Great British walks: Wildlife walks through our beautiful countryside
In his new book, Great British Walks: Wildlife Walks Through our Beautiful Countryside, Luke Waterson takes us through 100 of the best strolls and hikes across the country. Here is an extract for the Blackwater Arboretum in Brockenhurst
The walks in this book are a little different to those that normally populate walk books. The walks featured here look at the countryside of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland – city parks to mountain peaks, beaches to moors, woods to waterways and glen bottoms to wold tops – primarily through the prism of wildlife. And wildlife is ever-changing and all-transforming.
"The seashore turned radiant pink by June thrift has become a more elemental thing by the time February’s gannets come back to breed on the cliffs"
The woodland enchantingly tinged by April’s bluebells can seem far more solemn when November has snatched its last leaf; the seashore turned radiant pink by June thrift has become a more elemental thing by the time February’s gannets come back to breed on the cliffs.
So, while this book details 100 of the finest countryside walks for getting close to the UK’s showstopping flora and fauna, in reality you have many, many more ideas for days out here if wildlife-watching is your passion.
Blackwater Arboretum & the Tall Trees Trail
Enjoy some of England’s most epic trees on this easy and enchanting amble
Need to know
Start/finish: Blackwater car park, SO42 7QB – 5.5km (3½ miles) northwest of Brockenhurst (parking free)
Distance: 3.25km (2 miles) (circular)
Time: 1–1½ hours
Key species: Douglas fir, giant redwood, oak
Map: OS Explorer OL22
Transport: Brockenhurst railway station – 5.5km (3½ miles) southeast
Walk accessibility: Accessible to wheelchair/pushchair users; dogs under close control
More information: newforestnpa.gov.uk
This walk is all about trees: some of Southern England’s greatest, grandest trees, no less. Native oak and sycamore there are, but the route also visits some fantastic foreigners: Douglas firs and giant redwoods dating from the 1850s.
"A magnificent introduction to the arboreal paradise that is the New Forest"
It really is a magnificent introduction to the arboreal paradise that is the New Forest, with information boards throughout helping you learn more about the mighty specimens here. The walk includes an optional extension to the Knightwood Oak, so old it was reputedly visited by Henry VIII, who hunted hereabouts.
1) In the car park, you will see a chunky wooden signpost towering above an information board and, nearby, a wooden archway onto Rhinefield Ornamental Drive. Cross the road onto a broad track. Your outward route soon reaches the path right along the Tall Trees Trail, indicated by another chunky wooden sign (where this walk will later go).
First, however, continue along the track to Blackwater Arboretum, the arched gate into which is visible ahead.
"The path crosses a small bridge, meandering through more enchanting woodland"
2) Inside Blackwater Arboretum, turn immediately left off the main track at a gravestone-shaped information sign. The path curves clockwise through this delightful grassy woodland passing splendid Douglas fir, oak and other trees, some planted during Queen Victoria’s reign. The path crosses the main track further on, curving back through woodland on the track’s other side to the arboretum entrance. Afterwards, retrace your steps to the turn-off (now on the left) onto the Tall Trees Trail.
3) The path crosses a small bridge, meandering through more enchanting woodland. It soon passes another gravestone-shaped sign behind which stand some giant redwoods. The Tall Trees Trail continues, meeting Rhinefield Ornamental Drive 1km from its start point.
4) From here, there is an optional (1.4km) out-and-back detour, following Rhinefield Ornamental Drive to cross the A35 road, 300m after which a short right-hand path leads to another famous tree, the Knightwood Oak.
This fenced-off behemoth is over 500 years old with a trunk girth of over 7m (you could alternatively drive here after completing this walk). Back at the Tall Tree Trail’s junction with Rhinefield Ornamental Drive, cross the drive (turn left if coming from Knightwood Oak). Return via the woodland path on the drive’s other side, which curves back to your car park after 1km.
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