The Long Man of Wilmington has been repainted

The Long Man of Wilmington in the South Downs <i>(Image: Sussex Past)</i>
The Long Man of Wilmington in the South Downs (Image: Sussex Past)

A giant hill figure which is said to protect the South Downs has been repainted by volunteers.

The Long Man of Wilmington, a chalk outline of a man cut into the South Downs near Wilmington, has been the centre of an 18-month restoration campaign.

Sussex Past, the trading arm of the Sussex Archaeological Society, launched the ‘Adopt a Piece of History’ programme to ensure the care of heritage in the county and has raised more than £10,000.

The Argus: The Long Man of Wilmington chalk outline
The Argus: The Long Man of Wilmington chalk outline

The Long Man of Wilmington chalk outline (Image: Sussex Past)

It has allowed almost 100 donors to adopt one of the 770 blocks that make up The Long Man to facilitate the painting of ‘The Guardian of the South Downs’.

Last Thursday, volunteers gathered to rejuvenate the blocks that make up the outline with paint donated by Brewers Painting and Decorating.

The Argus: Volunteers restore the 'Guardian of the South Downs'
The Argus: Volunteers restore the 'Guardian of the South Downs'

Volunteers restore the 'Guardian of the South Downs' (Image: Sussex Past)

Greg Talbot, general manager of Sussex Past, said: “This is such an important day for us and demonstrates the enormous community spirit here in Sussex.

"The love and care for such a precious part of our heritage will ensure that it is enjoyed for generations to come.”

The Long Man is shrouded in mystery, as some believe it is a prehistoric creation, whilst others say it appeared between the 11th and 15th centuries. Its curator is unknown.

It is known to have existed for at least 200 years and may be much older than that. It could have had religious significance and may have been connected with the priory at Lewes.

Once it was called The Green Man but the grass outline was replaced with bricks and white blocks at various times to make it clearer as the original tended to become obscured.

It has been the subject of practical jokes, including the addition of a large phallus in 2010 which was swiftly removed.

It was also the site of a protest in 2014 against a planned far-right march, as activists added a banner to the landmark which read “Stop the Racist March for England”. In 2015, the words “frack off” also appeared above The Long Man’s head.

In 2021, it was defaced by vandals as a Covid mask was painted on it.