Needwood Circular walk
This 9-mile walk showcases the strong rural and historic character of Needwood Forest, with ancient woodland, old parklands, rich farmland and estate forestry blended together. Small hamlets and villages are almost hidden in the landscape.
On the walk you will visit three sites which the Duchy of Lancaster has opened up to the public through the National Forest Tender Scheme, and pass another, privately owned wood planted with grant aid from The National Forest Company.
Points of Interest
The 35ha woodland at Jackson’s Bank is part of the Duchy of Lancaster’s Needwood Estate. Defined as replanted ancient woodland, it still retains some of its semi-natural flora, such as bluebell, wood anemone, wild garlic, early purple orchid, herb Paris and wood spurge. The crop is even aged as the woodland was replanted after the Second World War, when a large amount of timber was extracted to provide props for trenches. Tree species include commercially planted Scots pine, hybrid black poplar, oak and cherry. Hazel, holly and hawthorn shrubs form the understorey. Look out for the Noon Column near to the car park. Erected in 2006, the column includes a slot through which the sun shines at true noon each (sunny) day.
Christ Church, Newchurch was built in 1809 as a result of the Enclosures Act of 1801 bringing in a new population to the area. The king, George III, gave 10 acres for the site of the church, the parsonage and churchyard, and 150 acres for the support of the minister (known as Glebe land). The building was recently de-sanctified by the Bishop of Lichfield and is now privately owned although the graveyard can be visited.
Crossplain Wood was planted by the Duchy of Lancaster Estate in 1996. Covering 6ha, it is planted predominantly with oak and ash and includes two restored field ponds. The name is thought to come from “Cross Planes” referring to the adjoining airfield. The airfield was a satellite airfield of RAF Lichfield during the Second World War (others were at Fradley and Church Broughton). It is now used as a private airfield.
Byrkley Park contains old parkland with some very old, veteran trees. Byrkley Lodge, now demolished, was one of the few dwellings in the ancient Needwood Forest, before the Enclosures Act in 1801. It was the country house of Michael Arthur Bass, son of Michael Thomas Bass, the founder of Bass Brewery. Michael Arthur Bass became the first Lord Burton in 1886. The name “byrkley” may come from a clearing “ley” in the birch “byrk” trees.
Bolingbroke Wood takes its name from Henry Bolingbroke, who, in the 14th Century, was heir to the Duchy of Lancaster. However, Henry was banished from England after incurring the displeasure of King Richard II. Following the death of his father, John O’Gaunt, in 1399, Henry returned to claim his inheritance and began a military campaign against the King. Richard II was in Ireland with many of his supporters and, as a result, Henry was able to gain enough power to have himself declared king and have Richard arrested. Henry IV was crowned on 13 October 1399 and reigned until 1413.
Covering 10ha, Eland Wood was planted in 2000 and you are free to explore the woodland via the new permissive and definitive paths.
Newborough has a village feature which was carved from a yew tree blown over in the great storm of 1987. Look out for the ‘Staffordshire knot’ carved into the base.