Widbrook Common - Cookham Commons

Grazed by commoners since time immemorial, the pretty stream of White Brook or Widbrook, winds its way through these permanent pastures, part of Cookham Commons.

Willows of Withe-brook

The name Widbrook is derived from the stream that flows through it linking the River Thames and the Strand Water which continues north to Cookham Moor. The stream is now known as the White Brook, which was itself derived from the traditional name for the stream, Withe-brook.

A withe, pronounced withy, is a strong flexible willow stem used in thatching and horticulture. It is the willow trees that are still found along the banks of the stream today that gave the common its name.

Willows, Widbrook Common
 Willows at Widbrook Common, Cookham, Berkshire
Willows, Widbrook Common

The historic rights of commoners

Commoners have held rights to pasture livestock and collect fuel from the lands around the White Brook since before we remember. History tells us that the Abbot of Cirencester, rector of the church, held special rights to pasture cattle on Widbrook common from 1272 until the completing of the dissolution of the monasteries in 1547.

In 1597 the land was trusted to the villagers of Cookham by Elizabeth I who were less than pleased when James I attempted to lease the land during his reign (1603 - 1625). Despite his standing as King of England and Scotland, James was unable to wrestle Widbrook away from the commoners.

King James did however tighten control on grazing of the commons, exacting tolls from villagers wishing to put out livestock on Widbrook from a toll cottage to the north of the common.

Modern Widbrook

Today, Widbrook is still grazed by local commoners between May and October, and it is this low density grazing that has created such structurally diverse habitat.

Cliveden from Widbrook Common
View of Cliveden from Widbrook Common, Berkshire
Cliveden from Widbrook Common

The common is home to an abundant and varied population of insects and the birds that feed on them.

Nuthatch, Widbrook Common
Nuthatch at Widbrook Common, Cookham, Berkshire
Nuthatch, Widbrook Common

The best way to venture onto Widbrook Common is to venture south from Cookham Moor, away from the bustling Thames-side village of Cookham into quieter countryside, criss-crossed by the Strand Water and White Brook streams. These quiet backwaters trickle through farmland and common land that are rich in wildlife.

Planning your visit

  • OS Map grid reference: SU896840

  • You can only access Widbrook common on foot as there is no on site car park. The nearest car park is at North Town Moor (SU889823) which is 1 mile south of Widbrook common. Widbrook common can also be reached from our car park at Cookham Moor (SU892853), which is 1.5 miles to the north. Cookham Moor car parks gets busy at weekends so please arrive early to avoid disappointment.

  • The nearest railway station is Cookham (SU886850), which is 1 mile North West of Widbrook common. Furze Platt station (SU882823) is 1.5 miles south west of Widbrook common.