Finemere Wood Nature Reserve,
Berks, Bucks & Oxon Wildlife Trust
8 miles north-west of
Map reference SP 7174 2175
The BBOWT Finemere Wood Reserve website says that “Throughout the year, Finemere Wood has the thrilling atmosphere of a very old, wild place”, which appealed to us, especially there is supposed to be a large number of species of plants, insects and birds which we could see.
To find the wood what you need to do is make for the village of Quainton near Aylesbury, and head out of it on Lee Road, take a right at the junction on an unnumbered road, possibly called Lawn Hill heading towards Edgecott. About half a mile down that road you’ll see a lay-by on the left with an electricity pylon towering above it. If you find you are going over the railway then you have gone too far. That lay-by is where you need to park.
So there we were, parked in the lay-by. (Having had to turn around when we realised we had crossed the railway line!) Ours was the only vehicle in the lay-by on a fine mid September day at the end of the long dry summer of 2014. As you can tell by the tortuous directions we were seemingly in the middle of nowhere (about 8 miles from Aylesbury ... middle of nowhere? ... really?). Just how we like it! On the other side of the road a countryside track stretched off towards the woods in the distance. But - and it’s a big BUT - there is a gate across the track and on closer inspection it is locked with a heavy duty padlock and chain.
To one side of the gate is a stile which you have to traverse to carry on down the track towards the nature reserve. Perhaps we should have taken this as a sign of more difficulties to come, but it was a lovely day and there was no-one else about, so we would have the woods to explore in peace, and beside all that we like a challenge. So, with nobody around to see me make a spectacle of myself, I got off Titania and scrambled under the stile avoiding all but one stinging-nettle and becoming covered in dust on the dry gravelly surface. Meanwhile Titania, being as light as a fairy without me to encumber her, was deftly lifted over by Di who then crossed the stile in the conventional manner.
This entrance obstacle successfully negotiated we headed down the track, which was firm with grass growing down the centre but with no gradient and was relatively easily managed. It is roughly a 500m walk down this track with fields on either side, and with two more gates to negotiate before you get to the nature reserve proper. These gates were not locked, but the little pedestrian side gates were no good for Titania, and the full gates were heavy to open. Fortunately Di had had her weetabix for breakfast and eventually we got to the wood.
This report of our visit to Finemere Wood is slightly different in style to the others we have posted so far. We took very few photos as we went round the woods, the reason being that a lot of the time both of us were involved in providing Titania propulsion to get around the difficulties encountered on the tracks through the reserve. However Titania had her GoPro camera on most of the time and so we have included a lot of Titania-eye-view film to show you how we managed. So please do watch them to get a flavour of the difficulties you may encounter if you try to go Out there to Finemere Wood. They have been edited down to concentrate the couple of hours we spent into a few minutes, and we think you’ll enjoy them.
A notice board with information and a map marks the start of the reserve proper. Here the farm track enters the wood and is less used by wheeled vehicles and so grass has grown thicker on it. Titania started to find this a bit heavier going, but nothing too bad. This track continued for probably another 500m with the fields replaced by trees on either side. Eventually we came to a grassy clearing with a bench set into it. From here we could see two or three smaller tracks heading off in different directions.
Using what we remembered of the map of the reserve on a notice board as we entered the reserve we chose a track to explore which should lead us on a circular trip through the woods. The chosen path soon became quite narrow with the grasses and bushes crowding in from the sides but as we moved more into the trees it became wider again, a cleared track through the woods. We needed to keep our wits about us though, as many of the trees stretched out their roots to trip up Titania. In places where the trees cleared the track became grassier again and so we continued along the path until we came to a little brook, just a trickle at that time of year. Here the path crossed over using a simple bridge of a couple of planks set into the ground. Unfortunately Titania, despite being light as a fairy, was just an inch or so too wide to cross keeping all wheels safely in contact with the bridge.
We were not daunted, the path on the other side of the bridge looked pretty traversable, so Titania and I parted company again and after Di had assisted Titania to tip-toe across (that should be tip-wheel across) I shuffled across the bridge on my backside! Then, with the bridge behind us we moved forward to see what else Finemere Wood had to throw at us.
We had ventured further into the wilderness, the roots were less furtive in their attempts to trip us up. Now we found them laid provocatively across the path almost saying “get over that without falling over!”. But we like challenge and we pushed on. When it wasn’t roots then the path would shrink, and the brambles would wave their thorny branches at us to show us how laden with blackberries they were. When the next stream came into view with its fake bridge of three of fallen logs we hardly missed a beat in crossing it 4-wheel drive style.
The wood thinned out and the path wound through tall wispy grass heads occasionally squeezing the path to give Titania a struggle before broadening out again. Eventually we discovered another gate, but this time not locked, not a stile, but a kissing gate big enough for Titania fit through with ease .. yay! Not far from this gate we found ourselves back at the grassy clearing we had started from... we had completed the circular trip!
You could be forgiven for thinking that we just wanted to head out from here at this point, but although I’m painting this as a struggle, we were enjoying ourselves. So with this in mind, we chose a different path from the clearing and headed off to see what else Titania would have to deal with. This track was generally easier than much we had already negotiated. The track was not invaded by the brambles and grasses here, and the tree roots were the only thing to be avoided. All was well, then, until we came to the point where a tree had given up the ghost and fallen across the path. It was either back the way we came, or wading off-track through the woodland undergrowth to work our way round it. Ah just another challenge to be met and conquered. The tree successfully bypassed we rejoined the track. It wound through the wood with no new major obstacles until it finally re-emerged onto the farm track near to the notice board which marked the start of reserve proper. We had successfully completed our trek around Finemere Wood!
All there was left to do was to head back up the farm track between the fields through the gates and once again negotiate that stile to the car.
Now you may be thinking that our trip Out there to Finemere Wood was an ordeal which we endured, but although it wasn’t easy to get around, it was truly a magical place. The ancient woods were peaceful and majestic. There was much flora and fauna to see. On our wanderings we had started up a rabbit hidden in the grass just feet from us, we had seen red kite soaring overhead, and the trees were alive with birdsong. Although we were too late in the year to appreciate a variety of butterflies ( apparently the white admiral thrives here .. I still haven’t seen one ) we saw many Speckled Wood butterflies and were adopted for part of our walk by one which hitched a ride on Di.
It is definitely worth a visit but (and it is that big BUT mentioned earlier) only if you are able to get across the stile. You may find yourselves on paths which are difficult and which may cause you to turn back the way you came, and I suspect that in less dry weather some of the tracks could become pretty muddy if not boggy. So you would need to be prepared to work at it.
We will pass a link to this report on to BBOWT so they are aware of the difficulties we had. Our impression was that the Finemere Wood nature reserve is in its infancy, and I hope BBOWT will be able to do things to improve its accessibility. We’ll go back and report back on any improvements.
Don’t forget we are always happy to hear any thoughts you may have to help us improve our writings. What about the video clips in this one? Did you find them interesting, or useful? I was worried that they might be too long .. what did you think? Please do get in touch to tell us. Is there somewhere you particularly enjoy Out there which you would like us to visit and write about? Please feel free to contact us either by using the Contact us page or just drop an email at email@example.com .
Richard & Di