The Commons of Cookham Dean - Cookham Commons
Central to the character of Cookham Dean, this collection of commons creates a chain of grassland habitats through the landscape.
The commons of Cookham Dean consist of various road verges, village greens, small parcels of woodland and a disused quarry. Made up of Cookham Dean Common, the Cricket Common, Bigfrith, Hardings Green and Tugwood Commons, collectively the commons of Cookham Dean do much to maintain the open aspect of the community.
The commons were originally part of the Royal Manor of Cookham, but these were sold off by the Crown in 1818 and passed into private ownership. In the 1920s, for fear that the common land would be enclosed, the Maidenhead and Cookham Commons Conservation Committee was established. This raised £2800 to buy the land, which was donated to the National Trust in 1934.
Cookham Dean Common
Cookham Dean Common is the largest continuous expanse of grassland within the commons of Cookham Dean. It is a public amenity and a sanctuary for people, animals and plants.
The principal car park for the commons of Cookham Dean is located here. Two alternative routes of the Cookham Bridleway Circuit also pass through the site, making Cookham Dean Common an excellent place from which to explore all of the nearby commons.
The Cricket Common
During summer months community events are often held on the Cricket Common at the heart of Cookham Dean. Notable events include the annual Gravity Grand Prix, and the Cookham Dean Village Fete, both of which raise money for local charities.
The tracks and footpaths around the perimeter of the Cricket Common form links to other parts of the Dean and nearby common land. The Cricket Common also offers far-ranging views over Berkshire countryside, and to the east, the striking presence of Cliveden atop steep escarpments above the Thames.
It is this network and the commanding vistas that make the Cookham Dean Cricket Common an essential part of any good walk in the local area, or alternately, a great place to fly a kite.
Follow the perimeter path clockwise around the Cricket Common and past the sign for the Sanctum on the Green hotel. This will lead you to a downward sloping path and the Cookham Dean Chalk Pit.
The pit is a good example of Seaford Nodular Chalk, or Upper Chalk, with the lower section of exposed white chalk being classified as a Micraster coranguinum zone in which many fossilised prehistoric organisms can be found. It is quite likely that chalk quarried from the Cookham Dean Chalk Pit was used when building The Church of the Holy Trinity at Cookham.
The small parcels of land that make up Bigfrith Common bound and intersperse both hillsides of a valley running southwards from the Church of St John the Baptist towards Cookham Dean Common.
Three small triangles of National Trust land bounded in part by the church and the Jolly Farmer pub provide a partitioned village green from which tracks and roads emanate.
The Church of St John the Baptist, designed in the early 14th Century style, built of flint and constructed in 1844, is a listed building created for the purpose of cleansing and educating the local population in the hope of reducing lawlessness in the area.
Keen eyed churchyard aficionados may also notice the unusual presence of two lychgates, both created to local designs using timber, flint, brick and clay.
Hardings Green Common
Many of the nearby buildings are arguably the most architecturally and historically important parts of the Cookham Dean Conservation Area, including eight listed buildings with 16th century origins. Nearby Cromwell Cottage is thought to have had Roundhead soldiers billeted during the Civil War, whereas the Forge is thought to have existed since the reign of Queen Elizabeth I (1558 - 1603).
Many of the children wandering across Tugwood common on their way to and from Herries Preparatory School will undoubtedly experience the same charming rural landscape that inspired the adventures of Ratty, Mole and Toad, and the creation of The Winds in the Willow, written by Kenneth Grahame whilst living at the house.
Much of the inspiration for such adventures came from Kenneth Grahame’s many jaunts in surrounding fields and woods, as well as boating trips on the nearby River Thames.
Experience Grahame’s Eden by rambling ‘hither and tither through the meadows’ of Cookham Dean Common, ‘along the hedgerows, across copses’ of the other nearby commons. If you want to adventure further afield, head off to the River Thames at Cock Marsh as Grahame would have done by following Grubwood Lane north east from Tugwood Common past Winter Hill.
Planning your visit
OS Map grid reference for the Cookham Dean Common car park: SU861843.
Cookham Dean Common car park is 1.5 miles south west of Winter Hill, and half a mile north of Winter Hill Road Woods.
The nearest railway station is Cookham (SU886850), which is 1 mile east of the Cricket Common (SU871852).