There’s nothing as bracing as a winter walk when the UK weather is at its best – blue skies, a frost hanging in the air with the promise of a pint at the end of it in a warm, country pub. Watching the seasons come and go is important to giving people a sense of place and, as fewer people are likely to brave the outdoors at this time of year, you’ll probably have some walks all to yourself.
To help you make the most of winter woodland walks, we’ve put together a checklist of things to take with you, some UK-wide suggestions for where to walk and what to look out for whilst you’re out and about.
What to Take on a Walk
Even if you’re going on a short walk close to home, having the right gear can make the difference between being merry or being miserable.
Best foot forward
Footwear is important – wellies are great for shorter walks on the flat, especially if it’s wet and you’ve got kids in tow. Walking boots & socks are best for hillier terrain, but make sure your boots are waterproofed if rain is forecast as tramping about with wet feet is not a pleasant experience.
Gaiters worn over your boots will also stop your feet and lower legs getting damp if it’s too warm for waterproof over-trousers.
Whilst big thick jumpers may be a good idea for characters in the movies on romantic strolls, you’re best choosing layers. Remember to opt for materials that wick sweat away so that it doesn’t stay trapped and you end up feeling clammy. A wicking base layer, a technical fleece and a waterproof shell jacket are a good place to start.
What’s more, if you start to get too hot, you can easily take a layer off, but remember to put it back on when you stop for any length of time.
Gloves or mittens?
Mittens have got a bad press we reckon, probably because we were forced to wear them as kids. However, they’re better at keeping your hands warm as your fingers provide warmth for each other. So, give up the gloves and get smitten by a mitten!
Top it off
Try to find a hat that’s warm but also waterproof. Instead of a scarf, you might be better choosing a neck warmer like a Buff - they’re more practical, easier to stow away if you get too hot and can be used in all sorts of ways including an extra covering for your head if it gets particularly cold.
Having a rucksack to carry water, a map, keys, a small First Aid Kit and, of course, a flask of tea plus snacks is advisable. It’s also a good idea to have your phone with you in case you find yourself lost or there’s an emergency.
Weather or Not?
Be prepared for changing weather, especially if you’re heading up to higher ground. Weather in the mountains can quickly turn and you don’t want to be caught unprepared. What started off as a sunny day can be very different on the top of a mountain with wind, rain or even snow a potential to take you by surprise.
Check the weather forecast before you go and also what time it gets dark! Not a bad idea to take a torch along with you (do check the batteries in advance though).
Woodland Walks UK
It’s not hard to find recommendations for winter woodland walks on the internet. The National Trust has some great ideas on its properties throughout the UK and you can find National Trust walks near you - https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/lists/our-best-winter-walks
We also asked people across in England and Wales to suggest some of their top woodland walks for winter which we’ve included here:
- Hackfall Woods, North Yorkshire - • hackfall.org.uk
- Eaves Wood, Silverdale, Lancashire - nationaltrust.org.uk
- Wandlebury Country Park, Cambs - cambridgeppf.org/wandlebury-country-park.htm
- Grizedale Forest, Lake District - hawksheadtouristinfo.org.uk/attractions
- Great Wood & Walla Crag, Cumbria - https://www.walklakes.co.uk/walk_112.html
- Alderley Edge, Cheshire - https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/alderley-edge/trails/alderley-edge-woodland-walk
- Padley Gorge, Derbyshire - https://www.countryfile.com/go-outdoors/walks/walk-padley-gorge-derbyshire/
- Redmire, Wensleydale, North Yorkshire - https://www.walkingenglishman.com/daleswensleydale.html
- Wade Wood, Halifax - https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/visiting-woods/wood/?woodId=23628&woodName=wade-wood
- Puzzlewood, Gloucstershire – www.puzzlewood.net
- Sculpture Trail, Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire - https://www.forestofdean-sculpture.org.uk
- Foxley Wood, Fakenham, Norfolk - http://www.fakenhamtimes.co.uk/woodland-walks-2-10760
- Sheringham Park, Norfolk - https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/sheringham-park/features/take-a-walk-at-sheringham-park
- Woodland Walk, Tintern Abbey, Monmouthshire – www.walkingworld.com
- Marcle Ridge, Herefordshire - https://www.herefordshire.gov.uk/download/downloads/id/1758/marcle_ridge_circular_walk.pdf
- The Doward, near Ross-on-Wye - http://www.wyedeantourism.co.uk/walkroutes
- Ravenshill Wood, Alfrick, Worcestershire - http://www.ravenshillwood.org.uk
What to Do on a Walk
For most people, the simple pleasure of walking and being surrounded by nature is enough. However, when you have children or grandchildren, they often require entertaining during a walk, so here are some simple suggestions:
Pine cones, teasels and acorns are just some of the booty you can find when you forage on the woodland floor. As long as you don’t take too much or pluck anything still growing, you can use them for Christmas wreaths and bouquets.
It’s easy enough to identify deciduous trees by their leaves during the summer months, but it’s an entirely different story in winter. Bark, buds and berries are all things to look out for. You can buy books that identify trees by the winter silhouette too. Find out more here https://www.actforwildlife.org.uk/conservation-news/identify-woodland-trees-winter/
Flasks of hot chocolate and a couple of mince pies turn a winter walk into a Festive celebration. However, baked potatoes filled with cheese will stay warm for several hours if well wrapped in foil and are a great winter picnic option. Perfect as handwarmers too.
Geocaching turns the whole world into a giant treasure hunt and is a great way to walk and have fun. If you want to find out more, visit the official site here - https://www.geocaching.com/play
Flora & Fauna Spotting
From birdlife to squirrels as well as a host of fungi, just because it's winter, doesn’t mean everything has gone into hibernation. It’s also easier to spot things like birds’ nests perched in the branches without leaves obscuring the view.
Stay on the paths
Whilst heading off into the wilderness might seem appealing, you could be damaging all sorts of wildlife habitats. You’re also more likely to lose track or where you are, so stay to the waymarked paths where possible.
It’s always lovely to hear from you with your suggestions. Let us know your favourite winter woodland walks – better still, send us a photo. We’d also be keen to find out any tips you might have on the right gear or ways to keep busy whilst walking.
Get in touch @kilndriedlogs