Hughenden Manor’s Woodcock Wood walk
This leisurely walk takes you on a short loop around some typical Chiltern farmland and woodland on the estate. The walk heads through the peaceful Woodcock Wood to a beautiful viewpoint over the Chilterns countryside and the village of Hughenden Valley. It continues back to the starting point via the ‘Coffin Path’, from where you can go on to visit Hughenden Manor, or enjoy a refreshing cup of tea and a bite to eat in the Stableyard café.
To help you to follow this walk, please look out for the blue waymarker arrows.
Start at the visitor welcome kiosk. Grid Ref SU860955
From the visitor welcome kiosk, retrace your steps towards the main car park. At the T-junction of paths by the Dew Pond turn right and across the road, heading left for 200 metres before turning right onto a path, with a small plantation of young trees on your left. Continue downhill into Woodcock Wood.
At the second set of coloured National Trust way-markers, turn left, following the blue arrow. Follow the woodland path until it descends to a crossing path in a distinct dip. Continue up the other side and straight ahead, along the meandering woodland path, until you reach a metal gate that leads out of the wood. This path can be muddy, particularly in the winter. This woodland is typical Chiltern beech woodland, where you will also see holly, yew and other species of tree. In the spring there are several drifts of bluebells.
Beechwood hilltops are a characteristic of the Chilterns that is often absent in other chalk hills such as the Yorkshire Wolds or the North and South Downs. The woodlands are associated with a geological deposit called ‘clay-with-flints’ which lies on top of the chalk. The soils here are often waterlogged and more difficult to cultivate for agriculture. Chair-making was once a major industry in these Chiltern beechwoods, including Woodcock Wood. Bodging was a traditional woodturning craft, using green (unseasoned) wood to make chair legs and other cylindrical parts of chairs. The bodgers worked in the beechwoods in their bodgers’ hovels or lean-to shelters, but most went home to their families at night to cottages in local villages. A bodger’s equipment often included a ‘High Wycombe lathe’; a term to describe any wooden-bed pole lathe. The completed chair legs were sold to furniture factories in High Wycombe to be matched with other chair parts made in their workshops. The trade died out as recently as the late 1950s. You may notice various pits or depressions in the wood and the smaller hollows (3-5 metres) are likely to be abandoned saw pits
Go through the gate at the edge of the wood and walk diagonally (half-left) across the corner of the field to another gate on the far side. From this vantage point you are quite likely to see red kites soaring overhead and you will see beautiful views over the Chilterns countryside. The village in the valley to your right is Hughenden Valley.
These magnificent birds were persecuted almost to extinction in England during the 19th Century but have since been re-introduced to the Chilterns from Spain. The birds have flourished and are now a common sight, gliding on the thermals over these hills. These magnificently graceful and inquisitive birds of prey are unmistakable with their reddish-brown body, angled wings, spanning up to 1.7 metres (5 feet 7 inches), and deeply forked tails. Red kites have a rapidly repeated mew-like “weoo-weoo-weoo” call, not unlike a shepherd’s whistle. Although largely carrion feeders, they are also opportunistic hunters, capable of catching small mammals and birds. Please do not attempt to feed them.
Go left through the gate and follow the fence line on your right hand side.
On reaching a crossing track, turn left. You are now on the Coffin Path. Continue along the path, between tall hedges and farmland, until you reach the entrance to the main car park. These fields are farmed by our tenant farmers, so please take care when large scale farm machinery is being used.
The Coffin Path
Naphill has no parish church of its own but falls in the Parish of Hughenden. This ancient road was used for transporting the parishioners of Naphill on their final journey to the churchyard of St Michael and All Angels in Hughenden, either carried on the shoulders of their friends or (for the larger members of the village) on the back of a horse-drawn cart. Look out for hedgerow birds such as wrens, various finches and yellowhammers. You may also see kestrels, sparrowhawks and partridges. The track almost certainly follows the line of a Saxon field boundary.
On reaching the car park, turn right and taking great care, cross towards the ‘All Visitors’ sign to return to the Visitor Welcome Kiosk.
Head downhill through the woodland to return to the visitor welcome kiosk.
Hughenden Manor is best known as the former home of the great Victorian statesman and author Benjamin Disraeli. Hughenden provides a fascinating glimpse into the private world of one of the most colourful and charismatic characters of his age. You can also discover the secret wartime history of ‘Operation Hillside’, where secret maps were made for the RAF. Alternatively, you can relax in the elegant gardens, and then visit the Stableyard Café and find a gift in the shop. You will find the café, a shop in the Stableyard, opposite the entrance to the Manor House. Entry to the house is free to National Trust members. Non-members can buy tickets at the Visitor Welcome Kiosk.
Visitor welcome kiosk
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