will be training sessions as people will have to do a sort of abseil with ropes down the horse, and so the volunteers are going to be given some rope work training in readiness.

Historic landmark

“The cleaning will be done by two methods. In places where the growth is quite severe we’re going to have to get the worst of it off with stiff, hard bristle nylon brushes. That will be followed by a high heat industrial steam cleaner.”As well as the practical and health and safety considerations, the plans have also had to take into account that the area is a historical landmark and a site of Special Scientific Interest. 
No funds or resources from English Heritage
English Heritage treated the horse to a facelift back in 2006 at a cost of £20,000. But just six years later, the state of the horse has deteriorated again.Earlier this year the White Horse News asked English Heritage to explain why the £20,000 facelift has not stopped the state of the horse from deteriorating so quickly, and was told that this is down to “natural weathering”. English Heritage also explained that, given the relatively recent facelift, they cannot justify the funds or resources to clean the horse again so soon. A drive to clean the White Horse has led to funds being pledged by the town council and Westbury Area Board. 
Can you help?
If you are able-bodied and think you could help clean the horse, please contact stevemc1402@aol.com