One thing that makes walking in the UK such a joy, is the variety. I unashamedly admit to loving hills, but forest and woodland provide constantly changing landscapes throughout the year.
In the summer, full foliage creates a closed environment of tunnels and cathedral-like vaults. Shelter and abundant food means wildlife proliferates – spotting is great, if you are quiet. Forests also provide welcome shade from summer sun.
From autumn through winter, as leaves fall, the woods open up. You can see further through the bare branches – a totally changed landscape. A different cast of wildlife plays now. While some hibernate, some birds leave while winter visitors arrive.
It’s this variety that brings me back to one of my favourite places month after month. Writtle Forest, Essex is to the West of Chelmsford, covering some 235 hectares. It’s the remains of a Royal Forest and its hunting past is evident in the many deer banks and ditch boundaries. Wild deer still thrive and I rarely take a walk without seeing a herd or two.
There are a good few popular walks documented. For example check out this one on Essexwalks.com. It starts at Mill Green (Grid: TL 638 012) where there are two excellent pubs within a mile of each other – The Viper and The Cricketers. However, the forest is crisscrossed by excellent footpaths and my choice is just get out the OS map and plan your own.
Like many woods, it gets muddy, and a popular riding area, the bridleways can be heavily churned up. But with good boots and a pair of gaiters, let your inner-child enjoy playing in mud!