Area of Outstanding National Beauty (AONB)
We are very fortunate that the villages of Hughenden Parish are all within the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The Chilterns were designated as an AONB in 1964 in order to conserve and enhance their distinctive landscape character and natural beauty. The Chilterns topography is the result of the tilting of the underlying chalk which has produced a steep north west escarpment overlooking the clay vales of Oxford and Aylesbury, and a south facing slope which is dissected by valleys, most of which are dry.
The Chilterns AONB has many scenic attractions, a rich diversity of wildlife habitats, and is particularly well known for its beech woodlands, which are a feature of the upper slopes of the valley’s escarpment. Man’s influence is also extensive and conservation of numerous and widespread archaeological and architectural features, as well as other traditional Chilterns features, is very important.
Government and Structure Plan policy requires that the AONB is protected against intensive pressure for residential, recreational and commercial development and externally generated demands for transport related development, mineral working and waste disposal. (Source: the Wycombe District Local Plan – deposit Dec.1998)
The Parish Council remains vigilant in trying to ensure that development in the Hughenden Parish area is neither inappropriate nor detrimental to the beauty of the AONB. Plans for new or extended housing, changed road layouts, changes of use of existing buildings, etc. are scrutinised with care and relevant recommendations are made to Wycombe District Council.
Conservation within the Parish
A good proportion of the land owned by the Parish Council is cared for in a manner to benefit wildlife and the environment as well as for the enjoyment of parishioners. A great deal of the work has been grant-aided, so as not to burden the rate payer.
Location – off the Kingshill Road at Four Ashes.
This is primarily a mature beech wood, planted for the Wycombe chair industry. A small part of it was clear felled and, later, more trees came down in a storm. These open spaces were re-planted to give the wood greater diversity and offering a wider habitat for all types of plant and animal life. The ecology was increased even more by not being ‘too tidy’, by leaving dead wood standing or fallen for invertebrates, fungi, woodpeckers and similar creatures.
Primrose Hill Amenity Area
Location – at the lower end of Primrose Hill, Widmer End.
Above a small clump of mature cherry trees, which are the remnants of a cherry orchard, lies a small area of undisturbed chalk grassland. By using a careful mowing regime, a late flowering summer meadow is created, which is rich in butterflies, insects and wild flowers. Two new hedges have been planted, one to separate the allotments from the grassland, the other to define a boundary at the top of the area. These hedges are of mixed native species of trees and shrubs.
Little Burnham Field
Location – behind Hughenden Valley allotments off Whitfield Road.
This was a disturbed chalk grassland meadow adjoining National Trust woodland, so part of it was planted with native trees. A mixed hedge was also planted to make a wildlife corridor linking the National Trust’s Woodcock Wood, with Hughenden Valley wildlife scrub bank, which is situated by the village hall. The open grass area had the potential for being reinstated as a flower-rich meadow (with the seeds still dormant in the ground), so this field was included in a national Countryside Stewardship scheme.
By using traditional methods of grazing and the cutting of hay, the field has gently recovered. This type of management reduces fertility, which slows down the rank grasses, allowing the wildflowers to prosper.
Vincents Meadow and Pond
Location – off Downley Road at Naphill, adjoining Naphill Common.
Thick deposits of clay make up part of the Chiltern geology and are found on the flattened tops of the eroded chalk hills. Vincents meadow is made up of flora that favour heavy clay, with scattered scrub and trees, mainly oak. The remnants of another, larger, field, which is cut off by development, lies locked within the boundaries and an ancient bluebell-rich hedge marks it out. The meadow is also under a Countryside Stewardship scheme, with a permissive footpath as a means of access. As with Hughenden meadow, this land is grazed and a hay cut is taken. The old hedge is being restored firstly by coppicing (cutting close to the ground during the dormant winter months) and replanting in the gaps. Ten years on, sections of it are laid in the traditional way.
Vincents pond is the richest and most sensitive pond under the care of the Council. Any major clearance is done in the winter months, to ensure the least disturbance to protected species of flora and fauna.
A traditional hedgerow management method is done at various sites around the Parish. A living fence is created by partially cutting through an upright stem, then bending it over to an angle of approximately 35 degrees.
Stakes are inserted at intervals to support the bushes (pleachers) and finally hazel wands are woven between the stakes to prevent the cut ‘pleachers’ from springing up, and binding the whole structure. As long as part of the bark and a thin piece of stem are not cut right through, the angled bush lives on, while the hedge regenerates from the base. This method creates a full stock-proof hedge and is very good for wildlife.
Over the last twenty years 20,250 trees and hedgerow shrubs have been planted and some 550 metres of new hedge have been created throughout the Hughenden Parish area.