Welcome to Buckler’s Forest

Overview

Follow the footprints of history

Stretching over 100 acres with forest, grasslands and heath is Buckler’s Forest. Once used as a centre for ground-breaking research into road safety the former Transport Research Laboratory (TRL) site is now a publicly accessible country park for all to enjoy.

Containing a wealth of plants and wildlife there is lots to explore. Our visitors love the new space, and many people use Buckler’s Forest for walking, cycling and running. Not forgetting four-legged friends that are very welcome too.

We have embarked upon a planting programme of over 20,000 trees at Buckler’s Forest and there will be a range of new native varieties which will include deciduous trees as well as the current evergreen and there will also be a range of ages, so not just saplings – improving the wildlife, flora and fauna significantly.

Check it out:

How to get here?

Buckler’s Forest is located on Old Wokingham Road next to Buckler’s Park, known locally as the old TRL site (Transport Research Laboratory).

Buckler’s Forest
Old Wokingham Road
Crowthorne
Berkshire
RG45 6LN


Parking

You’ll find a free car park on Woodcote Green which is just off Old Wokingham Road with a small selection of larger bays for disabled access.

Lots To Explore

In addition to the recreational use of this land, the forest and heath provide other benefits to the local area.

Lots To Explore

The site itself will become a rich mosaic of wildlife habitats designed and managed to encourage different species to flourish in the restored landscape. While new hallows, wetlands, ditches and ponds provide an important part of the rainwater management system, helping to reduce flooding on site and for communities further downstream. What’s more the trees in the forest can also help clean the atmosphere and capture carbon dioxide.


Experience The Surroundings

The main routes follow the old vehicle test tracks and earlier historic forest rides. Take time to pause at the ponds or seats and look-out decks. A forest fire watch tower looks over the iconic former central testing area – ‘The Pan’.

  • The Central Area, The Pan
    This large circular space was once the heart of the test track facility. Located at the crossover point between the figure of eight track loops, the area provided an expanse for all kinds of trials for vehicles and different types of road layouts.The original area was laid out as a 14 acre (6ha) circle of tarmac; 270m (900 feet) in diameter and a series of ducts carried power out to the middle of the space for the testing equipment, while a large irrigation tank in the woodland provided water for a spray system to create skid pan conditions.Unfortunately, to build this big space the engineers had to fill a small stream valley and bury the watercourse in long culverts under the tarmac. In restoring the landscape the stream has been ‘day-lighted’ as far as possible to recreate a natural feature and habitat.
  • Hill Start Hill
    A man-made hill built for testing hand-brakes and hill starts, the hill was used to see how vehicles would cope with a steep gradient. Now it is a quiet picnic spot on the edge of the forest, and the smell of burning clutch linings is now replaced with the scent of pine needles from the forest. The paths from here lead into an area known as the ‘Small Roads Test Tracks’. These were the minor side roads where junction arrangements, line markings, crossings and other street design ideas were tested. In order to provide a smaller scale woodland walk, whilst keeping elements of the site history alive, we have taken out half the width of the old test tracks. See if you can spot the white lines and stop lines – and even a few cats’ eyes.
  • Small Roads Test Track
    The test track paths in this area lead up to the highest part of the Buckler’s Forest area, Clay Hill, where you will find another rest spot with some more log benches. We have created some smaller unsurfaced woodland paths in this area for you to enjoy the experience of entering into the quiet spaces deep between the trees. A large glade has been cleared in the forest near the hilltop. This is to provide a sunny retreat for reptiles away from the disturbance of the main paths. On the lower edge of the forest, we have created an area of wet woodland habitat contained by a mound on the edge of the development. This helps to trap water and reduce stormwater runoff from the forest area. The new woodland planting includes a buffer of deciduous trees along the edge of the forest. These areas provide a lower fire risk edge between the development and existing plantations.
  • The Banked Curve
    This dramatic bend was created to allow the high-speed circuit to fit within the corner of the triangular shaped site. The bend carries the track through a tight 70-degree bend which would allow vehicles to maintain motorway speeds – and far exceed it! The banked section of the track measures 270m on the outside of the bend with the track dropping by 10m along this section. The curved form helps keep vehicles on the track up to a maximum speed of 155mph!

Look Out For

Keep your eyes open as you stroll through the forest. There is a lot to look out for.

What to spot?

Grassland and Heath

  • Often seen warming itself up in the sun, the Common Lizard is unique among British reptiles for giving birth to live young, rather than laying eggs.
  • Identified by the thick zig-zig running along its back, the Adder is the only venomous snake native to Britain. It’s not an aggressive animal by nature, but we’d recommend not disturbing it!
  • One of the rarest insects found locally is the Silver-Studded Blue Butterfly. It is most likely seen flying over an area of short sunny heathland. There are several different butterflies but you can recognise a Silver-Studded by the metallic scales on the underside of its wings.

Woodlands

  • Notoriously difficult to spot, the secretive Nightjar bird only comes out at night. But if you listen closely on a spring evening you might hear the distinctive singing male.
  • Keep an eye out for the bird and bat boxes across the forest, most of the trees will be used by a range of garden birds.
  • And, there’s a lot more to a forest than its trees – many smaller shrub species have been planted to help create more shelter for animals passing through, like hedgehogs, which can travel large distances looking for food and mates.

Wetlands, Ponds and Streams

  • See a flash of metallic green by the water? You may have glimpsed at the rare Emerald Dragonfly with our new wetland habitats.
  • There are three newt species native to the UK and we have two of them. Look out for small, brown amphibians in the ponds like Smooth Newt or Palmate Newt. They look alike but the palmate has webbed back feet (males) and spotless chins (females).

The History

The History

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 TRL

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.

Events

Buckler’s Forest Nature Walk

Are you a nature enthusiast? Do you enjoy being in the outdoors and learning new things? If so, then our nature walks could be for you!

On Sunday 6th October our Buckler’s Forest Ranger will be leading a group on a nature tour around this historic country park previously known as the Transport Research Laboratory (TRL). He will guide you through the history of the area, the different types of wildlife living in the forest and much more.

The event is completely free and will run from 11am to 12pm.

There are only 15 spaces, which are offered on a first-come-first-served basis, so if this sounds like your sort of thing register early to secure your place. Otherwise we can add you to the waiting list for the next event.