High above the Salisbury Plains one of the biggest pieces of New Zealand graffiti in the world overlooks an army base. (It’s to the left, out of shot.)
Forget the Westbury White Horse in Oxfordshire or the Cerne Abbas Giant over Dorset both cut into the hillsides by the Celts (possibly dating back to 500BC) as pagan worship to their gods; a giant Kiwi was dug into the rolling hills above Bulford Army base just after World War One and attracts curious locals and crazy visitors to this day.
Much more interesting, no?
Taken from Google Earth, because we hadn’t thought ahead to buy a drone.
And didn’t want to annoy the army and their live firing range across the road…
As a birthday surprise, my Mr Kiwi organised for us to spend a weekend in Salisbury – somewhere that I had visited a decade or more ago PB (pre-blogging) – so that we could explore the 130-meter tall chalk edifice.
That’s real romance for you!
I genuinely love this country more and more with each passing week. Especially when we go on crazy trips out of London and find ourselves breathing in the fresh, sharp autumnal air of the Salisbury Plains. And yes, the above signs warn visitors of army trucks and tanks – not to mention the firing range across the road.
Can you see the curve of the Kiwi’s back?
Kiwis are our native bird – around the size of a pudgy pussycat, they can’t fly but have long beaks perfect for forest floor fossicking.
As this particular kiwi is so big – his body is 6,100 square meters – it’s a little hard to appreciate properly up close. This is his eye and his beak running along the fence (150 feet (46 m) long)…
…and at his feet the letters “N.Z.” are 65 feet (20 m) high.
The Kiwi was constructed on Beacon Hill overlooking Sling Camp (now gone), part of Bulford Camp, during the occupation of the Camp by New Zealand troops which began in June 1916.
After the war was over the troops were eager to return home, but no troop ships were available. In the wake of riots by disaffected New Zealanders, officers decided that the troops should be kept busy carving an enormous kiwi into the chalk of the hill. This was done in February and March 1919, by the Canterbury and Otago Engineers Battalions.
This year it was even registered a scheduled monument – a “nationally important” archaeological site or historic building, given protection against unauthorised change.
The best viewpoint is from within the army camp itself – unfortunately, it was off-limits to the curious public, but after climbing up the hill, the views over the countryside were absolutely worth it. Oh, and wear practical shoes. My flats didn’t quite last out the dewy journey, but luckily someone else had thought ahead and offered me the spare pair of hiking boots and thick socks that he had brought up the hill.
You can take the girl out of London…
When you go, I’d definitely recommend driving there – it’ll be a hop skip and a jump from Stonehenge – and apparently you can see the Kiwi in the distance from Stonehenge and Woodhenge, if at a distorted angle.