Yesterday, in heavy rain, I dragged two little ones on the steep public footpath up the ‘Manger’ onto ‘Dragon Hill’ and then again up to the Uffington White Horse.
The White Horse is now determined to be Iron Age, or just possibly Late Bronze Age, and has recently been re-scoured on the hillside overlooking the Vale now named after it. It is a wonderful example of an ancient monument with lengthy archaeological and literary interactions, as explored in a research paper by my colleague on the ‘Past in its Place’ project: Professor Philip Schwyzer.
Dragon Hill is a natural mound possibly enhanced at one or more times from prehistory to the early historic period, and historically known as ‘church hill’ but also known through the folklore that it was the site where Saint (or King) George slew the dragon. The beast’s blood spilled and the story goes that no grass grows on parts of the hill to this day. In heavy rain, in long grass, we all got completely sodden, and despite crying we negotiated the steep slopes and experienced the site without any other visitors. It is the kind of place one can imagine becoming a place of muster or assembly in the Early Middle Ages, although the evidence for activity is Roman in date and the Anglo-Saxon associations are folkloric rather than concrete.