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BY KATIE - MYGREENPOD, 25 Dec '19
Brush off the festive excess and connect with nature by visiting one of these top UK 10 woods
Main image: Skipton Castle Woods
The festive season is upon us; it’s a time for indulgence but also a great time of the year for getting outside to experience the beauty of nature.
In winter, woods take on a whole new character: they become spectacular, frosty landscapes – perfect for enjoying nature’s sights and sounds while burning off some of those extra calories!
Crunch through frosty leaves, discover ancient hidden history or spot some elusive wildlife – a woodland walk could spring up surprises you’ll never forget. A visit is free and you’ll feel great afterwards too. More here: woodlandtrust.org.uk/visiting-woods
Here are 10 of the Woodland Trust’s great woods across the UK to visit.
01. GLEN FINGLAS
Near Stirling, Scotland
Set in Stirling, Scotland, Glen Finglas is home to breathtaking views, iconic Scottish wildlife and historic interest. Spanning an impressive 4,095 hectares, Glen Finglas is certainly one to add to the bucket list.
The woodland is suitable for both the serious walker and the less seasoned adventurer, as several paths circle the estate – each offering their own varying route of discovery through ancient oak woodlands and vast open lands.
Take the opportunity to marvel at weird and wonderful fungi – you may also be lucky enough to spot some red squirrels, otters, ospreys, deer, golden eagles and black grouse.
2. SKIPTON CASTLE WOODS
Tucked away in the market town of Skipton, just to the south edge of the Yorkshire Dales, Skipton Castle Woods will make you feel as though you are stepping back in time.
As you enter the woods, the hustle and bustle of the High Street is left behind, leaving you to you explore the abundance of wildlife.
3. COED FELENRHYD & LLENNYRCH
This stunning area of Welsh woodland will set you up for a real journey back in time, as it is thought that the steep banks of the Afon Prysor gorge have been wooded for thousands of years – possibly since trees first re-colonised Wales after the last ice age.
The beautiful scenery is the perfect place to immerse for the day and take in all that the remote and historic site has to offer.
Explore its atmospheric pools and the dramatic views of Snowdon as well and the rugged uplands of the Rhinog Mountains.
4. DRUMNAPH WOOD
Drumnaph occupies a ridge above the meandering Grillagh River, which allows you to enjoy the views west to Carntogher Mountain and the beautiful Sperrin Hills.
With over 30,000 trees planted in recent years, you’d be forgiven for thinking this was relatively young woodland.
Around 50% of the site is actually ancient woodland, making it a rare remnant of the great forest that once covered much of mid-Ulster.
Winter provides a good chance to spot Irish hare as they are often seen around the edges of the woodland and in the surrounding fields in the colder months of the year.
5. FINGLE WOOD
Fingle Wood lies in the northern fringes of Dartmoor in Devon, where Castle Drogo and Steps Bridge border the site. Extensive work is being done here to replace the swathes of conifer to help the site return to a natural broadleaf woodland.
Fingle is a fine example of a past ancient woodland haven. In recent years, over 45km of new footpaths have been laid to help visitors of all ages discover every corner of this incredible place.
Explore the frosty glades, spot wildlife and uncover intricate woodland archaeology.
6. BREDE HIGH WOODS
Cripps Corner, East Sussex
At 648 acres, Brede High Woods is one of the biggest Woodland Trust sites in England and lies within the High Weald AONB in East Sussex, approximately six miles north of Hastings.
Varied colour and the chance to see some of the country’s most important species – including great crested newt, brook lamprey, dormouse, badgers and fallow deer – make Brede High a wonderful place to enjoy seasonal scenes.
Brede High Woods is a nature-lovers paradise, with an outstanding reputation for wildlife. There are walks of 5 and 7.5 miles
Near Bolton, Greater Manchester
Smithills Estate is the largest site the Woodland Trust has ever acquired in England, steeped in history and shadowed by the famous Winter Hill TV mast.
The site is a mix of grassland, farmland, moorland, wooded cloughs (ravines) and bog habitats, crisscrossed by dry stone walls, with panoramic views over Bolton to Manchester.
Many aspects of Smithills Estate are being restored and revitalised, making this a wonderful place to visit as its transformation comes underway. Smithills Estate has areas of valuable habitat, particularly moorland – which is part of the West Pennine Moors SSSI – along with woodland and important grassland.
8. HUCKING ESTATE
This large mix of ancient woodland, planted secondary woodland and open grassland, is home to woodland archaeology, wonderful walks, interesting wildlife and breathtaking views – all set in the Kent Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
The estate runs to the escarpment of the North Downs along the southern boundary, which on a clear day affords fantastic views across the Weald of Kent.
Hucking Estate supports 10 threatened bird species. Bats such as Daubenton’s, brown long-eared and Natterer’s inhabit the ancient semi-natural woodland using two old disused chalk pits to roost.
You can spend as little or as long as you like in Hainault Forest Country Park. It covers more than 300 acres, with a fishing lake, zoo, guided walks, bridleways and a Nature Trail.
There are plenty of open field areas for relaxation and games – and you can hire a boat to go out on the lake. Facilities for children are excellent, with a farm and several large play areas to enjoy. There is also a great café.
10. CREDENHILL PARK WOOD
As you walk along the tranquil paths among the trees of Credenhill Park Wood, you can glimpse rare small leaved limes.
The Iron Age hill fort that is an integral part of the site is one of the largest hill forts in England and is thought to have been an Iron Age tribal capital. The walk to the top is well worth it, discovering nature within the woods along the way. At the top you will see views across to Wales. Soak up the winter landscape and let your imagination take you back to a time gone by.
With an incredible 158 bird species recorded, Hainault Forest is a birdwatcher’s dream. As you wander among the stately oaks and hornbeams, watch out for the colourful little firecrest with a flash of orange on its head, and the yellow-throated wood warbler.
Habitats at Hainault Forest include ancient woodland pasture, native broadleaf woodland, mature scrub and open grassland, heathland and former arable fields. Wetland habitats include streams, drainage ditches and woodland ponds.