Burnham Beeches

Lord Mayors Drive Farnham Common Buckinghamshire SL2 3TE

Down an an unassuming backstreet north of Slough, you'll find – improbably – 540 acres of beech and birch woodland, with cows, pigs, sheep and ponies grazing contentedly alongside dog-walkers and families out for a stroll. Equally surprisingly, this ancient pocket of gnarly forest, ponds and heath – some of the trees predate Shakespeare – is owned by the Corporation of London, who snapped it up in 1880 to prevent a proposed housing project. It's lucky they did, because the miles of 'easy access' (ie paved) and natural paths provide a wonderful green lung for the area, and the fairytale forest shelters all manner of woodland critters, from owls to ant armies. The reserve is best-known for its eponymous beech trees, many of which were pollarded (decapitated for firewood) centuries ago: the regrowth creates fantastic arboreal shapes, and the deadwood is an elixir for wildlife. A sensory trail leading past wooden sculptures gives the kids something to do, while a decent café and information centre by the car park caters to the adults. Pick up a walking map before heading off, and if possible go in autumn, when the beeches are aflame.

Places to stay near Burnham Beeches