As a resident of Ivinghoe, I have often wondered about Mercer's intriguing reference in 1623 to a great white figure of a man cut in the chalk above the village of Pitstone. Possibly it resembled the outline of Hercules at Cerne Abbas (left). By independent evidence, it was also visible in 1580 but had vanished from record by the late 17th century (John Houghton, Manors & Mayhem, 1996: 65).
Where could it have been sited?
To have been visible to Mercer, looking north from Pitstone, it might have been located on the south-eastern scarp of Beacon Hill. However, the elevation is modest and the figure would have been puny. More likely, the site was a mile still further north at the great hill of Whipsnade.
This is precisely the place where Whipsnade Zoo now flaunts a chalk figure of a lion. Local rumour has it that the figure was created during the 2nd World War to warn German aircraft that Here Be a Zoo. And therefore they should not bomb it. I doubt if it worked. Bomber pilots at the time were not noticeably sentimental.
So I would suggest that the modern chalk Lion of Whipsnade Zoo disguises a figure - medieval or earlier - that is possibly that of Hercules. No doubt the diligent volunteers of the National Trust could confirm that in no time, using depth radar. I commend it to their next Funding Application.