Penn Wood is one of the largest ancient woodlands in the Chilterns.
From before the Norman Conquest until the mid 19th Century, Penn Wood was a wood pasture common. Consequently, the Woodland Trust now manages part of the woodland (136ha) as wood pasture. 16 cows wander throughout the wood during the winter months grazing and trampling the undergrowth.
Its name derives from the Old English term for enclosure or pen and dates back to when the area was a deer enclosure during Anglo-Saxon times. The area was such a feature of the surrounding landscape that it gave its name to the wood and the village.
In the 1850s the wood was enclosed and converted to high forest as grazing by the commoners stopped. It was probably at this time that several of the rides were lined with conifers and rhododendrons.
Penn Wood is a very varied site including many different habitats such as high forest, conifer plantation, acid grassland, rhododendron avenues and ponds. The wood was designated a SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest) in 1951.
Old growth features survive including one veteran oak, the remains of an ancient collapsed beech tree and a scattering of trees over 200 years old across the site which are remnants from the days when it was a wood pasture.
Evidence of former industry and activity still remain with archaeological features across the site such as woodbanks, flint and clay pits. In 1800 the wood from the site was a source of legs, stretchers, spindles and sticks for Windsor and cane-backed chairs. Many bodgers working in Penn Wood supplied this thriving industry. The chair-manufacturing firm Dancer & Hearne started up in a shed behind the Hit or Miss pub in Penn Street.
Penn Wood is carefully managed with the help of the Friends of Penn Wood, who formed to campaign against the development of a golf course here. Penn Wood is a lovely place to visit with many paths to explore; some winters you can even see horses dragging logs to the road so heavy machinery does not have to be used.
There are access for all trails through the woods.
Facilities & accessibility
There is limited parking at some of the wood entrances, and numerous places to park in the Penn Street village. Pub in the village.