For this blog, I have written about somewhere that surprised me recently. I am not unfamiliar to the beauty of Dartmoor and I have tried and tested enough places to know my favourites. But that’s why I was so thrilled when we heard about somewhere new and unique that was right under our noses…cue road-trip playlist!
Since the 1600s, these particular woodlands have been completely left to mother-nature and have stood the test of time. What I’m referring to are known as the UK’s “ancient woodlands” and I am pleased to confirm they are as magical as they sound!
It is easy to forget that Dartmoor was not originally the barren landscape that it is today. Wistman’s Wood, tucked into the middle of Dartmoor National Park, is one of three ancient woodlands in Dartmoor that remains as an example of the past. Full of moss-covered boulders, dwarf oak trees and with no direct path to follow, it’s quite the natural climbing frame so you will need to call on your inner mountain goat! In certain conditions, the mist creates an eerie atmosphere (it’s a photographer’s haven) so if you’re willing to get out early then do make the most of this! I, however, rely on my friends, as out of my university household I am the one with the great ideas but not the one with the car – and you can imagine the reaction I received when I suggested a 6 am set off on a Sunday morning… Instead, we set off later in the day. Although the sun was out, the elements always hit you a little bit hard high up on Dartmoor and it was still cold enough to see our breath despite being mid-afternoon! We, however, came prepared and were all wrapped up cosy in our coats and bobble hats and as my friend rightly said, this is the best time of year for a walk!
Parking for this woodland walk is opposite the Two Bridges Hotel (PL19 9NA) and the walk starts with a gate at the top of the car park that leads onto a gravel track. The woodland is not initially visible but there is an evident path across the moor even once the gravel has stopped. We walked for about 15 minutes before reaching the woodland, passing a small cottage and crossing a couple of streams.
On a more serious and realistic note…
Sadly, these ancient woodlands are worryingly in decline. Development is their main threat, though neglect is also a concern and whilst these areas have survived for centuries alone; their future relies on our management and protection. Thankfully, there are many schemes across the UK focusing on these beautiful places. If you are based in Devon and would like to learn more, then I would recommend looking into “Moor Trees”. Even native woodlands cover only 3% of the British Land Area in a country where it would naturally be 80-90% – showing the importance of the work this charity is doing in protecting and replenishing. They have volunteering opportunities for all ages so I am just planting the seed (pun very much intended) ahead of the approaching Half Term – it would be a great way to make the most of getting outdoors before winter sets in!
If not volunteering then simply an afternoon out exploring these mystical places is a must. If it’s a nice day then take a picnic, a camera, a dog and you’ll be well away!
I hope you enjoy finding an ancient woodland near you and have a magical day out letting your imagination run wild.
Regional Reporter - South West England
A motto I live by is “if it makes your heart happy, follow it and the right doors for you will open”. I grew up on the Somerset Levels and am currently studying my final year of Hospitality Management at the University of Plymouth. After specialising in the Cruise Industry and spending 7 months sailing around the world, I simply confirmed that the British countryside is where my heart lies. Like many, my love of the countryside runs deep. I spend as much of my free time possible riding, sailing, baking or exploring with my dog in tow and I love nothing more than a countryside picnic…except maybe a cosy pub dinner! To me, hospitality is about having something you’re proud of and wanting to share it; a purpose I see mirrored in the objectives of the Ladies Countryside Community and I’m excited to get stuck in! Take a look at my blog @thecountrysidecorner