Bradenham Butterfly Trail

Walking trail

This is a 2.7 miles (4.3 kilometres) circular walk from Small Dean Bank near Bradenham. The walk takes in a variety of woodland, grassland and scrubland habitats, which are managed by the National Trust to sustain biodiversity. Bradenham Woods, Park Wood and The Coppice have been designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest. Twenty-eight species of butterfly have been recorded here, including small blue, Duke of Burgundy and dark green fritillaries. Marbled whites are abundant and there are many more common species.

Recent forestry operations on parts of the route may lead to poor path conditions after heavy rain - see Terrain

Ideal conditions to see butterflies

What you will see will depends on the time of year and on the weather conditions. Warm, dry days from April to September are likely to be more rewarding. The walk also offers extensive views of the Chilterns Countryside near Bradenham.

If you would like to find out more about British butterflies, visit the Butterfly Conservation website .

To help you identify a butterfly species try Butterfly Conversation – Identify a Butterfly

Also, highly recommended is the Butterfly Conversation Smart app, available for iPhones or Androids, which is excellent for identifying butterflies. You can also use the app to contribute photographs and valuable scientific data to the Biological Records Centre (BRC). By doing so, you can play your part in butterfly conservation.


Bradenham Butterfly Trail Route


National Trust car park in Smalldean Lane. Grid Ref. SU823989


From the National Trust car park in Smalldean Lane, turn left onto the lane, following it downhill towards Small Dean Farm. This is usually a very quiet lane, but please keep a look out for traffic. After 250 metres, you will reach the buildings of Small Dean Farm. Here turn left following a footpath sign. Take a track between some out buildings and continue until you reach an open field. Here turn left and follow the path in a straight line along the field boundary for 130m, towards a wooden gate in a gap in the hedge ahead of you.


Go through the gate and follow the path steeply uphill through an area of grass and scrub vegetation. To your right is a field with numerous round anthills built by yellow meadow ants.

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Chalkhill blue (male)


At the top of the field, go through another wooden gate and up a short steep slope into Park Wood to meet a crossing track. Turn right along the track, which initially curves left, then eventually curves to the right as it heads steadily uphill before leveling out and then then descending again. Ignore all side paths and follow the track for about 400m through the beech woodland until you reach a fork. Take the right fork downslope, which is effectively straight ahead. (Please note that recent forestry operations have disturbed a section of this walk, so the path may be very muddy in wet conditions, particularly during the winter months.) After a short distance you will reach another gate leading out of Park Wood into a field.

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Speckled Wood - Pararge aegeria


Turn left, following the edge of the field, with Park Wood on your left. The path heads steadily downhill until it reaches a wooden kissing gate next to a field gate. From here you will have a clear view of Bradenham Village in the valley below. Go through the gate, taking the second track on your left that leads up a short slope to a metal field gate and a metal kissing gate.

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Brown Argus - Aricia agestis


Go through the gate and follow the edge of the field uphill, again with Park Wood on your left. On your right there are distant views of Bradenham, Bradenham Valley, and as far as West Wycombe Church. After you have passed the path’s summit it starts to descend to another metal kissing gate.


Go through the gate and down some steps, then head downhill across an area of grass and scrub vegetation. Take care as the path can be slippery after wet weather. On reaching the bottom of the slope, turn left onto a wide track and head towards a set of wooden gates.

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Essex Skipper - Thymelicus sylvestris


Head through the gate and continue following the wide track gently uphill, ignoring branching paths. Some large areas of the woodland on this part of the route has been recently cleared and replanted. After 300 metres, the path curves to the left. You soon see a short, steep wooded bank to the right of the track with a chain link fence running along the top and with old Second World War pillboxes behind. This is the boundary fence of RAF High Wycombe at Walters Ash. The track bends left uphill away from it then levels out. Continue following the main track as it winds through an area of beech woodland, then another area that has recently been cleared and replanted. Continue along the track until you see a double wooden five-bar gate ahead of you. About 60 metres before the gate, look out for a path on your left leading downhill between the trees.

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Silver-washed Fritillary


Turn left onto the woodland path, following it as it winds its way downhill for about 300 metres. On your right, look out for a path heading downhill to a wooden gate. Go down the path and through the gate into the nature reserve at Small Dean Bank. Follow the steep downhill path across Small Dean Bank, back to the car park where you started.

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Duke of Burgundy


National Trust car park in Smalldean Lane. Grid Ref. SU823989

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Bradenham Butterfly Trail


Most of the walk is on tracks and soft footpaths, and there is a short stretch on a quiet country lane. There are two short but steep slopes. There are no stiles but a number of gates. Dogs are welcome, but must be kept under strict control as livestock is grazed on several parts of the route. Some paths can be muddy and slippery after prolonged or heavy rain. Stout walking shoes or walking boots are recommended in wet conditions or after heavy rain.

Please note that recent forestry operations have changed the character of some of the woodland sections of this walk. Areas of woodland have been cleared and replanted with native British trees. Over time, this will increase the range of habitats for butterflies and other fauna.

Bradenham Butterfly Trail

How to get here

National Trust car park in Smalldean Lane. Grid Ref. SU823989
By train

The nearest station is 0.8 of a mile (1.3 km) away at Saunderton on the Chiltern Railways line.

By road

From the A4010, High Wycombe to Princes Risborough road, take Smalldean Lane in Saunderton village. The car park is 0.8 miles (1.3 km) on the right just after Small Dean Farm.

SATNAV: the nearest postcode is HP27 0PR. Latitude: 51.683602, Longitude: -0.810764

By foot

Please see OS map 172

By bus

The main bus route through Bradenham is route 321 between High Wycombe and Aylesbury. The bus stop is near the Golden Cross in Saunderton on the A4010).

By bicycle

Bradenham is accessible by bicycle from High Wycombe or Princes Risborough. The Chiltern Cycleway passes Saunderton Station (see access by train above). Please note that no cycling is allowed on much of the trail.  Please see OS map 172.

Bradenham Butterfly Trail

Facilities and access

  • Free parking is available at the National Trust car park in Smalldean Lane. Grid. Ref. SU823989
  • There are no public toilets on site. The nearest public toilets are in West Wycombe village.
  • A number of benches and other places to picnic can be found along the route.
  • Please take your litter home with you and clear up after your pets.
  • Red Lion Tea Room / Restaurant / Coffee Shop, Bradenham (Open 09:00 - 16:00) Tel: 01494 565554
  • The Golden Cross Public House, Saunderton Tel: 01494 565974