Woodland walks for all tastes

Make the most of our glorious great woods and beautiful forest, says Jo Malone, as she chooses her Norfolk favourites.

Woodland walks for all tastes

Make the most of our glorious great woods and beautiful forests, says Jo Malone, as she chooses her Norfolk favourites.

Top of the list for a stunning autumn show has to be the view across the lake at Felbrigg where the colours seem to change daily, and, for great leaf-kicking, it’s hard to beat Sandringham estate. My town-inclined 11-year-old would choose the easy paths of Whitlingham every time, but it’s a different wood again for cyclists, dog walkers or nature watchers.We’re lucky in Norfolk – it’s a year-round beautiful county. But when seeking autumn colours this month, how about the following?

Take the toddlers to:Fairhaven Garden TrustSchool Road, South Walsham, 01603 270449,www.fairhavengarden.co.ukOpen daily (except Christmas Day),10am-5pm (10am-4pm December to January).Admission, adult �5, child �2.50,dogs (must be on a lead) 25p.

A children’s trail, boat trips, tea room, gift shop, plant sales – and possibly the oldest living thing in Norfolk. There’s a magical feel to walking in the woods at Fairhaven, which manages to have plenty going on without spoiling the tranquillity. The magnificent 950-year-old King Oak is found among other ancient oaks, beech and native trees. There are three miles of easy walking, pushchair friendly, woodland trails with views across the private broads.

Take the family to:Thetford ForestOpen daily, various Breckland sites,High Lodge (Brandon), 9am-5pm,01842 815434, car parking �1.60 per hour, cycle hire 01842 810090, Go-Ape 0845 643 9215, www.forestry.gov.uk/thetfordforestpark

The ultimate adventure forest, whether it’s cycle trails of varying difficulty, riding tracks or high ropes courses! Plenty of walks too through this immense Breckland area of pines, heathland and broad-leaved trees. The High Lodge Visitor Centre is the hub of tourist activity with a caf�, adventure playground, Go-Ape course nearby, and information.

Take a gentle ramble through:Burlingham Woods Off the A47, near Acle.Park near Burlingham Church.

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A mixture of mature woodland and more recent wood and orchard plantings with three easy circular walks of one mile, two miles and three miles. It is owned by Norfolk County Council and recent work has reintroduced coppice rotations and wood management to keep brambles and non-native trees to a minimum, while maintaining the essential wild, rural feel. There’s a historic sense here where trails pass through and around land associated with the late Georgian Burlingham Hall, which was demolished about 50 years ago.


Pedal away at: Sheringham ParkWood Farm, Upper Sheringham,01263 820550,www.nationaltrust.org.uk

Park open all year dawn to dusk, visitor centre winter opening Wednesday to Sunday until the end of October, then weekends to mid March. These mature woodlands do have more of a park feel than a wild forest feel but, with spectacular viewing points over the surrounding countryside, it’s easy to understand what designer Humphry Repton had in mind when he landscaped this area. Owned by the National Trust, the park and woodland garden have miles of footpaths with easy cycling.

Take environmentalists and picnics to:Holt Country ParkOff the B1149, Holt.Open daily, 01263 516001, www.northnorfolk.org

This peaceful woodland, dominated by Scots pine and native broad-leaved trees, is known for its orienteering course and programme of environmental and arts events. It’s been a horse racing park, farmland, heath, forestry business and woodland garden. Now it’s a Green Flag Award holder, meaning it’s one of the best green spaces in the country. There’s a visitor centre, toilets and routes suitable for wheelchairs/pushchairs.

Take townies to:The WalksKing’s Lynn, 01553 616200,www.west-norfolk.gov.ukOpen daily.

A fabulous place to enjoy glorious autumn colours in the heart of the town. The 800 mature trees are kings here, perfect for squirrel and bird spotting, and with great piles of leaves to kick. A �4.3m restoration project has preserved the Grade II listed historic landscape, with its 15th century chapel and medieval pilgrims’ trail. A pleasant caf�, play and games area has also been created.

Alternatively, head to Whitlingham County Park, at Trowse, near Norwich. It’s open daily and civilisation is always within sight, so it’s ideal for those who dislike the thought of being miles from anywhere. Whitlingham is well known for its lakes and watersports but explore the 35 hectares further to find beautiful mature trees. Telephone 01603 617332, parking from 50p,www.broads-authority.gov.uk

Enjoy the peace at:Foxley Wood10 miles south east of Fakenham, off the A1067 Norwich to Fakenham Road.Open 10am-5pm (except Thursdays),www.norfolkwildlifetrust.org.uk

Norfolk’s largest ancient woodland is the place to get away from it all. Loved for its swathes of bluebells in spring, in autumn there’s an awe-inspiring feel to the sheer silence of the woods, broken only by birdsong and the wind in the trees. No dogs allowed.

Another peaceful spot is one of Norfolk’s few ancient woodlands at Lower Wood, Ashwellthorpe, where sunlight reflecting on bare trees in the winter, with a thick carpet of leaves underfoot, brings a magical feel.

Foragers will enjoy:Sandringham ParkSandringham, 01553 612908,www.sandringhamestate.co.ukOpen daily.In autumn, Norfolk people claim back their royal residence from summer visitors to roam the 600 acres of mature woodland. There are nature trails, paths and an abundance of conkers and chestnuts.

Try also Thursford Wood, two miles north east of Fakenham, where some oaks are believed to be more than 500 years old. The fallen branches and ancient trunks house an impressive range of insects and, with ponds too, the diversity of wildlife is impressive.

Take history seekers to:Wayland WoodSouth of Watton,www.norfolkwildlifetrust.org.uk

Believed to be the site for the legend of the Babes In The Wood, this is one of the wilder woods in Norfolk and is said to be haunted by the souls – and the wails – of the young abandoned brother and sister. It’s a thick wood of hazel, oak, ash and bird cherry.

Or there’s Honeypot Wood, three miles west of Dereham, which may be a lovely sounding name, but actually means it was close to a medieval sewage dump – a honey pit. Full of oak, ash, field maple and hazel, it’s a remnant of woodland dating back to the retreat of the last ice age.

Walk the dogs at: Bacton WoodTwo and a half miles north-east of North Walsham, 01842 810271, www.forestry.gov.ukOpen daily.

Also known as Witton Wood, tree cover here dates back to Saxon times. See ancient Sessile Oaks among more than 30 different species of tree including pines, Douglas fir, larch and western hemlock in 280 acres of wood owned by the Forestry Commission. Popular with mountain bikers for its many slopes and off trail fun, it’s great for dogs and owners with wide, criss-crossing paths making outings interesting.

Walk hand in hand at:Mousehold HeathNorth-east Norwich, www.norwich.gov.uk

It stretched as far as South Walsham in Tudor times and was where Robert Kett, rebelling against the Duke of Somerset, camped with his army of protestors for six weeks in 1549. Painted by Norwich School artists including John Sell Cotman and John Crome, it offers one of the best views of the city. It’s easy to find quiet spots among the mature native trees, pits, dips and dells.

Take pictures at:Felbrigg EstateFelbrigg, 01263 837444, www.nationaltrust.org.ukOpen daily, dawn to dusk.

Capture the riot of reds, browns, golds and russets creating a truly spectacular autumn palette here. Follow ancient rights of way through the approximately 520-acre Great Wood, which contains thousands of trees – mainly maple, oaks, beeches, sycamore and chestnut. It shelters Felbrigg Hall from the biting northerly winds and is part of the undulating 1,760-acre estate, which features stunning views across the lake and has a Victory Wood – 200,000 trees with V-shaped rides to commemorate VE Day.

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