Naphill Common

A large area of mixed oak and beech woodland with many paths. The Common is designated as a SSSI because of its many veteran trees and the remnants of heathland. It is one of the most natural woodlands in the Chilterns.

Naphill Common adjoins the Bradenham Estate and Downley Common, creating an extensive area of open access land.

There are footpaths and bridleways through Naphill Common and the West Wycombe and Bradenham Chilterns Country walk passes through Naphill.

Until the First World War, Naphill Common was open grassland with a few scattered trees. Cattle and sheep were regularly grazed on the common and these would have kept the trees at bay.

However, once the grazing stopped in the 1920s the grassland slowly turned into a juniper forest. Guidebooks at the time talk about an amazing display of juniper all over the common, though other species present included oak, gorse and beech.

As the oak and beech grew taller they started to shade gorse and juniper so the species composition changed again to what it is now – mainly oak and beech with holly as an understorey. There is only one juniper bush left now.

The common is now popular with walkers and horseriders. However, when it was more open it was used for many activities including an annual fair. The parents of Philip and Trevor Hussey met at the fair on Naphill Common. They married in 1920 and despite living in Naphill for the rest of her life, Mrs Hussey was never a ‘local’ as she grew up in the village of Speen which is a mile and a half away!

When Philip and Trevor were boys the common was too wooded to accommodate the fair but they played on the common with many of the local children.

In the corner of a field which bordered the common was a popular spot amongst the children and weekend picnicers. There was a cottage in the meadow where Mr and Mrs Wingrove lived as keepers of the common. From their cottage they sold sweets and lemonade and they let out the meadow to campers. Mrs Wingrove was nicknamed ‘Birdy’ and was a regular at Bradenham church. The cottage is no longer there but it can be seen on old maps.

Volunteers are mapping the larger trees on the common so we can get an idea of how many trees were present in times past. Many of the older trees were once pollarded to provide fuel and other wood for commoners – those locals with rights to use the common for estovers (necessities).

Among the many beech trees stands the pollarded Naphill oak tree. Oak was often pollarded to encourage the growth of strong branches which were used for timber, without chopping the tree down altogether. Oak wood is very durable and strong, making it ideal for roof building in Medieval barns and churches. The Naphill oak is found in the middle of the wood, where it stands out as the only oak. It may have had a special significance when Naphill was an open common.

The Carving Tree, one of the older trees on Naphill Common, has many names and initials carved into the bark, some dating back almost 100 years. Albert Smith, who was born in 1897, carved his name into the tree in 1914, after which he served in the First World War. He returned to Naphill in 1918 to work in the local furniture factories.

Accessibility/terrain/walk info

Paths are unsurfaced and may be muddy in winter. There are many level paths through the woods.

Facilities & accessibility

There is informal parking at Naphill village (near the village hall) or off Bradenham Wood Lane about 1 mile from the A4010. There are bus services linking High Wycombe with Downley, Naphill and Walters Ash (Arriva bus services 310 and 323).

More info