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The best Christmas woodland walks

David Knockton / 07 December 2015

This year, venture out to your local forest for an invigorating winter walk. Here are some of our favourite woodland walking routes.

Couple taking a child on a winter woodland walk

East Midlands

Bow Wood, a Woodland Trust wood

Near: Matlock, Derbyshire Grid ref: SK314563

Size: 10.83 ha (26.76 acres)

OS map sheets:

  • OS Landranger 119
  • Explorer 24
  • Outdoor Leisure 24

Features/facilities: Free car parking at site, good views, spring colour, special wildlife interest, Dogs welcome, ancient woodland - more than 400 years old, benches available, hills/mountains, information on site.

Bow Wood is a good example of the semi-natural oak and birch woodland that once cloaked the area. Set on a sloping site, it faces south and west across the Derwent Valley. At the top of the wood is the Wickey Tor, which offers stunning views towards the north-east across the valley and into the Peak District National Park.

Bow Wood is well used by local people walking the Shining Cliffs complex of paths. Here you will discover large beech and sycamore trees towering above bracken and recent clearing work has prompted the appearance of some young oaks.

Find out about Saga walking holidays

Londonthorpe Wood, a Woodland Trust wood 

Near: Grantham, Lincolnshire Grid ref: SK943375

Size: 62.51 ha (154.47 acres)

OS map sheets:

  • OS Landranger 130
  • Explorer 247

Features/facilities: free car parking at site, good views, spring colour, grassland, dogs welcome, new woodland - less than 10 years old, other habitats present, benches available, information on site.

Londonthorpe Wood is predominantly a woodland creation site planted in three phases from 1993-95. There is also smaller area of mature wood. 

The site lies on the edge of Grantham next to the town's industrial estate, the National Trust 's Belton Park property, the Woodland Trust property and surrounding farmland. The new planting consists of mixed, mostly native, broadleaved species with ash and oak. The site contains many veteran trees – remnants of older parkland planting and the old hedgerows that transect the planting site. 

Above the woodland creation site lies Alma Wood on top of the scarp slope, planted in the 1850s in memory of the Crimean War. Although planted, the wood is firmly established and contains the more common ancient woodland plants that have colonised from surrounding hedgerows, such as dogs mercury, cuckoo pint and enchanter's nightshade. 

Due to decades of neglect and subsequent old age and storm damage the wood now holds an important and sustainable level of fallen and standing deadwood habitat which is important for invertebrates.

West Midlands

Sutton Park, a Birmingham City Council wood 

Near: Sutton Coldfield, West Midlands Grid ref: SP107959 

Size: 970 ha (2,400 acres)

Features/facilities: toilets on site, cafe or kiosk on site, free car parking at site, good for cycling, good views, Spring colour, special wildlife interest, new woodland – less than 10 years old, ancient woodland - more than 400 years old, river/lake, events (see landowner's website for more details), benches available, children's play area, wheelchair access, picnic facilities, information on site, visitor centre/shop.

An important site for wildlife and conservation, this landscape is a mosaic of open heathland, woodlands, wetlands, marshes and seven lakes each with their own rich variety of plants and wildlife, some rarely seen in the region.

South East

Heartwood Forest, a Woodland Trust wood 

Near: St Albans, Hertfordshire Grid ref: TL159114

Size: 347.08 ha (857.65 acres)

OS map sheets:

  • OS Landranger 166
  • Explorer 182

Features/facilities: bridle paths can be found in this wood, good views, Spring colour, grassland, special wildlife interest, new woodland – less than 10 years old, ancient woodland – more than 400 years old, events (see landowner's website for more details), wheelchair access, free car parking within 500m, bluebells.

At Heartwood Forest near Sandridge, St Albans, the creation of England’s largest new native forest – an 858 acre woodland with a total of 600,000 newly planted trees, is well underway. There will also be a community orchard, new wildflower meadows, open spaces and miles of footpaths and bridleways created over a 10-year period. Last winter over 8,000 people came along to Heartwood to help the Woodland Trust.

The site, in the heart of London’s Green Belt, already boasts four remnants (covering 45 acres) of precious ancient woodland, and is home to rare butterflies and English bluebells. Visitors can currently explore hundreds of acres of newly accessible land, including the four pockets of ancient woodland.

Related: Your guide to the UK's best walking destinations

Fore Wood, a RSPB wood 

Near: Battle, East Sussex Grid ref: TQ751131

Features/facilities: toilets on site, free car parking at site, spring colour, dogs welcome, broadleaved woodland, river/lake, bluebells

A peaceful and relaxing woodland, with steep-sided ravines in the sandstone where rare ferns grow. In spring wood anemones and early purple orchids grow and a variety of woodland birds are found here. There are good trails around the wood, but beware that paths can become very muddy in wet weather.

Killerton Estate – Ashclyst Forest, a National Trust wood 

Near: Exeter, Devon Grid ref: SY001991

Features/facilities: toilets on site, free car parking at site, bridle paths can be found in this wood, spring colour, dogs welcome, waymarked trail, ancient woodland –more than 400 years old, mixed woodland, picnic facilities.

Ashclyst Forest was once an area of mixed land with some ancient woodland, fields and heathland. During the 19th century, Sir Thomas Acland planted many conifers to provide timber for the Killerton Estate. 

The resulting 300-hectare woodland is now one of the largest in East Devon, providing a good mix of habitats, including deciduous and coniferous trees with glades and some heath. Within the forest there are several trails, all clearly marked and of varying lengths – a great facility in such a wildlife-rich woodland.

Related: The National Trust's top 10 secret walks

South West

Greyfield Wood, a Woodland Trust wood 

Near: Midsomer Norton, Somerset Grid ref: ST636583

Size: 36.31 ha (89.72 acres)

OS map sheets:

  • OS Landranger 172
  • Explorer 142

Features/facilities: free car parking at site, spring colour, dogs welcome, other habitats present, river/lake, heritage, benches available, information on site, bluebells.

A roughly rectangular block of woodland on the edge of the village of High Littleton. It is immediately surrounded by semi-natural habitats, but on a wider scale is in a landscape of agriculture.

The centre of the wood is generally level punctuated by bumps and gullies, with steeper slopes around the edges particularly the southern boundary. Streams run along the east and west boundaries and a small stream passes through the northern section of the wood.

The flora on the steeper areas southern slope includes numerous ancient woodland species. Situated on sandstone and coal deposits the wood is unusual for the area being on acidic soils supporting plant communities that are unusual within the region. It was planted with mixed broadleaves and conifers from 1915-1965. Now there is strong natural regeneration of both native and non-native species within the wood.

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.