It’s not always easy to feel fond of the UK’s rainy weather, but without it, we’d be deprived of our lovely wooded landscape.
Yes, our green and pleasant land is only so lush because of our mild winters and wet climate making for the ideal conditions for trees.
To celebrate the eighth annual International Forest Day – a UN initiative which acknowledges the important part forests play in our ecosystem and combatting climate change – why not plan a trip to a woodland near you? Here’s our picks of some of the best UK woodlands.
Fantastical Faskally Forest
Around 17 per cent of Scotland’s total land area is covered in trees, making it the most wooded country in Britain. No wonder woodland, along with its flora and fauna, often plays such a prominent role in the country’s famous folklore.
The Caledonian Forest is rich in Celtic legend, and communities are working to protect the historic land with a strong conservation agenda. You can get involved in numerous ways, from fundraising for the reintroduction of red squirrels to sponsoring an acre or planting trees.
Meanwhile, the Enchanted Forest at Faskally Wood in Highland Perthshire hosts an award-winning sound and lighting display which brings the mystical nature of the forest to life. The event now attracts around 120,000 visitors every year and was named one of the UK’s top autumnal events by TripAdvisor.
Culture and adventure at Cannock Chase
Cannock Chase, a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), seems to have it all. From the Go Ape treetop adventure at Birches Valley, to mountain biking and walking trails, there’s plenty to get the heart racing.
‘The Chase’ is also home to some of the best-preserved World War I archaeology in the country, having hosted encampments where upwards of 500,000 men are said to have trained for duty before heading for the front line. Fast-forward to today, and Forest Live sees part of the woodland transformed into an unforgettable venue for live music acts. Over the years, the forest clearing has played host to Blondie, James Bay, Status Quo and The Kaiser Chiefs.
More than just moors
Better known for its moors than its trees, Yorkshire actually has more woodland than the New Forest.
On the southernmost slopes of the North York Moors National Park stretches Dalby Forest, a family-friendly day out destination with walking, cycling and running trails, as well as BBQ and picnic sites. Dalby also has big plans for the world’s largest dry stone wall maze, which is currently under construction. You can play a part in the creation of this brand-new landmark, either by simply donating a brick, or by volunteering your time with friends.
Night skies in the North East
Despite its industrial heritage, the North East has plenty of green spaces. Kielder Water and Forest Park is the largest working forest in England at over 250 square miles, and has a wide range of activities, from horse riding and walking trails, to water sports on the man-made reservoir (the largest in Europe).
Being deep in the heart of Northumberland, Keilder boasts some of the darkest skies in England, making it the ideal destination for star gazing. In 2013, the forest was awarded Gold Tier Dark Sky Park status by the International Dark Skies Association – the highest accolade the IDA grants. You can make the most of the opportunity for star spotting by staying overnight in the forest’s lodges.
The Heart of England Forest
Forests often have a rich history, whether that’s in myths and legends, or the part the landscape played during the war. There’s a forest in Warwickshire that has a much shorter history, though, having been planted in 1996.
The Heart of England Forest is a charity committed to helping reverse centuries of woodland decline – you could say this forest is more about the future than the past. Although the aim is to create a native broad-leaf forest, there is still a huge variation of tree species, if you wanted to try your hand at ‘spotting’. The forest also holds skills workshops to help its visitors make the most of the land, with foraging and bushcraft workshops on offer – have Ray Mears eating his heart out!