I ummed and ahed for a good few days to find the perfect way to describe the wonder of forests; and I simply couldn’t do it justice. But I know of someone who could:
” Every time I enter one of the last wild places of this earth, I feel I am walking into a vast, hallowed cathedral. I enter timelessness, mystery, the unknown, where one feels nothing has been spoiled since the world began” – Mike Tomkies, Alone in the Wilderness
Grizedale Forest – Lake District
Grizedale Forest spans 24 km² of woodland in the Lake District. This particular forest is a haven for wildlife. It’s home to the only remaining indigenous woodland herd of red deer in England. It is also home to roe deer as well as birds like buzzards, barn owls and red kites. A large stream runs through the forest (seen in the above image) which echos the sound of water between the trees. There are 8 route you can walk or cycle, and some have said that these routes are more enjoyable on a bike (although I guess that is what you would expect from a cyclist). You can of course go off trail if you want to explore and fully immerse yourself in the forest.
Woody Bay – Devon
Woody Bay is probably one of the most unique forests in the UK, mainly because it’s right along the coast. On the north coast of England, Woody bay follows the steep cliff faced coastal line. Unlike many forests this is still quite remote and sits in one of the unspoilt corners of Devon just outside Exmoor National Park (if you plan a weekend trip, you can do both within close proximity). There is a great 6 mile National Trust walk from Heddon Valley to Woody Bay which takes about 2-3 hours and passes through some stunning countryside.
Galloway Forest – Scotland
This forest in Scotland is pretty unique, and the reason why is what makes it stand out so much from the rest of the list. Galloway Forest is the UK’s first ever ‘Dark sky park’. Scotland has some of the darkest skies in Europe let alone the UK, and Galloway Forest is one of the darkest places in Scotland. The nights sky is jet black, making it the perfect backdrop for stargazing. The forest has 750 km² of land which means pretty much zero light pollution. If you haven’t guessed already, the best time to visit Galloway Forest is at night time. Apparently within the forest you can see over 7,000 stars and planets just with the naked eye. The arch of the Milky Way can also be seen in the sky – even better if you go more than once you’ll see different stars because as we travel around the sun, we get a constantly changing view of them. I’m just jealous of the few people who live in the park and get to witness this every night – I can’t imagine that gets old quickly.
Stanley Ghyll Wood – Cumbria
Home to what some have said is the best waterfall in the Lake District (seen above), Stanley Ghyll Wood is a great place for walking. The forest sits within an estate so there’s plenty to see there and being fairly close to the coast its full of beautiful colours in summer – almost tropical. The woodland surrounds the waterfall and is mainly full of conifers, giving it a rather north american feel to it. There is one national trust walking route, which of course takes you to the above. The walk is about 4 and a half miles, it isn’t difficult but as you can image it can be rather slippy – so take a good pair of grippy shoes.
New Forest – Hampshire
The first time I went to the New Forest was when I was about 6 years old, with my Dad. I was an avid rider and was absolutely taken aback by the beautiful landscape scattered with wild horses. Like most forests, it’s part of a larger national park which in its entirety is a pretty sizeable chunk of land – 380 km2 (that’s a lot for England). The forest has been around for more than 12,000 years and stepping into it there is a sense of timelessness. It’s a pretty popular destination for tourists because of its picturesqueness so it can often be quite busy – luckily there’s plenty of room for everyone though. If you’re into riding, I’d definitely recommend going here for a hack or two.
Ashridge Estate – Hertfordshire
Ashridge Estate is the perfect backdrop for a fairy tale forest. So much so that it stared in the Disney film Maleficent. The estate is 20 km2 of woodlands including some chalk downland which benefits from a rich variety of wildlife. There are a couple of great National Trust walks you can take through the forest to see its outstanding natural beauty.
If there are any forests you think should be added onto the list leave a comment below letting me know!