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Old Copse Wood

Old Copse is a 12.46 ha. woodland on the edge of Sonning Copse in Oxfordshire and was acquired by the Woodland Trust in 1995. It is believed to be an ancient, semi-natural wood and is bordered by strips of secondary woodland on the north east and southern sides.

The woodland is characterised by mature beech trees which were originally planted for the local furniture industry and to supply the handles for a brush factory nearby at Stoke Row. The north eastern edge of the wood was felled and replanted in 1983 with an interesting mixture of species including European Larch, Western Red Cedar, oak, beech and wild cherry. In the late 1980s, the woodland was thinned leaving the tall beech trees growing there today. The under storey is made up mostly of holly bushes which can tolerate the high amounts of shade under beech trees, except where mature trees have fallen to create glades and helped to promote natural regeneration (mostly beech).

There is some woodland archaeology present in Old Copse including a very distinct woodbank separating the site from the strips of secondary woodland, a small enclosure within the wood and some other features such as sawpits. The underlying geology is plateau gravel providing a stony, acidic soil.

The woodland is very accessible from Sonning Common and there are several entrances to the woodland, from Woodlands Road and Shiplake Bottom and several paths including four public footpaths cross the site.

Part of the enclosure - photo by Tim Southern, project volunteer

In 2001, a feature in Old Copse was recorded for the first time. A four-sided enclosure was found in the south of the wood measuring 84 by 100 metres. Formed by a large ditch 8-10 metres wide and about a metre deep, and with internal and external bank in places, the feature is “most extraordinary”.  Other enclosures are concealed by Holly bushes. Experts are unsure of the nature of this enclosure. One local expert has discounted ancient Neolithic earthworks, a Roman marching camp and a medieval game enclosure (haggar). While another suggests that the alignment and form of the banks and ditches could suggest an older feature, dating back to Roman-British times.

More recent archaeology is also present on edge of the wood, including the remains of Bishopwood Camp, used by Polish refugees during the Second World War.

A number of public rights of way enter the wood.

Getting There

Bus to Sonning Common. Parking nearby

Disabled Access

No sealed paths


Sonning Common

Grid Reference


OS Map

Sheet 175: Reading & Windsor

Dogs Allowed

Under supervision


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