Winter Hill Road Woods - Maidenhead Commons
Once an old plantation of oak and larch, much of Winter Hill Road Woods is now managed as traditional coppice woodland, offering great walking and a valuable link between the commons of Maidenhead and those of Cookham.
The transition from species-poor plantation towards that of diverse coppice and semi-natural woodland began with the removal of larch from the site in the 19_s. Larch trees were introduced to Britain in the early 17th century for their timber and as a non-native species are able to support far fewer species than native trees, such as Oak.
Larch trees can also harbour a disease called ‘Sudden Oak Death’ (Phytophera ramorum), a fungus-like pathogen that is currently spreading across Wales and the west of England and Scotland.
Removal of larch from Winter Hill Road Woods left parts of the wood with many oak trees of a similar age and structure. Work in recent years has aimed to readdress this imbalance by freeing the larger, open grown oaks from competition via a process called ‘halo releasing’.
Aside from the halo release of mature oaks within the woods, we have also undergone a program of ‘veteranisation’ on many of the younger plantation oak trees.
Veteranisation is the process by which we manage trees to speed up habitat production and is achieved by creating valuable habitats that would otherwise only be found on very old trees. Veteranisation techniques mimic natural damage, such as that caused by lightning strikes, branch failure and decaying wood habitat as a consequence of woodpecker holes.
It is hoped that these management practices will help further support notable wood-decay invertebrates, such as the nationally scarce Oak Jewel Beetle, which is already found on the site.
The understorey of much of Winter Hill Road Woods is now reverted to Hazel coppice, with many other areas left as unmanaged Hawthorn thicket.
Coppicing is a sustainable form of woodland management whereby trees are regularly cut off at ground level, causing many rods to regrow from the stump, which is referred to as the stool.
When managed in this way the rods that grow long and straight and can be used for many crafts and products, including bean poles, pea sticks, charcoal production, firewood, spoons, and hedge laying materials such as stakes and binders.
Coppice wood is cut on a cycle, the length of which determines the size of rod that is required, with the woodland being divided into coups equal to the number of years in the cycle. The coppice woodland at Winter Hill Road is cut on a seven year cycle, and is therefore split into seven coupes that are each cut in turn.
Management in this way can extend the life of the tree, creating a self-renewing source of timber. It is estimated that well managed Hazel stools can survive for several hundreds of years.
Coppicing mimics the natural processes that occur after a large mature tree falls, allowing light to reach the woodland floor and the opportunity of other species to thrive.
Traditional coppice management increases biodiversity and creates a variety of vegetation heights within the wood, and is great for bluebells, wood anemone, germander speedwell, marsh marigold and violets. Coppicing is especially good for woodland fritillary butterflies and Dormice also.
The coppiced areas of Winter Hill Woods have the added benefit of being managed in a Coppice with Standards style, creating multi-storied woodland with even-aged patches of understorey coppice, and a partial over storey of uneven aged oak standards.
These oak standards are home to a great deal of species associated with dead wood and decay habitats, including notable beetle, moth and hoverfly species.
Planning your visit
OS Map grid reference for Winter Hill Road Woods: SU863835
Limited free parking is available on Malders Lane (SU863831) which is less than 0.5 miles south of Winter Hill Road Woods.
Free parking is also available at Cookham Dean Common (SU861843).
Winter Hill Road Woods is less than half a mile north of the Brick and Tile Works and 0.5 miles south of Cookham Dean Common.
The nearest railway station is Furze Platt (SU882823), which is 2 miles south east of Winter Hill Road Woods.