6.7 miles (11 kilometres) in dull, grey, overcast weather with some drizzle. Winter, with family and dog.
As I looked out of the window on New Year’s Eve I was disheartened. It was grey and there would be no sign of the blanket being pulled back, according to the forecast. It would be raining. Waterproofs needed once again, we decided to start our walk on what we affectionately call nanna paths, the ones that come with a leaflet and follow posts with coloured flashes so you cannot get lost. There are several trails which begin at the Wyre Forest visitor centre and we’re following the buzzard. We are decidedly on the beaten track.
The path is hard surface so I’m back in walking boots, and after a few days in mud with wellies it feels weirdly safe and secure. As much as I prefer them, walking rough wet mud tracks can be tiring, and five miles can feel like fifteen. The buzzard trail takes us on wide, wheelchair accessible paths through the national nature reserve. It’s popular near the car parks, Shovell tries to pick fights and bark at cyclists, we can’t trust him off his lead.
After a couple of distracting diversions into a young redwood forest we leave the buzzard trail and head off into the wilds. We brought sandwiches and at least one of us will not settle until we’ve eaten them. I’m delighted to see a log covered in hairy curtain crust fungus. Always a pleasure to see hairy curtains in the woods. The next stretch has birch polypore, or as it appears to me, a giant cornish pasty. I guess I’m starting to get hungry too.
I’m looking for what’s left of the Tenbury and Bewdley Railway, embankments which in summer are home to uncommon pearl-bordered fritillary butterflies. I love an embankment and disused railway line. There’s a big chunky bench next to the fingerpost which has lunch written all over it. There is some arguement over the division of pringles but I am above it. I have Frazzles.
We listen for the sound of a ghost train but then we hear one, the eerie sound of an old engine approaching, from who knows where. Son and I glance at each other, unsure whether to laugh or be worried. It dies away.
I’m following the route of the railway and even on a dull December day it is attractive, sometimes looking down the valley from the embankment, sometimes looking up from a cutting. We cut down the hill through a meadow and woodland to cross Dowles Brook at the lovely Knowles Mill, the last surviving corn mill in the Forest which dates from the mid 1700’s.
Now following the river, the path is rough cobbled. Perhaps this is the road the millers would have used. If I could roll back time I would, there are ghosts of the past everywhere. I can sense them but they are no longer there. Eventually we recross the brook and scramble up the bank to the railway road again. It feels grand to look back down into the valley where we have just been walking.
In the summer this is the butterfly trail and I bet it’s gorgeous. It’s sublime in the winter light, with its muted browns and coppers, even on a grey day in the rain. I feel very fortunate to close the year here. At once there’s a flurry of beating wings and a browny bird of prey lifts off from the trees. I think it’s the eponymous buzzard heading back to her trail and bringing me with her.
All that’s left is to go into the forest and head back. In my waterproofs I’m pleasantly sweaty as I clomp up the hill to the visitor centre, back on the asphalt paths once again, but a light rain is spotting my face and it’s cooling me down. It takes practice to love walking in the rain but it is a very underated pleasure. No need to worry about getting some practice in, there’ll be plenty more of it to come, of that I’m absolutely sure.
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More walks in this area
We mostly followed the Country Walking magazine walk from the Ordnance Survey app downloadable here. The walk begins near the Wyre Forest visitor centre where there’s a car park and, if you time it right, a café and dog washing station. Sadly the dog wash was out of order, one of us could really have used a go in it.
Much of the early and later part of the walk, as well as the railway section, is on well maintained forest hard paths; there are some muddy paths but walking boots were fine.
If you prefer a conventional map the Ordnance Survey map can be bought by clicking the image on the affiliate link below
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