Watch moment famous Yorkshire landmark White Horse of Kilburn is painted for the first time in four years

It is one of Yorkshire’s most recognisable landmarks - but the White Horse of Kilburn has been looking far from its best in recent years.

The chalk painting on the Hambleton hillside - first etched into the landscape of Sutton Bank’s southern slope in 1857 - has not had a new lick of paint since 2018, following the disbanding of the volunteers of the Kilburn White Horse Association who previously took on the task until health and safety concerns prevented further involvement.

Local landowners Forestry England have now taken on responsibility for maintaining the horse and last week began rejuvenating it.

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Specialist painters from contractors Storr Access used ropes to abseil down the sheer face and apply 2,000 litres of pure white finish supplied by local third-generation family business Thirsk Decorating Centre.

Painters at work on the White HorsePainters at work on the White Horse
Painters at work on the White Horse

The shop’s owners, the Etheringtons, are market leaders in environmentally-friendly products and the horse’s paint is carbon neutral.

The horse has only received weeding and brash management work since 2018, and the nearby paths and fences are also maintained. A regular works programme will be in place going forward once the four-day paint job is complete.

Forestry England’s head of recreation and public affairs Ed Woollard said: “Due to the steep nature of the feature, access to the surface needs to be by rope and anchor. This requires relevant professional training and certification, which is why Forestry England have not used volunteers to date for weeding and painting.

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“The horse was last painted by the Kilburn White Horse Association. After recent weeding, we now have the weather conditions to have contractors on site and the Kilburn White Horse is receiving a fresh coat of white paint over the next week, at a

Gordon Knowles from Storr Access abseils down the HorseGordon Knowles from Storr Access abseils down the Horse
Gordon Knowles from Storr Access abseils down the Horse

cost of over £20,000.

“The Kilburn White Horse is a landmark which symbolises Forestry England’s relationship with the history of the land we manage. The Kilburn White Horse

Association maintained the horse over many years, and we will continue their good work to safeguard this landscape feature. With key groundwork delivered over the last few years and the White Horse once more glistening under its coat of new white paint we can look forward to a regular programme of maintenance and whilst safety regulations limit volunteer involvement directly, we look forward to establishing new opportunities with the community in the near future.”

The North York Moors National Park Authority’s director of recreation and wellbeing Michael Graham added: “The Kilburn White Horse is among the most iconic sights in Yorkshire and one of the many reasons people come to the North York Moors and Sutton Bank National Park Centre.

Ropes had to be used to access the HorseRopes had to be used to access the Horse
Ropes had to be used to access the Horse
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“We know the work that Forestry England puts into maintaining the area, the weeding and repairs, but there’s nothing like a new coat of paint to get it looking its absolute best for all those who see and cherish it.”

In 1925, the condition of the White Horse was becoming a concern and the Yorkshire Evening Post – sister paper of the Yorkshire Post – began a readers’ subscription fund to go towards restoration costs. The sum collected, £100, was invested in ‘triennial grooming’.