To scrub out or not to scrub out, that is the question? Vital hawthorn scrub has recently been removed by the Trust from Pitstone Hill – Buckinghamshire birders bewildered. Ring Ouzel gulley on the crown of the hill used by migrating birds returning from north Africa has been cleared out by agreement with Natural England – too much hawthorn on the hill? Ironically a Ring Ouzel is over-wintering on the hill at this spot.
The clearance has been promoted because in earlier years the rare Easter blooming pasque flower occurred in the holloway and it needs to be restored – previous attempts to reinstate the plant at Ashridge have failed. Staff from Kew Botanical Gardens planted up an area on Clipper Down in the spring of 2014 and the volunteers planted some fifty plug plants on Piccadilly Hill in 2015 without success – the plant was once widespread in Incombe Hole. For the seed to germinate the plant requires an open soil, so divots in the sward are necessary courtesy of livestock – the sooner the cattle return the better!
Pasque flowers are the vogue models of the wild flower kingdom worth travelling miles to see.
There have been past issues affecting the topography of the hill
In the early 1930’s there was a proposal to relocate Brooklands Motor Racing circuit in Surrey to Pitstone, which fortunately did not materialise.
The cement works which closed in 1991 arrived in Pitstone in 1937, and surprisingly the Tunnel Portland Cement company acquired the rights in 1953 to quarry the western face of the hill which obliterated any remains of the white horse hill figure which once looked out over the Aylesbury vale as a waymark sign for the Welsh drovers. The archive details at the Centre for Buckinghamshire Studies suggests this to be the second earliest of the hill carvings in the land, created in Tudor times! The White Horse Hill figure in Oxfordshire is undoubtedly the oldest.
Unlike the Chiltern chalk crosses at Bledlow (SP769009) and Whitehill (SP821039) which can be seen today viewing the Vale of Aylesbury but have no historical records, the Pitstone hill figure does have three archive references. It has the same sight line as the crosses, and pre-dates an original will of 1580 – a “furlong Whight Horse”. The 1848 tithe map of Pitstone shows three small fields named first, second, and third White Horse Piece at the base of the western escarpment of the hill. A will of 1630 refers to a nearby track as “White Horse Way” which leads to Aldbury. Before the Acts of Enclosure in the 1800’s the fields would have been of furlong strips, farmed by the inhabitants of Pitstone.