This spring, join us as we discover the natural wonder of the UK’s forests. With flowers in bloom and wildlife returning to breed, British forests are teeming with life and waiting to be explored. From birdwatching in Cornwall to cycling in Yorkshire, let us help you find out more about how to spend magic moments in Britain’s pretty woodlands.
For many people, spring means bluebells – and for a short period, forest floors can take on the appearance of vast magic blue carpets. Remember to stick to just looking at the flowers, as they’re a protected species so it’s definitely not OK to pick them.
But spring is not just about plants… it’s wake-up time for many animal species, many of whom will have been hibernating, hiding from view or will have done the sensible thing and flown away for the winter. Be ready to watch Mother Nature yawn, stretch and begin the spectacular process of waking up – as evidenced by the appearance of forest birds, red squirrels and even ospreys on their return from sunnier shores.
So the time has come to pull on walking boots (and maybe pack an umbrella so the showers don’t catch you out) and head into the countryside to enjoy the very best of our springtime wild flora and fauna…
Ardgartan, Argyll, Scotland Where is it? Loch Long and the small village of Ardgartan are located at the mouth of the Croe Water in Scotland’s Argyll Forest Park. Mountaineers, ramblers, cyclists and horse riders all come to this spot to make the most of the stunning scenery, nature and trails of Arrochar Alps, Ben Aruthr and Glen Kinglas.
As well as offering excellent climbing and adventure conditions, this area also has some gentle forest walks which are clearly marked out by the Forestry Commission. Soak up the spectacular land and water views by exploring the forest on foot before taking a canoe trip over Loch Long’s Torpedo Bay.
Spring is an excellent time to spot wildlife in Scotland, with many animals returning to the area to breed. In particular, look out for ospreys returning from their winter trip to Africa.
Blackwood, Hampshire, England Where is it? The Blackwood beech forest in Hampshire is only one hour from London – perfectly located for a quick escape back to nature. The forest (just five minutes from Micheldever train station) looks stunning in late spring, thanks to a wild violet carpet of bluebells.
Associated with ancient and deciduous woodland, bluebells are commonly found where there are beech trees, where their young shoots can penetrate the thick layer of beech leaf debris. Bluebells need to pollinate and flower before the dense foliage of the beech trees closes off the light, hence the flowers’ brief appearance only occurring towards the end of April and into May.
When you’re in the area, don’t miss out on picking up some local, organic treats at the Laverstoke Farm Park shop. Famous for its “field to fork” philosophy, the farm shop sells a range of excellent organically and bio-dynamically farmed meats, poultry, fruit, and vegetables.
Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire, England Where is it? Spreading from the beauty of Wye Valley across to the mighty River Severn, the Forest of Dean is a glorious stretch of ancient oak woodland. With enchanting forest walks, impressive rivers and the grand 500ft high limestone outcrop of Symonds Yat Rock, you’ll never be bored on a visit to this area.
Look out in spring for bursts of wild garlic – a must for seasonal foragers. And if you’re visiting with children, the Forest of Dean’s Puzzlewood is a must-see. Explore 14 acres of historical woodland (originally thought to be the inspiration for J.R.R. Tolkein’s Middle Earth), complete with twisted rock formations, strange tree roots and a maze of pathways, bridges and tunnels.
Strathyre, Scotland Where is it? Near Loch Lubnaig, Strathyre is a pretty Victorian village on the eastern shore of the River Balveg.
The area is closely associated with Rob Roy, with the Rob Roy Way marked trail and market town Callander all paying homage to the Scottish folk hero. Strathyre forest surrounds the village; a stunning natural woodland that’s popular with walkers, climbers, cyclists, horse riders and wildlife enthusiasts.
Walk Highlands suggest a circular route around Strathyre that takes in part of the Rob Roy Way and other marked forest walks. The higher up views found on the route are great for spotting forest birds and red squirrels.
Deerpark, Cornwall Where is it? Near the Cornish coast, the Deerpark woodland is a serene place to explore, home to rare plant species and an abundance of wildlife including, naturally, roe deer. It is a wonderfully diverse place to visit, just 15 minutes from the Cornish beaches and pretty fishing villages of Looe and Polperro.
There are many exciting activities at Deerpark that it’s sometimes easy to forget life’s simpler pleasures, like bird watching. Cornwall is home to nearly 450 different bird species and in the woods at Deerpark look out for woodpeckers, marsh tits, and – of course – owls and buzzards. Further afield you might spot curlews and snipes, great crested grebe, and black-headed gulls.
Cropton, Yorkshire Where is it? With the North Yorkshire moors right on your doorstep, and the coast just a half hour drive away, Cropton is one of the most picturesque places to visit in the UK. Cropton is home to a variety of evergreen and broadleaf trees, crystal clear streams, and an abundance of wildlife.
Nearby Dalby Forest has historic gems to discover, including Bronze Age burial mounds and earthworks. Cropton offers wonderful cycling facilities for outdoor explorers in the spring time.
Blooming plants and crisp air are the perfect accompaniment to those who want to wind around the wood trails of Cropton on two wheels – the perfect way to get ready for the Tour de Yorkshire in May 2015.