Soulbury’s erratic stone

As the Ramblers’ footpath secretary for Buckinghamshire, I would normally be the first to commend Buckinghamshire County Council for wanting to remove an obstruction from the highway. But in the case of the Soulbury erratic I think it should not.

This stone has occupied this spot, at the junction of High Road (the B4032) and the dead-end Chapel Hill in Soulbury, north Bucks, since the ice age when it was transported, allegedly, from Derbyshire.  It is a feature of the village and has sat there happily for about 11,000 years.  I don’t know for sure what sort of rock it is but this website says it is carboniferous limestone.

Soulbury erratic, 4 Mar 1993

The Soulbury erratic in March 1993

Recently a motorist crashed into the rock and demanded £1,800 compensation from the county council as highway authority.  The council said that it would move the stone.  Not surprisingly, there was an outcry from the parish council, with local people threatening to chain themselves to the rock (see the Telegraph and other stories).

Difficult position
Matt Whincup of Transport for Bucks (Bucks County Council) wrote to the  parish council chairman, Victor Wright, to tell him of the compensation claim. Matt said: ‘This puts TfB in a very difficult position as I understand the stone has been in place at the junction for a very long time.

 ‘Technically the stone is an obstruction in the public highway according to the Highways Act 1980 and now that an incident has been brought to our attention we are obliged to take action.  If we were to remove the stone it would naturally upset the parish council and local residents; however, unless we can come up with an alternative solution to make the stone “safe” we may have to resort to removing it.’  It has been surrounded by traffic cones.
Soulbury erratic with cones

 

If the highway was dedicated with the stone in place, is the stone an obstruction? I suspect not.

Bucks County Council appears to have come to the same conclusion, and now has decided not to move the stone, to the relief of residents who have rejoiced on their Facebook page. This splendid erratic will continue to rest in peace after its wanderings from Derbyshire 11,000 years ago.

 

 

 

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About campaignerkate

I am the general secretary of the Open Spaces Society and I campaign for public access, paths and open spaces in town and country.
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2 Responses to Soulbury’s erratic stone

  1. Geoff says:

    When this story appeared on the BBC website: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-beds-bucks-herts-35918470 they displayed an old photo that showed a lamp post in front of the stone. All that needs to be done is to reinstate the lamp post, and attach a ‘keep left’ sign to it.
    If the motorist was a stranger to the area and it was dark, a boulder in the road isn’t what would be expected, however it stands at the entrance to a short cul-de-sac, and not on a busy junction.

    Geoff

  2. Hugh says:

    As you say, if the boulder has always been there, then the highway was probably dedicated subject to it, and it cannot be an obstruction. However, it may be that the claimant thought that the highway authority had taken insufficient precautions to ensure the safety of road users. Still, perhaps the claimant ought to consider a sight test?

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