Look out for the spectacular native Spindle tree at this time of year. Growing on chalk soils it rarely makes more than ten feet in height, and survives as a large shrub. The leaves are shiny green and slightly waxy with tiny sharp teeth along the edges, turning to a rich orange-red in Autumn. It is the bright pink fruits with bright orange seeds which are the main attraction. Think of red popcorn and you will know what to look for. Spindle timber is creamy white, hard and dense. In the past it was used to make spindles for spinning and holding wool, as well as skewers, toothpicks, pegs and knitting needles. Today spindle timber is used to make a high quality charcoal for artists. A hundred years ago before the advent of the N H S, the village people relied upon nature to provide their medical care, when the fruits were baked and powdered and used to treat head lice, or mange in their cattle. Both the leaves and fruit are toxic to humans – the berries have a laxative effect!
You can find the Spindle (Euonymus Europaea) in the hedgerows in Pitstone car park, or near the communication mast at the bottom of Gallows Hill. Interesting stuff for the visitors.