THE gigantic Whiteleaf Cross stands on the edge of the Chilterns silently watching all that goes on in the Vale below. The cross has given away almost none of its secrets throughout the years and defied archaeologists to even guess at its true age or purpose.
It was first accurately recorded in 1742 by the Rev Francis Wise who claimed it could be seen from Uffington, 30 miles away. But in fact the cross was not as big then as it is now. The cross cannot be accurately dated any older than that but tantalisingly there is a reference in a Saxon charter of 903 AD to a boundary mark at Whiteleaf called Weland's stock (or pole).
More convincingly is a clue discovered by Michael Bayley who noticed a drawing of it cut into one of the tiles of Monks Risborough church at the foot of the cross. The tile is 14th century. It is unlikely the cross was copied from the tile (rather than the other way round) but of course it cannot be ruled out. As to its purpose - that has been open to much conjecture. It faces exactly West which suggests an astronomical alignment (most ancient hill figures face West). Others have suggested it was cut to commemorate a battle or used as a marker for travellers. Nobody really knows but what is for sure is that a spectacular view across the Vale can be had from the picnic area at the top of the cross. It is said you can see seven counties from the vantage point. Count them and see! To get to the cross drive north out of Princes Risborough. Turn right at Monks Risborough (the cross is signposted) and drive up the hill through the village of Whiteleaf. The entrance to the picnic area is on the left but is not clearly signposted. There are frequent thefts from cars at the site so do not leave any valuables in your car.
LESS well known is Bledlow Cross, also in Buckinghamshire, which can only be dated to early 19th century. It is smaller than Whiteleaf and was last scoured in 1991. You will have trouble finding it but drive to the end of Hill Top Lane above the village of Chinnor (on the Bledlow Ridge road) and then walk northwards. After about half a mile the cross is above you on your right. The Revd. F. Lee (1883) conjectures that the Whiteleaf Cross near Princes Risborough was cut as a memorial for some victory by King Edward the elder over his enemies. There is, however, no evidence for this.