Entrance to Bernwood Forest
Bernwood Forest was one of several
forests of the ancient
Kingdom of England and was a
Royal hunting forest. It is thought to have been set aside as Royal hunting land when the
Anglo-Saxon kings had a
Brill and church in
Oakley, in the 10th century and was a particularly favoured place of
Edward the Confessor, who was born in nearby
From about 1217 through to the 17th century the forest went through a gradual period of
King Henry II (reigned 1154–1189) prepared a map of the forest at the time which is an invaluable tool in helping define its ancient boundaries; however, his purpose for drawing up the map was to divide the forest amongst his nobles. By the 16th century, another map of the forest had been drawn up by which time it had been reduced greatly in size. Again, the map was drawn up under the aegis of
the Crown as an audit to what revenue could be made from selling off the forest. By the reign of
King James I (reigned 1603–1625), the forest had lost its Royal status and had completely disappeared.
Today the name refers to the area of
Oxfordshire where the forest was at the time of King Henry II, covering 400 km². The approximate boundaries of the designated area today fall within the
River Great Ouse, the
Padbury Brook, the
Claydon Brook and the
The small modern Bernwood Forest in Buckinghamshire is approximately 1 km² and is contiguous with Hell Coppice, York's Wood, Oakley Wood and Shabbington Wood.
[Note 1] A
Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) called
Shabbington Woods Complex,
 it supports a wide variety of wildlife and is one of the most important
butterfly sites in the United Kingdom. Its owners, the
 originally had a more commercial approach.
Aerial spraying of pesticides occurring up until the late 1960s:
DDT to control
Hylobius abietis then
2,4,5-T to clear broad-leafed plants (including oak saplings) before planting commercial pine stands.
Holly Wood, Holton Wood, Stanton Great Wood and Waterperry Wood, all in Oxfordshire, and
Ham Home-cum-Hamgreen Woods in Buckinghamshire, are also remnants of Bernwood Forest which are SSSIs.
 Another fragment in Buckinghamshire is
Rushbeds Wood, an SSSI which is managed by the
Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust.