Stories from the Barn
A hive of activity in the Hampshire downlands
Long Man of Wilmington
A country walk to see the Long Man of Wilmington.
The long man of Wilmington suddenly appears before us. We drive along the road, through the very pretty village of Wilmington. All eyes search him out and then suddenly, there he stands, almost vertically beside . There is magic in the illusion though. As the down land bows away from the observer towards the south, so the long man lifts himself from his reclining position and appears to tilt towards you. He is cut into the chalk on the slope of Windover Hill, Wilmington, East Sussex.
What does the outline tell us?
The Long Man of Wilmington answers to many names. The Green Man, the Lone Man, the Lonely Man. Indeed there appear to be as many names for the giant chalk figure as there are debates about his age and significance. At one time his form could only be seen at certain times of the year as the light raked across the side of the hill.
The Long Man is indeed very tall. At 226 feet he is nearly 50 feet taller than his cousin in Dorset, the Cerne Abbas Giant. He is the tallest depiction of a human form in Europe and one of the tallest in the world. There are about fifty other figures cut into the chalk that underlies the thin soils of the Down lands in southern Britain. Many of the other figures depict horses.
He stands holding two staffs and has a strange helmet shaped head. Recent excavations have suggested the figure to have been created only three hundred years ago. The earliest written record is from 1710 and is accompanied by a drawing which shows the giant had a face at that time. The outline then grassed over and was only visible in certain light. In 1874 the figure was recovered and laid out with bricks. Then in the 1960’s replaced with concrete blocks. However old drawings of the Long Man show his feet in a slightly different position. There is also the suggestion that there might have been a rake or scythe on the end of the staffs.
How old is the Long Man of Wilmington?
Many of the other chalk figures are very old dating to between 1200 – 700BC. However the age of the Long Man of Wilmington is hard to pin down. The figure appears on the side of Windover Hill looking north towards Wilmington Priory. Behind and above the figure are a series of ancient barrows and tumuli. This in turn may give the idea that the figure is itself an ancient one but it could also be as recent as the C17th. Theories and connections to all sorts of peoples and cultures abound and is well described in an article that gives good context to the Long Man.
Something draws us to these pieces of artwork in the landscape though. The figures are created on the slopes of these hills and are plainly visible from below. They need considerable maintenance to keep the chalk free of soil and vegetation. Indeed the outline of the Long Man is now mapped out in concrete blocks to ease the problems of maintenance. The bright white of the chalk is clearly visible against the short cropped green grass. It is interesting to to consider what purpose they served. Could it be that they had religious significance or were they simply an art form?
Google Earth has an excellent link to view these chalk figures
It is a beautiful landscape and well worth taking a walk to and around. The car park is just across the road from the track up to the base of the figure and you get an excellent view. Find out how to access the Long Man of Wilmington map .