Stroll again in time: 4 historic hikes in England’s woodlands | Travel
Garbutt Wood and Sutton Bank, North Yorkshire
From the resort to Sutton Bank, wooden billboards humbly point out Yorkshire to “England’s best place”. Quote from James Herriot, and he had a point. Vista from Whitestone Cliff, on the shores of the Moors in North York, into Dales is enormous. To the right at the end of the slope is the magnificent Gormire, a magnificent blue sea that claims to be boundless and flowing. From the point of view is a short walk where the trail slides down to the sea via Garbutt Wood – run as a nature reserve by the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust. It descends from previous trees clinging to rocky hillsides with hardy, solid roots, and only a large rock, formerly part of the abyss at the top and having to watch the small moss and fern gardens growing in its holes.
Behind it is the lake, a swimming pool. From the lake it is possible to return to the original abyss, or advance the trek to another major peak. Head south via Gormire Farm and High Rigg to cross the A170 (turn right and walk about 100 meters across the road) and follow the left lane to Hood Grange, then head into the woods again – this time the mixed leaves.
Photo of Kilburn White Horse, cut in 1857. Photo: APS / Alamy
The jungle roads run continuously up the Kilburn White Horse geoglyph. It is relatively recent, in the highlands, since 1857, and its purity is maintained by nailing stone chips.
From here, the trail returns back from around the Yorkshire Gliding Club grounds and along the steep slope, with another blockbuster show west. To finish well at the end of sunset.
• The 31X bus travels from York, Station Avenue, to Sutton Bank via Byland Abbey
Amy-Jane Beer, author of Cool Nature and The A – Z of Wildlife Watching
Ranmore Common, Wotton Estate and Box Hill, Surrey
Ranmore Racing. Photo: Peter Lane / Alamy
For many of us, Surrey is like a stockbroker belt, as well as a wooded area. Surrey Hills AONB is 40% forested – compared to only 10% of the whole of England – and trekking through its ancient forests is a major challenge in England’s natural history.
The march starts at Box Hill & Westhumble station and turns left onto Chapel Lane, following west to Bagden Hill, and turning onto a trek with horse box prices. These are Polesden Lacey, the site of the National Trust, which Victoria’s founder, Octavia Hill, wrote about the “need for silence, the lack of air” as common to all people.
The trail turns south via Tanners Hatch, one of the original stops for the Youth Hostel Association. Now turn south, take the left lane across the Ranmore Common, with its dense jungles of beech, birch and yew. In the autumn, the forest here is filled with mushrooms: a beautiful reddish-brown mushroom; light mushroom stomach.
Out in the woods, crossing the road to Denbies Hillside, a beautiful chalk of grass-covered grass with many colors filled with police and laundry. From here the whole area of the Surrey Hills is majestic.
Take the Pilgrim ‘Way west into the jungle: this is along the Wotton Estate, owned by the Evelyn family for over 400 years. John Evelyn, a writer in Stuart England, was also the first to take care of the environment – his book Sylva (1662) urges landowners to restore the country’s forests, and for the Royal Navy to rebuild its fleet.
Bring your way back to Denbies Hillside, but now follow Ranmore Common Road back to Westhumble, where Stepping Stones is a grocery store, before you cross the rocks that crossed the Mole River and take you to Box Hill. Box trees only look like cut hedges; here, there is a barren forest, protected by the National Trust and one hour from London.
• The Box Hill & Westhumble box connects with London Waterloo and Horsham
Guy Shrubsole, environmentalist and author of Who Owns England?
Snipe Dales, Lincolnshire
Snipe Dales Nature Reserve. Photo: Graham Uney / Alamy
East of Horncastle the area rises for the Wolds landscape, with a view to the sun on small valleys and in remote fields with the hope of invigorating. Of all the houses, the site has large desert areas with an impressive history, such as Snipe Dales, near the nearing Winceby mansion, and is well marked A158. Snipe Dales is a mountain park and nature reserve that is not big on the map but feels great inside. The park area was planted with the Corsican pine in the 1960s, but these were cut down, and alder, silver birch, willow and hawthorn protect the natural evolution of dry forests. Nature reserves are an example of a lonely, open and fertile valley full of grass and wildflowers, including orchids that are found. Summer is home to many butterflies and the sound of willows.
The trails have well-traveled maps, traversing forests and restaurants, yet it is easy to sense that you are missing out on its humid, lazy environment. I’ve been visiting it since I was a kid. There is a place you like – a small bridge over a river with a clearing under the old willow; an old ram in the valley that sends the local farm; moss stones inscribed with the St Margaret church standing.
In winter, under the guiding sky, there is a disaster here. Maybe I remember the war. On October 11, 1643, Winceby was the site of a brutal crackdown when Parliament, led by Fairfax, defeated the Royalists who had come to defend the siege of Bolingbroke Castle. It affected 6,000 men: The Royalists eventually dispersed with the legal cavalry led by Cromwell – who shot a horse under it – and lost 300 men, many of whom were sent to the valleys, hunted and killed. Locals say they sometimes hear gunshots and screams of danger. The attraction, perhaps, but it is not surprising to think that the future Lord Protector has been here, and thousands of horsemen rallied as the horses grazed now.
• Spilsby is located on buses operated by Brylaine Travel and Stagecoach. The 56S runs from Spilsby to the Snipe Dales
Will Cohu, author of Out of the Woods: The Armchair Guide to Trees
Ide Hill-Westerham, Kent
Kent crossings from Mariners Hill near Chartwell. Photo: Adam McCulloch
South of Sevenoaks and Westerham, Greensand Ridge showcases the wonders of England and East Sussex. Trees and permanent gardens, filled with storage areas, reach the top of the Ashdown Forest. It is a very old place where it is easy to imagine a master of Tudor walking around with a hunting party or acting falsely.
Along the coast are many trees: birch when the soil is very poor; oak, mountain trees, boxes, alder, whitebeam and beech elsewhere. Most of these are considered old, but more than half of its old trees were lost overnight in the October 1987 hurricane.
At Scords Wood, beneath the beautiful Emmetts Garden, the bottom of the forest was left deliberately left to see how the plants and animals react. When you come back in the spring, it is well green: lichen and moss wear large fallen trees and a variety of wildflowers rotate any open space – while bluebells allow.
See south from Ide Hill. The seat has been donated to Octavia Hill, an open Victoria actress who formed the National Trust. Photo: Search Kent
From the trek to Ide Hill, the highest village in Kent, follow the path through the wooden vicinity beyond the vicarage, through the National Trust woods (another bluebell hotspot) to Greensand Way. Along the way there is a chair dedicated to Octavia Hill, a Victorian political reformer and an open champion who formed the National Trust, and who has rescued three major mountains along the way from urban development.
Spring springs up and jumps off a hill as the trail turns west into a hidden valley, overflowing with gorse and crossing a very small stream. Buzzard’s view remains certain at the moment, as part of the valley rises and meets Scords Wood. Visit here to see the Ram Pump Pond with its magnificent pull pump that feeds the Emmetts upstairs, or continue west to Toys Hill with spectacular forests, littered with charcoal from history.
At the sight of the ruined Weardale Manor, covered with pine, descend to another pruning valley, which had orchards.
On French Street I re-entered the forest and made it to Chartwell, home of Winston Churchill. Next up is Mariners Hill, where a spectacular view from Churchill’s roof opens up among the unnatural conifers. Finishing the walk to Westerham means heading north now, through the oldest forests, across the Darent River near the source of the spring and Hosey Common, with its 1,000-year-old mines rich in bats.
• S41 bus connected to Ide Hill from Edenbridge and Sevenoaks; Bus 246 connects Westerham with train station in Hayes and Bromley South
Adam McCulloch, author of the Kent Walks Near London page