Buckler’s Forest is a landscaped area that has witnessed centuries of change. Archaeological investigations have uncovered evidence of Bronze Age activity, and the area was once part of the Royal Hunting grounds of Windsor Forest.
In less than 100 years it has experienced a full cycle, changing from open heath to a heavily developed and enclosed research institution, and now back to an open natural environment. Images from pre-WWII maps and photographs show the Bracknell Road as a small quiet road set within an open landscape.
The Transport Research Laboratory was constructed in the 1960s and the main test track was in use up until 2015. In 2017 we began transforming the landscape from a disused laboratory to a public open space, fragments of the infrastructure have been retained. Many materials have been recycled into new uses such as path surfaces, seating and other features.
This is an ongoing story – the landscape will continue to change over the coming years as extensive swathes of new native woodland have been planted. As these areas mature the pine forest will be replaced with more broadleaved species.
The Transport Research Laboratory moved to Crowthorne in 1960s. The test tracks were laid out as a figure of eight loop with nearly 3 miles of carriageway surface. A network of side roads and junctions was created in the northern part of the loop – known as the Small Roads Track. Even the forest areas were used for testing different forms of earthbank retaining systems and 4×4 vehicles.
While in operation the research laboratory was securely fenced and enclosed by conifer hedges and pine forest. The seclusion was important for undertaking confidential crash testing, and it also features as a location set for several films. The legacy of the test tracks is retained with the main footpaths following the routes set within the wider open rides of the figure of eight loop. Other fragments of the old test infrastructure remain, providing echoes of ground-breaking 20th century engineering history. The landscape will continue to evolve as it enters a new era of change.
From Roadscape to Wildscape
The restoration from test track to forest and heath opens the area up for wildlife to reclaim the site and creates a site rich in biodiversity. The removal of hard standings such as asphalt and concrete has freed up some 14 acres (6 hectares) for planting and seeding. Restoring the land allows us to create a mosaic of semi-natural habitats providing rich biodiversity across the entire site. This philosophy also extends into the established woodlands between the former test tracks.