In the Chilterns, the chalk was covered with a flinty clay deposit laid down during the last Ice Age. This has eroded away in places leaving the chalk exposed, but trees have colonized where the clay remains creating many woods. Beech trees are common but you will also frequently find oak, ash and whitebeam - origin of the name Whiteleaf Hill.
The topsoil in the Chilterns is thin and dry, with rain water draining quickly through the underlying porous chalk, leading to trees that are shallow rooted and, when mature, prone to being blown over in storms. This creates natural open areas in woods which are colonized by wildlife that enjoys the additional light and by larger animals that can graze on the plants there.
Many woodland plants flower in spring and early summer, to make the most of the higher light levels that are present before the trees are in full leaf.
Since medieval times this area has been owned by enduring family dynasties that managed the land and helped ensured the survival of the woodlands: the Chilterns have remained wooded for over 400 years and are one of the most wooded parts of England, with more than 20% of the land tree-covered. A thriving furniture industry developed in High Wycombe using the Chilternsí beeches which is an excellent timber for furniture. Traditional activities such as coppicing, charcoal burning and bodging (pole lathe turning of Windsor chair parts) also helped to manage the habitat.