Growing up in the south of England, I distinctly remember as a child being delighted at the existence of a very unique part of our landscape, the giant chalk hill drawings that I believed, until recently, had been there for centuries.
In the countryside, a short drive away from us, there are two of the most distinct examples of this, the very ones I remember from my childhood and on a trip out to see them recently I happened to read a little bit of the history of one of them, only to discover that, rather than being the ancient figures I believed them to be, this particular one was created in 1924! Not only that but the story behind its creation was particularly amusing.
Whilst Geoglyphs (for this is the ‘proper’ name for large drawings formed from “durable elements of the landscape”) are seen all over the world (famously in Peru), the grass-covered chalk cliffs of the south east of England make this particular landscape perfect for creating the unique relief of our ‘hill figures’, they also, with only a couple of exceptions are always either male figures or horses.
The origins of these curious drawings seem to point to the Celts as the culprits, as pagan worship tends to go hand in hand with nature. Not only that but the Celts believed their gods to be giants and would have portrayed them this way, in fact one of their gods, the horse-goddess Rhiannon is described in Welsh mythology as “a beautiful woman dressed in gold and riding a white horse”.