The Alton Barnes horse sits in one of the highest locations in the county, occupying a gully between Milk Hill and Walkers Hill, above the hamlet facing south and is clearly visible from the unclassified road that runs from Horton to Alton Barnes. Precise grid reference is SU 106 637, and the carving measures 55 meters long x 49 meters tall, making it actually larger than the Westbury horse but smaller in total body area.
I drive through this area regularly and stopped on the road for a few minutes to fire off a few photographs on this warm, late May afternoon.
It sits on a 35 degree incline but the contours make it easy to see from most directions except from the west. It is said to be clearly visible from Salisbury on a clear day, some 25 miles to the south.
It was designed in 1812 by a Robert Pile who actually had the misfortune of paying for its carving twice; initially he employed the services of a sign-writer named John Thorne, a person of no fixed abode who Pile entrusted with £20 for the work, a huge sum two hundred years ago. Rather unsurprisingly, that was the last he saw of Thorne or his £20.
The horse bears a striking resemblance to the one at Cherhill, with Pile making the drawings from the bridge that crosses the Kennet & Avon canal in the nearby hamlet of Honeystreet. Today, this is considered the best point from which to observe the horse.
The horse has been regularly cleaned, using chalk from a clearly-visible pit some one mile due west between Cifford's and Kitchen Barrow hills. Today however, it is in a fragile condition due to the thousands of wild rabbits that infest the area and not wishing to exacerbate the problem, the horse is now unfortunately fenced off for human visitors.
Just a word of warning; if you turn left at Alton Barnes crossroads, and follow that unclassified road towards Knap Hill and ultimately Marlborough, there is a parking area for a few cars on the left, partway up the hill. In recent years, the car park has been targetted by thieves who are obviously aware that the owners are probably a mile or so away on the hilltops so I would be inclined to drive further on up the hill and use the much larger carpark on the right for Knap Hill.
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