Hidden East Anglia:


The Puddingstone Track: Deconstructed

  Puddingstone Track






Part 4: Pednor Road, Chesham to Turville




"Pednor stone" (first mention in print 1952; read 1951):

After St. Mary's church, Dr. Rudge believed his track headed south for 130m, to where "the little River Chess was forded, the ford stone still standing at the corner of the wall opposite the Plough Inn".1 There did use to be an inn called the Plough at Chesham, but that was a third of a mile north-east of the church. Rudge's first map reference, description, and a sketch map he sent to Mrs. Pilcher in 1951 all confirm that in fact he meant the Queen's Head, which still stands at the junction of Church Street and Wey Lane. The stone is still there, 25m away, against a wall where Pednormead End joins Church Street (SP9562701345.) It's not very large - 33cm x 37cm x 25cm high - but it's one of the best surviving examples of true Hertfordshire Puddingstone along the whole Track.


The north channel of the Chess can still be seen flowing past the south wall of the Queen's Head, but the rest has long been confined to conduits beneath the road. Another tributary stream, fresh from its source in the nearby Bury Pond, comes down to meet this channel by the pub, passing right by the puddingstone, again below the road. This shallow confluence, so near to its several sources, must indeed have been a suitable fording point in previous centuries.


1. E.A. & E.L. Rudge: 'The Conglomerate Track' in 'Essex Naturalist' Vol.29, part 1 (March 1952), p.21 (read 24/11/51.)



Hyde Heath

"Hawthorn Farm stone" (first mention in print 1952; read 1951):

Rudge found that a puddingstone had stood in the farmyard here up to 1950 (SP93040113), but that it had been broken up for use in building a wall. The farm is 1 miles west of the Pednor stone, and just south of the B485 road from Chesham to Great Missenden.



Hyde Heath

"Hyde House stone" (first mention in print 1952; read 1951):

Dr. Rudge said that a footpath led a quarter-mile west from Hawthorn Farm to Hyde House, where a puddingstone could be found in the garden to the rear of the building (SP92580100.) Strictly speaking there was no such footpath when he visited, only a field boundary that has now gone; but 19th century maps suggest a path of some kind was once there. Hyde House is a small early 18th century country house, once known as Chesham Woburn Manor. In Rudge's time, shortly after the Second World War, it was a school for a fairly brief period. The boulder was apparently laying on the surface of the school's kitchen garden. It could, of course, have come from anywhere. After a span as apartments, the house eventually returned to single ownership. The kitchen garden and its stone are long gone, with the grounds landscaped in the early 2000s to a formal Georgian style, and a Japanese garden with many boulders in it - but no puddingstones.



Hyde Heath

"Hyde Farm stone" (first mention in print 1952; read 1951):

Another three-quarters of a mile in a roughly westward direction brings us to Hyde Farm. Rudge said this is reached "by the same footpath" as that from Hawthorn Farm to Hyde House, implying a survival of his Track - but this is nonsense. There is no single path that links the three, nor has there ever been. Then as now, you leave Hyde House via an 18th century plantation drive, onto a short footpath that takes you to Browns Road, then turn onto Hyde Heath Road, and only then can you walk a continuous track (that changes direction twice) to reach Hyde Farm. And according to the 1839 tithe map, this continuous track did not then exist, as the open common of Hyde Heath began two fields from the farm, and there were no defined paths across it.


As for the 'puddingstone' here, Rudge said that "a boulder stands beside a barn at the gate of the farmhouse yard".1 He had earlier specified that it was at the corner of the barn, and that, along with his map reference, takes you to SP9142700686, where a boulder does indeed stand at the corner of a barn next to the gateway to the yard of Hyde Farm. But this is NOT a puddingstone. It is a plain, obvious sarsen, 66cm x 22cm x 60cm high, with not a single pebble visible in it anywhere.


1. E.A. Rudge (ed. John Cooper): 'The Lost Trackway' (1994), p.19.



'Confirmatory evidence' (NOT ON FINAL VERSION OF TRACK)

"The Camp, Pike Hill" (only mention in print 1952; read 1951):

Before it entered the village of Great Missenden, Rudge originally maintained that the Track veered a third of a mile south-west from Hyde Farm to what he thought was a prehistoric feature known as 'The Camp'. There is indeed an object labelled 'Camp' on old Ordnance Survey maps at SP90870043, on the lower slopes of Pike Hill, but it was usually named 'The Castle'. It's actually a square, moated earthwork enclosure that was probably the site of a hunting lodge or a manorial house. The only finds on the site have been of 12th century pottery. It would have behoved Rudge to research such features before he tried incorporating them into his Track theory.



Great Missenden

"The 'George' stone" (first mention in print 1952; read 1951):

From Hyde Farm it's a little over a mile WNW to the next marker on the Track, at the former George Inn on the west side of the High Street in Great Missenden. "Here" said Rudge, "the trackstone may be seen lying lengthwise beneath an ancient timber on the south side of the coaching-yard entrance".1 Later, he specifically stated it to be a 15th century timber2, presumably because the George is said to have been built in the 1480s as a hostelry for use by visitors to the now-ruined Missenden Abbey. A sketch sent to Mrs. Pilcher in 1951 confirms the exact position of this "very large" boulder, at SP8956101125, at ground level on the left side of the archway to the former coaching yard. The George closed as a pub in 2014, and although there were later plans to convert it into housing, in 2018 the main part of the building reopened as the George Ale House. When I visited in September 2017 the archway was fenced off and somewhat cluttered with rubbish, but the walls were clearly visible. Any puddingstone (and old timber) that was there was covered over decades ago when the walls on both sides were resurfaced with brick, and the lower sections painted black.


Rudge said in his talk of 1951, "This is the only example we have found of a trackstone siting an early hostelry." Even if we accept his premise that the stone had been on the same spot since prehistoric times, and had been a marker on his hypothetical Track - the archway was never part of the original late 15th century inn. The filled-in outline of the first entrance to the yard is about 5m further north, closer to the front door. The two sections of building south of it, the southernmost of which contains the present archway, were extensions built in the 17th and 18th centuries when coach travel became popular. Exactly how or why the presence of an otherwise unremarkable lump of rock caused an inn to be built next to it in the 15th century, Rudge never explained. It should also be mentioned that there is evidence of back-filled chalk pits about 90m from the inn, an obvious source for the stone.


1. E.A. & E.L. Rudge: 'The Conglomerate Track' in 'Essex Naturalist' Vol.29, part 1 (March 1952), p.21 (read 24/11/51.)

2. E.A. & E.L. Rudge: 'A Stone Age Trade Route in East Anglia' in 'Discovery' magazine Vol.13, No.7 (July 1952), p.210.



'Confirmatory evidence': persistence of the Track as a right-of-way:

Rudge saw his Track pursuing its generally westward course out of Great Missenden via footpaths to a puddingstone at Andlows Farm a little over three-quarters of a mile away. He described this as "an extraordinary example of the persistence of the track in a modern right-of-way, preserved as a narrow foot-tunnel under the railway, and an 'entry' beside the 15th century George Inn".1 "After which", he later added, "a stile and footpath through Angling Spring Wood leads to Andlows Farm".2 The George is No.94 High Street, and between it and No.92 there is indeed a very narrow passage. Nowadays it takes you to the unmade end of Back Lane, then you have to turn onto Twitchell Road, at the end of which is the footpath that takes you through the tunnel under the railway line. But the 1839 tithe map shows that the path used to carry on almost straight from that passage, and proceed as a continuous track through Angling Spring Wood, just as Rudge said. Two minor problems though - firstly, if the foot-tunnel is supposed to be exactly on the line of the Track, it's been built in the wrong place. It's actually 40m south of the old path. Secondly, on both the tithe map and today, the path through the wood passes more than 100m to the north of the farm and its stone.


1. E.A. & E.L. Rudge: 'The Conglomerate Track' in 'Essex Naturalist' Vol.29, part 1 (March 1952), p.20-21 (read 24/11/51.)

2. E.A. Rudge (ed. John Cooper): 'The Lost Trackway' (1994), p.19.



Prestwood (Great Missenden)

"Andlow stone" (first mention in print 1952; read 1951):

Andlows Farm (SP88130077, just east of Prestwood) held what Dr. Rudge called the largest boulder of puddingstone in Buckinghamshire. It was once near the farmhouse, but had been moved to what he variously named the stockyard or rickyard. In his correspondence to Mrs. Pilcher he said it was an 'enormous block' that had been moved from the site of what were to be new milk sheds to the straw shed (i.e. rickyard).1 I haven't been able to visit, but this has apparently now gone. According to the environment group Prestwood Nature and others, there are blocks of local puddingstone and Denner Hill sarsen in the hedges beside the footpath that passes the farm. Both are said to be common in the Prestwood area.


1. Letter from Dr. Rudge to Mrs. R. Pilcher, 21/5/1951.



Stony Green (Great Missenden)

"Stoneygreen stone (b)" (first mention in print 1952; read 1951):

There are conflicting map references given for this puddingstone, but the only one that would make sense given the direction of the Track at this point would be SP865000. Rudge's brief mention of it in 'Lost Trackway' is "Stoneygreen Wood: stone beside the footpath, fully exposed." As he had earlier said that it was embedded, I presume 'fully exposed' means it had later been dug up. If the location is correct - and I haven't done the long uphill trek needed to check it - the stone is next to a path that emerges from the western side of Stonygreen Wood, just over a mile south-west of Andlows Farm. The path is actually a part of the track that begins near the George Inn and passes through Angling Spring Wood (though bypassing Andlows.) It continues on through the new 'suburbs' of Prestwood, with modern roads built along the same line. The stone may not always have been here though - OS maps up to the 1920s show an 'extractive pit' on the spot, which is more than likely the boulder's origin. Plus, only 200m further south there used to be a quarry containing a bed of chalk-rock, often a source of sarsen and conglomerate.



Stony Green (Great Missenden)

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

"By path through wood" and "beside the path, almost embedded" were the descriptions for this stone's location. The map reference of SP864000 puts it not in Stoneygreen Wood, but in Nanfan Wood, about 60m west of the previous stone. The path may be that which runs down the whole eastern side of the wood, just within the tree line, or it might have been another that was marked on maps up to the 1960s, roughly parallel with the wood's edge, but further in.


Rudge himself found it difficult at first to pick out the line of his Track in this area. Blocks of Herts Puddingstone were often encountered around Prestwood, and such stones were known to have been used to mark out the old boundary of Peterley Manor, which ran beside Stony Green and Nanfan. The route was also now moving into a region known for a variant of conglomerate known as Bradenham Puddingstone. Denner Hill too was in his path, a well-known outcropping of sarsen (now quarried out) that occasionally produced the pebbly variety. Nevertheless he finally chose his route, which would have entailed the prehistoric traveller, laden with bags of flint from Grimes Graves, having to traverse four steep hills with thickly-wooded slopes and deep valleys on the line that was now trending south-west again.



Stony Green (Great Missenden)

"Nanfan stone" (first mention in print 1952; read 1951):

The next stone is 320m west, but is not in its original position. According to Rudge it used to stand at the south-western edge of Nanfan Wood, just where another footpath emerged, but a farmer had set it rolling down the steep slope towards Hampden Road. It's now in the hedge bordering the road at SU8608899987, a few metres south of where that path meets the road at a metal 'kissing gate'.


The road, which runs between Great Hampden and Hughenden Valley, is narrow, extraordinarily busy for a country lane, and with no verges for parking. I found it very dangerous to walk to this point from Stony Green, but I did at least find that the stone is still there. But it is NOT puddingstone, it's a medium-sized boulder of the sandy Denner Hill sarsen. Unfortunately it's now too deep within the hedge and obscured by foliage to allow for either photography or measurement. I would estimate that it's about a metre long and perhaps 60cm high.



Denner Hill (Hughenden)

"Denner stone" (first mention in print 1952; read 1951):

The path from Nanfan Wood continues on the west side of Hampden Road, where there is a stile nearly opposite the metal gate. It climbs the side of Denner Hill where, on the plateau at the top, is Dennerhill Farm. A puddingstone is supposed to be "at the top of a footpath, near the farm".1 Rudge's map references would place it, not on the Nanfan path, but on the track that runs south past the farm, about a quarter-mile WSW of the previous stone. I was unable to find any boulders when I looked in 2017.


1. E.A. Rudge (ed. John Cooper): 'The Lost Trackway' (1994), p.19.



Bryant's Bottom (Hughenden)

"Piggott stones (3)" (first mention in print 1952; read 1951):

From near the farm, another path descends Denner Hill to reach the hamlet of Bryant's Bottom, strung out along the road named after it. Dr. Rudge noted in passing that there are many stones here by the cottages. Nowadays there are more detached houses, bungalows and terraces than cottages, but there are indeed many small lumps of rock along the verges and at gateways, all seemingly modern placements. Not one that I saw was puddingstone, just sandstone, and one particularly large and impressive slab of Denner Hill sarsen.


Another footpath leaves Bryant's Bottom on the west side of the road to climb a hill and enter the northern tip of Pigott's (or Piggott's) Wood. The wood stretches southwards along a ridge for nearly a mile, which is the direction Rudge thought his Track now took. Initially he said there were two puddingstones here, "beside footpath in wood".1 But he gave only one map reference, SU855990, which just seems to be a general reference for the centre of the wood. By the time of the manuscript of 'Lost Trackway' a third stone had been added, and all three stood beside a path running north-south along the ridge. The three later coordinates - SU854994, SU854992 and SU854990 - are all in the northern half of the wood, above a farm called Pigott's (about 750m south of Denner Hill Farm.)


Rudge made it seem as if all the stones were on a single path, but in fact the locations place them on three separate paths, all leading in different directions - and one of them is modern, not appearing on the 1898 25 Inch map. Oddly, Mrs. Pilcher, who had been helping Rudge by searching out stones in the area, marked five puddingstones in the wood on her 1950 sketch map, but he ignored the two further to the west - presumably because they didn't fit his projected route.


Pigott's Wood has been much studied due to the evidence of human industry there, from the Iron Age to medieval times and beyond. There are boundary banks and ditches that may date to the 10th or 11th century, there are quarries where chalk, flint and Denner Hill stone may have been extracted - and, especially in the northern part of the wood, there are many known puddingstone boundary markers. According to the Chilterns AONB Conservation Board, "These were mentioned in deeds of 1654 when 3 acres, 'marked and bounded by great stones', was sold to Tom Fellowes." The Speen Heritage Group held a guided walk in the wood in 2012, where their guide "took us back towards the North Dean [south-west] side of the woods and pointed out one of the many boundary markers that are located in this ancient woodland - a pudding stone, probably carried from Denner Hill".2 Relying on such stones to help prove a hypothetical prehistoric trackway seems unwise to me.


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

2. 'An Historic Guided Walk at Pigotts' in the 'Speen and North Dean News' Issue 55 (Summer/Autumn 2012), p.23.




"Bradenham stone" (first mention in print 1952; read 1951):

South-west from Pigott's Wood the Track supposedly passes through Upper North Dean and Walter's Ash on its way to the village of Bradenham two miles away, wholly owned by the National Trust. Just before it enters the village, Rudge said that the Track runs through a shallow valley beside Bradenham Wood Lane "with an extraordinary collection of conglomerate boulders lying on the surface".1 "Together", he claimed, "they make what is probably the best natural outcrop of puddingstone known".2 This collection does indeed lie at SU83139732, on the south side of the lane about 350m north-east of the church, and sarsens too are strewn across the valley floor. These are the local variation of conglomerate known as Bradenham Puddingstone where the constituent pebbles are usually brown angular flints, some quite large. More are known in Great Cookshall Wood to the SSE, and a little to the east at Willow Pond at Naphill, where they may well have been dug up.


Although now fewer than there once were, closer to the church two edges of the village green are lined with chunks of both puddingstone and sarsen. These are mostly quite small, although there are two slightly larger puddingstone boulders near the corner of the churchyard wall, and a massive sarsen further out onto the green. These were put in place by the rector before 1890, "who said that such stone underlies the Rectory house and lawn close by; and some blocks of it were still lying about there".3


The local prevalence of both types of stone makes Rudge's contention that there is one of his 'pagan' puddingstones at the church somewhat less significant. St. Botolph's (SU82819712) is made mostly of flint, interspersed with dressed slabs of Denner Hill sarsen. In 1951 he said that "the trackstone lies embedded at the foot of the south-western buttress of the Church tower".4 In 'Lost Trackway' it's under the south-eastern tower buttress. Having carefully examined the entire exterior of the church in September 2017, I can say with confidence that there are NO visible puddingstones under any part of the structure. There is nothing at all at the south-east or north-east buttresses. Against (not under) the foot of the south-west tower buttress is a flat, shaped slab of sandstone (photo left.) Running beside the north-west buttress is a slab of what is clearly early 20th century concrete. In my opinion, both were placed there in fairly modern times to help brace the base of the tower, as it stands on the edge of a steeply-sloping mound.


1. E.A. Rudge (ed. John Cooper): 'The Lost Trackway' (1994), p.19.

2. E.A. Rudge: 'A History of Puddingstone' in 'Discovery' Vol13, No.12 (Dec. 1952), p.377.

3. Prof. T. Rupert Jones: 'History of the Sarsens' in 'The Geological Magazine' New Series, Decade IV, Vol.VIII (1901), p.58.

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



Cadmore End (Lane End)

"Kensham Farm, Cadmore End" (first mention 1957)

From Bradenham, the Track now heads SSW, with no puddingstones recorded for 3 miles until near the hamlet of Cadmore End. Kensham Farm (wrongly named as Frensham Farm in 'Lost Trackway') sits a little north of the B482 Marlow Road, at the south-western tip of Cadmore End Common. Since Dr. Rudge was here the M40 has cut through the landscape between road and farm, but the latter can still be reached by an access bridge over the motorway, which is also a public bridleway that joins up with the old lane to the farm. Rudge first described the puddingstone here as being on the verge of that lane, "about 50 yards (45-46m) from the farm gate".1 In 'Lost Trackway' it was contrarily stated to be only 16 yards (14-15m) from the farm. Due to expansion of the site there are now two entrances, one of which wasn't there in the 1950s, but the original gateway to the farm is still there.


As previously seen, Rudge's distance estimates, like his map references, can't always be relied upon for accuracy. The coordinates given for the stone in his book, for example, leave you in an empty field half a mile south of Kensham Farm! Luckily the 1957 reference led me to the correct spot, which is at SU7908492698. Here the old track continues on to the farmhouse, while a lane made in the 1980s goes left to barns and workshops, and another, slightly re-routed in the 1960s, goes right towards the common. The stone is on the north-east verge of that junction, about 70m from the gateway - but once again, it is NOT a puddingstone. It's actually a uniquely-shaped, partially-mammilated sarsen, 1.2m x 75cm x 45cm high. It's possible that it was unearthed in the old gravel pit that used to be only 50m away, now lost beneath the M40. The photo top left shows the location of the stone beside the farm track, while the one bottom left gives a better view of its unusual shape.   


1. E. A. Rudge: 'The Puddingstone Track' in 'Essex Naturalist' Vol.30 (1957), p.55.



Cadmore End (Lane End)

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

Where the lane from Kensham Farm (having passed over the M40) meets Marlow Road, almost directly opposite is an unmade road to Rackley's Farm. Only 18m along it, on the verge outside the gate to Rackley's Bungalow, is the next stone on the Track (at SU7901992507.) When Rudge saw it he said was almost buried, but more of it is visible now. But, yet again, it is NOT puddingstone, or any kind of conglomerate, but a plain sarsen, measuring 1.3m x 65cm x 24cm high.



Cadmore End (Lane End)

"Rackley stone (b)" (first mention in print 1952; read 1951):

Another 30m along the lane is the gateway to Rackley's Farm, at SU7903392480 (just visible in the photo above.) Here Rudge recorded "a large boulder on the surface, near the gate to the farm".1 Regrettably, there is no sign of it any more. This is about 230m south of the Kensham Farm stone, and the Track here resumes its general south-westerly alignment, heading across the hills to Fingest just over a mile away.


1. E.A. Rudge (ed. John Cooper): 'The Lost Trackway' (1994), p.20.



Fingest (Hambleden)

"Near Fingest church" (first mention 1950):

In the early 1950s Dr. Rudge conducted a brief correspondence through the pages of a local newspaper with the previously-mentioned palaeontologist A. Morley Davies, who was doubtful of his Track theory. After Davies had mentioned a number of puddingstone specimens around the Chilterns, Rudge responded "Whilst Dr. Davies was frankly sceptical of my deductions, he mentioned a conglomerate block near Fingest Church. This I have visited, and I feel convinced it forms part of my 'puddingstone trail'".1 He mentioned it in his talk to the Essex Field Club of November 1951, which was printed the following March, appearing as "SU777912. Fingest stones. In lane south of Church".2 As well as there now being more than one stone, the map reference given appears to apply to an area north of the church. It only became clear 44 years later with the publication of 'Lost Trackway'.


Rudge was actually referring to two different stones, the first of which lies on the east side of Chequers Lane, about 30m north of St. Bartholomew's. It sits amongst the shrubbery near the corner of the timber-framed Church Cottage (SU7770491182), although photos from the 1940s to the 70s show that it has been moved a little over the years. This is a substantial boulder 80cm x 70cm x 50cm high, of the Bradenham type of puddingstone, containing mostly jagged and irregular flint pebbles.


1. Letter from Dr. Rudge in 'The Bucks Examiner' 1/9/1950, p.4.

2. E.A. & E.L. Rudge: 'The Conglomerate Track' in 'Essex Naturalist' Vol.29, part 1 (March 1952), p.28 (read 24/11/51.)



Fingest (Hambleden)

"At crossroads by Fingest church" (first mention 1950):

About 80m south of Church Cottage, Rudge noted "stones which are possibly fragments of a larger boulder".1 A photograph of the early 1900s (top left) shows two rocks, one larger than the other, resting on the verge on either side of the corner of the churchyard wall. This is at SU7770891108, where Chequers Lane meets Fingest Lane (which is actually a three-way junction, not a crossroads.) By 1977, the smaller of the two had gone. They were clearly there to protect the corner of the wall, but after kerbs and proper verges were created, they were unnecessary. One boulder is still in place, now half-buried under soil and weeds, measuring 80cm x 60cm x 30cm high - and once again, it is a plain sarsen without any pebbles, NOT a puddingstone (photo bottom left.) Just across the road at the foot of a hedge is another small sarsen 60cm x 45cm x 25cm high - possibly the lost one from the corner, but there are similar sarsens on other verges along Chequers Lane.


1. E.A. Rudge (ed. John Cooper): 'The Lost Trackway' (1994), p.20.



Southend (Turville)

"Kimble Farm stone" (first mention 1950):

In the same 1950 'Bucks Examiner' letter mentioned above, Rudge said that his Track "pointed to Kimble Farm, where two more conglomerates were found." However, after that only one stone was ever indicated there, which had been found buried in the kitchen garden behind the farmhouse, and was then moved to the lawn in front of it (SU75388904.) There is no lawn before the house nowadays, just a vast forecourt, and the boulder has gone. The farm is almost two miles south-west of Fingest, and just south of the little hamlet called Southend.


In 1913, a concentration of more than a hundred Mesolithic flint flakes and tools were found on the surface of cultivated land belonging to Kimble Farm, leading to its later classification as a prehistoric 'workshop floor' or 'flint factory'. Rudge was keen to link this to his Track, pointing out in 1950 that it was only 200 yards from the boulder. (Confusingly, in 'Lost Trackway' he said that it was "about 400 yards from the famous 'Mesolithic Floor' near Thatcham." He must have been confused himself, since that town is about 19 miles away in Berkshire!) In fact the exact site of the flint working has never been determined, but from the soil type and height above sea level recorded, the 'best guess' given by archaeologists is that it was about 200m south-east of the farm. I'm fairly sure it's no coincidence that this location, as shown on old OS maps, was also the site of a small quarry that had been filled-in by 1900. Once again, a plausible nearby source for the puddingstone.


The Track now leaves Buckinghamshire and heads slightly west, into Oxfordshire.



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