5 Wonderful Winter Walks in the National Forest

17th Dec 2020

There’s something quite magical about the National Forest in winter, whether it’s the crunch of the ground underfoot, the tree branches laced with white on a frosty morning, or the freshness of the crisp air. Winter is a truly wonderful time to head out for a walk and discover somewhere new. Here are just five places in the Forest we recommend you visit to blow the cobwebs away this winter.

Calke Abbey

The Calke Estate is a beautiful place to visit at any time of year, and winter is no exception. From icy lakes, to the contrast of the gnarled oak trees against the winter skyline, there are so many seasonal spectacles to admire at this time of year. Why not take a walk along the Tramway Trail and follow the old horse-drawn tramway that linked Ticknall to Ashby? Or discover some of the Park’s oldest trees with the Ancient Trees Walk? And don’t forget to keep a look out for winter wildlife. Migrants such as redwings and fieldfares gather in large flocks and can often be seen feeding on the ripe red berries of the hawthorn and rowan trees. And of course, if you’re lucky you might see one of Calke’s spectacular red deer stags, who look particularly impressive this time of year with their thick winter coats and stunning neck manes!

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Beacon Hill Country Park

If you’re looking for spectacular wintry views this year, then Beacon Hill Country Park is the perfect place to visit. Beacon Hill is one of the highest points in Leicestershire, overlooking Charnwood Forest and Soar Valley. The low sunlight at this time of year and dustings of frost across the heathland, can make the rocky landscape look ever more dramatic during winter, and provides the perfect photo opportunity. Enjoy a stroll through the woodland, and make the most of the stillness to spot some wildlife. As you begin to embark up the hill you may spot some of the Park’s Longhorn cattle grazing in the heathland. As you reach the summit, look out for the unusual rock formation, known as the “old man of the Beacon’, before being treated to a stunning panorama across the Charnwood countryside.

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Sence Valley Forest Park

Although not as green and lush as in the summer, Sence Valley transforms into a winter wonderland for wildlife during the colder months, making it a bird spotter’s paradise. With migrant waterfowl gathering on the chilly lakes, the frosty pine trees bustling with blackbirds, robins and goldcrests, the sparse beauty of the bare trees, provides the perfect opportunity to see things from a different perspective. Explore the network of trails that runs throughout the woodland and around the series of lakes. Be sure to stop and take a seat in one of the bird hides along the way, which provide the perfect way to get closer to nature. You may spot some of the migrant ducks including pochards, goosanders and goldeneyes which arrive at this time of year. What will you discover?

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Staunton Harold Reservoir

If you’re looking for more of a stroll or somewhere to sit and admire the birdlife at this time of year, then Staunton Harold Reservoir, located in the heart of the National Forest on the Leicestershire-Derbyshire border is an ideal place to visit. The surfaced trails make it easily accessible, even on the most wintry of days. Although there isn’t a circular route around the reservoir, there’s a variety of different routes from each of the carparks, if you would like to venture further. Or if you simply want to sit and pause for a while, then there are lots of benches that provide great views across the water. Be sure to bring your binoculars and see what you can spot on the water. Look out for a variety of geese this time of year, including Canada, greylag and you may even be lucky enough to spot an Egyptian goose!

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Hicks Lodge

If you’re planning on heading out with the family this winter then Hicks Lodge is definitely the destination for you. Wrap up warm, grab your wellies and maybe even your four-legged friend and follow the walking trail around the lake whilst soaking up the beautiful winter scenery. Why not visit the lakeside bird hide on the way round and see what resident wildlife you can spot? And you don’t just have to walk either. The surfaced paths, providing it’s not an icy day, are idea for a bike ride or even a run! Once you’ve had all the fresh air you need, you can even enjoy a takeaway cake and a cuppa to warm you up. We hope we have inspired you to get out and enjoy the Forest in all its beauty this winter!

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