Dorset's iconic White Horse vanishing as 'nobody wants to take responsibility'

·3-min read
White Horse before (Graham Hunt) and after (ZacharyCulpin/BNPS)
White Horse before (Graham Hunt) and after (ZacharyCulpin/BNPS)

THE iconic Osmington White Horse has almost vanished after years of neglect with no one 'wanting to take responsibility' for it.

The historic hillside chalk figure is a tribute to King George III created in 1808 as the monarch enjoyed visiting the nearby resort of Weymouth, Dorset.

But the 280ft by 320ft white chalk figure, that depicts the King riding his charger Adonis, has now blended into its green surroundings.

The monument, which is a local tourist attraction, requires annual spraying and other maintenance to stop weed growth and retain its colour.

However, it has emerged that the figure has not been sprayed since 2019 due to the coronavirus pandemic and the local council no longer having a budget to maintain it.

Local resident Geoffrey Codd, 90, who was chairman of the Osmington White Horse Restoration Project in 2011, said he was saddened by its current 'sorry, dreary' state.

He claimed that 'nobody wants to take responsibility' for the figure, and blamed Dorset Council for not preserving a 'unique piece of Dorset's heritage'.

Mr Codd, a retired computer technician, said: "Before the restoration project in 2011 the horse was in a sorry state and despite all our efforts back then it is the same today.

"It is a shame to see the horse looking so dreary and worn out.

"It is such an important piece of Dorset's heritage, and unique in a number of factors.

"The trouble is that nobody seems to take responsibility for it.

"The council rangers played a key role in the restoration project but since then Dorset Council it seems have washed their hands of the whole thing.

"It would only take a couple of cleans a year to do the trick, but nobody wants to take action."

According to a local legend, George III was said to be offended by the carving, because it shows him riding away from Weymouth rather than towards it, and he never returned.

In the 1980s the TV programme Challenge Anneka, starring Anneka Rice, sparked controversy when her team added the wrong colour stone to the monument in one of the episodes.

Local councillor Nick Ireland said Dorset Council no longer had any budget allocated for maintaining the figure.

He said he had been told by rangers they would try and spray it next month to stop it fading away.

Cllr Ireland said: "Dorset Council no longer has any budget allocated to maintain the figure, and neither the council, nor the landowner or anybody else has any responsibility to look after it.

"Dorset Council last sprayed it in 2019 and they have promised they will try to do it soon."

Dorset Council said they understood the 'importance' of the figure to the local community, and that they have an 'annual maintenance plan' in place for it.

A Dorset Council spokesperson said: "This is a perennial issue which always rears its head in January when the ground is saturated, the chalk is dirty and light is poor.

"The White Horse, Adonis - all 85m of him - does appear to blend in with his surroundings at this time of year and lose some shape and vibrancy but this is temporary.

"We do recognise the importance of this much-loved horse to local people and visitors, and while Dorset Council has no budget to upkeep Adonis, we do have an annual maintenance plan which follows the same pattern each year.

"This includes redefining the edges of the feature with oak boards, around February time, then we clear bigger clumps of vegetation by hand and when the ground has warmed up around May and when the wind is calm we spray the horse with a herbicide.

"This process is repeated in August."

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