Buckler’s Forest is a 42 hectare (103.7 acre) site in Crowthorne. It contains a variety of wildlife habitats, including woodland, acidic grassland, heathland, and ponds.
It has been created on land that was previously part of the Transport Research Laboratory (TRL).
Elements of its fascinating past and the transport research that once took place here can now be seen repurposed across the site. This includes the fire tower, banked curve, hill start hill and the dustpan.
Buckler's Forest has:
- car parking to the south of the site
- cycle racks next to the car park
- information boards and activity cabinets
- choice of circular surfaced walking routes of 1.3km, 2.4km and 3.6km
- benches and picnic benches
How to find Buckler's Forest
Located in Crowthorne, the car park is located off Old Wokingham Road, at Woodcote Green. The nearest postcode is RG45 6AS.
Grid reference SU843648.
Enter the park from the car park - through the gate.
The TRL acquired the site in 1966, using the space for vehicle testing and research around road safety. Innovative developments included the mini-roundabout, speed humps, the zebra crossing, and the Green Cross Code.
In 2004 the TRL moved from what is now Buckler’s Forest, leaving the site vacant.
Today, important elements of the site’s past have been retained and redeveloped:
- garages pond - a place for wetland wildlife
- the fire tower - a tall reminder of the site’s industrial past, and the swift and bat boxes installed on it offer nesting opportunities
- hill start hill - a hill designed for testing handbrakes is now a quiet picnic spot nestled on the forest’s edge
- the banked curve - formerly used by high-speed vehicles, this is now a stepped amphitheatre
- the skid pan - where roundabouts used to be tested
- old green electrical boxes have been turned into mini-museums, insect habitats and shelters
- small roads test site and clay hill viewpoint
The mixture of habitats at Buckler’s Forest attracts a wonderful diversity of wildlife.
The woodland is predominantly Scots Pine, with patches of heather in forest clearings. There are also broadleaved trees that can be found across the site. These include oak, beech and chestnut, aspen, alder, poplar, rowan, hazel and hawthorn. Oak trees are rich places for biodiversity and are thought to be associated with as many as 2,300 species!
Photograph details: female scarce blue-tailed damselfly by Stephen Harley.
During late winter and early spring, woodlarks establish and protect their nest territories in the meadows. If you’re lucky, you might just hear or spot these shy and rare birds.
As the weather starts to warm up, the wetland areas also flourish, with frogs and toads spawning in the ponds.
Over the summer months, Buckler’s is teeming with insects including, butterflies, dragonflies and damselflies. Rare species spotted here include the grayling butterfly and the scarce blue-tailed damselfly.
Photograph details: silver-studded blue butterfly by Stephen Harley.
The heathland contains dwarf gorse and species of heather including ling, bell and cross-leaved heath. Cold-blooded reptiles, such as the common lizard, slow worms and grass snakes will use bare patches of ground to bask in the summer sun.
Dartford warbler and nightjars are rare species of birds associated with heathland habitat. Like woodlarks, these species nest on the ground, so please keep your dog on a lead during nesting season (March to August) to protect these birds and their chicks.
On summer evenings, listen out for the distinct call of a nightjar, and watch the skies for bats foraging for insects over the ponds.
Buckler’s Forest is managed by Bracknell Forest Council, on behalf of the land owners, the Land Trust. The site is managed as a Suitable Alternative Natural Greenspace. This is an enjoyable natural environment for recreation, away from the Thames Basin Heath Special Protection Area.
Its various habitats are managed for the benefit of the wildlife found on site and the enjoyment and accessibility of visitors.
We cut the acidic grassland in late summer and remove the clippings. This helps to reduce the nutrient content of the soil and increase the diversity of the grassland. Maintaining areas of short and tussocky grassland provide suitable habitat for woodlarks. A proportion of the grassland is left uncut to grow. This taller grass provides cover for wildlife and retains seedheads for birds such as goldfinches and linnets.
Within the woodlands, we remove non-native, invasive species such as laurel and rhododendron to help other flora and fauna to thrive. Dead wood piles are provided as a habitat for fungi, and specialist invertebrates, such as beetles. Bat and bird boxes are installed in appropriate places to provide places for roosting and nesting.
We maintain the pathways to provide year-round access across the site along with provision of benches and noticeboards.
We upgraded the surface of the car park to tarmac in 2023. This makes the car park more accessible to visitors and is a more durable surface to manage.