16 marathons. 16 days. 16 UK National Parks.
Ben Turner is taking on an epic challenge. Running 16 marathons in 16 days, in all 16 UK National Parks. Here he tells us why the project in so important.
Get outside and explore some of Britain's beautiful and magical woodlands
If you go out in the woods today, don’t worry about dressing up in disguise – there are no bears having picnics. You might still be in for a surprise though, as the UK has some woodland walks that can compete with the best. Here are just a few…
The Lake District is well known for its gorgeous scenery, and the woodland walks at Grizedale Forest in particular have some of the best you’ll find.
Located between the lakes Windermere and Coniston, the Silurian Way is arguably the ultimate Grizedale walk. You’ll stroll down an entire side of the valley, only to hike your way back up on the other side. Sometimes the path direction can be misleading, but this all adds to the adventure; especially when you know you’re going to be reaching the highest point of the forest at Carron Crag.
From ancient inhabitants to ancient habitats; the shape of Wade Wood in the Luddenden Dean at Calder Valley, West Yorkshire, was formed more than 30,000 years ago – with valleys left after the last Ice Age. As you stroll amongst the woodpeckers and deer, you’ll notice that the land remains untouched by man – apart from some holly hedges which run along an ancient fence line.
Wade Wood and the neighbouring Jerusalem Farm include 13 hectares of nature reserve for you to explore, and after a delightful walk in the wonderful landscape you can tuck into some grub and enjoy a pint at the cosy Timothy Taylors pub, the Car I’th Well, when you reach the top of the valley.
This lovely little town – which boasts the slogan ‘Peebles for Pleasure’ – has a reputation for its delightful independent shops and cafés. However, it’s also a must-visit for woodland walkers and mountain bikers, who can’t get enough of the nearby trails at Glentress Forest.
As you make your way along the sign-posted trails, you can enjoy the view of Peebles from woodcutter’s seat, and get a bit of history when passing the iron-age farmstead at which some people would have lived prior to the Roman invasion in 79AD.
This place, as you can probably guess from the name, is a little out of the ordinary. If you’re looking for a woodland walk that can transport you and the family into a green world of ancient trees, Puzzlewood in Gloucestershire is perfect.
The maze of forest and paths is complete with rope bridges and big boulders, ensuring the kids will have an amazing action-packed day. Puzzlewood is also said to have been where JRR Tolkien found his inspiration for Middle-Earth.
The best part of having an entire forest to roam is that it’s almost impossible to exhaust it, and this is certainly the case at Hampshire’s New Forest. With a National Park area covering 219 square miles (as well as an SSSI area of 120 square miles), it’s enormous; in fact, it’s the largest contiguous area of unsown vegetation in lowland Britain.
Whether you stroll through Buckler’s Hard or Beaulieu, Lymington or Exbury Gardens, you’ll never be disappointed. The path across Acres Down is a particular highlight, as it’s one of the only places it’s possible to see a European honey buzzard. There’s plenty of wildlife here, from snakes and squirrels to ponies and pigs.
You might think that those living in the big city will struggle getting out into woodland nature.
Actually, Londoners have plenty of nearby walks to enjoy, and Hainault Forest in Essex is the perfect example. You can even travel to it on the tube!
Covering more than 330 acres, this stretch of land is now one of the last remaining parts of the medieval ‘Forest of Essex’ – a former Royal hunting ground.
Try the eight-mile long Three Forests Way if you’re looking for a challenging trek.
We’ll finish up our list in Wales, at the delightful Dolgoch Falls. Three waterfalls near Tywyn in Gwynedd, this area of Dolgoch is part of the Nant Dol-gôch stream, which flows into the Afon Fathew. If you’re travelling on the Talyllyn Railway, make sure you get off at Dolgoch station and take this woodland walk. The sound of the rushing water as you stroll is very relaxing!
We couldn’t possibly list all of the great woodland walks in the UK in this blog but we always like to hear your favourites. Let us know by tweeting your favourites to @OSLeisure.