The oldest white horse in Wiltshire has had a bath ready for The Queen’s 90th birthday.
Owners of greys will know just how difficult they can be to keep clean, but few would require the intervention needed to brighten up the Westbury White Horse.
Around 20 volunteers — a mix of Westbury Rotarians, town councillors and local residents — spent two days steam-cleaning the 175ft landmark on 16-17 April.
“We believe that volunteers being allowed to assist in the maintenance of such a significant historic landmark is quite unusual, if not unique,” said project co-ordinator Steve Carrington, of Westbury Rotary Club.
“It was a herculean effort on the part of all the volunteers and we look forward to continuing with the maintenance programme over the summer.”
Although the structure was originally made from chalk when it was created around 400 years ago, the decision was made in the 1950s to coat it with painted concrete to prevent erosion.
Volunteers wearing safety harnesses used steam machines from Restorative Techniques in Bristol to wash away the dirt, algae and lichen from the surface.
Water was supplied by farmer Ted Callaway and the project was in conjunction with English Heritage, Natural England and Westbury Town Council.
When the team ran into “water issues”, Mr Callaway ferried water with his tractor all afternoon to ensure they had enough to finish the wash.
“Cleaning was only the first phase, we now need to do some maintenance on all the joints, replacing the flexible sealant, then decide on how we will treat the surface, whether that be more paint, a cement based treatment or a micro-crystaline wax,” added Col. Carrington.
The last time the structure was cleaned and repainted was in 2012 for The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.
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Westbury Town Council’s Verity Bartlett said the horse is looking “amazing”.
“He had been looking rather grey, rather than white,” she told H&H.
She added the money for the project came from a mixture of sources, including the council and a trust fund from the former cement works.
The ball park figure for the entire restoration is £14,000.