Osmington White Horse that was created in 1808 almost vanished after being untreated for THREE YEARS 1

Osmington White Horse that was created in 1808 almost vanished after being untreated for THREE YEARS

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The historic hillside carving of the Osmington White Horse, created in 1808 as a tribute for George III, has almost vanished after being left untreated for three years during the pandemic.

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The chalk figure, depicting George III riding his charger Adonis, was created as a nod to the monarch’s enjoyment of visiting the nearby beach town of Weymouth in Dorset.

However, the huge 280ft by 320ft carving has now blended into its green surroundings.

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The monument, which has long been a tourist attraction, requires annual spraying and other maintenance to prevent weed growth and maintain its distinctive white colour. 

But it has emerged the figure has not been sprayed since 2019 due to the Covid pandemic and the local council no longer has a budget for its upkeep.  

Local resident Geoffrey Codd, 90, who was formerly chairman of the Osmington White Horse Restoration Project in 2011, said the the carving was in a ‘sorry, dreary’ state. 

He added: ‘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.

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‘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 Osmington White Horse following its most recent restoration project
The carving now, following three years without treatment

The white horse is usually distinctive, as shown following its most recent restoration project (left). but has now faded and has nearly vanished (right)

The Osmington White Horse can be viewed from the sea and from the nearby seaside town of Weymouth when at its most prominent

The Osmington White Horse can be viewed from the sea and from the nearby seaside town of Weymouth when at its most prominent

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George III and his love affair with Weymouth

The Osmington White Horse, depicting King George III riding his charger Adonis, was created in 1808 as a tribute to the monarch because of his enjoyment of visiting the nearby beach town of Weymouth in Dorset.

It has been restored twice since it was originally carved into the Dorset hills; once in 1989 for the TV show, and again in 2012 to mark the London Olympic Games. 

King George III first came to know Weymouth through Dr John Crane. In 1788, the King became mentally unstable, causing the Regency Crisis. 

Dr Crane was a huge advocate of the benefits of sea air, and felt that drinking sea water could cure most ailments. He quickly recommended his hometown of Weymouth to the King. 

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The King visited in June 1789 and the whole trip was a huge success. Queen Charlotte declared that the King was much improved.

‘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.’

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

He said he had been told by local rangers that they would try and spray it next month to stop the hillside figure from fading away.

Mr Ireland added: ‘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.’  

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According to local legend, George III was said to be offended by the carving as it showed him riding away from Weymouth, as opposed to towards it, and never returned.

In the 1980s TV show Challenge Anneka, starring presenter Anneka Rice, was hit with controversy after her team added the wrong colour stone to the monument in one of the episodes.

It has been restored twice since it was originally carved into the Dorset hills; once in 1989 for the TV show, and again in 2012 to mark the London Olympic Games. 

Dorset Council says it understands the ‘importance’ of the figure to local residents and that they have an ‘annual maintenance plan’ in place for it.

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It said the horse has not been sprayed since 2019 because ‘most of our rangers were redeployed during the pandemic, delivering medicines and food parcels to vulnerable residents’.

However, the annual maintenance plan is scheduled to resume later this year. 

A spokesperson added: ‘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.

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‘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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