Cock Marsh - Cookham Commons

Situated on the banks of the River Thames, opposite the town of Bourne End, the chalk grasslands of Cock Marsh make for a pleasant riverside stroll.

Wander through wildflowers

Footpaths weave through the grasses and wildflowers or if you’re feeling more energetic, you can climb to the top of the chalk slope to be rewarded with views over the Buckinghamshire countryside and the river below. Cock Marsh is common land and has been grazed by cattle for centuries. In the summer months, you’ll find cows in the meadow or maybe wallowing in the Thames. Grazing means that the land has become rich in wild flowers including several species of orchid. You might also find rock roses, thyme and a small, rare plant called brown galingale. 

Commoners' cattle in the River Thames at Cock Marsh
Commoners' cattle in the River Thames at Cock Marsh
Commoners' cattle in the River Thames at Cock Marsh

Protected plants

Brown galingale grows on the edges of freshwater ponds and flourishes when grazing animals disturb the ground, making it hard for larger plants to establish. We are one of only 12 sites in the UK where brown galingale has been found and it is so rare that it is on the ‘Red List’, a list of endangered animals and plants that risk becoming extinct in this country. 

Brown galingale on Cock Marsh
Brown galingale on Cock Marsh
Brown galingale on Cock Marsh

Bronze Age burials

Cock Marsh is home to four circular Bronze Age burial mounds (tumuli). When first created, the largest barrow had a diameter of 90 foot, and would have been around 8 foot high. Today, although much diminished, the largest mound is still very obvious.

Bronze age burial mound, Cock Marsh

Excavations of the tumuli in 1874 found remains of a woman accompanied by what was left of a funeral feast in the largest mound, whereas one of the smaller barrows contained the remains of a child. The elaborate nature of these burials suggests that these were people of high importance, and may possibly have been the family of a local chieftain.  

Looking after Cock Marsh

Cock Marsh has been designated as a national Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) because it supports plants that find it difficult to survive elsewhere in the countryside. In order to maintain the grassland we clear areas of scrub in the winter and then it is over to the cattle to graze in the summer.

This combination keeps the grass short, prevents invasive plants from establishing and encourages the germination of wild flowers. Take in the sights and sounds of Cookham Moor before meandering through the scenic village of Cookham and onto one of the National Trust’s largest and most breath-taking areas of wetland.

Getting here

  • OS Map grid reference: SU 888 869

  • Our nearest car parks are at Winter Hill (SU 869 860) and Cookham Moor

  • The Thames Path passes through the southern part of Cock Marsh or you can follow the footpath over the river from Bourne End railway station