Size:

152.63 ha (377.15 acres)

Grid reference:

SU852844

Map reference:

Explorer 172

OS Landranger 175

Bisham Woods is a colourful, ancient woodland site, with abundant and rare flora, a wide variety of tree species and some fascinating wildlife. Said to be the inspiration behind the iconic book The Wind in the Willows, this enchanting woodland may have formed part of Britain’s original wildwood.

Features

  • Parking nearby
  • Public access
  • Broadleaved woodland

How to get to Bisham Woods

Covering 155 hectares (383 acres) of land, Bisham Woods is sandwiched between Maidenhead and Marlow in the Royal Borough of Windsor, on a hillside rising from the floodplain of the River Thames.

Driving north from Maidenhead on the A404: at the Bisham Roundabout turn left for Bisham Temple. Follow the road for 1.6km (1 mile) and then turn right onto Quarry Wood road. Follow the road up the hill for another 1.6km (1 mile).

Driving south from High Wycombe on the A404: at the Bisham Roundabout turn right for Bisham Temple. Follow the road for 1 mile then turn right onto Quarry Wood road, follow the road up the hill for one mile.

The nearest train station is Maidenhead, around 4.8km (3 miles) or Marlow, 1.9km (1.2 miles) from the wood.

Visit National Rail for more information.

There are few buses passing close to the wood, the nearest being the M1 (pre-booking needed) bus service between Marlow and Maidenhead which stops at Cookham Dean, about 1.6km (1 mile) away. From there, some road-walking along country lanes will be necessary to reach the wood.

Visit Traveline for more information.

Facilities and access

The woods contain eleven public rights of way, including restricted byways, bridleways and footpaths serving pedestrians, horse riders and cyclists.

Many of the entrances have squeeze gaps. Some of the paths follow the contours of the valley while others take routes down slopes which can be steep in places. The paths can be muddy in poor weather, though there are some surfaced paths.

There is limited parking in the form of pull-ins along Quarry Wood Road, Grubswood Lane and Marlow Road.

There are several public toilets in Marlow, maintained by Wycombe District Council at Central Marlow, Gossmore and Pound Lane and at the MSCP Maidenhead and Sutton Road, Cookham.

Wildlife and habitats

Animals

Bisham Woods is a great place for wildlife. Keep a watchful eye (and ear!) out for the large, flying stag beetles which buzz loudly in the wood during the summer; admire the abundance of butterflies found here, and for those visiting in the evening, listen out for the hoot of the tawny owls.

Look out for:

Trees, plants and fungi

Bisham Woods is full of rare and interesting flora. Wild flowers, such as bluebells, orchids and primroses cover the forest floor, along with a rare mix of fungi and bryophytes. Broadleaf tree species along with some small stands of conifer can be found in the woodland, as well as foraging favourites - wild strawberry and marjoram.

Look out for:

Habitats

Bisham Woods is a diverse complex of woods comprising a mix of broadleaf trees with some conifers and grassland, with over 90% of the site classified as ancient woodland.

Explore:

We bought Bisham Woods in 1990 from a private owner with the help of the Nature Conservancy Council, the Countryside Commission, the Royal Borough of Windsor and Chilterns AONB (Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty).

About Bisham Woods

The woods are believed to be at least 500 years old, but may date back much further. It might have once been part of Britain’s original wildwood – a diverse, patchy, woodland habitat providing its feudal communities everyday essentials.

Pig-keeping and the Kaffir lads

Pigs were kept and pannaged (grazed on acorns and beech nuts) throughout the woods by the many local cottagers, woodbanks portioning off the forest between its different users. A band of pig keepers working the woods from Cookham Dean formed the infamous Kaffir lads, a group of mischievous local vigilantes.

Hazy sunshine through trees, Bisham Woods

Credit: Alex Caswell / WTML

Bisham Estate

Bisham Woods was once part of Bisham Estate, owned by the Knights Templar in the 13th century. It passed into the ownership of the Earls of Salisbury in 1308, and then the Hoby family 200 years later. Part of the site was once in the Royal Forest of Windsor – one of Queen Elizabeth I’s favourite rides – and Lady Hoby often accompanied the Queen in the woods between Bisham and Windsor.

The ice house was constructed in the 1760s. Blocks of ice were transferred to the abbey’s kitchens and cellars or a nearer food store as required. It was restored in 1984 by Christopher Wallis and is now a Grade II listed building.

‘Miracle’ spring

Quarry Wood stream arises from a nearby spring. Water from the ‘miracle’ spring was reputed to have had magical curative properties, and as its reputation grew, the Bishop of Salisbury – concerned about people becoming “bewitched by the ways of the crooked serpent” – had the spring blocked with stone. Locals from Cookham and Marlow restored its flow shortly afterwards.

Bisham Quarry

The site is also home to the now abandoned Bisham Quarry, an important source of stone throughout the medieval period and where the stone for Windsor Castle was sourced. Several depressions where clay has been removed for the brick-making industry have now formed ponds rich in wildlife.

The Wind in the Willows

The author Kenneth Grahame was enchanted by the lazy reaches of the Thames in the countryside around Cookham and Pangbourne, and it is thought that Bisham Woods provided him with the inspiration for the wildwood in The Wind in the Willows, first published in 1908.

Dedication bench at Watkins Wood

Dedicate at this wood

This wood is one of more than 50 across the UK where it's possible to dedicate trees, benches or larger areas of woodland. Mark a special occasion or celebrate the life of a loved one with a meaningful gesture that lasts. 

Choose a dedication

Things to do at Bisham Woods

Horse riding

Horse riders are welcome on the network of bridleways throughout the woods. With so much to see, horseback is a great way to explore Bisham Woods.

Please keep to the designated bridleway when riding in the wood.

Walking

With an extensive network of footpaths across this large woodland; archaeological features to discover; an abundance of wildlife and a range of habitats; as well as stunning views across the Chiltern Hills, Bisham Woods is well worth a visit.

Early purple orchids

A lasting legacy

This wood is just one of many to have been protected by gifts in wills, securing it for generations to come. Your legacy gift could also make a real difference to woods, trees and wildlife.

Learn what your gift could mean
Bisham Woods - Management plan

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Bisham Woods Management Plan

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