About Marlow Common
Marlow Common (North) Local Nature Reserve consists primarily of English oak and silver birch with an understorey of bracken.
The glaciation effect
At the end of the ice age, ‘glacial wash’ consisting of gravel and clay, was deposited in thick folds. These deposits mask the underlying chalk geology and help make the soil acidic, which is unusual for the Chilterns.
History and culture
The soil type is responsible for the Common’s character and richness in culture, history and wildlife. Because of its poor soil, the Common was only fit for rough grazing. Records from 1746 reveal that sheep once grazed the land as a right of Common, granted by the Lord of the Manor to his tenants.
In addition to grazing their sheep, tenants also had rights to gather firewood and to ‘lesser housebote’ – that is, use the timber from the Common for household repairs.
From at least the early 1700s until the 1870s the Common was a heath – grasses, heather and patches of gorse thrived on the poor soil and there were hardly any trees. Today, many oaks of around a hundred years old fill most of the Common and surround a few patches of heath.
In England only one sixth of the heathland present in 1800 now remains, because of its rarity, lowland heathland is a prlority for nature conservation in Buckinghamshire.
Local Nature Reserves (LNRs) are designed to be of importance for wildlife, geology, education and public enjoyment. To find out more about them, visit the LNR pages in Natural England's website.