Whippendell Wood (or Whippendell Woods) is an ancient woodland on the edges of Watford, covering an area of 165 acres. Its present name comes from the Anglo-Saxon name “Wippa denu”, meaning “Wippa’s valley”
Glade in Whippendell Wood
The wood is owned and managed by Watford Borough Council and is located close to Cassiobury Park. It can be accessed from the park by means of a public footpath crossing through the West Herts Golf Club or from Rousebarn Lane.
Whippendell Wood has been designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest since 1954 due to the woodland habitats present and its location in a predominantly urban and agricultural setting.
The area is well known for its impressive collection of bluebells. The Watford 10K race, styled as ‘the bluebell run’, which takes place on the May Day bank holiday of each year passes through the woods when the display is at its best.
Whippendell Wood is an ancient woodland, meaning it has been continuously wooded since at least 1600. The wood was formerly part of the Cassiobury estate. There is an avenue of lime trees dating back to 1672, which runs diagonally through the wood. The northern section of the wood was replanted at some point in the 18th or 19th century. Other phases of clearing and replanting followed in the 1940s and 1960s. In 1987, a storm damaged many of the trees in the wood.
It was designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest, due to its diverse range of fungi and invertebrates. Originally, it was listed in 1954 with Harrocks Wood, but was declared as an SSSI on its own in 1986.
A range of trees can be found in the wood, which is predominantly composed of oak, beech, ash and silver birch. There are also a significant number of cherry, hawthorn, hazel, holly and hornbeams. Sycamore trees are also found in the wood, but these are being felled as part of a management plan, as they are not native to the area.
As well as being known for its bluebells, which are particularly prominent in April–May, there are also a few rare species of fungus, including Crepidotus cinnabarinus, which has only been recorded on three other occasions in the whole of Europe. First noted in the wood in 1995, samples are now kept at Kew Gardens.
The wood is home to a number of bird species, including great spotted, lesser spotted and green woodpeckers, tawny owls and sparrow hawks.
Mammals found in the wood include bats, badgers, and deer.
The wood is open to the public, and there are several footpaths and orienteering routes through the wood. The wood is popular with dog walkers, and is also used as a shortcut to Cassiobury Park. Horses are not permitted into the wood, but a track for horse riders runs around the perimeter.
Whippendell Wood has been used as a filming location for Star Wars; exterior shots for scenes set on the planet Naboo were filmed here for the 1999 prequel, The Phantom Menace. Whippendell has also featured in television series such as Holby City and Silent Witness.
Whippendell Wood contains many hollows and dips in the landscape, up to about 100 metres across and five metres deep. It is unclear whether these are naturally occurring geological features or the result of human activity – possible bomb craters from the second world war.
The largest example can be found south west of the Grove Mill Lane car park.
A smaller dell which is easy to spot (following forestry works to thin out smaller trees and undergrowth) lies just down the slope from the path that heads south from the Grove Mill Lane car park.
Several dells are located in the southern corner of the Wood, near where Rousebarn Lane turns from a northerly direction to the northwest and starts to go uphill. Three of these are quite close to the pathways in this area, and three more are hidden on the wooded slopes between the lane and West Herts Golf Course. The largest of these is north of the steep path on Jacotts Hill.
There are also dells in the woods adjacent to Whippendell Wood, including perhaps not surprisingly one in Dell Wood.
There are two very close together at the northern end of the evocatively named Merlins Wood.
Whippendell Wood is linked via a series of footpaths to Merlin’s Wood, Dell Wood, Newland’s Spring and Horrocks Wood
How to get to Whippendell Wood
From M1 exit 5 take the A41 to Watford, continue on Stephenson Way/A4008, then take A411, A412 and Links Way to Rousebarn Ln in Chandler’s Cross