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.
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.
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.
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