Stepping Back in Time Again

Iron Age roundhouseChristina here and I’ve been out and about again doing some research for the story I’m working on. As I think we’ve mentioned before on this blog, there really is nothing better for an author than being able to actually see or experience something for real. One of the best places to do that is at an outdoor museum, where they have reconstructed old buildings and environments so that the visitor can really experience what it would have been like to live there. Going to places like that feels like stepping back in time. Last week I found an excellent one – Butser Ancient Farm in Hampshire here in the UK – and took a day trip to see it. Well worth a visit!

Low hangingButser features experimental archaeology with reconstructions of buildings from various different periods of early history in Britain. It was started on a different site in 1972 with the aim of setting up a working ‘ancient farm’ so that archaeologists could test out their theories as to how people lived and farmed in the Iron Age. There are different varieties of ancient crops grown, and they have rare animal breeds. The focus is on education and research, and loads of people visit every year, especially school children coming to learn about the past.

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The Oldest White Horse on the Hill

Joanna here, talking about a British hill figure, the White Horse of Uffington.

Uffington horse attrib davepriceThis is Nicola’s neighborhood, as you see here.  I will nonetheless forge on bravely into her bailiwick.

Okay. Let’s say you’re a Regency miss visiting friends in Oxfordshire in the parish of Uffington.  Even though the White Horse can be seen twenty miles away, your carriage arrived in the Vale of the White Horse at night. You had to pull yourself out of bed at dawn to creep out in the garden and finally see it.

A skimped, hurried breakfast and you’re off.  This is Midsummer’s Day. You drive through throngs in the morning to get to the White Horse. You’re not surprised there’s a fair and foodstalls, jugs of beer, and sports. Midsummer’s Day is always  a big event. You have a village fair back home in Yorkshire. But this is huge. Beyond Cerne_Abbas_Giant_Renovation_(10)_-_geograph.org.uk_-_970091anything. There must be thousands of people here.

You’re in time to see the festivities start. The young men gather in a troop, up spade, shovel, mattocks, and hoe, and head up hill for the “scouring of the White Horse.”  All the nearby towns, you’ll be told, claim a role in the scouring and restoration of the White Horse by ancient custom.

Now I will break into your Regency scene here and say that I have been to the White Horse of Uffington myself.  It’s impressive. There it is, carved into the endless green, 374 feet long, 227 feet high.  Designed to be in proportion when viewed from below. It’s . . . big.

The figure is on the side of that sloping hill, just a lazy walk from the road below. It was clear and quiet when I was there.  The figure feels very old. The artistic convention of it is sophisticated, but alien.  And it’s beautiful.

There’s a superstition that if you stand in the ‘eye’ of the horse and make a wish, it’ll come true.  So I did that. And it pretty much did.

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