We are the Local Environment Group for the area around Prestwood in Buckinghamshire, including Great Missenden,
The Hampdens, The Kingshills, North Dean and Speen

Our Aims

We aim to protect and enhance the quality of the natural environment through the involvement of local people.

Coming Events

Protecting Our Environment Registered charity No. 1114685

The Prestwood Nature web site does not use cookies

Prestwood Nature The Local Environment Group for the Prestwood Area

Trees


Beech leaves in autumnBeechwoods almost define the Chilterns, but these monocultures that are admired for their fresh green colour in spring and their vibrant tawny leaves in autumn cast too much shade and generally have a poor ground flora.  They were planted for the furniture industry mainly in the 18th and 19th centuries.  Before then woodlands had a good mixture of Oaks (mostly felled for shipbuilding before the steam age), Beech, Hornbeam (a characteristic tree of our plateau clays), Ash, Wild Cherry, White-beam, Hazel, Field Maple, Wych Elm and, in the more acid areas, Rowan and both Silver and Downy Birch.  In the large parklands of Hampden House and Missenden Abbey, the popular trees in the 18th century were exotics such as Common Lime, Sweet Chestnut, Horse Chestnut, Sycamore, Walnut, Turkey Oak and even London Plane, and many of these survive today.  In the grounds of one large old house there is even a Black Walnut, a much less common tree.  In the early 20th century there was a craze for planting Scots Pine, Larch and Western Hemlock-spruce, and these replaced parts of many broadleaf woodlands.  Our policy today is gradually to remove these when possible, because they stifle the ground flora, and replace them with mixed native trees.  The challenge, however, is to control the grey squirrels that ring-bark young trees and so kill them, and the introduced muntjac and burgeoning populations of roe deer that munch the lower shoots and prevent regeneration, especially of coppice.  It may be a sign of climate change that the ash-tree, formerly well-behaved and valued for firewood, is spreading like a weed and soon converts open grassland to dense woodland of little value to wildlife.  Another characteristic, if smaller, tree of our woodlands is the Holly, which seems to be happy to grow in dense shade and can create large thickets, even though it does not flower and fruit in these conditions.  The rarest of our native trees is the Wild Service Tree, which has been known from several sites, but only ever in small numbers.  It thrives in Nanfan Hedge, where it suckers readily, but all the existing plants seem to be young ones.  At one time it must have been more prevalent, as its fruits, used to flavour liqueurs, were known as “chequers” and gave their name to the famous estate that borders the north-west corner of our area, as well as several pubs (eg Prestwood).  Aspen is also infrequent, but grows in Lodge Wood and a few other places.