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.
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).
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.
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.