May Hill

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May Hill
Fine view of May Hill - geograph.org.uk - 906969.jpg
May Hill from Perrystone Hill
Elevation 296 m (971 ft)
Prominence c. 217 m
Parent peak Worcestershire Beacon
Listing Marilyn
Location
Location Gloucestershire, England
OS grid SO695213
Topo map OS Landranger 162

May Hill is a hill between Gloucester and Ross-on-Wye. Its summit is on the western edge of Gloucestershire, though its northern slopes are in Herefordshire. The hill is made distinctive by a clump of trees on its top.[1]

Toponymy[edit]

There is an unverified story that May Hill was named after a certain Captain May who used it as a landmark when navigating the Severn estuary, but documents from a couple of hundred years ago relate that the hill was known as Yartleton Hill and was renamed because of the May Day events held there.[2] Each May Day, morris dancers dance in the new dawn on the top of May Hill and hundreds of observers join in the celebration.[3] A ceremony on May Day morning has been carried out for several centuries; originally it included a mock battle between youths.[2]

Geography[edit]

The Severn from May Hill

May Hill forms part of a low range of hills separating the River Severn from the River Wye. The summit is 296 metres (971 ft) above sea level, and located there among the trees are several benches from which one may study the views, which are extensive in all directions. They include views to the Welsh borders, and the lower reaches of the River Severn, bypassed for shipping by the Gloucester and Sharpness Canal.[3]

Geology[edit]

May Hill is formed of sandstones and siltstones known as the May Hill sandstone, consisting of the Huntley Hill and Yartleton formations. These rocks date from the Early Silurian period and are formed into a dome, cut through by several faults. The most significant of these is the Blaisdon Fault, which forms the eastern boundary of May Hill and separates it from the younger rocks of the Severn Vale.[4]

Ecology and SSSI status[edit]

May Hill
Site of Special Scientific Interest
May Hill - geograph.org.uk - 7712.jpg
Trees on the summit of May Hill
May Hill is located in Gloucestershire
May Hill
Shown within Gloucestershire
Area of Search Gloucestershire
Grid reference SO695214
Coordinates 51°53′27″N 2°26′38″W / 51.890765°N 2.443869°W / 51.890765; -2.443869Coordinates: 51°53′27″N 2°26′38″W / 51.890765°N 2.443869°W / 51.890765; -2.443869
Interest Biological/Geological
Area 32.6 hectare
Notification 1954
Natural England website

The top of May Hill (grid reference SO695214) is a 32.6-hectare (81-acre) biological and geological Site of Special Scientific Interest in Gloucestershire, notified in 1954.[5][6]

The site is listed in the Forest of Dean Local Plan Review as a Key Wildlife Site (KWS).[7]

Much of the Hill is wooded, both coniferous and deciduous, though the summit area is grassland and heath, with a small amount of heather and gorse. The immediate summit is topped with mature Corsican pines, which were planted in 1887 to mark Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee and one very old Scots Pine which is a generation older, but which regrettably suffered badly in an ice storm in early 2012.[1] For more info see http://notabletrees.blogspot.co.uk/ These trees make May Hill an easily identifiable landmark from many miles away. The younger trees around were planted to mark Queen Elizabeth's Silver Jubilee. Early maps and accounts show a clump of trees on the top before these plantings.[2] Birds to be seen on the hill include meadow pipit, tree pipit,[8] redstart and raven, whilst the woods below have a good population of woodcock.[citation needed]

History[edit]

An area of 30 ha of the hill is owned by the National Trust,[1] though the very top is vested with Longhope Parish Council and registered as a Village Green. The site boundary was amended in 1983.[5] The hill includes a circular trench 100 metres in diameter said to be an Iron Age earthwork, surrounding a mound that is probably a round barrow. The hill was enclosed by an act of parliament in 1873 and passed into the care of the National Trust in 1935.[2]

There are records of a clump of trees on the summit of May Hill dating back to the later 18th century. The dwindling clump was replenished in time for the Golden Jubilee of Queen Victoria in 1887.[2] There was further replenishment 90 years later. A plaque on the summit commemorating the Silver Jubilee of Elizabeth II in 1977 reads; "This plaque was erected by the parishes of Longhope & Newent as a tribute to a gracious and beloved monarch. God Save the Queen".[3] The summit is reached by three public footpaths, two of them forming parts of the Gloucestershire Way and Wysis Way.[8]

May Hill in cultural life[edit]

John Masefield describes May Hill in his poem "The Everlasting Mercy".[9] Ivor Gurney eulogised "May Hill that Gloucester dwellers 'gainst every sunset see". Composer Gerald Finzi's ashes were scattered on the top in 1973[10] as have been the ashes of other local residents.[citation needed] One of the benches on the summit is dedicated to the Forest of Dean chronicler Winifred Foley and her husband, who moved in the 1970s to the nearby village of Cliffords Mesne.[citation needed]

References[edit]

External links[edit]