The past few months have been pretty rough, hey? I hope everyone is staying safe and well. Staying safe by staying home has thrown thrown up an unexpected positive for me. Being forced by circumstance to explore only within my local area has had me finding and enjoying places on my doorstep with a whole new sense of appreciation. And doing all my exploring on foot has meant I’ve been able to take the Little Wolf along for the ride. Or walk.
Of course, you don’t need a big, daft dog to get out and enjoy walking. But they do make great companions. And, being honest, any excuse for me to share a picture of my little mate.
As much as I’ve loved walking from the front door , I did breathe a sigh of relief when restrictions were slightly relaxed allowing people to travel a bit further afield to exercise. Where to go, though?
Luckily for me, I didn’t have to think too hard about it. Mr THL knows me well and had a destination in mind. Between our house and his work is a little place called Beacon Hill. Etched on that hill is the Bulford Kiwi. Being a lover of the quirky, the historical and a good back story, he knew I’d be intrigued. So off we went.
So…the Bulford Kiwi. What is it? Literally, a chalk figure of a kiwi carved into the hillside. The body is about 1.5 acres, it’s the proud owner of a 46m long beak and stands guard over the 20m high letters NZ. No prizes for guessing what they stand for. It’s an amazing bit of Kiwiana set upon a Wiltshire hillside. Who put it there, and why?
The answer to that involves a trip back in time to 1916. The fields around Beacon Hill today are scenic, flower filled, quiet. Back then, not so much. This area was the site of Sling Camp, home to soldiers from New Zealand who had travelled half way round the world to fight in WW1. War over, with no troop ships available to get them home again, they faced a lengthy wait in Wiltshire.
The soldiers requested a more relaxed regime while they awaited repatriation. Request denied. The result? A riot. Including but not limited to theft of food and all the alcohol from the Officers Mess. Sounds like it might have been quite a fun day for the blokes, actually. But it made a point : soldiers with nothing to do, will find something to do. And that something will probably involve trouble. And so came the idea of carving out the Kiwi.
Part discipline, part national pride, part make-work task. A design was created from a sketch of a stuffed Kiwi found in the British Museum. Each day the soldiers were marched up the hill to excavate. Each evening, marched back down. Rinse and repeat until the job was done. The work kept them busy until they could go home, leaving their memorial in the English countryside. A tribute for soldiers, by soldiers.
The NZ troops went home, Sling camp disappeared. The Kiwi remained. For a time the Kiwi Polish company paid for its upkeep by employing local people to care for it. Apparently there wasn’t much value in this for them, but given the amount of Kiwi Boot Polish the armed forces must have bought over the years, it seems a fitting gesture. WW2 began and ended, and the Kiwi was covered for the duration for fear it could be used as a navigation point by German pilots. A local scout troop uncovered it and time rolled on.
Incredibly, it took until 2007 and for the Ministry of Defence to take responsibility for the Kiwi and until 2017 for it to become a listed monument. Now listed and protected, the Kiwi is something a little bit different in a part of the world known for hillside figures in the shape of horses.
The Bulford Kiwi is a bit different. I like different. I like that it was created as the result of rebellion. You might have heard the phrase, ‘In a flock of pigeons, be a flamingo’. Or, I spotted a meme once that said, ‘In a world of Kardashians, be A Helena Bonham-Carter’. I liked that one. And now I’ll add my own, ‘In a world of White Horses, look for the Bulford Kiwi’.
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