Today, proving to be a typical July day forKent(overcast with Sunny spells but pretty humid and sticky) I decided to get out of the office and continue my ‘Fleeting visit’ series. This time I escaped to The White Horse Stone.
This monument is a single standing stone believed to be the last surviving trace of a barrow (similar to but much bigger than The Coldrum Barrow) which would have stretched as far as where the A229 (Blue Bell Hill) now runs. The stone itself is located just after the entrance to Warren Wood reserve. To visit the site you need to head for Tyland Barn and Park in the lay-by just after the petrol station and walk over the Euro link rail track into Warren Wood, the stone is easily seen on your left as you head up the path.
I stepped out of my car with lunch in bag and walked back on myself, passing the time, occupying my mind by trying to name as many of the plants I could see in the hedgerows and scrub land. Mugwort, Campinion, Morning Glory, Yarrow, Cow Parsley, Ragwort, Dandelion, Vervain, Ox Eye Daisies, Field Chamomile and Meadowsweet all looking their absolute best now the summer has (apparently) peaked.
I arrived at the Stone and sat eating lunch and rested. The stone itself has been subject to the same neglect as many of our Sites here in theMedwayValleyand various lude pictures and explicit words have been graffiti-ed on the stone in recent months. I first noticed these last year and unfortunately, being so sheltered from the elements the paint has got a lot of fading to do before its completely illegible. I was further amazed when a group of about a dozen walkers from Germany (I think) came marching up the hill, all of them looked at the stone but none of them seemed interested, perhaps a large cathedral or art gallery would be more impressive to them? If only they took the time…maybe these places would be better protected? Very sad indeed.
Like the Coldrum stones, this place has a distinctly ancestral feel. However, whereas the Coldrum site conjures memories of the mighty dead, the old ones of the tribe who sacrificed their lives for the good of the people, this site feels nothing like that. Here I feel nestled within in the Hearth of Our Lady, amongst Family and Clan, I see Elders gathered round a roaring fire with the young, telling them stories of bygone days, of heroes, maybe even stories of Hengist and Horsa, the first Kings of Kent said to be descended from the great God Woden himself, one of whom (Horsa) is said to have been buried here. This single solitary stone, evokes a feeling of being home amongst my people, not a place of the dead like the Coldrums but very much of the living, I see dancing and great celebrations and I hear the beat of an ancient drum, the heartbeat of the land and the people who lived, worked and celebrated here.
I don’t believe stones in themselves have any power yet they have a tremendous ability to hold memory and transmit the power and knowledge held in those memories. As Necromancers use bones to commune with the dead, stones too can be used to commune with the land itself, for stones are the bones of the land we walk upon.
On top of everything I have already mentioned, there is a strong connection with the Great Lady here, not in name alone either. It maybe called ‘The White Horse Stone’ possibly due to the Legend of Horsa’s burial here but also I feel Her presence as I sand with my back against the far side of the cold rock and look out into the fields behind. This would be the perfect place to acknowledge the impending first harvest. As I watch the scattered poppies standing still and proud amongst the hundreds of ears of corn, each blood red flower reminding me of Him whose blood is shed so all may live to tell the tale. As I stand here I hear that very same tale, I am a part of the Legend, the ancestral memory of those who settled here thousands of years ago.
Time, as always, governs my stay and soon I must leave to return to the mundane duties of the 9-5 corporate world. I turn away from the stone, turning back once more to acknowledge the spirits of the place and thanking them for all they shared. The still sticky air was refreshed by a light breeze dancing through the ash leaves over head and for just a second I knew I was welcome.
As I returned to my car, I got to thinking. How apt that this place, this stone, the hearth of the land has been faced with such neglect in a time when many of us inflict the same neglect on our own Hearth’s, our own families are all too often placed on the back burner, our own heritage and culture, our ancestry and sense of pride forgotten in place of the day to day pressures of the 21st century. What stories will we tell? What stories will our Grandchildren tell? Thank the Gods that places like the White Horse Stone exist…for without these prominent and physical reminders of our past, the foundation for where and who we are in the present can only subside into nothingness!