A MILITARY helicopter flew in as work started to restore one of Wey-mouth’s most prominent landmarks to its former glory.

Teenage Army cadets and a Royal Naval helicopter joined locals to breathe new life into Osmington’s White Horse, a silhouette carved into the hillside overlooking Weymouth.

They have spent much of the last week removing the site’s covering of limestone chips, which will eventually see the horse taken back to its original surface.

The work follows a year of research by the Osmington White Horse Restoration Group, led by Geoff Codd and supported by landowner Paul Critchell, into how the White Horse has changed over time.

Created in 1808, the White Horse represents King George III, a frequent visitor to the town, on his favourite grey charger.

In recent years it has grown increasingly grey and misshapen, with much of the blame laid at the door of the Challenge Anneka television programme which covered the site in 140 tonnes of limestone chips in 1989.

Talk of revamping the horse has circulated for years. At last, the restoration group, incorporating the Osmington Society, Dorset County Council, West Dorset District Council, the Dorset Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) partnership, English Heritage and the site’s landowners, has been able to act.

Eight groups of Army Cadets from Wyke Regis spent two days taking chippings from the horse before a Royal Naval helicopter flew in to remove the chippings from the site.

John Hayes, senior ranger with Dorset County Council, has been working on the White Horse for the past 19 years and is a member of the Restoration Group.

He said: “The cadets were from the Wyke Regis Training Area, led by Majors Ian Drummond and John Bradshaw, and they were absolutely superb, they really restored my faith in humanity.

“They worked so hard, non-stop. They were great and we are very grateful for their support and help.”

He added: “We are planning a major restoration project of the figure to be done by 2012 because it is such a major local landmark that is visible from the sea and from Weymouth seafront.

“We decided we could not do anything until we had removed the limestone scalpings that are blurring the figure and which have slipped and distorted its shape due to gravity.

“We will then try and return the profile and take the carving back to its original surface. We will be using the expertise of the archaeologists on the Relief Road, who have offered their help.”