History of Magog Down

Stapleford History Society 12 May 2015

Talk by Joan Barnes and others

At the May meeting of Stapleford History Society over 50 people crowded into the Pavilion to hear about the history of Magog Down from three Governors of the Magog Trust, Bryan Davies, Lucy Evans and Kathleen Foreman.

Joan Barnes, the first chairman, started by reminding us of the moment in 1989 when some visionary people came up with the idea of returning arable fields to chalk downland, with unique forms of wildlife, and at the same time providing an accessible area for everyone to enjoy.

This is just the latest phase in a history stretching back over 5000 years. Humans first made their mark on the area around 3,500 BC, constructing a causewayed enclosure – a monument of banks and ditches – making a circle around Little Trees Hill. About 2000 years later, a burial mound was placed in the centre of this circle. Then in about 500 BC, the hill-fort at nearby Wandlebury was built. We are not the first generation to see this as a special place.

Arable farming on the thin chalky soils was probably not attempted until Stapleford’s fields were enclosed in 1812. The chalk downland is re-establishing rapidly. Some species have been helped along, such as the cowslips scattered as seed collected from Wandlebury. Other species are reappearing spontaneously, such as the spotted orchid.

And so another generation attempts to measure up to the challenge of looking after land that already has 5000 years of human effort invested in it.

[report by John Street]