Hawridge and Cholesbury Commons
Why are they special?
Hawridge and Cholesbury Commons are a good example of deciduous woodland and grassland mosaic. There are also remnants of once extensive heathland and acid grassland. Today, about 70% of the area is covered in secondary woodland, which has developed since grazing ceased.
As a designated County Wildlife Site, Hawridge and Cholesbury Commons support a variety of flora and fauna of which a number of studies have been carried out, the most comprehensive being the Local Heritage Study in 2003/4 with the help of a Heritage Lottery Grant. Lowland heathland/acid grassland habitat has a significant role in the Buckinghamshire Biodiversity Action Plan and because of this the Commons have an important part to play on a county-wide scale.
Split by Horseblock Lane, the largest open area of grassland, interspersed by bracken with sporadic trees, contains some patches of heather which are flourishing now that a regeneration project is underway.
Where are the commons?
The site lies about equidistant from Chesham, Berkhamsted, Tring and Wendover in the Chiltern Hills and covers an area of approximately 42 hectares (105 acres). Although privately owned, the Commons are open to the public to enjoy picnics and other quiet recreation, subject to the By-Laws of 1937 when the Commons were dedicated . They are also covered by the CROW (Countryside and Rights of Way) Act 2000.
Can I go anywhere?
The public is welcome to walk anywhere on the Commons although there are registered footpaths which join up with the wider footpath network marked on the periphery.
Cyclists and motorised vehicles cannot use the Commons. Horse-riders are welcome but are restricted to the permissive rides which run along the bottom of the hill near the Hertfordshire border and alongside the main Chesham to Cholesbury Road, with crossing points below the Full Moon Pub and beside the Cholesbury to Wigginton Road.
As with all commons, visitors are asked to leave only their footprints.
What will I see?
The woodland glades and edges of the more open grassland areas provide feeding grounds and reproduction sites for many butterflies, including Commas, Gatekeepers, Marbled Whites, Skippers, Purple and White-letter Hairstreaks and the occasional Silver-washed Fritillary and White Admiral. Please visit our Butterfly gallery showing many of the butterflies found on the commons.
The grassland supports a range of acid loving plants including Wavy Hair Grass, Pill Sedge, Heather, Heath Bedstraw and Sheep's Sorrel. In May large parts of the grassland areas are white with Heath Bedstraw.
The ponds contain the Pond Water-crowfoot and Water Purslane,, which is rare in Bucks, amongst a wide variety of other plants including Water Starwort, Water-plantain, Water Mint, Water Forget-me-not, Yellow Iris, Marsh-marigold, Reedmace, Fool's Watercress, Curled Pondweed, Reed Sweetgrass, Jointed Rush and Soft Rush.
A variety of fungi can be found in Autumn due to sympathetic management of rotten wood which is left where it does not obstruct paths or permissive rides. This year has been a particularly good year for fungi variety found around the woodlands on the commons. Please visit our fungi gallery showing some of the fungi recently documented.
Anything to do?
For a day out, try the Iron Age Fort Pub Walk, which takes you across the Common from the Full Moon Pub. The annual village fete in aid of the local churches is held on the Commons each August Bank Holiday Monday. Cholesbury village teas are held on Sunday afternoons during the Summer. The cricket ground at the west end of the Commons is very popular with the locals and supports a very active cricket club.
Hawridge and Cholesbury Commons Preservation Society holds snow sculpture competitions on the Commons when the weather obliges and they also hold special events with local experts to study species found here on the Commons such as butterflies, fungi, moths, trees,
Other activities include the Boxing Day meet of the Kimblewick Hunt, orienteering and schools’ cross country events.
Please visit our events page for HCCPS activities.
We also recommend The Foundation for Common Land, a charity dedicated to the protection and management of commons, which argues that commons make a greater contribution to the environment than any other farmland in Britain.
Open Spaces Society, of which HCCPS is a member, was founded in 1865 as the Commons Preservation Society. It is Britain’s oldest national conservation body and its early successes included saving Hampstead Heath from gravel extraction, Epping Forest, Wimbledon Common, Ashdown Forest and the Malvern Hills.