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September 2019

Stone Cold Soulbury

The Soulbury Stone

In the village of Soulbury is a piece of the Peak District; several tons of limestone. It isn’t hard to find; it sticks out of the road at a minor junction, and was left there about 450,000 years ago by a retreating glacier.

Pieces of ‘foreign’ rock like the Soulbury Stone are called glacial erratics. This stone was torn out of the rock bed by a glacier during an ice age and carried along for miles.

The climate became warmer and the glacier, though it was many hundreds of feet thick, shrank and retreated. The Soulbury Stone was left behind.

The stone, of carboniferous limestone first laid down 300 million years ago, probably came from somewhere near what is now Bakewell in Derbyshire, a hundred miles away as the crow flies.

You might think that the stone is just sat on the surface, but this is an illusion as the army are said to have found out during World War 2. They tried to move it with two tanks, and failed. The visible part of the Soulbury Stone probably weighs about a ton, but who knows how much is buried? No wonder they couldn’t shift it.

In 2016 a vehicle crashed into the stone and the driver submitted a car repair bill for £1,800 to Bucks County Council. The stone was undamaged in the collision.

I don’t think the council paid the bill, but for under £500 they had some white lines painted on the road around it. Looking (from photos) obtrusive at first, the lines are now eroded away and much less obvious.

Hole in Soulbury Stone

In the top of the Stone is a strange five sided hole. It looks as though somebody drilled five smaller parallel holes in the stone then broke out the rock between to make a bigger hole. I wonder why.

There are a few stories in the village about the Stone. A dubious one says that Oliver Cromwell stood on the Stone while his men ransacked the church. It’s also said that only one eighth of the stone is above ground.

Another story is that the stone is the Devil’s foot, cut off by villagers who fought the Devil when he came to the village.This tale is said by some to have been dreamed up by a previous landlord of the Boot pub, just down the road from the stone.

Whatever the truth, the Soulbury Stone was there long before the village.

Soulbury Stone

What Is It Made Of?

Carboniferous limestone is mostly calcium carbonate, from the shells and hard body parts of millions of sea creatures that died and sunk to the bottom of the sea.

Over the millennia the shells and body parts were compressed by the weight of the layers above to become limestone.

If you want to know more about the rocks and processes that made the UK, The Geology of Britain; an introduction by Peter Toghill is worth a look.

I Was Miles Away…

Cromer pierCromer Pier, mid September.

Why am I showing you a seaside pier, when this blog is all about North Bucks, a part of England many miles from the sea?

Two reasons. The first is that as a boy, I was often told that Stoke Mandeville, just South of Aylesbury, is as far away as you can get from the sea in England. That seems about right; it’s in the broadest part of the country.

But much as I love this part of the world, I also love the seaside, but it’s a fair old journey to get there from North Bucks; it’s too far really for a relaxing day trip. This means that if I go to the seaside it’s for several days, at least.

Secondly, I’ve been on holiday. This is Cromer pier, on the North coast of Norfolk. I’ve been staying at the Forest Park campsite there for the second time, and I took the bus into town to explore the town on Saturday. Cromer is famous for its crabs, and when I walked along the pier holidaymakers were dangling lines into the sea from the wooden decking, to catch them.

I saw that the painted rails round the pier were worn through to the metal where hundreds of crab lines have been paid out into the water. A couple of little girls walked by me carrying a small clear bucket with crabs and seaweed floating in it.

Cromer groyneThe tide was coming in and breaking against the groyne.

I walked back to the land and went down to the beach to paddle in the sea, next to the pier. It was very pleasant.

When I’d had enough I sat on a groyne brace and took photos while I waited for my feet to dry. The tide was coming in and it wasn't long before I had to move up the beach to the next brace, until my feet were dry enough to put my shoes back on.

I’d had a good day, and I had been happy not to be, for a change, clumping around in my bike boots and wearing my heavy leather jacket. It was past six in the evening and I’d missed the last bus, so I walked up to the cab rank behind the church and shared a cab back to Forest Park.

I rode the 135 miles home from Cromer on Tuesday. I had been there since Thursday evening. It was well worth the journey, and I’ll be going again. I think next time I’ll explore the local area in more detail, rather than go further afield in Norfolk like I did this year.

As usual after I’ve been away, now I’m home I’m looking at my familiar surroundings with new eyes:

“It's a funny thing coming home. Nothing changes.
Everything looks the same, feels the same, even smells the same.
You realize what's changed, is you.”  

Eric Roth,
from his script for the film The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.

Back to tales about North Bucks next week.
A present from CromerA present from Cromer, this fridge magnet crab has wiggling legs on springs.

On a Break


I've been taking a break, so this week's post is a bit late; it should have come out on Wednesday morning, not Friday. Sorry folks! Back to the normal schedule next week, I should think!

This photo is of the farmhouse of Station Road Farm, in Quainton. Born in 1932, my Dad grew up on the farm, and lived in the farmhouse.

Over The Border

Hanslope church from Tardley Gobion

I'm taking a break this week, but the North Bucks Wanderer will be wandering again next week. In the meantime, if you look over there... (points right for computers, down for phones) you can look through the NBW archives either by date or subject. With over fifteen months of posting, there's bound to be something you'll like.

Our area, or "stomping ground" covers the Aylesbury Vale district and the Milton Keynes district. It's a wiggly border. Sometimes it follows rivers; the Thame at Ickford in the South, the Great Ouse and its tributuary the Gove near Castlethorpe, and Wolverton. At Finmere it follows a Roman road. At one time Caversfield in Oxfordshire was part of Buckinghamshire, completely separate from the rest of Bucks.

Sometimes I'll go to the border, and I'll post another one of my Tales From the Edge. The photo at the top here is from one of those tales. The river Gove and the Grand Union canal are out of sight at the bottom of the valley, but on the other side, on top of the hill is Hanslope church. It's in Bucks.

Er, I seem to have written a post... Oh well, enjoy! I'll see you next week.

Sausage Run

About once a month I’ll make the 35 mile round trip to my butcher at Hogshaw, who is only open on Saturday mornings. It’s a nice run out down the back roads around Winslow, and it’s worth it for the quality of the meat.

My late father introduced me to this butcher, called J.C. Meats. I would drive my Dad there about every six weeks to stock up his chest freezer. I’ve also gone there with a wide variety of other people, so at one time Charlie the butcher there couldn’t work out who I was related to.

In the summer months, I’ve taken to going there on the bike. The bike’s panniers easily take all the sausages, bacon and other meats I’ll eat in a month. I buy a variety of different sausages, and pack them up in mixed half dozens for the freezer when I get home. I do like their sausages and their mince is very tasty.

When I was there recently Charlie asked me if I had been at Ickford for the tug of war match against the Oxfordshire village of Tiddington. He thought he had spotted me in the pub afterwards, but as I’d only stopped there for a quick half of bitter, I had gone before he could talk to me.

Charlie told me that he was there because his boss was the anchor man for the winning Ickford team. You can read all about the annual match that’s pulled across the river Thame in my post here.

To get to J.C. Meats, take the Grandborough and Waddesdon turn at Botolph Claydon and drive down the hill. At the bottom of the slope don’t carry straight on to Grandborough at the junction, but follow the road round to the right.

After a mile you’ll pass the left turn to North Marston, and the entrance to Hill Cottage Farm is about 300 yards further on, on your left. J.C. Meats are at unit 9, and only open on Saturdays, from 8am to 1pm; J.C. Meats are mostly a wholesale butcher. The postcode is MK18 3LA.

There’s just a few farms at Hogshaw now, but there used to be a village until the occupants were evicted from their homes so the land could be used for sheep farming, in the late 1400s. The church was pulled down in 1730, and we don’t know exactly where it was now.

There’s a couple of fishponds, an empty moat and a few earthworks to show where the village once stood. Hogshaw is just one of many deserted villages in North Bucks.