The Finest Forests of S-W England
The finest forests of S-W England that made this personal top are those that offer a chance to hike, bike, recharge, connect with nature and re-learn how to listen to it.
What do you do when you go to a forest?
Do you set your imagination free while doing any of these activities and reflect on other times when our connection with nature was even more potent? Or do you think about the meaning of life; how we live and what remains behind when we move to where we came from?
Do you ask yourself if we had learnt what we were meant to when we arrived here or if we keep repeating the same mistakes from previous existences?
But most of all, do you enjoy being out, forgetting the stresses of day-to-day life, listening to birdsong, seeing and smelling a tree rather than a honking bus?
I aim for all of the above when I go forest hiking for kilometres on end, from spring to late autumn, to breathe fresh air, see nature transform, and forget about the harsh world around us.
I will make the text short on this occasion and let the images speak more about the simple act of forest hiking.
If you live in the region, you probably recognise many of these finest forests of S-W England. If you plan to visit the area, this post will hopefully inspire you to include a forest hike during your stay.
Enjoy reading down, and remember to go out whenever possible! Breathe, reflect, recharge!
Located on Quantock Hills, minutes from Taunton and M5, Great Wood offers endless walking trails for all fitness levels. It is excellent for mountain biking too, with easy access and plenty of parking spaces. Families with children too young to hike can enjoy an outdoor barbeque at a large picnic clearing alongside the stream and the access dirt roads.
Nutcombe Bottom, Tall Trees Trail
Take this easily accessible trail to see the oldest and tallest trees in England, located close to Dunster Castle, out of Minehead. It takes less than an hour to see it and take pictures, but the forest does not end here. You can hike all you want, see Exmoor ponies.
Haddon Hill is also part of Exmoor National Park, as the above forests. You have hours of hiking, biking or water sports opportunities around and on Wimbleball Lake (dam and wild ponies photo prospects included).
Part of the Mendip Hills – home of the famous Cheddar Gorge (and cheese!), Wookey Hole Caves and Blagdon Lake – Stockhill Wood is a relatively recent patch of wood.
It is a fragrant pine forest, relatively small – reason enough to leave the beaten path and wander through the thicker vegetation without any fear of getting lost in the big dark wood! Forestry England planted it a few decades ago to decrease the pollution from lead mining activities.
Avalon Marshes is a wetland nature reserve situated alongside the drain that connects Glastonbury to the Bristol Channel. It is one of the best places in Somerset for bird watching; plus, it has a history dating back to the Neolithic.
Paid entry to these woods is required, but it is worth all the money, especially if you visit in autumn, October-November. Westonbirt Arboretum becomes a symphony of colours that will remain with you long after leaving the site.
Forest of Dean
You can cross the bridge to Wales or drive north on the M5 to the Forest of Dean in Gloucestershire. Also home of Puzzlewood, a famous film location for A list movies (Star Wars, Doctor Who, Jack the Giant Slayer to name a few), the Forest of Dean is an absolute must-visit for a variety of forest sculptures, mountain bike trails, endless hiking trails, Go Ape and so much more.
Bonus – Fine Forests of Wales
If you are already planning to visit the finest forests of the S-W of England or are in the region, it is well worth a drive over the Bristol Channel to Wales.
If you head towards Cardiff, perhaps stop at Coch Castle and visit the woods around it called Fforest Fawr – my absolute favourite forest, no matter the season!
Explore Brecon Beacons National Park for a more extended trip, and don’t miss its beautiful waterfalls, such as Henrhyd Falls.
I hope you have a choice of woodland close to you and visit them often if only for clearing your mind and do some exercise. If you plan to visit S-W England, remember to include one of the above in your planning.
Helpful apps to use when roaming forests
Since we are so attached to the technology, you might find these two apps of use when you are in the middle of nowhere (provided there is signal coverage!)
AllTrails: Hike, Bike & Run is practical to find your whereabouts.
PlantNet Plant Identification is efficient for the kids to learn and differentiate between the tree and plant species.
What say you about the finest forests of S-W England?
If you have a preferred woodland that I have not included in this list, please mention it below in the comments. I might know about it or be interested in exploring it!