Wyre Forest, part one: Off the Beaten Track

A 5 mile ramble through the Wyre Forest, overcast but mild, incredibly muddy. With the family.

If there was a prize for the muddiest walk of the year, the Wyre Forest at New Year is a strong contender, and like the Carpenters, we’ve only just begun. The surface water has made milky chocolate milkshake pools in deep tyre tracks and well worn trails of foot and hoof prints. But we have wellington boots, most of us, one of us has hairy mud-magnet paws.

I’ll confess I wasn’t overly familiar with the Wyre Forest. This is surprising as it’s apparently the largest contiguous ancient forest in the UK. I’ve been lucky to stay in gorgeous places all over Britain and the wider world, but never before here. We are staying in a beautiful wonky old Jacobean half timbered house and I have also never had a garden that is an SSSI (a Site of Special Scientific Interest) before. There are Noble chafer beetles here that are so rare they face a high risk of extinction. The responsibility is weighing heavily on me as I tread carefully through the orchard.

It’s a dull, leaden day when we set off into the forest, wellied and raincoated, on a footpath which begins by our front door. Almost immediately the oak and beech leaves underfoot give way to treacly, squelchy clay. It is a delightful thing to have good knee-high waterproof boots, knowing you can jump in things if the desire overtakes you. Like all kids, both my kids took huge delight in jumping in puddles when they were little; don’t let that feeling slide, you too can still have it in the mud wood.

The forest is now partly managed but large areas are left to their own devices and not surprisingly the wildlife is abundant with more rare species of plants and animals. We are heading across into Wimperhill Wood, mixed conifer and deciduous trees, far from the managed trails and car parks. We saw just a handful of people. I try to name the trees for my son but I’m no good at conifers, I can just about tell the difference between a fir, a spruce and a pine.

We had been warned about getting lost in the Forest, the rides and paths changing frequently, the OS maps being quickly out of date, the GPS not being accurate, but honestly we downloaded maps beforehand and had no issue whatsoever. Don’t be put off exploring. Perhaps in the thickness of summer you might have more to be concerned about, but rivers, as always, still run at the bottom of hills and we head down the hill to find it. Dowles Brook. A pale brownish green snake of water running through the woodland floor and cleaving the forest in two.

We follow the river for a while, trying out the bridges, looking for trolls, but the forest is quiet. Somewhere in here are fallow deer, otters and polecats, hundreds of eyes watching us and watching Shovell make an exhibition of himself. It’s overcast and drizzly and all sensible animals are keeping out of his way.

We have no picnic today. What is great about living right in the forest is we can loop back, light the fire and have mulled apple juice and sandwiches any time we like. We take the trail back up the hill and follow some old yews. Near the top one has fallen but almost miraculously and with no visible roots it has bedded in and its former branches are now making a row of strong sister yew trees. The top of the hill is a rich brackeny orange. There’s an enticing path leading into it but the rest of the family is already far ahead.

I catch them up and we walk round back into green. Almost immediately I get distracted by a tiny waterfall and a vivid green mossy world which almost certainly has elves and goblins living in among the rocks. I am reminded we are interlopers and have no business being here with our clumpy boots and noisy dog.

We pass a sign for a wilderness area we can’t go in, this is an unspoilt conservation area. Somewhere in there is a hide that you can hire overlooking a glade to watch the wildlife. I wonder if it would make a fabulous place to spend a summer night, with sleeping bags and coffee, a place to watch the polecats, badgers and deer. I try to stay here in the present but I can picture a warm night in the future and it’s beguiling.

For the first time we are not sure which path to follow. It’s no great problem, all we need is to head down to another stream so we clamber across three paths to find the one running downhill. We’ve decided to make our way home across the Kingswood pasture so this means crossing a small stream using a cumbersome bridge which is barred and partially blocked to prevent deer crossing. I can’t see the point, I assume the deer could just cross the brook. Perhaps it is us that the forest doesn’t want to let out. Perhaps we need to stay here until the leaves are back and we can sit up in the hide watching the animals.

As we reach the bottom of our garden, as though mocking us and our tramp through the woods, nature finally gives us a reward. In the trees at the bottom of the lane are 4 deer, and one of them white. If all we wanted was wildlife we could just have stayed at home.

Enter your email below to subscribe

More walks in this area

Walk info

The approximate GPX of our route is here. While we began at our cottage I’ve adapted the map to begin at nearby Earnwood Copse car park. The walk was on rough forest trails, extremely muddy in places, expect to get filthy in winter or following rain.

If you prefer a conventional map the Ordnance Survey map can be bought by clicking the image on the affiliate link below

7 responses to “Wyre Forest, part one: Off the Beaten Track”

  1. Sounds like the wildlife was giving Shovell a wide right-of-way. Nice the deer appeared at the very least, and one being a white one at that!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve never seen a white deer before, I think there’s a lot of superstition about them

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Lovely post, beautiful photos! I especially loved the image of “hairy mud-magnet paws”. We’re finally buried under a blanket of snow here in eastern Canada, but I actually look forward to the spring when our doggie can be a mud magnet again too 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We would get nowhere in the snow, he just sticks his snout in it and lies there

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Such an amazing site to walk .
    Thanks Anita


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: