Parkland at Hughenden
Hughenden’s historical parkland was first created in the early 1700s around the manor and farm. Today’s formal parkland was originally set out in the 1820s and featured limes, horse chestnuts, walnuts and sycamore.
When Benjamin Disraeli took on the estate in 1848 he set about altering the gardens, parkland and countryside, to enhance the dramatic setting of the manor.
He had a passion for trees and a love of nature and together with his wife Mary Anne they were instrumental in adding to the estate’s beauty. They brought their favourite native British trees together with significant trees from around the world.
Each new specimen the Disraelis added was carefully chosen, with styles and silhouettes to contribute to the landscape and frame the views of the beautiful sweeping hills across the valley.
Disraeli was also very fond of the Bohemian forests and this too influenced the planting of trees in the estate with a German Forest full of yew, laurel and pine.
From April to September our parkland is home to a herd of Aberdeen Angus crossbreed cattle and thanks to their grazing the land is an ideal conservation habitat where wildflowers flourish. The open grassland they create means butterflies, bugs and beetles thrive and the cow pats they leave bring flies which the swallows and spotted flycatchers enjoy. You can see the birds swooping across the parkland on a summer’s day. If you do see a flycatcher please let us know as you will be helping our rangers with their annual monitoring which contributes to the national picture of this scarce migrant bird.
Early records show that a church has existed on this site since the early 12th century. It now has a Victorian Gothic appearance following its restoration and extension in 1874-5 by Disraeli. Unusually for a Prime Minister he is buried here; he left instructions that he wanted to be buried quietly at Hughenden alongside his wife and you can see their graves at the foot of the west wall.
Royal protocol did not permit the monarch to attend the private funeral, but Queen Victoria visited the tomb a few days later to pay her respects to her favourite prime minister. Inside the church, behind the pulpit, is the monument erected by Victoria to Disraeli; the only known example of a memorial by a reigning English monarch to a subject.
St Michael and All Angels is still used today as the parish church for the village of Hughenden Valley.
Rare chalk stream
Just a few of the Chiltern’s chalk hill valleys feature chalk streams and one of those is Hughenden Valley. Chalk streams are very rare habitats with only 3% of streams in the UK on chalk. They are unique because they flow on top of an aquifer, so the water table needs to be above ground level for water to be present in the stream, this is called ‘winterborne’ as there is more rainfall in winter.
The Hughenden estate stream rises from springs in the Hughenden Valley and flows through the parkland before it joins the River Wye in the centre of High Wycombe.
During Disraeli’s time the chalk stream was modified with weirs to provide pools for trout fishing and he created a small lake to accommodate two swans named Hero and Leander after the Greek tragedy. They feature in the parterre today, as two box hedge sculptures.