Magnificent autumnal woodland walks with something for all the family. Alderley Edge woodland is steeped in history, real and imagined. There are remnants of copper mining activity going back to the Bronze age, a Wizard's Well and a hidden Wizard's cave which may have been the inspiration of Alan Garder’s 'The Weirdstone of Brisingamen' which has its 50th anniversary this year. The wood certainly has an air of enchantment and the sandstone escarpment offers great views of the Cheshire plain and beyond. Go before end of October and walk to Hare Hill Gardens (NT) and finish the day at Wizard tearooms (weekends) for a warming drink and a cake.
Acres of glorious forest walks, paths and trails with amazing views in part on the high ridge looking far towards Exeter. Great butterfly walk for all ages and along the way play with the sculptures, the wooden zylophone, hide in the dens, be free in the forest!
This one of the most beautiful spots in the area. It is cared for by the Worcestershire Wildlife Trust. In the spring time the woods are full of bluebells and there is a meadow going down to the river which during the summer is full of wild flowers including some rare orchids. I have seen kingfishers, various species of butterfly and the birdsong - if you heard it in a film you would think the special effects overdone! My family have visited this spot over the last 10 years and whatever time of year it is always beautiful. When the children were small I would describe our days there as Enid Blyton Days. Not many people go there so it is a real haven of peace and quiet
The Knapp House, Bridges Stone, Alfrick, Worcester, WR6 5HR
Google map: bit.ly/bIqEw3
Padley Gorge to Grindleford Café and back is surely the most deliciously unhealthy gastronomic adventure in Britain.
Starting at Padley Gorge (free parking on the road), a walk down to Burbage Brook looking out across beautiful moorland to Carl Wark in the distance, across the rickety bridge and then through ancient oak forest all the way to Grindleford station, where you can stop at the café famous for its chip butties and rude notices. Back the same way or up through Longshaw Estate, you can keep small children going with the promise of ice cream from the competing vans back at the start. Masses of leaves to kick, funghi to “look but not touch” and strange shaped branches to sit or swing on.
Undemanding forest trail walks around an amazingly serene lochan, which provides spectacular reflections of the surrounding woodland.
The woodland was planted by Lord Strathcona in the nineteenth century in an attempt to recreate the Pacific NorthWest for his homesick native-American wife. A lochan nestles in the centre of the wood surrounded by majestic conifers and rugged mountains.
The Woodland Trust's Glen Finglas. Don’t expect a light-hearted skip through piles of autumn leaves; this is a splendid ancient hunting forest where the trees are hundreds of years old. Spy red deer while following in the footsteps of eight Scottish kings who hunted here. Wax lyrical about the inspiring views across the reservoir, after all this is where Sir Walter Scott set a ballad about a fatal hunting expedition. After a mile of so of walking the magnificent ancient woodland gives way to open moorland with views towards the Scottish Highlands. Here, you have the option to continue along the hill track into a more remote area where hundreds of veteran trees line the trails. One of the walks, The Mell, is a massive seven-hour, 15-mile circuit, but you can turn back after any of the viewpoints, and there are shorter walks with not too much climbing down on the shores of Loch Venacher. Whatever route you choose, be sure to stop at the famous Brig O' Turk Tea Room on the way back to the car.
Norfolk Wildlife Trust's Foxley Wood is mentioned in the Domesday Book and it feels that ancient. It's full of amazing wild flowers in the spring and summer, a weird selection of fungi in the autumn and stunning bare coppiced trees in winter. It's at its best in spring, when you wade through a haze of purple bluebells, trying not to tread on the orchids. You don't see many people but often meet up with a few deer.
Dereham, Norfolk NR20 4QR
+44(0)1603 625 540
Google map: bit.ly/9q3ncx
Walking among the twisted trunks and bows of ancient trees is an unforgettable experience. At Kingley Vale National Nature Reserve in West Sussex a grove of gnarled old yews cast a claustrophobic darkness over the ground. As you emerge from the blackness, the surrounding chalk grassland comes as something of a relief. Here you will find Bronze Age burial sites, and extensive views across the South Downs.
Much to everyone's surprise Milton Keynes has three magnificent ancient woodlands (i.e. been there since before 1600) right in the new city. Each is a about 100 acres and open to the public 24/7. They are connected to the network of open spaces and cycleways that have been woven across the city and each has at least one free car park next to it.
This signposted circular walk around the rural edge of south-west Sheffield takes you through ancient woodlands and parks where blazing autumnal colours are exchanged in spring for sheets of bluebells. These woods once supplied charcoal to Sheffield's fledgling industries and are full of history - a 17th century grinding works, disused millponds teeming with wildlife, the remains of the 12th century Beauchief Abbey. A more recent addition is an alpaca farm on moorland at the highest point of the walk! Look out for dippers and kingfishers in the rivers and enjoy an icecream or coffee at one of the small cafes along the route. 14 miles in its entirety - but can easily be broken into smaller segments.
734 Ecclesall Road, Norton, Sheffield S11 8
Google map: bit.ly/98C6Pe
Intimate pub serving a wide range of real ales and the fantastic 'Weapons Grade' alcoholic ginger beer. The menu full of comfort food (suet puddings, sausage and mash) will help soak up the tipples.
The area of Lancashire around the West Pennine Moors contains a number of great walks which are not as well-known as they deserve to be: Sunnyhurst Woods in Darwen is one of these. The Woods are situated in a narrow valley at either side of Sunnyhurst Brook, as it tumbles down from Earnsdale Reservoir at the edge of the moors. A network of paths and bridges follows the stream as it flows for about one mile and 250 feet downhill from the moors to the main road. The main, central path is the simplest route, but there are higher routes which cling to the valley sides that are probably more interesting and offer plenty of scope for circular routes.
In addition to the magnificent autumn colours at this time of year there is a visitor centre/gallery and a licensed cafe which are open all year (though not every day of the week). Refreshment can also be had at the Sunnyhurst pub, which is close to one of the wood’s higher entrances.
Voted number 12 on the list of the 50 greatest railway journeys in the world, the Great Central Railway is the UK's only double track, main line heritage railway. It runs between Loughborough, Quorn, Rothley, Leicester North (Birstall) stations.
A brilliant day out, and each station is restored to reflect a different period. A good place to stop off for lunch is the the Manor House pub in Quorn (right by the station entrance).
Regularly voted Leicester's CAMRA Pub of the Year, this is a fantastic real ale pub in the city centre.
Has regular beer festivals and live music, and the stonebaked pizzas that they serve (Tues-Sat only) are the best in the East Midlands (and very reasonably priced).
The range of beers is extensive and superb.
Pizza times: Tues-Sat
12-2pm & 5.30-9pm
It's a National Trust site of natural beauty in the south east of England. Not only is it a steep climb to a stunning spot but at the bottom of Box Hill lies a meadow that you rarely find in these parts. Once you have walked through this tranquil field with wild flowers, you walk across a bridge which covers an idyllic stream. So idyllic that dogs can be seen swimming excitedly in it. And you find yourself in a wooded area complete with various tree and shrub species, contorted fallen trunks and discarded logs. It's a treasure trove that's hidden away under the shade of the hill.
As you climb Box Hill you marvel at the view which Jane Austen's Emma did too.
Rail: Boxhill and Westhumble then about a mile walk. Please note - quite steep so wear good shoes.
Road: On the A24, close to Leatherhead in Surrey.
Box Hill Road, Box Hill, Tadworth, Surrey KT20 7LB
National Trust: www.nationaltrust.org.uk/main/w-boxhill
Google map: bit.ly/9uSO0g
Dover's Hill is a piece of land belonging to the National Trust on the very edge of the Cotswolds looking out over the Vale of Evesham. Parking is free and there is a short walk to a viewing point, that's as far as most people get so don't be put off if the parking is busy. A few hardy locals will be walking their dogs along the top of the escarpment and taking in the stunning views. This is a natural amphitheatre used once a year for the historic Dovers games, for the rest of the year it's largely empty. But the secret is to walk right down the hill to the woods at the bottom, where you can experience the real countryside with badgers sets, deer and sometimes if the farmers sheep make a break for it through the fence they will join you to. Then reward yourself with lunch or afternoon tea in nearby Chipping Campden.
Dover's Hill, Chipping Campden, Gloucestershire
+1 (0)1684 850051
Google map: bit.ly/ahpq0J
Austins, the world's oldest department store, is a stunning building located in the Diamond, square at the very heart of the city centre.
It is well worth popping into. It is a quaint, in many ways, old fashioned kind of store but with top of the range goods in every department.
Best of all is the Roof Top Restaurant on the third floor with wonderful views over the city. I had a gigantic scone, butter, jam and a mug of coffee for an amazing £1.60!
Later I went back for lunch and had the lunchtime special. A main course, pudding, and a pot of tea or a coffee for £4.95, with good big portions. It was very busy! A wonderful mix of Derry ladies of a certain age, businessmen, mothers and toddlers. I staggered out after lunch and managed to cross to the benches in the square where I sat in the sun to let it all digest before tackling the walls of the city!
Nothing says autumn like the Van Gogh-ian palette of yellows and oranges that emblazon the British countryside - nothing except, perhaps, a good pint of local ale to wash it all down with. This is why you absolutely must visit Epping Forest in the autumn. You can jump on the tube in central London and half an hour later be at the edge of this expanse of woodland (the largest and oldest in London) to frolic in the crisp autumn leaves and climb the many mysteriously shaped trees or splash through the puddles and streams that reflect back images of the forest from the ground. At the end of any walk, all directions lead to cute villages with quaint country pubs, guest ales, roaring fires and great pub grub. Particularly great is the Queen Victoria in Theydon Bois. Perfectly situated near the tube stop for an easy journey home after that sumptuous steak and ale pie which you'll need after getting lost (there are no signposts in the forest which makes for an entertaining hike) and finally making a beeline back to civilisation. Albeit rather quiet, stately and beautiful civilisation at that.
Our day out at Puzzlewood provided one of the most magical woodland walks I have ever come across. Skip the childrens’ farm at the entrance (unless you have toddlers who like that sort of thing), to enter the forest. Within minutes you are enveloped in a weird world of ancient trees, overhanging boulders, and lush vegetation. There are paths galore, with twists and forks to provide a deep sense of mystery. This is woodland in enhanced 3D – through the rock formations you glimpse other paths, rope bridges and wooden walkways, but the maze-like formation of the woodland absorbs people; it never feels crowded. The lack of views to the outside world adds to the feeling of spookyness and there are plenty of apparently bottomless pits among the rocks to add an exciting sense of danger. There are odd flights of steps but generally the paths are not difficult; it can be slippery and do not wear your Sunday best – it is often muddy. Autumn is good for woodland but Puzzlewood is good at any time of the year. Entertainment guaranteed for all ages, toilets and small cafe at the entrance.
Hackfall Wood is located deep in a ravine near with a churning river at the bottom. What makes it really different, though, is the follies which were dotted around the landscape by William Aislabie, son of the creator of the nearby Fountains Abbey garden, in the 18th century. They have recently been restored - but only partly which leaves the place with an air of mystery so that it feels like you're discovering it for the first time. At twilight on an autumn day it's magical - and more than a little spooky.
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