5 things to do in the National Forest this winter

31st Jan 2022

During the winter months it is more important than ever for our health and wellbeing to make the most of the many woodlands in the National Forest. Winter creates a beauty of its own and allows us to see woodlands in a completely different light. So, whether it’s freedom, fresh air, a place to be active or a place to relax and reconnect with nature, why not make the most of our woodlands this season.  

Tread a new path

From the crunch of frosty leaves underfoot, the freshness of the crisp air, to the bursts of red berries on bare Rowan branches to the cheerful song of a robin, winter is the perfect time to head out for stroll. If you’re looking to admire a spectacular view then Beacon Hill Country Park is the perfect place to visit - low sunlight and dustings of frost across the heathland make the rocky landscape look ever more dramatic during winter. Or why not witness Calke Abbey in all its seasonal glory, from icy lakes to gnarled oak trees, not to mention Calke’s spectacular red deer stags, who look particularly impressive this time of year. Or if you’re a seasoned walker the Coal Tips to Country Parks Walk is a perfect way to not only see the transformed landscape of the Forest, but also to witness some of the abundances of winter wildfowl that gather at Thornton Reservoir.

Find a walk

Ride a trail

Why not head out and get a two-wheeled perspective of the Forest this winter? With networks of trails to explore you can escape the potentially icy roads at this time of year and opt for the safer off-road cycle routes, suitable for family outings or even the more experienced cyclist! Hicks Lodge, located in the heart of the Forest offers the Wood Farm trail which is perfect for family adventures and those new to cycling, as you enjoy a 2.75-mile ride through the woods. For the more experienced mountain biker, the 4.35-mile Shell Brook Trail is a wonderful way for adventure seekers to experience the bumps and berms of the trails amongst the natural beauty of the Forest.

Find a cycle trail

Look out for nature

During winter, trees slip into dormancy and deciduous trees drop their leaves, making it easier to spot woodland wildlife that might be hidden at other times of the year. When you’re out walking, keep your eyes peeled for bracket fungi clinging to the trunks and branches of bare trees, and if you glance up, you’re likely to see groups of birds, including blue tits, long-tailed tits, chaffinches, and bramblings! If you happen to follow a trail past a lake, watch out for winter wildlife - noisy flocks of wigeon and tufted ducks tend to gather at this time of year, and you may even see goosanders fishing along the water’s edge or if you’re lucky the blue flash of a kingfisher.

Find a place to spot wildlife


Winter can often be a challenging time for many people, with a reduced level of sunlight it can leave us feeling a bit sluggish and disconnected from the natural world. Forest Bathing is an effective way to strengthen our connection with nature and appreciate the seasonal changes. This could just be by walking slowly through a woodland and taking that bit more time to acknowledge what you sense around you: birdsong, the crispness of the fresh air, or the earthy woodland scent and if you turn your attention to the forest floor you might notice the first snowdrops of the season nosing through the frosty ground. Or why not visit a woodland at night and give evening meditation a go with Wild Minds at Moira Furnace Woodland? Relax and immerse yourself with the soothing sounds of the Forest at night, such as the hooting of tawny owls.

Find a place to connect with nature

Try something new

If you’re needing the extra motivation to get out this winter, then why not try a new activity or head off on a new adventure? Why not explore the forest by e-bike with a National Forest E-bike holiday, a great way to uncover some of the hidden gems of the National Forest! Or why not set yourself a challenge to keep yourself motivated to get outside, like signing up for the National Forest Trek - a fully supported annual walking challenge through the lush woodlands, rolling countryside and industrial heritage of the National Forest along the 75-mile National Forest Way. Whatever you want to choose to do this winter, we hope you enjoy exploring and discovering new things in the Forest!