“The Ancient Countryside is a land of hamlets, of medieval farms in hollows of the hills, of lonely moats in the clay-lands, of immense mileages of quiet minor roads, hollow-ways and intricate footpaths; of irregularly shaped groves and thick hedges colourful with maple, dogwood and spindle; of pollards and other ancient trees.” (Rackham :1978).
Oliver Rackham could have been describing Wichenford. Newcomers to the village should not be deceived by the apparent village “centre” at the junction of Venn Lane and the Ockeridge Road. The heart of the present-day village was only created in the 1950s by the building of the housing estate and by the infill of bungalows on land immediately opposite, where a detached house called Malvern View used to stand.
Before this, Wichenford had changed little over the last thousand years: it comprises a scattered community of hamlets from Wants Green to Kings Green, from Witton Hill to Castle Hill and from Bury End Town to Bury End Bush, interspersed with farmsteads, some of which still have remnants of their medieval moats. The roads that connect the hamlets and farms are typically narrow, often single track, and sunken or bound by tall hedges with a lack of grass verges, though when the latter do occur they are often much wider than normal.
The village boasts the 5th largest network of footpaths in the county, though by no means rating the same in village size. If the groves have gone, they have left their names behind in field names such as Graffhill behind Little BuryEnd Town Farm and Graffield by Cobblers Corner; Clements Grove and Corbetts Coppice once grew in the most north-easterly portion of Bulmers Orchard at Woodhouse. And the name Woodfield can be found both in the northern and southern parts of the parish. Proof that the hedges are ancient can be seen every autumn, when the maples turn to yellow and the dogwood to red, to make our hedges blaze with colour.
And finally ancient trees – walk anywhere round the parish and you cannot fail to see pollards aplenty, whether willow (innumerable) or ash (many) or, best of all, the ancient oaks, knarled and wizened, their trunks contorted into magical shapes, now carrying crowns of large, heavy branches, silent witnesses to a history that goes back at least a couple of millennia.