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Grooming the Kilburn White Horse

The Kilburn White Horse, a figure cut into the hillside in the North York Moors at Sutton Bank, is Britain’s largest white horse figure and its most northerly. However, unlike its southern cousins it is not cut into a chalk hillside and so over the years the white surface slowly greys as algae grows on the stones.

When it was originally cut in 1857, chalk stone chips were spread on the surface and, historically, the ‘grooming’ has taken the form of extra layers of chalk chippings being added.

Helen Harrison, vice chair of the Kilburn White Horse Association, explained that if the chalk chippings had continued to be added to the horse, it would have been in danger of slipping down the hill into the visitor car park.Kilburn White Horse

So these days the chippings are spray painted with pressurised hoses. The latest painting has taken place this weekend, restoring the horse to its former glory. The grooming used 1,000 litres of masonry paint and a team of ten people.

‘The weather was kind, that’s the main thing,’ said John Bielby, chairman of the Kilburn White Horse Association. ‘This is the fourth time we have sprayed it now – we are getting quite good at it. The horse goes with the weather. When the sun shines it dries it out and makes it really white. But when it’s wet and miserable it goes very dark grey and it gets the nickname, the old grey mare. We also get algae growing on the chippings so we try to paint it every five years.’

If you’d like to see the association’s work for yourself, why not follow the iFootpath walking guide

Kilburn Woods and White Horse

23 June 2014

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