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The Puddingstone Track: Deconstructed

  Puddingstone Track

Deconstructed:

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Along the Track: BERKSHIRE & WILTSHIRE

 

 

Pangbourne, Berks

"At the Nautical College" (only mention 'The Lost Trackway', 1994):

Although the likelihood of the Track crossing the Thames at or near Pangbourne was put into print in both 1952 and 1957, it was only in the manuscript of his book that Dr. Rudge told of an actual puddingstone there. This one he never saw, as he revealed in the following confusing statement: "At the Nautical College (SU633763) a puddingstone boulder was reported, but unconfirmed by me at SU616752 (Pangbourne College.)"

 

The Nautical College was renamed as Pangbourne College in 1969, but why he gave two locations I don't know. The first map reference is a nonsense, as it marks a point more than two-thirds of a mile from the college, in the village itself. The second is far more likely, as it lands by a footpath through an empty field about 350m south-west of the nearest college buildings. I've been unable to find out any more, although it's possible that this boulder might be the iron-rich conglomerate called ferricrete, which is apparently known to occur along the valleys of the rivers Thames and Kennet in this area. The source of the Pangbourne boulder might have been the old chalk pit whose position is still marked on Ordnance Survey maps, only 200m from that second map reference.

 

 

Bucklebury, Berks

"Holly Lane stone (a)" (first mention in print 1952; read 1951):

Dr. Rudge felt that his Track was still heading generally south-westwards, but found nothing more until someone told him that a puddingstone existed six miles away beside Holly Lane, at about SU535708. This is an ancient sunken track, mapped as early as 1761, that winds through a tunnel of trees running roughly north-eastward from Holly Farm House and the edge of Holly Wood. The grid reference given is about halfway between the farm and Marlston Road.

 

 

Bucklebury, Berks

"Holly Lane stone (b)" (only mention 'The Lost Trackway', 1994):

A second puddingstone was reported in Holly Lane by a Bucklebury resident, who said that it "lay in the roadside hedge, but could not now locate it. The approximate location is SU532706". This is about 375m further south-west, but I think it's at least possible that two people were reporting the same stone years apart.

 

 

Bucklebury, Berks

"Holly Wood stones" (first mention in print 1952; read 1951):

In his 1951 talk to the Essex Field Club, his second about the Track, Dr. Rudge said the following, which needs to be quoted in full: "We have reason to believe that the site of a Mesolithic workshop floor discovered by Peake and Crawford in 1920 lies upon the track, for a trail of conglomerate boulders pointing towards it was found in Holly Wood, according to the Geological Survey, 1867. This trail of five stones lay some two miles north-east of Thatcham, and pointed towards the Thames at Pangbourne, forming a section of the track which we consider probable but unconfirmed".1 He then gave a map reference of SU527699.

 

There were no 'Memoirs of the Geological Survey' in 1867, but Rudge did at least correct this to 1862 in 'Lost Trackway'. In that, he paraphrased the report, but I shall give it in full here. The 'Memoirs' state that the passage is "from the Note-book of Mr. Aveline": "By the side of the road, west of Holly Wood, N.N.W. of Thatcham, there are some conglomerate-stones. These were grubbed up in the wood when it was being cut down. I was told that some of great size had been found, and that they were taken up nearly in one line".2 In 'Lost Trackway', Rudge then gave another grid reference, SU527700. This is about half a mile south-west of the previous stone.

 

It should be noted that in the 'Memoirs' no specific location was given, so the coordinates are meaningless. Also, the number of stones found isn't given, so where did Rudge get his 'five stones' from? And finally, how these stones 'nearly in one line' were orientated isn't stated at all, so how could they point to Thatcham in one direction, and Pangbourne in the other? There certainly was an early Mesolithic flint working floor found at SU50176689 in 1921, in marshes beside the river Kennet - but the reason for it being 'on the Track' should never have been an unknown number of stones in an uncertain location in a line of unknown direction 'pointing towards it'.

 

1. E.A. & E.L. Rudge: 'The Conglomerate Track' in 'Essex Naturalist' Vol.29, part 1 (March 1952), p.20 (read 24/11/51.)

2. H.W. Bristow: 'Greywethers' in 'Memoirs of the Geological Survey of Great Britain: The Geology of Parts of Berkshire & Hampshire' (1862), p.51.

 

 

Kintbury, Berks

"In nearby field" (only mention 'The Lost Trackway', 1994):

"Others [other boulders] were reported in a nearby field (SU385667.)" This is all the information given, but the location seems to be the edge of a field just west of the Hop Gardens housing estate, that was built in about 2008. The field and the land beneath the new housing was home to several chalk pits, and in that space was also a 'whiting works', extracting constituents from chalk for products such as putty and whitewash. Undoubtedly the boulders were unearthed from these pits, where quarrying continued up to the 1960s. This is about nine miles WSW from Holly Wood. Although they were mentioned in 'Lost Trackway' after the next entry, the location clearly places them to be encountered before the next site, the stones said to have been along Kintbury High Street, which begins about 250m to the north-west.

 

 

Kintbury, Berks

"Along the main street" (only mention 'The Lost Trackway', 1994):

In his later years, Dr. Rudge was ever more tentative about the route of the Track, relying in the end on the diminishing number of reported puddingstones that came to him, and on his intuition. Thus he had to say "The precise site of the river [Kennet] crossing is uncertain, but a report that a series of boulders once stood along the main street of Kintbury, on the south bank, suggests that the ford once existed somewhere near here." He didn't specify that they were all puddingstones - although that's obviously the inference - but sarsens are also very common in the village and surrounding area, which is on the southern side of the Kennet and Avon Canal.

 

Kintbury High Street, which runs east to west, is very narrow, with narrow pavements. After the Blue Ball pub it narrows even further, and the rest of the street going westwards has no pavements at all - therefore stones set against walls and corners for protection would be a good idea. If there was such a series of boulders at one time, there is now only one definite conglomerate, a deeply-pitted boulder perhaps a metre high, set against the corner of No.48a. This is on the south side of the High Street at SU3806666867, quite possibly the narrowest part of the road (photo on the left from Google Street View.)

 

Outside the 19th century Blue Ball Inn (north side, at SU38136686) there is a large sarsen right by the front door, a small one at the west corner, and a smaller one still by the next house. Further along the High Street there are small rocks obviously placed there in recent times to protect verges, but there are sarsens also in roads to the east, such as Station Road and Newbury Street.

 

 

Hungerford, Berks

"Standen Manor Farm" (only mention 'The Lost Trackway', 1994):

Another correspondent told Rudge of a stone here, adding "It is the only conglomerate boulder to be found at this place." Standen Farm lies at SU32266617, with the Manor slightly to its north. Both are about 1 miles SSW of the outskirts of Hungerford, and nearly 3 miles west of Kintbury. Perhaps the boulder was the only one left when Rudge's correspondent visited, but historically, Standen Manor and the surrounding area was well-known for conglomerate.

 

In 1873 for example, "Conglomerates of a very different composition are also observed in places, as at Standen, near Hungerford, where the pebble-beds contain masses of 'Pudding-stone'".1 Less than three-quarters of a mile away is a field where in 1862 there were "some large blocks of 'pudding-stone', which seem to be in place, and are perhaps hardened masses of the 'pebble-beds' of this formation".2 Indeed, the whole area south-west of Hungerford is known to contain an outlier of what used to be called the Reading Beds, the geological layer in which puddingstone was formed. It should also be noted that the remains of an old chalk pit can be found no more than 30m from Standen Farm.

 

1. 'Report of the Marlborough College Natural History Society', 1873.

2. W. Whitaker: 'Outliers of the London Basin - on the North' in 'Memoirs of the Geological Survey of Great Britain: The Geology of Parts of Berkshire & Hampshire' (1862), p.26.

 

 

Shalbourne, Wilts

"Eastcourt Farm" (only mention 'The Lost Trackway', 1994):

A puddingstone "was reported at Eastcourt Farm (approximately SU320665), one mile from Stype." Eastcourt Farm is indeed roughly a mile from Stype, but it's also 1 miles from the map reference given by Rudge. It can actually be found at SU31746460, beside Annett's Lane in the parish of Shalbourne, which is just over the border into Wiltshire. Rudge's coordinates would have it to the north, right next to Standen Manor. Exactly where the stone was at the farm was not given, but just as with Standen, it's right within the known Reading Beds formation.

 

 

Little Bedwyn, Wilts

"Post Office and Manor House" (only mention 'The Lost Trackway', 1994):

Back in 1955, Rudge had been unable to positively trace his Track any further westward than the area west of Henley-on-Thames. He said that "Careful search in the districts around Newbury, Berks, produced nothing more than the discovery of a short series of puddingstone boulders leading from Hungerford in a south-westerly direction to the village of Little Bedwyn, and it is impossible to state at present whether or not this series is connected in any way to the main alignment".1 Since he never wrote of any actual stones in Hungerford, he could only have been referring to those just described at Standen Manor and Eastcourt Farm (neither of which he visited), and now at Little Bedwyn itself. A 'short series' indeed, and since he seemed to decide that it was connected, here the Track has to suddenly veer to the north-west for about 1 miles.

 

In 'Lost Trackway' he wrote of "a stone standing opposite the Post Office, and two others opposite the Manor House".2 The village is built on both banks of the river Dun, with a road bridge and footbridge connecting the two halves. On the western side, directly opposite the footbridge, is the house that used to be the Post Office. Between this house and its neighbour is a gravelled access-way, and at the corner of a wall beside it is a small, rounded puddingstone boulder (photo top left, from Google Street View) only about 20cm high (SU2907266034.) The Georgian Manor House has a wide frontage along both Oak Hill and the High Street, on the east side of the river. In Oak Hill, the House stands opposite the Manor farmyard and stables. Spaced out along and against the farmyard wall are three small boulders. At the northern end is a sarsen, resting on the surface. In the middle, embedded beside the road is a conglomerate about 30cm across and 20cm high, at SU2917765986 (photo bottom left, also from Street View.) That at the southern end of the wall is also embedded and seems to be a conglomerate, but it's very small and has the appearance of having been planed flat on one face.

 

There are various small sarsens scattered throughout the village, including a nice one at the junction of Church Street and School Lane on the west bank, which an old photograph shows was there in 1912. One that Rudge missed - if he ever actually came here - is very close to this, a large puddingstone in the back garden of Old Manor Cottage at SU2904166084.

 

1. E.A. Rudge: 'Further Observations on the Conglomerate Track' in 'Essex Naturalist' Vol.29, part 4 (1955), p.256.

2. E.A. Rudge (ed. John Cooper): 'The Lost Trackway' (1994), p.21.

 

 

Great Bedwyn, Wilts

"Near railway station" (only mention 'The Lost Trackway', 1994):

And so to the very last stone on the Puddingstone Track, again requiring a sudden change in direction - this time, SSW for a mile. Great Bedwyn is almost entirely on the west bank of the river Dun. Here, according to Rudge, "a large boulder stands near the railway station." That may have been true once, but no longer. Houses have been built, roads widened and realigned, verges and green spaces reshaped.

 

The grid reference given in 'Lost Trackway' of SU278645 is not very near the station, and when checked against the 1945 and 1960 One Inch OS maps, could also cover the village centre. At SU2782664557, on the grass verge outside No.14 High Street, is a largish and embedded boulder of sandstone. Other small rocks are resting on the surface, and seem modern placements. A photograph of the mid-1950s shows no such stones here at that time, so whether they have any relevance to Rudge's search, I don't know.

 

Puddingstone would not be uncommon in this area. Talking about sarsens, a text of 1873 says "in the neighbourhood of Great Bedwyn, and occasionally elsewhere, they take the form of pudding-stone, being agglomerations of flint pebbles, cemented together in a matrix of siliceous sand".1

 

1. Rev. John Adams: 'On the Sarsen Stones of Berkshire and Wilts' in 'The Geological Magazine' Vol.10 (1873), p.198.

 

***********

 

And there the hypothetical Puddingstone Track petered out. With no reported stones to guide him after Great Bedwyn, Dr. Rudge nevertheless speculated that the line may have passed through Everleigh and Figheldean, to cross a ford at Milston 14 miles away. It was intuition that told him the Track would then pass Woodhenge at Durrington, to terminate at its ultimate goal, Stonehenge. The same intuition that, at different times, told him that it was aiming for Avebury, for Hampshire, and once, briefly, for Dorset.

 

And one final thought. For all that he imagined puddingstones forming a cultural link between Grime's Graves and Stonehenge, including the supposed stone circles at Chesham and Stonor, Rudge never seems to have noted one simple and significant fact: of the 93 visible stones at Stonehenge, not a single one is a puddingstone.

 

The Age & Purpose of the Track

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