Flackwell Heath

Flackwell Heath, three miles from High Wycombe, stretching out in a long line of closely built houses on a spur of the Chiltern Hills, is now reputed to be the largest village in England. Yet it wasn't inhabited at all until the end of the 18 th century and then by a few hardy folk prepared to scratch a living from the stony soil, and ladle water from the small fresh-water springs that bubbled from the hillside.

In the strips of woodland that surrounded the heathland in those early days grew many wild cherry trees and, on these wild trees the village folk grafted good cherry stock from the famous Kent Orchards, and from the spindly cherries vast orchards soon grew.

Strange to think that, not so long ago, we had more cherry trees on the heath than inhabitants and that to-day's vast housing estates were once large cherry orchards. Every cherry-picking season it became a tradition for the men from the Heath to leave their regular jobs in factories and mills and spend several weeks in the orchards harvesting the cherries.

Article written by members of the Buckinghamshire Federation of Women's Institutes for the publication "The Buckinghamshire Village Book" (1987) and reproduced here with their permission