Trying to get information about things like parking, or even a map, of Penn Woods in Buckinghamshire was surprisingly difficult. I knew that they have an amazing display of bluebells at Penn Woods, but it’s also MASSIVE and so I wasn’t quite sure where to start looking. In the end we just decided to pop down there, explore for ourselves, and then tell you all about it. For some reason I always thought it was quite far away, but actually it only took about 20 minutes to get there from Aylesbury.
To quote Bjork it’s oh so quiet
The first thing you notice about Penn Woods is how quiet it is. Well, how quiet it was until Smallest Child rocked up and decided to start singing. Actually, it’s really noisy with soooo much lovely birdsong but, in terms of people, it was really quiet. We visited on a stunningly sunny day, albeit mid-week during term time. We did see other people, but we only walked past one or two. Part of the reason for that is because Penn Woods has a massive network of paths criss-crossing the woodland. You can see walkers, cyclists and joggers through the trees, but they’re often not on the same path as you. There seem to be a few “main” paths, but these are still pretty wild. You’ll find lots of other, smaller paths as well so, if you really want to avoid people then probably stick to these.
Part of the reason that it’s so quiet here, particularly in comparison with somewhere like Wendover Woods is because of the lack of facilities. It’s an ancient woodland, but it’s just a woodland. No cafe, no toilets, no well maintained tracks, no sports facilities. Just trees and mud and sticks. Which is exactly what we were looking for!
When we visited Penn Woods we got to see a baby deer just wandering across the footpath in front of us, loads of butterflies and a VERY noisy woodpecker. Honestly, either woodpeckers aren’t very efficient at what they do, or there can’t be many trees left standing. The noise was constant.
Walks around Penn Woods
I’d seen that there are plenty of way-marked walks around Penn Woods and where we entered the woods there wasn’t a map so I was expecting there to be markers dotted around along the main routes. If there were any then we missed all of them.
In some respects it didn’t really matter though. There’s a massive criss-cross of little paths all over Penn Woods and they’re all really clear so you don’t have to worry about accidentally going off-piste. Turn left enough times and eventually you’ll end up where you started? The only problem with lots of little footpaths is that it means there are a lot of mega junctions where 3, 4, 5 footpaths converge and it can be tricky to tell which is which. I’ll never admit this to The Nana (who we were visiting with) but I accidentally took the wrong path going back to the car. This was about 10 minutes after I’d been bragging about how good my sense of direction was in comparison to hers! We got to see some lovely little features on the way back, but it did mean we had a little bit of a walk to the car once we’d finished.
One thing I love about a walk in the woods is how much it varies according to season. We’ve visited when much of the woods is only just starting to come into leaf. I bet it’s completely different in summer, and then again in the autumn. Only one way to find out..
The home of epic dens
Where we entered Penn Woods was actually just off of Penn Street Common (I had missed the car park) and pretty much straight away we found some epic dens. Well actually, lots of them! I’m not sure if they’re always here or if they’ve appeared during lockdown but they were great. Penn Woods seems to lend itself particularly well to den building as there are a LOT of fallen branches all over the place. I’m kind of surprised there’s any left on the trees to be honest.
The only downside? Someone had lovingly decorated one of the dens with a beautiful, used disposable mask. Honestly, who would do that? People ditching their old manky masks everywhere is becoming a real bug bear of mine!
It’s a mud-fest in wet weather
As we got deeper into the woods you could tell that during wet weather it is muddy as hell up here. Proper “lose your wellies” levels of mud. My kids are going to LOVE it then! The only other places I can think of that seem to get as muddy are the Ashridge Estate and Bernwood Forest. In autumn/winter I’m guessing that it’s tough to get pushchairs through some paths. Even in the summer please be aware that it’s very uneven underfoot and there’s lots of tree stumps and exposed roots everywhere so you do have to watch where you’re going.
One little feature of these woods that Smallest Child really liked is all of the pits and dells. They’re all over the place and some are much deeper than others. Apparently some are old clay and flint pits, but some are natural. In one place the path is blocked by three of these side-by-side so someone has built a little bridge across the mud to make it accessible. That proved VERY popular.
Penn Woods seemed to be like lots of different mini woodlands next to each other, with different varieties of trees much less mixed up than in other woodlands. That meant you got lots of distinct areas to explore which was nice.
Bluebells at Penn Woods
The main reason that we visited when we did was to see the bluebells. During my research of bluebell walks across Bucks, Beds, Oxon & Herts I’d discovered that Penn Woods is a particularly good spot. Until today I hadn’t been to see for myself though. When we first got into the woods (near the common) there were some decent patches of bluebells about to appear. Pretty, but not really “top bluebell walks” worthy! I was getting a little worried.
Then we found them and Oh. My. Goodness. There were only a couple out currently, but it just goes on for miles and miles. I genuinely think this might be one of the best woodlands in Buckinghamshire to see bluebells. We’re planning on revisiting in a couple of weeks to see them in full bloom. To find them yourselves you’ll need to go up near the Beamond End gate. They’re right next to it and you can’t miss them. We didn’t have time to explore any further so there may well be other pockets as well. If you know of any please let me know!
Quick note, please make sure you stick to the footpaths as the bluebells are very delicate and take years to recover (if at all) from being trodden on. Also, it’s illegal to pick bluebells as they’re a protected species.
Other features at Penn Woods
It’s one of the largest ancient woodlands in Buckinghamshire so there’s lots of hidden gems. So far I’ve only explored a small corner of the woods but I know there’s a pond in there somewhere. Don’t ask me where though. It’s apparently famous for mushrooms and fungi. Near the church there’s an carved acorn seat. This used to read poetry to you, but the mechanism has been removed sadly. To find this, park in the church car park and follow the main path, you’ll find it fairly easily. If you’re lucky you might stumble across the 12 resident Dexter cattle that help to maintain the woodland. Find out more about what’s on site on the Woodland Trust’s website.
The church itself is really beautiful too.
Parking / How to get there
There are seven entrances to Penn Wood and each has its own VERY small parking area. The one we found was only for two cars so I wouldn’t pin all your hopes on getting one of those.
The main car parking for Penn Wood is at the Holy Trinity CofE Church in Penn Street, Amersham HP7 0PX. Look for the sign that says vicarage between the common and the church. It looks like you’re going up a private drive but you’re not.
None on site, which is one of the reasons why Penn Woods is so quiet! There are toilet facilities for customers of the two village pubs though.
There’s no cafe on site, and not really anywhere for a picnic within the woods either. You could have one on the common though. There are two village pubs which serve food, The Squirrel and the Hit or Miss. We had a quick drink in The Squirrel and it seemed nice, although we didn’t have anything to eat. We sat out the front as it was quieter, and so totally missed that they’ve got a good children’s play area out the back!
Our Penn Woods review
I’m really cross with myself that I haven’t been here before! Really cross. It’s a good woodland and really big. The reduced facilities will help to put the crowds off but, in reality you can still get access to food, toilets and children’s play areas at the pub so it isn’t really lacking in facilities at all! We will be back. Very soon.
Hi, I’m Vicky. My husband and I live in Aylesbury with our three children; a 10 year old son, an 8 year old son and a 3 year old daughter. I (mostly) love spending time together as a family. We visit all kinds of places and we’re quite happy to drive a fair distance for a decent day out. A few years ago I decided to set up Free Time with the Kids as a way to share our experiences of these family days out. You know, the essential information you need to know before your visit that can be surprisingly hard to find out. Where do I park? How much will it cost me to get in? Are there any discounts available? Are there loos? Can I take a picnic or get food? My aim is to be your go-to guide for all your free and cheap family days out across Bucks, Beds, Oxon, Herts & slightly beyond. I really hope you find the reviews helpful. If there’s anywhere that you’d recommend please get in touch firstname.lastname@example.org or get in touch via Facebook