Friends of Fox Hill (FoFH) is often asked questions like “where is Fox Hill?”, “how can we get into the woods?” and “what land is threatened by development?”. To help, we have assembled a map of the area showing the important features.
LOCATION: The area we refer to as Fox Hill is bordered by Woosehill housing estate on the east and north, by Bearwood Road on the west and by various private properties on the south and west. It is bisected by a row of overhead electricity cables carried on pylons, referred to as the ‘pylon line’. A strip either side of this is kept clear by the electricity company. The remaining area is mostly woodland of different types (see FoFH sheet on Finding Trees). DEFRA Magic Map has designated it as ancient and semi-natural woodland.
Strictly speaking, Fox Hill is the mound in the woods to the east of the pylon line. The high point under the northern pylon is Round Hill. However, we use “Fox Hill” to refer to the whole area. Running roughly through the middle is the border between Barkham (Wokingham parish and borough ward) and Evendons (borough and town ward). This is the light green line on the map. T he relevant Town and Borough Councillors are available to respond to any issues that concern their electorate. See here for WBC and WTC councillors.
OWNERSHIP: Only the area shown in dark green is owned by Wokingham Borough Council (WBC). (This was formerly Wokingham District Council so some of the small signs in the area date back to then.) The rest of the land is in private ownership. The perimeter is mostly fenced off by all the private properties, but there is currently no fence separating the WBC land.
The WBC woodland is not an official “Country Park” managed by WBC Countryside Services (like Dinton Pastures and California). However, this department has recently started work on a management plan and is working with FoFH to gradually maintain the area. They will always arrange for dangerous trees to be dealt with so these should be reported here.
There are some small areas where ownership is uncertain, and WBC is looking into this.
ACCESS: There is currently no provision for parking anywhere. If parking on residential roads, please park considerately and in accordance with the Highway Code, ie do not stop or park opposite or within 10 metres (32 feet) of a junction. There are access points into Fox Hill from the estate at Dorset Way (north), Chaucer Way and Dorset Way (south). These access a network of informal paths through WBC’s woodland. The main ones are shown on the map but there are others. The one which runs behind the properties in Dorset Way was once properly surfaced and FoFH have been working to remove the mud and woodland debris accumulated over the years. It may become a part of the route of the Wokingham to Arborfield “Greenway”. This is still under investigation and is not imminent.
There is also access from Kent Close but, as this is into private land, it is not displayed on our map. Note that there is no access from Ruskin Way or Bearwood Road.
The other main access is from the Public Right of Way (PROW) (number WOKI FP 1 I) that runs along the southern boundary from Limmerhill Road to Highlands Avenue. This runs mostly on private land, but access is protected. Note that horse riding and motorcycles (see below) are prohibited on this narrow path. We understand that WBC is currently considering an application for bridleways and will publicise this if granted.
There are several informal paths throughout the private land that have been regularly used at least since the Woosehill estate was built. FoFH has applied for some of these to be granted PROW status. The application is still going through a legal process and, even if granted, would probably only be a small step towards ensuring continued access to the area). Meanwhile access to these is at the owner’s discretion and permission can be withdrawn at any time.
The use of the large Fox Hill Trails BMX track has been agreed by the owners. Any other track is not sanctioned. Similarly, the owners may allow motorcycles to use their land, but these must not use WBC land or the PROW for access.
PLANNING STATUS: The whole area is covered by blanket tree preservation orders (see FoFH TPO information). FoFH have permission, working through WBC Countryside Services, to remove invasive species and restore some coppices. We are also allowed to restore paths and drains. Any other activity that might remove or damage trees or tree roots is a breach of the TPOs.
FoFH was formed in 2018 when the previous owners of the majority of the non-WBC land sold it to a company now known as Pike Wood SANG Limited (PWSL). The directors include members of the family that also own A1 Group and surrounding land. We were concerned that public access, which has been assumed for decades, would be restricted.
The WBC 2018 Local Plan Update (LPU) consultation included a submission to designate this land in a category that covered a very wide variety of uses. FoFH submitted a proposal to designate the entire area as a Local Green Space (LGS). This was accepted and included in the 2020 Draft LPU. However, the plan has been recently revised and, although the LGS designation remains, it has no legal status until the LPU is ratified. LGS is a category that presumes against commercial development but, crucially, it does not guarantee public access. See Local Green Space designation.
The declared aim of PWSL is to develop a large part of their land as a Suitable Alternative Natural Greenspace (SANG). This is a category of public space intended to mitigate development elsewhere on the Thames Heath (see SANG FAQ). You will see these adjacent to many of the new developments around Wokingham. There is no development planned for this site, but PWSL could sell SANG rights to developers who have no space to create their own.
In November 2021 PWSL were granted planning application 203539 for “change of use of 14.77ha from existing private woodland to informal recreational land and associated infrastructure including pedestrian and vehicle access, car parking and footpath network and landscaping”. See this link for detailed plans. Our map only shows the boundary of the application. The area cannot be designated a SANG until there is a development associated with it and further conditions would need to be met. The applicant is under no obligation to implement the plan and no timetable has been disclosed. Permission will lapse if no development has taken place within 3 years.
Meanwhile FoFH maintains an active interest in all developments and, with our army of volunteers, works to keep the area accessible.
DISCLAIMER: Friends of Fox Hill (FoFH) publish this map and accompanying information for public benefit. The base map is the copyright of Wokingham Borough Council. All information is in the public domain. FoFH take no responsibility for the accuracy of this information and accepts no legal liability.