My favourite UK woodlands

Autumn is very nearly here, and there’s nothing better than going for a walk in the woods. You’ll see squirrels busily hiding food for the winter and beautiful autumn colours. The textures stand out more, the shapes of the trees’ skeletons become clearer as the leaves fall, rustling in the breezes, gentle and cool. So, here is a selection of some of my favourite woodlands and forests.

1. Hamstereley Forest, County Durham

2000 hectares of mixed scenic woodland lying between the Wear and Tees valleys in County Durham, on the edge of the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Hamsterley is a delightful oasis of broadleaved and coniferous woodland, sprawling along the sides of a sheltered valley.

Image (c) Karen Thurman

Image (c) Karen Thurman

2. Blean and Thornden Woods, Kent

Discover some of England’s most historic and well-preserved natural woodland  Lying between the cathedral city of Canterbury and the towns of Faversham, Whitstable and Herne Bay, The Blean is one of the largest areas of ancient woodland in England – over 11 square miles.

West Blean and Thornden Woods cover about 490 hectares purchased in 2003 and form a vital link between East Blean Wood NNR and other important woodland to the west, including Clowes Wood and the Blean Woods NNR to the south. 

Image (c) Leanne Taylor

Image (c) Leanne Taylor

3. Ampthill Park, Bedfordshire

Ampthill Park has a bit of everything - tremendous views from The Greensand Ridge, a fascinating heritage from Henry VIII to Capability Brown, and a diverse collection of flora and fauna. It also has a small but perfectly formed woodland with beech, sweet chestnut and lime trees. You’ll also find a number of ancient oaks that have survived various “relandscapings” since the 16th century.

Image (c) Karen Thurman

Image (c) Karen Thurman

4. Gibside, Tyne & Wear

The National Trust property, Gibside, is one of a few surviving 18th-century designed landscapes and was fashioned with two things in mind: spectacular views and ‘wow’ moments. The estate, commissioned by coal baron George Bowes, offers a glimpse into the past and the compelling story of heiress Mary Eleanor Bowes. Its 243 hectares (600 acres) of gardens, woodland and countryside are perfect for wildlife spotting.


5. Glen Affric

Mick and Karen’s favourite place in the UK, Glen Affric is a magical mix of native woods, glistening lochs and haunting moorland. It features over 30 miles of ancient pinewoods and is one of the largest ancient Caledonian pine woods in Scotland. You can wander amongst the pine trees accompanied by the chirpy calls of woodland birds. Elsewhere you might encounter ospreys, secretive otters or red- and black-throated divers. Come in autumn and you’ll be inspired by the mosaic of colour and the echoing roar of red deer stags.

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Karen ThurmanComment