Woodcock Wood walk at Hughenden
This leisurely 1.2 mile walk takes you on a short loop around typical Chiltern farmland and woodland on the Hughenden 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 ‘Coffin Path’, named after the ancient road that was used for taking the parishioners of Naphill on their final journey to the church in Hughenden.
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 junction of paths by the Dew Pond turn sharp right in front of the pond until you reach the road. Turn left towards the car park for 50 metres before turning right onto a path, with a small plantation of young trees on your left. Follow the blue and red arrows downhill into Woodcock Wood.
At the next set of waymarkers, turn left, following the blue and red arrows. 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 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 soil is ‘clay-with-flints’ which is often waterlogged and difficult to cultivate for agriculture but the beech trees of the Chilterns thrive here. As a result, chair-making was once a major industry in the woods around High Wycombe, including in Woodcock Wood. ‘Bodging’ was the traditional woodturning craft, using green (unseasoned) wood to make chair legs and other chair parts. A bodger’s equipment often included a ‘High Wycombe lathe’; a wooden-bed pole lathe. The trade died out as recently as the late 1950s. You may notice various pits or depressions in the wood and the smaller hollows of 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. Relax in the elegant gardens, and visit the Stableyard Café and find a gift in the shop.
Visitor welcome kiosk
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