Maidenhead Thicket - Maidenhead Commons

A couple of miles to the west of Maidenhead, and just off the A4, the Thicket offers varied walking routes throughout the seasons with highlights including clumps of snowdrops in spring and a golden canopy of oak and lime leaves in autumn.

Woodland walks

This is our largest areas of wooded Common with around 5 miles of footpaths through broadleaf woodland, rides and tree-lined avenues. Imaginations can run wild on these family-friendly routes where you’ll find great places to try out den-building and bug hunting. These rich habitats are also great for wildlife spotting throughout the year; look out for emperor dragonflies in summer and bullfinches and red wings in autumn.  

History and legend

In the 17th and 18th centuries the area became notorious as a dangerous haunt of highwaymen who took cover in the dense vegetation. Tucked away in the middle of the woods, you’ll find the earth-banks and ditches of Robin Hood’s Arbour, a Scheduled Ancient Monument (SAM). Originally an Iron-age enclosure for cattle, this glade gets its name from the outlaws that later used the woods as a hideaway.  

Wildlife

Little grassland pockets through the woods have allowed common spotted orchids and other wildflowers to flourish, bringing flecks of bright colour to the glades. In warmer weather, butterflies flit through the dappled light in the bramble on the woodland edge.

Orchids on ride at Maidenhead Thicket
Orchids on ride at Maidenhead Thicket

Amongst the younger woods are dotted many ancient and veteran trees, some up to 400 years old, where you may see fungi, insects and birds. Recent works on the Thicket have been carried out with the aim of freeing many of these larger, open grown oaks from competition via a process called ‘halo releasing’.  

Halo released Oak tree
Halo released Oak tree

Ride management

Woodlands that are structurally diverse and offer a wide range of habitats support a greater number of species. For this reason we are continually managing the rides within the Thicket so as to create as much edge habitat as possible, and to allow more sunlight into our open spaces.

We do this by creating scalloped rides around tracks, and woodland glades at the junction between paths. Linking rides and glades together creates wildlife corridors which further increase species diversity.

Scalloped rides and glades are especially important for cold blooded species such as insects, which in turn offer greater feeding opportunities for other animals, such as bird and bat species.

Essex skipper taken by Andrew Padmore at Maidenhead Thicket

In connection with these ride improvements, we have been working alongside Butterfly Conservation to plant Elm trees that are resistant to Dutch Elm disease. Elm trees are the larval food source of the White-letter Hairstreak, a small butterfly which is in serious decline as a consequence of Dutch Elm disease.

White-letter hairstreak butterfly taken by Ian Wilson at Maidenhead Thicket

Planning your visit

  • Free parking is available at both the Henley Road  (SU857809) and Canon Lane car parks (SU859803), both of which get very busy at weekends so please arrive early to avoid disappointment.

  • Maidenhead Thicket is half a mile south west of Pinkney’s Drive and 1.5 miles south west of Pinkney’s Green.

  • The nearest railway station is Maidenhead, which is 2 miles east of Maidenhead Thicket.